(Montreal) Nora Gray

Again, why is there not already a thread on this place? Its written up as one of the best Italian places in Montreal by just about every food reviewer & others must have gone here, right? At any rate, my wife’s birthday was yesterday & I reserved a table at Nora Gray a couple of months ago to ensure that we’d get in. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, we get to regularly eat at a lot of Italian places in NYC. And my wife is, by heritage, mostly Italian. We’re not in Montreal to eat Italian food but, for a special occasion, it seemed a good idea. Especially since we’re living 3 blocks away.
Our reservation was at 7:30pm & the place was half full when we came in. The bar area was full, as were some of the tables but, overall, I wondered if the limited reservation availability was a way to generate false impressions of “hard to get” tables. I’m such a cynical New Yawker! And, since it was still light out, the place didnt seem all that cozy. (The guy in shorts & flip flops at the table next to ours didnt change that impression for the better either). Well, by 8pm, the table next to ours had changed over, dusk was falling, the place was completely full (I heard her turn away 2 couples who thought they would have a chance without reservations) & we were drinking good wine. Attitude adjustment complete. Let’s get on with the birthday food (no pressure).
We ordered the bread and a plate of their “crispy fiddleheads” (“tetes de violon” - sounds better). The accompanying red pepper dip for the bread was spicy good, the oil separately poured was great & the red sauce with the fiddleheads worked perfectly. Great start. Better than fried calamari. We then each had a ½ order of pasta. She had the gnocchi, again with fiddleheads (fresh and crisp, not fried or otherwise cooked), while I ordered the linguini with whelk. Both were well composed dishes, with fresh flavors and worth ordering as mains (as non Italy Italians do, usually including us). As a matter of fact, each of these pastas could be served with pride at any upscale Italian restaurant we’ve ever been to in Italy or NYC. We then each ordered a main course. She had the pork chop, which the waiter warned her was not going to be a lean chop, but had fat on it. She remarked that she liked fat, and I’m pretty sure that she and the waiter looked at me with smirks. It was a great dish and she got thru about 1/3rd of it, with the rest sitting in our refrigerator waiting to join other food in a “leftovers” meal tonite at the apartment. It will not be joined by any of my halibut floating in a lobster broth, one of the most enjoyable fresh fish dishes I’ve had in awhile. A nice portion of perfectly done meaty fish, served in a subtle broth, with both fork and soup spoon provided. Neither of us had room for dessert, although the poached pear sounded like it would’ve been perfect. However, 2 almond macaroon-ish cookies came to the table gratis, with a bright sparkler attached, drawing attention to us & garnering some chuckles. Apparently, the waiter had heard us talking about it being a birthday. The cost of this meal, including a bottle of wine, tax & tip was CA$320. I think this perfectly reasonable for the standing of the restaurant in Montreal &, certainly, the quality of food delivered. To be sure, I took a look at some NYC places that I think have similar standing/food and found, unsurprisingly, that we would’ve paid significantly more at home. Obviously, I recommend this place.

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Hey Steve!

I haven’t been at Nora Gray for a while and it’s getting mixed reviews - some of them love it and some don’t.

Now, you have to respect the soul of the restaurant - Emma Cardarelli (cook) and Ryan Gray (front of house) are Joe Beef alumni that wanted to start their own thing in the same spirit - market driven, homemade and with fresh produce.

The issue I have with the food is sometime I love what they offer and sometimes I find the seasoning is a bit off for me. Now, I understand I have a very north american palate and I might miss some nuance of high quality italian preparations just because I’m used to be bombarded by big flavor concentration, heavy seasoning, big cheeses and a ton of garlic where maybe Nora Gray focuses on simplicity and restraint.

For that reason, I have been waiting to give them a review… I probably need to come back once or twice to make my mind up.

However, if you see their sunchoke gratin on their menu - RUN, don’t walk and order it. That stuff is magical!!!

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Welcome back. I was hoping to inspire you to do some posting by invoking your name. A concept not meant for food boards but what the hell.
When home in NYC, our choices for Italian are varied. What I think Nora Gray is doing… or, rather, what I can say they did last night… is more akin to a small chef driven place in Florence or a similar place (I Sodi?) in NYC. This is not what many people in Brooklyn (maybe NYC and much of the USA overall) think of when they say “lets do Italian”. We love going out for what we call “red sauce Italian” and can live on big bowls of garlic’ed homemade “Sunday gravy” over linguini, etc. Or grilled pork chops with hot red peppers on top. That’s what I grew up on and that was my reference point. We are regulars at these types of places. If pasta didnt equal Italian, I dont think Nora Gray would even be remembered as Italian by me when I had a yearning for Italian. But, it will be remembered by us as an excellent restaurant, serving well prepared food. I look forward to your updated opinion.

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Hey!

My heart is always around here it’s just the time that’s missing.

I think we both agree on this. It think Nora Gray is in the italian spirit without being italian as we understand it.

I’ll try to give them a proper review. I ordered a few of their dish when they were doing covid takeout - sometimes it was a hit (omg the sunchokes) sometimes a miss.

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