If there is one thing to know about me it should be this: I’m a lunch guy. Breakfast may hold claim to the most important meal and dinner the crowd favourite, but for me, lunch is second to no meal. Most of us rush through lunch, it’s our measly hour that’s both a reprieve from the daily grind and our only opportunity to replenish our energy. We eat quickly, we eat for sustenance, we eat cold leftovers, a soggy sandwich, we drink an oversized coffee. This is a disservice to what could be the greatest meal of the day.
Imagine eating lunch in a dining room radiantly illuminated by the mid-afternoon sun pouring through massive windows. Maybe you have a spritz or a mimosa or perhaps a bottle of crisp Austrian rosé. There’s a pastry on a plate and on the plate next to it a salad with fresh asparagus and a poached egg. There’s fresh pasta, latkes, ricotta pancakes for those with a sweet tooth, a fried chicken sandwich for the indulgent. Lunch can be a beautiful affair when given the time to express itself. It can be brief and sustaining, but it can also be long and luxurious because lunch is as beautiful as it is malleable. On St-Jacques in Old Montreal, there’s a restaurant for breakfast and lunch just like the one I described, and that place is called Dandy.
The man behind Dandy is chef (and now restaurateur) Michael Tozzi, formerly from Olive & Gourmando and le Club Chasse & Pêche. Tozzi is certainly a restaurant mind to watch after having hit it completely out of the park with this debut venture. The room is spectacular, although it’s par for the course from design firm Blazys Gerard, whose nuanced and elegant approach to interior design is elevated and thoughtful in a way rarely seen in this city. It’s not to say that there are not beautiful spaces in Montreal, but if you were to drop Dandy in any of the world’s more design-focused cities, it would still be a show stopper. The long room utilizes the immense windows in combination with tasteful round mirrors and white walls to maximize the natural light. A symmetrical set of benches run the length of the room and are illuminated by a canopy lighting fixture that is truly mesmerizing. Dandy serves breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. and serves a separate brunch menu on the weekends.
The kitchen is helmed on the day-to-day by Ritchie Nguyen (formerly of Maison Publique) who no doubt brings some serious brunch experience to the kitchen. The space, elegant as it may be, still retains a casual and inviting feeling due (mostly) to the amiable and gracious service provided by Tozzi and his service team, who are attentive, helpful and welcoming. The menu is straightforward, a short list of seven breakfast to lunch dishes that should strike a chord with most diners. For two, a dish each would more than suffice, but for the sake of getting a good cross-section of the menu, we ordered three dishes: the wildly popular fried chicken sandwich, the ricotta pancakes and the tartine.
As I said, I’m a lunch guy, and to be honest when I arrived I expected to eat lunch, but instead I ate brunch and I’m glad I did. The ricotta pancakes swimming in their moat of syrup were moist, perfectly caramelized and topped with a zippy dollop of lemon curd that had me tearing through the short stack with gusto. The tartine — a piece of sourdough toast topped with whipped goat cheese, a sunny side up egg nested amongst meaty pieces of sautéed oyster mushrooms, fresh green peas and bits of crispy fried green onions — is delicious, but if I’m nitpicking, the peas could have been cooked a bit longer. Finally the fried chicken sandwich. What a sight to behold. It’s almost shameful to give such praise to what is an obvious crowd pleaser dish, but goddamn: the batter is impossibly crispy and isn’t totally saturated with oil, the brioche bun adds that touch of sweetness and softness that highlights the texture of the chicken. Taking one bite into the sandwich, the chicken is tender and juicy, perfectly cooked, and the whole dish is balanced by an acidic and slightly spicy apple and jalapeno slaw. It’s everything you could want from a chicken sandwich.
I would be remiss not to mention the wonderful wine list at Dandy. The modest but extremely well-composed list is put together by Kaitlin Doucette, who manages the beverage program at Foxy. The list is full of bottles from excellent producers moderately priced between $40 and $75. Why not start off with a bottle of macerated pinot blanc from star German producer Enderle & Moll — it’s a steal at $45. If you have the budget go a for a small splurge and drink les Lumanchelles from Domaine Cavarodes, a knockout producer in the Jura making some of the most quaffable and energetic wines I’ve had the pleasure of drinking lately, and at $70, it’s not going to break the bank. The list also features cider from cult swiss cider producer Cidrerie du Vulcain, and cans of beer from Brasserie Dunham, so no matter what you decide to drink, it’s of quality. That extends to the coffee, which is from phenomenal coffee roaster Kittel, whose coffee showed beautifully in my morning cortado.
At the end of the day, Dandy is a hit. It does breakfast, it does lunch, it does coffee, it does wine, and it does it all very well. The restaurant is redefining the bar we set for casual spaces. The attention to detail and the level of execution is top quality and, for the price, well worth it. I’m saying you should go. I’ll definitely be there with a bottle of something good, leisurely grazing on beautiful plates of delicious food, in one of the best looking restaurants in town. ■
244 St-Jacques W.