So, if you were raised inside a baked potato equipped with a disco ball by vegetarians who didn't believe in free will (and really, who among us was not?) then the other night I ate at a place that will make you feel right at home.
Yes, I would be talking about the Spirit Lounge on Ontario East in Montreal.
This is a place that puts the word experience back into the phrase "dining experience" in a big way.
They don't encourage walk-ins, they want reservations. They don't have a menu, you eat what has been cooked for the night. They do not advertise, and rely strictly on word of mouth from pleased clients. The walls are covered with crumpled tin foil, there is a disco ball in the ceiling and oh, did I mention the rules?
Before we were allowed to eat, our server (a man who had shaved off the front half of his head, dyed the remaining hair black, was wearing a black knit top and bright red sprayed on lycra pants) read us the riot act.
We were told we had to clean up everything on our plates and that there were two portion sizes--a generous regular and a reduced portion. If we did not clean up our plates, we would be fined $2 which would be matched by the restaurant and given to a charity. Dessert was part of the meal, but if we didn't clean up your main course, we couldn't have it. We were also warned that if we ordered dessert and did not finish it we were banned for life from the restaurant.
Not once was the phrase "do you want fries with that?" uttered.
You can imagine how disoriented I was.
We went for the aperitif, a drink in a martini glass that had four kinds of liqueur, plus vodka, topped with a scoop of a magical passion fruit sorbet. If I hadn't had the kids with me, I would have blown off the meal and just spent my night sucking back those lethal glasses of pure delight until I collapsed in a diabetic coma.
The meal itself was wonderful. Spinach salad with sautéed mushrooms and fresh herbs, topped with an apple cider based vinaigrette and a grating of some slightly exotic cheese I didn't recognize. The main course was a sort of crêpe stuffed with lentils, apricots and raisins, with a tangy cider based sauce and a scoop of mango sorbet on top. Dessert was a heavy three chocolate cake and another sorbet.
While I'm no chicken hugger (and I've been known to swallow my herbicides and pesticides as manfully as the next person), we were told the whole thing was vegetarian and whenever possible organic to boot.
Thank heavens for the alcohol, eh. Eating that healthily without cutting it with the alcohol might have done serious damage to my metabolism, you know?
In a way, this place is an anti-restaurant. None of the cutlery matches, all the dishes are odds 'n' sods, it's pretty clear that the folks who run this are doing it on the narrowest of shoestrings. Yet they refuse to compromise their ideals and for very little money provide a unique and tasty meal in a wonderfully quirky yet welcoming setting.
Sitting there in the soft glow of tiny Christmas type lights bounced off the glittery walls by a disco ball, all I could think about was those old black and white 1940's movies I used to watch as a kid.
I used to love the ones with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland where at some point they decide to put on a show, and out of nothing created a Broadway class spectacular. I was too young to know it was all Hollywood smoke and mirrors. I bought whole-heartedly into the notion that you could realize your dreams on a shoestring if you only believed, if you were willing to work incredibly hard.
Well, someone forgot to mention the smoke and mirrors thingie to the two guys who run The Spirit Lounge, because out of almost nothing they have put on a restaurant and a wonderfully unique one at that that serves good food you won't find anywhere else.
This time of year, when the stores are blaring the message that consumerism is love, that you are what you own, it's a big slice of wonderful to walk into a warm, welcoming place that doesn't buy into that at all.
AND it has a disco ball. Really, what more do you want?
Want to delve into my sordid past?
She's mellllllllllllllting - Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 - Back off, Buble - Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 - Dispersed - Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 - Nothing comes for free - Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 - None of her business - Friday, Nov. 04, 2011 -
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