Iconic Moishes steakhouse set to reopen in new location in Old Montreal

Click to play video: 'Montreal’s Moishes Steakhouse rises again after pandemic closure'
Montreal’s Moishes Steakhouse rises again after pandemic closure
WATCH: Many Montrealers were left disappointed when the iconic Moishes Steakhouse closed its doors in 2020. Well, the restaurant is set to reopen on Wednesday, with a new look and a new location. Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports – Jun 12, 2023

Interior decorators are gathered around a clear glass vase, putting the final touches on a tall white floral centrepiece. Wait staff polish fine crystal stemware; cooks chop crisp, fresh local asparagus and yellow potatoes in anticipation of their first guests.

The new, revamped Moishes is finally ready to open, three years after the iconic Montreal restaurant closed in its original location on St. Laurent Boulevard.

“To have a restaurant open 85 years, you have to be special,” said Jean Bedard, CEO of the Quebec-based Groupe Grandio which operates La Cage Brasserie Sportive restaurant chain.  “That was a special brand. The challenge – it’s a lot of pressure – is to bring this brand to the future.”

Bedard and his company bought the Moishes brand in 2018. The steakhouses’ retail offerings sold in grocery stores was a big appeal at the time.

Story continues below advertisement

“We want to build our business on the retail side; Moishes already had a retail business. With La Cage and Moishes together we can put together a team. (The) second thing is we want to invest in Montreal,” Bedard said of the reasoning behind the purchase.

Along with original owner Lenny Lighter, the son of Moishes founder Moishe Lighter, the company planned for a move to an Old Montreal location back in 2019. Then the pandemic hit and their plans ground to a half. Bedard admits he considered shuttering the Moishes restaurant brand altogether.

Click to play video: 'Bankruptcy concerns for Canadian restaurants as pandemic loan comes due'
Bankruptcy concerns for Canadian restaurants as pandemic loan comes due

“It’s a big challenge I would say. We were thinking of not opening Moishes again during the pandemic,” he said. “What changed our mind is we started back, our other restaurants, our other brands went well last summer.”

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

The Grandio Groupe secured a location in the Caisse de Depot et Placement building facing Victoria Square in Old Montreal. But the vast space needed a complete overhaul. So they committed to a $5 million investment to reopen the iconic brand. The company hired interior designer Peggy Xenos to create a new vision for the space.

Story continues below advertisement

“It was basically like a fishbowl. Fantastic to have all that natural light but hard work to create an intimate space,” Xenos said. “We  want (diners) to feel at home, that same warmth and welcome you felt at Moishes, but in a new way.”

Xenos designed a restaurant with four distinct spaces in mind. Upon walking in, guests are greeted by a large bar and several banquettes. Dozens of bottles of spirits sit on a tall onyx surface that came from the former restaurant.

The first dining room has slate-coloured panelled walls and is filled with plush red chairs and linen-covered tables. Pictures of Montreal from decades past line the wall.

“The map is coming from the old Moishes environment. The chandeliers are all from Moishes,” Xenos said. “We have wood flooring, a lot of wood panelling, a lot of rich upholstery. You create warmth, more of a residential feel. We step away from the more modern restaurant which is hard surfaces and you can barely hear yourself talk.”

Xenos refers to the third room as a more current space, with modern artwork on the walls and an open kitchen plan.

“We created an open kitchen. We could not have done that in the other space,” she said.

The restaurant also has a VIP room in the back for private events, which they refer to as the Card Room – a nod to the original restaurant Moishes owner who was said to have won the restaurant building in a card game.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Iconic Montreal restaurant closing its doors'
Iconic Montreal restaurant closing its doors

The owners hired respected young chef Murteza Talu, who formerly worked at Damas, one of the city’s most revered restaurants.

Talu said he kept many elements from the old menu while offering more vegetables and seafood options.

“One of the biggest challenges is to re-live the Moishes classics and offer the same experience they were having on the Main,” he said. “We are offering more varieties in terms of main dishes and seafood. I am working with local producers to source seafood products and vegetables. Our lamb is local, our seafood is mostly local, and our vegetables we try and get them as much as possible from Quebec farmers.”

The grand opening comes at a time when the Montreal restaurant industry is still struggling. Quebec’s restaurant industry says in the first three months of this year, a record number of restaurants declared bankruptcy; the 113 restaurants that went under represented a 131 per cent increase compared to 2022.

Story continues below advertisement

“There are people (eating out), we are doing sales but we don’t have the labour to operate more than four or five days a week so that is a problem,” said Martin Vezina, a spokesman for the Quebec Restaurant Association.

Click to play video: 'Restaurants aiming to attract workers'
Restaurants aiming to attract workers

“Moishes is something that Montreal is proud of. It’s important we see a group like Grandio putting that much money into that and believing in this market. It’s fun to see someone taking this brand and making more of an iconic brand that is Moishes.”

The new Moishes won’t be cheap. A ribsteak on the menu costs $89; a 34-ounce porterhouse goes for $150.

Bedard says he’s aware prices are high, so although the new restaurant can seat more than 200 people, they will limit numbers in the first few weeks to ensure patrons are getting quality service.

Story continues below advertisement

“We want to be sure we greet our guests the right way. We will be very prudent in terms of the number of customers we will bring in (the first few weeks) because we don’t want bad experiences,” he said.

Moishes opens to customers on Wednesday.

Sponsored content