Sunday, 08 May 2011
For the record, I have gathered a recap of all my reviews here (this is an easier way to get to them rather than scrolling the entire xanga web page).
Event: Dinner @ Le Chien fumant
Addr: 4710, de Lanaudière, Montréal
When: Saturday May 7th 2011, 7PM
Type of cuisine: Bistro (Gastropub style)
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
(English review will follow) - A ces prix là, one ne peut pas se permettre une seule soirée 'OFF'! Oh, oui j'allais oublier: c'est un copie-coller du meme commentaire que je fais pour chaque repas qui m'a décu car en fait, je ne suis inspiré que lorsque c'est...inspirant!
After our last successful meal at restaurant Le Marly, both Jannice and I thought about trying a totally different restaurant style this time. This is the Plateau’s establishment of popular Chef Maksim Morin.Chef Morin used to be a cook at another giant of Montreal's restaurant scene: Joe Beef. After leaving Joe Beef, he opened Le Chien fumant, perhaps in the top 5 most "written about" Montreal eateries (virtually all Montreal foodies, web blogs, food columns have covered this restaurant). Almost everything here is homemade (charcuteries, sauces) and most ingredients sourced nearby.
Upon entering the tiny front glass window restaurant, I realized that what I liked the most with Joe Beef's decor is also present here: an overall british style pub atmosphere, with its usual omnipresence of dark wood. The food too is in that same logic: lots of homemade charcuteries, braised meats, comforting rustic food revisited and the menu presented on a chalkboard. Another feature that I liked at Joe Beef and that perpetuates here: the sense of relative (relatively to Montreal's current restaurant realities) originality : for ie, the possibility of enjoying a 19th century cocktail. Restaurants like Joe Beef and Le Chien fumant are essentially the Montreal's representatives of the 2000s UK's gastropub phenomenom that took off in the US.
As starters, Jannice picked the 'Scallops ceviche' whilst I opted for the 'Braised pork':
Ceviche de pétoncles - Of appreciable mention here: the sizeable fresh scallops. They were paired with top quality carrots and radishes (you can't beat market cuisine at that, obviously), and the usual enhancing ingredients (onions, etc). All decently marinated, with an Ok lemon jus (this was far from the startling ceviches of latino genius-Chef Mario Navarrette's Jr, who is in a total class apart, and although I do not expect Chef Navarrette's level of cooking in all ceviches I am sampling, I do reproach this one Ceviche to lack spark). I am fine with the $18 price tag of this dish though: the quality of those scallops and veggies is a fair reason for this price, and although not of memorable material, this was not bad at all. Overall, just ok 6/10
Porc braisé, Sésame, Okra - The least expensive appetizer on this evening's menu ($12). The morsels of braised pork were well cooked, tender and tasty and yet, without being faulty (it's technically a faultless dish: good cooking, decent sauce, the temperature and the timing of the cooking mastered, again and again the ingredients are of nice quality as with those impeccable okras) ... this was an ordinary dish in terms of prime palatability. Okay 6/10
For mains: a rib eye steak for Jannice, halibut for your humble host ->
Entrecote aux poivres - the meat is fine (good quality), the cooking correct. As simple as such dish might stand, some steaks are naturally better than others but this one does not fail amidst those that will mark my souvenirs. In my opinion, this just lacked a depth of beefy flavours and the sauce aux poivres (peppercorn sauce), although fragrant enough, was short of intensity / richness (features I do value in a great peppercorn steak sauce). This was served along a watercress salad (evenly seasoned) and Ok french fries. At $30, I still believe that this is pricey for this one specific dish (in comparison, a startling rib eye steak of approx the same size at the keg steakhouse was less $$$, same could be said of a memorable dish of hanger steak at Au Cinquième péché priced at $27) 6.5/10
Fletan au curry vert - Bon, voilà...finally a dish that I am pleased to write about (there's nothing as frustrating as losing my time writing about average food...believe me!). The cooking (impeccable here), the taste (delicious...so, question: was this the same Chef who cooked the previous dishes??...I came close to ask), the fish itself (halibut) as fresh as you could get (remember: for a halibut to be so tender and packed with such a fresh impeccable flesh, this fish was probably not a large halibut since the larger ones tend to have a tougher flesh- and spent a small amount of time in between the catch and its cooking. Details like those should never be discarded, since they tell us a lot about how they are commited to top quality ingredients) , the cooking of the accompanied veggies perhaps not perfectly accomplished (slighltly overcooked) but forgivable since they remained tasty. And even the green curry (which I would have prefered richer, in other circumstances / that would have been a bad idea in this case since it would have overhelmed the enticing taste of the halibut) harmoniously complemented the fish. Not a stunning seafood dish as, say, the roasted salmon that Chef Martin Juneau once served on this lunch at La Montée, but really good 7/10
Wine list: Not extensive, and it does not have to be neither since all you need is a well balanced list focusing on quality. While reading many reviews on Le Chien fumant, I noticed that most have complained about the high prices of the wine. But what those people forgot to mention is that there are many high end wines in there, such as some Cote Rotie. I even saw a Puligny-Montrachet. The wine list varies from $45 to $157 (the latter being the Puligny-Montrachet that I saw).
Service: The Irish-Canadian woman who was our waitress is my choice, up to now, along Le Marly's Alex, for this year's best waitstaff. This is the type of service that I praise: efficient, very attentive, classy and genuine.
I know, I know -> this city loves its Chien fumant (numerous praises over the web, many rave comments from foodies on their facebook page, etc) and I wish I could love it too: the service was charming, the British gastropub concept lovable (proof that you can be a French man and still love what the UK offers, n'est-ce pas?), the wine list seduced me in its short but qualitative feature, their sense of originality and seek of authenticity (the 19th century cocktail for ie) is noteworthy. BUT my quibble is with what brought me here: the food. Hence...Puzzled...the title of the current review. The food was simply ordinary (except for the halibut), a far cry from the sense of savourish taste of say, the Kitchen Galerie bistro or the accomplished superior cooking at other bistros like Bistro Cocagne, La Montee, and Au cinquième péché. I do not mind pricey food if your top quality ingredients (obviously the reason behind the cost of most of the dishes we've sampled) are backed by superb savourish meals, but superb savourishness is not what I've experienced on this one meal. Jannice was even less enthusiastic about this meal. I am glad to see that we both are in the minority here (this place gets packed easily, proof that a lot of diners are obviously not sharing both Jannice's and my opinions), but this post is not to criticize for the pleasure of criticizing (it's way more pleasant to report about stunning food, especially when the main duty of the current blog is a long time consuming process of intelligence gathering on what the Montreal restaurant scene offers at its best + you are doing this in total anonymity and paying with your own hard earned $$$): its goal is to be taken constructively for diners and their restaurants to move forward (reaching newer culinary heights).fyi: Chef Morin was cooking during this dinner. I won't go back.
PROS: Lovely service and decor
CONS: Food at a restaurant should be packed with either interest, sparks, something....
Overall food rating: 5/10 I can talk only for this meal, and this one was average for what I should pay for at a comparable restaurant