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Montreal’s Cabaret L’Enfer: A Haunting Culinary Experience

Cabaret L’Enfer Opens in Montreal

After a few years of perfecting his craft at Le Mousso, chef Massimo Piedimonte is ready to open Cabaret l’enfer. A Montreal restaurant modeled after the famous cabaret in Montmartre, it promises a performance like no other.

Customers rave about the food and service at this spot. They also love the pretty atmosphere.

Food

The menu is a nod to both the city’s French roots and its Italian ones, with items like burrata paired with black currant oil, beef tartare with Carta Di Musica (traditional Sardinian crackers) and ravioli stuffed with lobster, fava beans and raspberry leaves. For drinks, Piedimonte has enlisted mixologue Emile Archambault and sommelier Frederic Letourneau.

This is the first restaurant from chef Massimo Piedimonte, who has a reputation for perfection and a knack for finding new talent to work with. He comes to Cabaret l’Enfer after years at Le Mousso, where he was one of the most ferocious kitchen leaders in Montreal. He and his team — Santiago Alonso as chef de cuisine, Edouard Belanger as sous-chef, Etienne Charlebois as sommelier, Emile Archambault as mixologue and Glenn Hoffman as manager — have been working on this project for years, through delays and pandemic interruptions. It’s finally opening in spring 2021.

Drink

Guests of this Montmartre venue can expect a spooky experience that is both gastronomic and atmospheric. In the style of an abandoned Parisian theatre meets a grotesque Ossuary, this restaurant is sure to send a chill down your spine.

When it comes to food, Piedimonte draws from his French culinary training and Italian heritage for the menu. Expect burrata with black currant oil, beef tartare paired with Carta Di Musica, and ravioli or agnolotti made with ricotta and hazelnuts.

The restaurant’s name is a tribute to the cabaret l’enfer of 1890s Paris, which featured an entrance in the shape of a grotesque mouth. It was next door to a Heaven-themed cafe, and both became renowned for macabre spectacles and performances that were unlike anything the City of Lights had seen at the time. The Parisian venues have since disappeared, but the cabaret’s facade is now a Monoprix supermarket.

Performances

In a time when the bizarre was the norm, cabaret l’enfer was a place to indulge in sensuous and grotesque performances. Founded in 1892 near Montmartre, this unique venue aspired to be more than just entertainment; it was a portal into the underbelly of Paris—a hellish wonderland with an entrance resembling the gaping jaws of Leviathan symbolizing damnation.

Visitors were greeted by the Devil’s doorman who urged them to “Enter and be Damned!” In addition, there was a diabolical floor show where a man dressed as Mephistopheles would frighten patrons. Other performances incorporated acrobatics, juggling and a series of rapid tableaux that depicted the agonies of death.

The cabaret closed in 1925, but its hellish facade at 53 Boulevard de Clichy survived until the 1950s when it was razed to make way for a Monoprix supermarket. Fortunately, photographs taken by Eugene Atget and Robert Doisneau—as well as a shot by Harry C. Ellis, an American photographer who captured everyday occupations and street scenes—documented the illuminating spectacle.

Venue

Unlike some Montmartre cafes that were macabre in nature, l’Enfer’s titillating performances danced on the edge of societal acceptability. This ambiance was accentuated by the fact that the cabaret’s entrance resembled the gaping jaws of Leviathan, symbolizing damnation.

This imposing entrance, captured in the photograph above by Eugene Atget, was emblematic of the eerie allure that surrounded The Cabaret de l’Enfer. Jules Claretie noted that future historians of the Belle Epoque “could not silently pass by these cabarets, which put Dante’s poem within walking distance.”

Massimo plans to continue the restaurant’s ethos, introducing new wine selections and hiring Raphaelle Berube, a talented sommelier known for her work at Le Mousso and Candide, as director of the bar. This will help to focus the venue’s ethos on the quality and variety of wines offered to guests. He also hopes to entrust another member of the team with the responsibility of developing a list primarily composed of natural and biodynamic wines.

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