When chef Jason Morris opened Le Fantôme in 2015 with his business partner Kabir Kappor, his goal was to make Montreal a dining destination.
When it first opened, the intimate 30-seat restaurant — located on William St. in the centre of Griffintown’s Montreal Art Centre — featured an à la carte-style menu. Today, it has evolved into regularly reinvented tasting menus, offering diners six to nine courses with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. It opened to great acclaim and was named one of Canada’s 10 Best Restaurants of 2016 by enRoute magazine.
“The way we approach our menu is that we try to change it more often than anyone else,” says Morris, who admits his menus sometimes border on the whimsical. “Last year, we did more than 42 different menus. Our tasting menu may begin with some ‘snacks,’ then possibly a cold seafood dish, a pasta dish, a grilled fish or meat, then dessert.”
There are a few staples on the tasting menu, including a pasta of the day; fresh sourdough bread; a peanut butter, foie gras and jelly sandwich; and a selection of cheeses. The food is served on ceramic dishes made by his mother, Pauline, and the wine list changes from week to week.
“When [Kabir Kappor] and I decided to start the restaurant, we knew it would be a risk and we wanted to make sure we were going to be bringing something new to the restaurant scene in Montreal,” says Morris.
This willingness to take risks comes naturally to Morris. He developed his love of food and cooking at an early age, but never thought of pursuing it as a profession. It was while attending business school he decided he needed something more challenging — something that would let him be truly creative. He enrolled at the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec and also began working the fish station at Milos in Montreal. He then did an internship at Corton in New York, specializing in New-French cuisine, before landing at the two-Michelin star Maaemo — a Norwegian restaurant in Schweigaardsgate, Norway. When he returned to Canada, he worked with famed chef Daniel Boulud at Maison Boulud in the Ritz-Carlton Montreal before deciding he wanted to operate his own restaurant.
“Daniel was, and is, a huge inspiration to me and wonderful to work for, but I’m more of a small-restaurant person. I want to connect with the diners,” he says.
Le Fantôme is a narrow space, featuring a six-foot-long bar and walls covered in artwork by Morris’ late grandfather, Lee Morris.
Morris is happy with how diners have taken to Le Fantôme and its tasting menu but he’s most proud when a member of his staff takes the risk to strike out on their own. “I like it when someone moves on and does good things,” he says. “I believe my personal job is done when I hear someone on my staff is doing well.”