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Van Horne, Montreal

Tall order: The dining room’s totem pole; co-owner Sylvie Lachance with chef Eloi Dion.

Imagine quirky characters from a French nouvelle vague film – say Godard, circa 1960 – walking out of the reel and into a real-life restaurant, sharing a bottle of wine and deciding to run the place. The existence of tiny and finely attuned Van Horne is only remotely less plausible. Art patrons turned food-arts patrons Sylvie Lachance and Urs Jakob (she from Quebec showbiz, he from New York’s Gershwin Hotel) advertised for a chef before serendipitously recruiting Eloi Dion from 357c, Daniel Langlois’ exclusive Montreal club. Their gamine sommelière waits tables and manages a petite list of private imports. The sparse room, like a gallery, showcases their collection – silkscreened paper plates by Roy Lichtenstein, a gate from the Iranian pavilion at Expo 67, a totem pole nicknamed Bill – while the soundtrack floats nonchalantly from vintage Paris pop to New York punk.

Dion’s market-driven card, short and stunning, has one foot in a flexitarian future. Its roster of four main courses (one meat, two fish and one vegetarian) is so creatively handled, it makes standard protein-heavy restaurants seem tired and outdated. On each plate, a new colour palette. A yellow disc of beautifully bitter grapefruit jelly under feathery snow crab and joi choi. Darkest-green chard chiffonade squiggled with garam-masala-spiced date purée. If art challenges our ways of seeing, consider Dion’s study in grey: ethereal squid-ink hollandaise that looks like liquid concrete, over luscious pink snapper and pewter-toned mushroom lasagna. Truly a limited edition.

1268, av. Van Horne, 514-508-0828, vanhornerestaurant.com