Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
2042 Peel Street
Montréal QC H3A 2R4
The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that enabled European traders, starting from ports in Palestine or Constantinople (the Near East) to travel by caravan to the Far East. The Silk Road was named after the luxury product, silk that was brought back to Europe by intrepid travelers. Through the centuries, the Silk Road acted not only as a trade route but also as a cultural interconnection between Europe and the lands through which the caravans traveled – the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire, Armenia and the Turkmen territories, Persia, the Arabian kingdoms and emirates, India, the Khmer Empire etc. as far East as Cathay (China), Korea and Japan.
But it was not only silk that was carried back to Europe. Other luxury merchandise such as precious and semi-precious stones, gold jewelry, carpets and wall hangings, porcelain and spices were all carried on camel-back to be sold at very high profit to the European monarchies and aristocracy. Spices were a very precious commodity, brought to Europe to improve the taste and help preserve foods such as black pepper (famously Malabar Black), ginger, cinnamon, vanilla etc.; they were unavailable in Western Europe until the Renaissance when European travel on the Silk Road started.
During our recent trip to Montreal’s Golden Square Mile, we discovered a new restaurant tucked behind a practically unmarked, almost hidden doorway and up a stairway into a dimly lit room. It is Chef Athiraj Phrasavath’s labor of love called SLK RD (Silk Road). Twinkling lights illuminate tables and shelves around the room; blue velvet banquettes extend along one wall, while tables and comfortable chairs fill the rest of the space. There is a bar, captained by an outstanding mixologist.
The restaurant is appropriately named as the food is extremely interesting with dishes and ingredients from every culture one can think of. It is market-to-table cuisine using recipes and culinary techniques honed by centuries of travel along the Silk Road and beyond.
The current seasonal menu is divided into VEG (vegetables), NDL (noodle dishes), SFD (seafood) and CRN (meat dishes). There is also the “Chef’s Board” i.e. the tasting menu.
We started the evening with the crispy Fried Plantain and Eggplant (Babaganoush) dip that was delicious. The babaganoush was truffled and had goat cheese whipped in it; an interesting melding of Middle Eastern and Caribbean ingredients.
When wine came to the table it was a lovely, high quality Alois Lageder Muller Thurgau bottle from Alto Adige – aromatic, slightly acidic with full body and a long finish. Exactly what was needed for the Ravioli dish that followed, which was Mushroom Ravioli stuffed with sweetbreads and sprinkled with a mixture of black onion and black sesame seeds and hand-shaved white truffles. A very Italian, savory dish prepared tableside. I could have made a meal with only the raviolis and the white wine.
The next dish was a board of assorted Dumplings and Spring Rolls. The dumplings were definitely Chinese in origin, the Spring Rolls were either of Vietnamese or Thai origin since they were stuffed with mushrooms and beef brisket and the stuffed phyllo triangles said Ottoman Empire or Arabian Peninsula.
During the meal, aromatic tea was poured into wooden cups and served from a tray whose bottom looked like fabric made to imitate a thin agate slab. I had seen similar beautiful trays during my Henan (Central China) journey last year and I should have bought one to bring back to the US, but I didn’t. My bad!
An exceptional Lobster Tail dish was served following the Dumplings and Spring Rolls. The lobster was marinated for 48 hours in a citric and ginger sauce. The meat was chunked and mixed with Japanese Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe) and Sweet Potato slivers.
The final dish was a slow roasted Filet Mignon, served with an assortment of seasonal vegetables and potato chips.
Chef Phrasavath has created very interesting dishes where East meets West, with very authentic tastes. A discerning palate can readily recognize the culinary roots of each dish. Kudos to him!
© March 2019 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.