Sunday, 04 December 2011
Click here for a recap of my picks of all Montreal's top fine dining & best Montreal's bistrots.
Also: My 3 and 2 Star Michelin restaurant review web site
Addr: 1485, rue Jeanne-Mance, Montréal
Phone: (514) 289-4558
Dinner @ F Bar on Friday Dec 2nd 2011 18:00
Cuisine type: Bistro (Modern French with Med/Portuguese touches)
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
(English review will follow) - Le refrain est connu: il faut que nos plus beaux talents OSENT!! Sinon ca donne ceci: bon resto, des plats bien concus, rien de mauvais à dire...mais rien de particulier non plus! C'est dommage d'avoir que ca à retenir de cette soirée. En fouillant un peu, je dois dire que les beaux petits flacons Portugais, ca nous fait voyager un peu et ca a donné le ton à cette soirée, charmante soit...mais comme bien d'autres....à mon avis.
Chef Gilles Herzog has worked under Alain Ducasse (at Louis VX in Monte Carlo) in the past, and has also spent some time alongside Michelin starred Chef De Matteis (Who once was at Taillevent, Paris), 2 star Michelin Chef Patrick Henriroux, and Serge Chenet. He also worked at 2 star Michelin Châteaux de Divonne, 2 star Michelin La Pyramide and 1 star Michelin Le Prieuré (all of those tables been in France). I first discovered him when he was working at restaurant Derrière Les Fagots in Laval, a restaurant that stood among Quebec's very best when he was at its helm. Without being bold, his French contemporary cuisine maintained itself among the most exciting in the province. Easily among this province's top 5 best Chefs when he was at Derrière Les Fagots .
He now has the mission of offering the so-called market cuisine theme with a touch of Portuguese flair at the restaurant F Bar.
Many tend to confuse F Bar with a portuguese restaurant: its owner is portuguese, some part of the decor pays tribute to Portugal and it's clear that they have Portuguese-inspired dishes (bitoque, natas, etc), but I think it would be erroneous to go there with the sole idea that you are heading to your typical Portuguese restaurant: Chef Gilles Herzog has always made it clear to the medias that he has never cooked Portuguese food prior to his appointment at the F Bar, but that the owner asked him to come up with his take of Market cuisine 'rhythmed' by Mediterranean/Portuguese touches . Therefore, what this is more accurately about is a Chef Herzog Modern take on Portuguese / Mediterranean cuisine. If you are a purist of Portuguese food, then I'll suggest you go to Portugal!
Since its opening, I went at the F Bar twice already. The 1st time, I was on a rush and had their pasta acores, which did not do it for me. On a second visit, I had the Portuguese Bitoque (runny egg atop a strip loin steak). Which was just ok for me. Both visits occured at the beginning of the week, so this time I decided that an early Friday evening would perhaps be a better idea, with of course different items.
The food I had on this evening:
Deer tartare, orange/pepper/juniper berry jelly - Tasty tartare, judiciously spiced, chopped as it should. Then dices of orange jelly (retained the purity of orange flavor, adding extra taste/texture dimension to the dish). On my right, a salad of beets, executed with finesse and seasoned with precision. This was really Good 7/10, but again, that's what is expected from any good bistro.
Halibut, black raisin-parsley-almond condiment, brown butter/sherry - This is one of their most celebrated dishes among foodies and food journalists. It's well done, that's for sure: the fish is nicely cooked and packed with appealing moist consistency, the purée (that's underneath) sieved to ideal soft creaminess. Then you get the expected work of textural and flavor constrasts: crunch of the almonds,sweetness of the grapes, the grassy-ness of the parsley. All of this is nice, there's no doubt about that. But we have no surprise, no daring-ness. Just what's expected..again and again..from a good bistro. In between good to Very good 7.5/10
Coconut milk rice pudding, passion fruit/basil sorbet - This pudding stood creamy as a good rice pudding should be, its sweetness well controlled (not overwhelming), but where's the coconut flavor???? The sorbet (tasty without being stunning) and some crunchy bites added to the rice pudding do bring the necessary contrast and variety of textures ...but I really don't get this dessert: when I was reading its description, elements such as 'coconut milk' and 'basil' led me to think that some aromatic 'pep' would be delivered. In Mouth, they surprisingly remained absent: take the sorbet for ie...had that sorbet alone rose with a depth of flavor, I would have rate this dessert with a comfortable 8 over 10. Same for the coconut flavor: it's a flavor that I enjoy a lot and it would have certainly impart an interesting kick to the pudding...alas my palate never sensed it. - Good 7/10 ...but not great.
Bottom line: is F Bar among Mtl's best bistrots. Yes (albeit, in my view, a notch or two behind Bistro Cocagne, Au 5e Péché, Bouillon Bilk). But there's no room to feast, neither: Chef Herzog had the chance to work with culinary masters like Alain Ducasse, De Matteis, etc. So why not transferring a bit of that brilliance on those dishes. The dishes were good, a recurrence with many good bistrots in town, but neither on this meal nor on the 2 previous visits there...did I feel any sign of outstanding achievement. That's to be expected from a Chef of the caliber of Herzog!
PROS: the nice wines of Portugal as that amazing mineral Dona Maria 2009 served along the halibut. The fun, down to earth bartender on this evening (I sat at the bar). The festive atmosphere (it was packed).
CONS: I am not expecting all Bistrot Chefs to surprise me as Lenglet did at au 5e Péché...BUT of a Chef like Herzog, I guess it's normal to expect some sparks. Of course his food is good, better than at a lot of other highly regarded tables (I personally preferred this later meal here to the last ones I had at Le Chien Fumant, Chez Victoire, KGP for ie) , but of a Chef like him ... I need -- at the very least --- to stumble upon random stellar elements (even if it is as insignificant as a simple condiment).
Last but not least, I need to say this --- to Mtl's restaurateurs: making $$$ is wonderful, but people are eating out a lot nowadays, so a bit as in fashion...expect to face more and more demanding customers. Expect to be challenged. Just doing a good job won't suffice. Expect to surpass yourself.
Wishing the best to all of us,and may 2012 be a better year of discoveries!
Overall food rating: 5/10 Average for what Iam accustomed to /thus do expect at comparable restaurants/dining category. Iwas surprised by this just Ok performance, knowing well how the Chef here hasbeen able, at his previous restaurant, to offer far superior cooking. Thefood was pleasant, and as expected from such a talented Chef, it was well done,but keeping things on the safe side has not worked for me althoughthis is the way to go for their business to succeed: this is a place that isbusy night after night. Atleast, this is a very pleasant place with electric ambience. Overall service rating: 8/10 Mostly young,professional on this evening.
Décor: 8/10 Elegant, colorful, contemporary. Go on thei rwebsite,WYSIWYG!
IMPORTANT: 'Overall food rating' HAS NOTHING TO DO with the arithmecticcalculation of all dishes. It is my personal subjective rating of the overall foodperformance on the specif meal I am sampling only.