“When I say Sake, you say Bomb! Sake!”
Crash. The shooter of Sake, precariously perched on top of two chopsticks over a tankard of Japanese beer crashes onto the table, spilling its contents over the would-be drinker’s neighbour. The spiller apologizes but the spill-ee roars with laughter. This strange practice is commonplace at Imadake, a Japanese Izakaya (traditional pub) and Sake bar on the corner of Atwater and St Catherine, well-known for its so-called Sake Bomb (like a Jaeger Bomb but with Sake and Beer and a little more fun).
It was 6:15 on a Wednesday night and my dinner plans had just been foiled. My idea of a romantic evening at Chez Ennio’s was scuppered due to an unforeseen circumstance: while they usually opened at 6, they were opening an hour later on that day. Anxiously, I called my cooler, older sister as she is well-versed in the language of interesting and fun Montreal cuisine. Her suggestion of Imadake was first met with skepticism but, at the end of the night, it was an excellent choice of venue.
Every time I had passed by the Izakaya it had been full to bursting. This evening, however, even without a reservation, we were seated immediately in a small corner next to the bar. A waiter promptly came by with water and an iPad to take our order. The menus were somewhat hard to follow and, having little experience with Japanese cuisine outside of the Sushi sphere, I was quickly overwhelmed. Going with my gut, I asked the waiter for suggestions and was glad I did. He offered three dishes and each was met with much finger-licking and appetite-whetting.
The octopus balls (assured by the waiter that they were not the actual balls of an octopus) were spongy and extremely savoury fried balls of dough that hid a small morsel of octopus meat. Whether it was actual octopus is still unknown, so get over your aversion of trying octopus because these treats were sublime. Despite their fried nature, they were extremely light and delicate and drizzled with a perfectly seasoned Miso sauce.
Next was a plate of four fried shrimp, cut in halves. Though the batter was crispy and perfectly browned, the dish was uninspiring. Very tasty but not particularly interesting, especially given the thick cream-like sauce spooned over, masking the taste of the golden-fried shrimp.
The last suggested dish, a favorite at Imadake, was a rather chunky piece of seared and blackened cod. This was the ultimate test for me. I love fish and too often has fish in restaurants been overcooked, under-seasoned, not fresh enough or just plain god-awful. Though slightly over-done in my opinion, the cod did not possess the gamey texture of over-cooked fish and instead was tender, juicy, white and perfectly seared on both sides. The only danger was the possibility of choking on a bone imbedded in the chunkily cut piece of cod.
True to the nature of Imadake, we ordered hot Sake. The rice-wine comes in several sizes with many different brands, catering to Sake-lovers and beginners alike. Having never particularly enjoyed the taste of it, we went with the smallest option available, while I hoped to get over my distaste for it. No dice. Still don’t like it, though the presentation was lovely. Served piping hot and in a white ceramic decanter, it was the perfect amount between two Sake-noobs. Unfortunately we did not order the Sake Bombs famous at this restaurant but instead witnessed the ritual front and center.
Imadake is nothing short of hip and trendy. As a forerunner of the Japanese pub craze, the atmosphere differentiates itself from the oncoming influx of Izakayas (eg. Kazu or Kinka Izakaya—coming soon!) . With its particular decor (small box-like stools rather than chairs), light ambient music, extremely friendly staff with a good sense of humour, and the constant refrain of Japanese toasts, this restaurant is excellent for anyone looking for a drink or delicious meal. Perhaps on a busier night the service would have been slower, but on a lazy Wednesday our food arrived quickly, fresh and perfectly hot. Though the portions were seemingly a bit on the small size, the three dishes were somehow enough to satiate our ravenous appetites and cheap enough not to break our wallets.
4006 Sainte-Catherine Street West
Westmount, QC H3Z 1P2, Canada
Photos by Michael Bakouch. Visit his website at www.anotherlookatmtl.com