The once trendy peach lit supper club, known for its model and mafia clientele, gets a whole new look and menu. Houston Avenue bar and grill is a chain that has set up a flag ship on the popular Peel and De Maisonneuve corner in Montreal. Who better to launch its menu other than Joe Mercuri the chef that has already dazzled Griffontown and Old Montreal with his eccentric mechanic outfit and unique tapas inspired fire grilled meats.

We went to the launch in the Golden Mile last week and got to taste 4 popular apps: The lobster tacos, the mini burgers, sesame ribs &  sticky chicken. I’ll be honest, I was expecting more from this chef as I have been following his work for sometime now. I was expecting something a little more fusion or fun or something. Mini burgers are a little bit passé and these ones were quite clumsy to handle in a bustling launch environment and a tad dry. This was my first tapas so things started off on a bad foot. Then came the sesame ribs which were delicious, but again not the best choice for a party. Our fingers were sticky with bbq sauce. I’m pretty sure I handed someone a business card with some on it! The lobster tacos were good in theory. In fact, I can’t think of any better way to eat lobster salad. I am not a fan of hot dog bun bread and a hard shelled taco would have been tricky so I thought the mini soft shells were well thought out. The problem? The lobster salad was not as creamy as a Montrealer expects and also not as packed.

The decor was really professional and I can imagine many uses for the space from big corporate events, to stag parties, or hockey finals. With large red lamps creating a soft glow and many HD tvs everywhere, one is sufficiently entertained. The place is more expansive than CAVALLI with more space between tables and a darker decor concept anchoring the enormous ceilings better. With the same private dining room upstairs, the spot makes for a great VIP mini event for about 50 seated guests.

The last dish that we tried before leaving was the sticky chicken. This was the only reminder that night that a 5 star chef was driving the kitchen. Think of a cross between General Tao, lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork. The chicken was succulently citrus with an Asian style coating. It was yummy enough to take more than my 1 sample (we unabashedly took 2 each).

Would I go again? Not likely as it was just not my cup of tea. Would I recommend it? Hell yeah the new spaces has a lot to offer!