I immediately ditched my previous plans and tagged along for the culinary ride. Although I was annoyed that I had to wait because of their “no reservation” rule, I admit my grumpiness rooted from a grumbling stomach. Once I settled my stomach with a few homemade Old Bay spice potato chips, I was able to concentrate and observe my surroundings.
While Icehouse may not be the fanciest restaurant, it’s charming, quaint, unpretentious and just plain cool. The room doesn’t fit more than 25 seats, unless you add on the extra ones on the terrace. The wooden panels and open concept makes me feel like I’m vacationing on a boardwalk. There’s also an open kitchenette, a small detail I’ve always appreciated―I love watching chefs at work.
Though the service is not always reliable, you’re more than welcome to give your order at the kitchen counter, which is right beside the display of homemade chips and a steel tub of oysters. The menu is handwritten on a chalkboard above the counter (did you honestly expect anything else?) There are no utensils, so don’t feel bad using your hands; that’s what they want. As for the clean and polite diners among us, do not fret, there are rolls of brown paper towels at your disposal. The food is served on small red plastic trays and white and red checkered wax paper―very country chic.
Before I go on to the food, I just want to express my excitement when I saw Micheladas on the menu. It’s a Mexican beer concoction with lime, Worcestershire, Maggi and Icehouse’s homemade Tabasco sauce. If it’s not your cup of beer, don’t worry, Icehouse has a delicious spiked lemonade (I would propose the bourbon over the vodka).
To ensure you try more than one plate, I suggest visiting with a friend with a common palate. With a menu so detailed and enticing, it’s hard to pick and choose which dish you want to taste.
One of my personal favourites is the popcorn shrimp. They’re crunchy, savoury and not too oily. They’re coated with a sweet and spicy sauce made with honey, more homemade Tabasco and red wine―a little bundle of delight.
The frito pie is quite interesting. I had read the chef wasn’t satisfied with the selection of fritos here, so he decided to make his own. If this is what a frito should taste like, I don’t know what I was eating before. The chips were covered with a layer of cheese, chili and a side of mustard. The combination is brilliant and it makes me wonder why I’ve never thought of it before now.
Moving on to the main dishes, for you lobster lovers, the lobster burrito is a must. Though it’s one of the most expensive dishes on the menu, it’s totally worth it. In the midst of all the chili, black beans, cheese, homemade potato chips and corn niblets is a big meaty lobster claw. It’s one of the most popular items on the menu and for good reason. The combination between the sweet, salty, spicy, soft and crunchy is transcendent. I now have a hard time ordering lobster rolls knowing full well there’s a lobster burrito out there.
As for the meat lovers, I would suggest the brisket sandwich. It’s a hamburger bun topped with tender steak, grilled onions, poblano chilies and a cheese sauce. If you’re feeling safe, then go with the fried chicken tacos dressed with Monterey Jack cheese, jalapenos and coleslaw―simple and tasty.
Though it may be hard to choose which dish is the best, there is only one I dream about―the fried oyster po’boy. It is one of my absolute favourite things to eat. The oysters are perfectly crisp and topped with fresh coleslaw in a milk bread bun. Their homemade chipotle mayo is really what holds the whole po’boy together. It may sound simple, but the flavours are like nothing you’ve ever had before.
To sum it all up―it’s about time Montreal has Icehouse.
Icehouse is located at 51 Roy St. E.