Chef Patrice Demers and sommelier Marie-Josée Beaudoin have made a spectacular return to Montreal’s dining scene with Sabayon, a project which refocuses their passions for dining experiences alongside tea time services and cooking classes—all in one intimate yet multifaceted space in Pointe-Saint-Charles.
Located in the ground-level space that once housed Hakim Chajar’s Miel, the restaurant was redesigned by Mathieu Leclerc from Studio Knowhow.
“After explaining the concept, I sent (Leclerc) twelve pictures of places I loved in the world—restaurants, pastry shops—just to give him an idea of what we loved,” says Demers, pointing to places like Atomix in New York City.
“A few weeks later, his proposal was even better than what we thought could be done with the place,” he adds.
The space has two halves to it: When you enter, the first room to the left is a large bar seating 12 guests, with a kitchen behind it; that’s where classes take place for savoury dishes, an appetizer–main course–dessert formula where everything is cooked in real time for people to watch and learn, as well as wine classes by Marie-Josée.
There are also tea times on Saturday ($55 per person), leaning more sweet with a personalized version of Patrice’s desserts similar to high-end hotels in France, with three courses that are paired with teas from Camellia Sinensis. First courses will be more classic with scones with fruit garnishes and cream, then plated desserts that use fresh fruits, followed by small mignardises with chocolate.
To the right, a dining room seats 14 people and focuses on small tasting menus that top out at about six per service ($115 with service included) three nights a week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. “Nothing crazy,” Demers says. “It’s fun to go for a 15-course menu, but after 5 or 6, that’s what people usually like to eat.”
Menus will change often, and being close to Atwater Market will figure in heavily alongside carefully selected producers. Promising a vegetable-forward approach, the menu will generally stick to how Patrice likes to cook.
“I think we need to eat more vegetable and less meat, and this is the way I love to cook, and that goes back to my beginnings in the restaurant world (with Stelio Perombelon at Les Chèvres),” says Demers.
“My pastry background is going to come through with similar techniques involved,” Demers explains, pointing to one dish from his time at Fulgurances Laundromat in NYC following the closure of his eponymous bakery in Little Burgundy: Grilled mushrooms served on an arlette (homemade puff pastry) rolled thin with mushroom and seaweed powder, served with a touch of maple sugar and a sabayon of brown butter infused with juniper and fresh bay leaf.
It's a kind of namesake dish, but the name was decided long before.
In many ways, Sabayon spent a long time in the proverbial oven. Following the closure of the bakery, Demers and Beaudoin took to traveling and cooking. Demers continued to teach at the Institut de tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ) on and off, Beaudoin helped out with the opening at Annette bar à vin, and together they traveled to NYC for a series of dinners at Fulgurances.
“We started to think about what our next move would be because at the time, we didn’t have any projects in mind as I was getting ready to (cook at Fulgurances),” Demers says.
(Sabayon) was always in the back of my mind because I love savoury food. Even when we opened the pastry shop, I didn’t think I was ready to open a restaurant, but I knew it was what I preferred.
Fulgurances, in many ways, was an inflection point for Demers and Beaudoin. “The pop-up in NYC was a great way to see if I enjoyed cooking savoury food full-time, and I felt great about it. It went so well, everybody loved the menu, and I had a lot of fun working on it. Half the dining room was (filled with) people from Montreal and Quebec,” Demers says.
“We realized then that it wouldn’t be easy, but it would be possible for us to find a crowd for my food in Montreal.”
However, it wasn’t the first catalyst.
“While we were in Italy, we went to a small restaurant in the Piedmont region named Alba. It was just the husband and wife, him alone in the kitchen, her alone in the dining room. They were doing 18 guests three days a week, lunch and dinner. We thought that was kind of cool, and you felt like you were in their home, and this is kind of what we’re trying to do over (at Sabayon).”
It’s hard to understate how much this project’s been highly anticipated since it was first announced. For example, the restaurant’s varied services and classes were booked solid for two months the moment they became available.
The shock when they announced they’d close their bakery in August 2022 was received with resounding shock. No surprise there: After honing his sugar craft at restaurants like 400 Coups alongside Marc-André Jetté, Patrice recalls that opening Patrice Pâtissier was a sea-change for Montreal diners.
“We opened a pastry shop because that was what everybody was asking for. There were people coming to 400 Coups only for desserts,” Patrice recalls. “People were asking why there weren’t any good, creative pastry shops in Montreal. There was Rhubarbe at the time, which is amazing, but there weren’t many besides that.”
Patrice Pâtissier was a crazy ride for Demers and Beaudoin that lasted eight and a half years. The first few were the most difficult; even with their lauded reputations, customers were in short supply. They tried far too many experiments that ran from lunches to a short-lived wine bar for six nights a week.
Difficulties lied in coming up with pastries that could last, as Demers had to pivot from the plated desserts he preferred for their delicate textures.
“But doing 1,000 pastries a day was really tough, trying to keep up with the quality we were doing. Even though you use the same ingredients as a restaurant, you can’t sell it at the same prices,” the chef says.
“Eventually I found my own style of pastries, and I’m happy I did it, but I realized this wasn’t what I liked to do,” Demers explains. “When I travel, I go to pastry shops, but it’s not something I’m in love with. I love to go to restaurants, that’s my passion.”
Sabayon is located at 2194 Centre Street.