Montreal’s first Caspian and Caucasian impressed restaurant opens in Little Italy
Chef Erin Mahoney wanted to open her first restaurant in the spring but, like many others, was sidelined by the pandemic. That weekend, however, after months of preparation (and years of research and recipe review) at its location in northern Little Italy, Restaurant Joon began serving Caspian and South Caucasus-inspired cuisine.
“We pushed the doors open with a special joy that was only stronger after we had to wait because of COVID. We thank everyone who was there on our first weekend! We’ll do that again next week, ”read a post on the restaurant’s Instagram page.
Mahoney previously worked at La Bête à Pain, Le St. Urbain and Impasto, the last of which is owned by well-known Little Italy chefs Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita, who are partners at Joon along with her husband, Marketing Director Ilya Daftari.
In compliance with social distancing guidelines, the 2,100-square-foot space – designed by Ménard Dworkind – can accommodate a decent 30 to 34 people. “I felt a little embarrassed when I started renting it. I thought, ‘Wow girl, you’ve been really lucky for a first restaurant.’ And then COVID happened and I was like, ‘Wow girl, you’re really lucky because we have a lot of room to spread out,’ Mahoney told Eater before the opening.
While Joon’s seasonal menu changes frequently, Mahoney’s opening this weekend is serving pork kebab marinated in pomegranate juice, trout with tarragon and lavash (a traditional thin flatbread), chicken with saffron and yogurt, and some smaller vegetarian dishes that are similarly coated in Herbs and spices characteristic of the Caspian Sea and the South Caucasus.
“It was originally supposed to be an Iranian concept because my partner is Iranian and I wanted to bring something to the Montreal food scene,” Mahoney recalls, but admits that there are a few little-known Iranian places that focus on kebabs and Concentrate rice in the Montreal NDG area.
As she delved into the history of Iranian cuisine and that of neighboring countries such as Georgia and Armenia, she came across similarities in taste profiles due to their common terroir.
“I decided I really wanted to combine the different flavors,” says Mahoney. “Not belonging to these cultures gave me a bit of freedom to experiment and interpret them, but mostly to pay a great homage, because that’s what I’m after. The main thing is to respect these cultures and do them justice. “
Joon is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm in 7130 St Laurent