3527 St-Laurent, Montreal, ph. (514) 845-7557
his newish resto has a lounge downstairs and a restaurant with sushi bar upstairs. It has a funky interior space, lots of warm lighting, and good attention to colour and detail. The lounge has square stools and padded benches to sit on, the tables are lower than knee height, with people close together. It’s a bit awkward to eat, folding yourself in half at the waist, but the atmosphere is cozy, relaxed, and the glow from the backlit wall makes you feel like you’re sitting in front of a fireplace somewhere… like in a ski lodge or around a campfire…
nice warm lighting behind bar, good attention to detail
On my first visit to Petit Treehouse I didn’t get any further than the downstairs lounge. It was a cold evening, winter blowing inside the front door at each opening. I was entranced with the waitress’s explanations of the 2-for-1 appetizers, and I ordered Lambas (fancy sushi with sweet potatoes rolled in rice paper like a Japanese spring roll) and spicy tuna. A great ton of food arrived. I ate it all happily and thought, wowie, this is nothing like sushi in Vancouver (the menu here promises that they’re offering ‘new style sushi’). Then my bill came. Apparently 2-for-1 doesn’t mean you order two appetizers and you pay for one. I might be "That Girl From Vancouver," but honestly, how many interpretations of 2-for-1 can there be? Here’s what it means at Treehouse: order one appetizer and get twice the portion. So I had just eaten the equivalent of 4 appetizers? And was paying full price for two? Eek. I squeaked out of there for about $40 for my two appies, my one beer. Wrote off the experience as yet another way I’m learning about living in Montreal.
Now, this experience didn’t keep me away, not at all. The lamba sauce is quite something and the beer-crunchy-soft combo is quite extraordinary. On my most recent visit, I sat upstairs where it was distinctly warmer and where the party was really happening. The music is funky, French, stuff you’ve never heard before, but that you instantly want to own.
The menu upstairs is complete – from soup to ‘new style sushi’. You can have Rainbow Maki (spicy tuna wrapped with tuna, salmon, white fish, avocado, and Treehouse sauce, $9), or Treasure of Atlantis (lobster tempura maki, $13). The waitress explained the menu to me, in flawless English, although she did say the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the dishes about five separate times. I ordered the ‘beautiful’ box of sushi (it has a fancier name, like a ‘Bouquet of sushi for virgins’, $22.95), which included 12 pieces of sushi, chef’s choice. I had one beer, the tall silver Sapporo ($11). I had dessert (how could I resist a trio of homemade crème brûlée: chocolate, white chocolate, vanilla, $11). My bill was over $60 with tip. Yikes.
Bouquet sushi-for-virgins with octopus, shrimp, crab and smoked salmon;
maki with tempura, spicy tuna, and lambas
Here’s the kicker. I can’t stay away. This place violates all of my feelings about sushi. I think sushi should be really great, fresh fish, unadorned, with really great, fresh rice, a dip of soy sauce, a pinch of wasabi. It should not be composed, marinated in juicy sauces, rolled with weird bits like sweet potato. It should be cheaper than this. OK, this is definitely not Vancouver sushi.
But wowie, it’s so great. I can’t deny it, I’m addicted to this place. It’s in a cool part of town (St-Laurent and Sherbrooke) and is within walking distance from my house. So some nights, when I don’t feel like cooking, where in a previous life I might have strolled off to the local, cheap, neighbourhood sushi place and have had a California roll and a miso soup… instead I’ve been heading to Treehouse. (Hey, this is my neighbourhood place. I live in this part of town, and there’s nothing closer. OK, now I'm making excuses to justify my expensive new sushi habit.)
-- Reviewed by Shelley MacDonald