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5412 Cote-des-Neiges (Cote des Neiges Metro)

Mon - Fri 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. / 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Sat - Sun 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. All major cards. Tel.:733-9101
The name may mean “Stately home” in Japanese but “Humble previously vacant Italian place” is more like it. However, the generic sign outside and the seemingly cobbled-together interior decor belie a quite competent restaurant—unpretentious, yet very satisfactory for the portions, freshness and price.

At Yakata, they don’t speak Japanese, and can barely pronounce the menu items when they repeat them back to you, but the chef (Vietnamese?) is good at approximating a Japanese workingman’s supper and the sushi man (woman, in our case) can dish up a very good sushi plate.

It’s a mishmash of spaces. A front room of a dozen or so tables looks through floor-to-ceiling bay windows out onto the Cote des Neiges sidewalk. Behind this anteroom is room for three or four tables in front of the kitchen and then there’s the Sushi bar in front of the entrance.

As you dine you’ll be regaled with the sounds of Enka, or traditional Japanese “chansons” (think Perry Como doing Shinto chants.)

The day I was at Yakata there was a very easy way to gauge the caliber of the food: one of our party was a middle-aged Japanese woman who was on her first trip out of Japan, and this was to be her first foreign Japanese restaurant visit.

An appetizer of agedashi-dofu (deep-fried tofu nuggets) came in a teriyaki sauce garnished with grated ginger and radish, was crispy and moist, and was declared “very good” by our chief taster.

An order of Gyoza (deep-fried pork dumplings) fell down the stairs. While scalding hot and crispy on the outside, the filling was bland, and they came with an unlikely, overly sweet sauce that was completely unlike the traditional vinegar-sesame-soy concoction that gyoza should be served with. (Indeed, a recurring theme of the evening was a seemingly arbitrary pairing of foods and sauces.)

But then confidence was regained with a splendid mixed tempura appetizer: airy, crisp and oil-free morsels of shrimp and vegetables which went well with a little drizzle of soy.

A couple of these aforementioned appetizers were part of the dinner sets (complete dinners) that were available: the “Sushi dinner,” with tempura and mixed sushi ($27.00); the “Deluxe dinner,“ with sushi or sashimi, tonkatsu and steak teriyaki ($29.00); or the “Yakata dinner,” ($31.00,) which comes with sushi, tempura and a large seafood platter. These set dinners are a part of the menu and do not change, and come with a very large, very good wakame and lettuce salad, rice, dessert and O-cha (green tea.)

There’s also a fairly large à-la-carte selection and all the portions are substantial—no nouvel-toothpick bonbon dishes here.

A Chicken teriyaki came sizzling on a cast-iron platter on a large mound of beansprouts and vegetables, easily enough for two people, as did an almost identical steak teriyaki. The sushi platter was also generous, with maki and sashimi of salmon, snapper, tuna, yellowtail and others on sweet, vinegar-infused rice with a nice artistic flourish of radish flowers. The fish itself was pleasantly fresh and not at all fishy-tasting. (Judging from other diners’ selections, they serve a lot of sushi here and thus the turnover is presumed to be high—a very good thing when dealing with raw fish.)

All in all, we were left with a substantial doggy bag’s take-home and were completely stuffed. The verdict was a thumbs-up from the judge from Japan, and I must admit, it was one of the better Japanese meals I’ve had in Montreal.

This Yakata is a sister of the Yakata on St. Laurent (same owner) and opened in late 2000. Service on the night we were there was slow—the single server seemed overwhelmed by the six or seven tables he was responsible for, but perhaps this was attributable to the good weather on the night we visited.

Count on around $30 per person for a large meal, not including taxes or tip.
Reviewed by Nick Robinson

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