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Dinner at Auberge Saint-Gabriel
Type of cuisine: French (a mixed of Contemporary and Classics fares)
Thursday November 24th 2011, 18:00
Addr: 426 rue St-Gabriel Montreal, QC H2Y 2Z9
Phone: (514) 878-3561
/Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
(English review to follow) - Il va de soi qu'un Chef comme Eric Gonzalez
(a--t-on besoin de le présenter? Rfaol) part déjà avec des avantages: une maitrise des textures irréprochable, un travail technique de solide calibre. Rien à redire sur ces aspects que je viens d'énumérer. Parcontre, il faudrait des portions plus généreuses dans l'assiette et le Chef doit absolument trouver une facon de faire 'pondre' des saveurs plus explosives en bouche.
Chef Eric Gonzalez
is one of the most influential top Chefs of this province, alongside other great Chefs like Laprise, Anne Desjardins, Alain Labrie. He used to work for 3 star Michelin Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu, went on earning a Michelin star with Clairefontaine (Luxembourg). In Montreal, he was at the helm of famous restaurants like Laloux, Xo Le Restaurant, Cube.
His current work at Auberge St Gabriel (a trendy neo-rustic chic inn, marked by stonewalls) is widely praised as featuring among this city's very best.
Whatever meal you take starts with an amuse - bouche and ends with mignardises, a feature you only see at very few tables in town (even among the high end tables, you see this on few tables). My main waitress was a woman of tact and great sense of professionalism. All the rest of the staff, on this dinner, offered impeccable service. If I had to be a bit picky, I'd recommend some slight adjustments: the gentleman who took care of my wines should first pour a bit of wine, let me sample it, and inquires about my impression of it. Instead, he poured the wine and just hoped I'd like it. This is a minor slip that I'll put on the fact that he is not a sommelier..and yet, this should be avoided. Another very minor note: when I was leaving, a concierge to whom I said 'je vous souhaite une belle soirée
", replied with a very casual 'à toi de meme
". I don't want to replay the now widely refrain that 'vous
' is now passé and it's cool to say 'tu
"...Rfaol...but at such high end place, I am sure the owners would expect a bit more formality from their employees. Again, no drama here but a nice little touch to keep constructively in mind. Braised beef / confit tomatoes / shrimps, aromatic spices, shellfish bearnaise
- Naturally, there's little to complain about in the cooking aspect, when a Chef like Gonzalez is behind a dish: the bearnaise sauce for ie, was superbly flavored and it was clear that a technically capable hand was behind it. This is, to me, anywhere in between good (7/10
- shrimps were nicely cooked, braised beef of ultimate terderness) to very good (8/10 - the bearnaise sauce was stunning, both in texture and taste) dish. But of a top Chef like Gonzalez I expect startling 9 or 10/10 food performance as he sometimes did when he was at Laloux and at Cube. Could that be possible with items as straightforward as couple of cubes of braised beef, some shrimps and tomatoes confit. I'd say Yes (perhaps not for the shrimp...I don't see how far you can make a shrimp stellar...but the braised beef could have been beefier). Shoulder of lamb confit, cooked like a tajine, carrot and dried fruits, cauliflower semolina, chickpea flour pancake, jus with Oriental flavours
- There's, I felt, some kind of restraint in provoking the palate of the diner. Flavor was clearly under control. This could be pleasant to some, but a pain for me: I love rich, eventful flavors. This dish offered good, but carefully surveyed ones. The way he worked his carrots was another reminder of his great depth of culinary artistic skills. You should also see the fries: only three of those, but backed by a solid technical prouesse (consistency and texture of the fries being remarkable). This, I am sure, will remain a divisive dish given the small portions at such price ($35). But for its skillfull conception (you can clearly see that Chef Gonzalez belongs to the big leagues. Chefs like him, Laprise, Navarrette Jr, Rouyé, Michelle Mercuri, Lenglet, Alexandre Loiseau...I don't even compare their work anymore to local standards but to what's best done abroad. ALL I am asking Chef Gonzalez has nothing to do with the conception of this or the previous dish. It has to do with the flavors: make them more eventful, mode delicious if you prefer! I'll come back on this at the end of this review), I'll give it a 8/10
I've tried in the past many dishes of Chef Gonzalez (Cube, Lutetia, etc). I can tell you that it would be unfair to limit myself to this dinner's performance (those two dishes don't pay justice to the great talent of Chef Gonzalez). With that said, I have got to judge this dinner and not his past works. And as such, I did expect more from Chef Gonzalez, hence the title of my review 'Un peu de folie, svp, Chef!'. In nowadays restaurant standards, you stand out with extra mileage over what your competitors are doing. A good example of an opporunity that needed to be seized for that 'extra mileage' to materialize itself would have been to take the concept of that lamb confit
dish further: it's mentioned Tajine
in its description. So why not building memorable flavors around the stunning aromatic feature of a Tajine
? The flavors were definitely good on that dish...but not stellar! PROS
: Original neo-rustic chic environment. Top class service from the wait staff . Top quality produce and the chance of having such a great Chef in the kitchen...BUT Chef, un brin de folie svp!CONS
: As always, my quibbles concern only the specific meal I have sampled. (1)Even if you are not a sommelier, wait that the customer tries the wine first...and make sure you provide a short description of the wine.
(2)Chef Gonzalez has talent. No one will deny that and he has proved it for years. BUT a Chef needs to take risks and impart excitement in his work of flavors.And they need to be a tad more generous with their portions on dishes like the two that I have sampled. Overall food rating
: 7/10 for what I do expect from a Chef like Gonzalez. he can do way better. Of course, I am not stoopid neither: this was technically well done, as expected from a Chef who already had a Michelin star in Europe. But food needs excitement!!!!