Saturday, 14 November 2009
Event: Dinner at Le Club Chasse et Pêche Restaurant
Friday November 13th, 18:00-21:30
Addr: 423 St Claude Montreal, QC H2Y 3B6
Phone: (514) 861-1112
Type of food: High end refined North American dining
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
(English review to follow) - Officiellement, cette table est dans le top 5 Montréalais. Je dirai que c'est exact si je me base sur mon repas du 13 nov 2009. D'abord, lors de ce repas, j'ai été épaté par le plat de sanglier braisé. Un plat d'anthologie, pas seulement digne des meilleurs 3 Étoiles Michelin mais aussi de la crème des meilleures tables de la planète. Cela a beau sembler exagéré sur papier, mais ne l'est point dans les faits. Puis un plat de morue digne d'un solide 2 étoiles Michelin. Malheureusement, tout ne fut pas parfait: le dessert et l'entrée de pétoncle ne furent pas dignes du triomphe des deux plats précédemment mentionnés. Au final, c'est du top pour sa capacité à surprendre ici et là par un grand coup de magie (le sanglier, par exemple, lors de ce repas confirme que le Chef Pelletier est capable de froler le ciel).
Going to CCP is mystic affair (I love mysticism, it just have to happen naturally and charmingly. Which was the case here) for me: from booking a table over the phone with Ray, one of their staff gentleman (Oh man...this gentleman has that quiet powerful full-in control tone of voice of a young godfather, . Mystic was starting to blow in the air, right there!)...to watching the mystic appeal of their web site...to the choice of a Friday 13th...6PM (yeah..I know, it would be even better at midnight)...to lurk into the dark lanes of the Vieux port...
to the nostalgic soviet acronym (CCP)..to the somber interior of CCP:
...it was really a feeling I have so rarely experienced before going to a restaurant. Although I truely felt that mystical mood --- I could not help myself from stopping to build up on the inside --- to be very special/funny/and welcoming since years of intensively eating at restaurants had put aside the sweet excitement I once used to have whenever I was going at restaurants (there are feelings you just cannot control), I was also certain of one ultimate bottom line result: my judgements will be at the exact heights of my tastebud enthusiasm: mystic or not, I will rave if the food is great and will not hesitate to call a cat a cat if it's less stellar .
Upon arrival, I am courteously greeted by a dynamic wait staff (very dynamic, helpful, courteous. You can see that they were very well selected, very well trainned). I truely like this refreshing melting pot (from different backgrounds/origins) of well-mannered, professional and yet accessible gentlemen and women. My dedicated waiter, Phillipe Morissette, is a gem of his own: soft spoken, very well educated + articulated, this cool high class gentleman is service-oriented, very knowledgeable and his past experience at some Relais & Chateaux shows towards his impeccable service (along with Sidonie at XO, Phillipe -- up to now --- is among my personal top two favourite Mtl waiters of 2009).
The decor is dark (the cool kind of dark ), narrow, with low ceilings:
Because of it's omnipresence of somber colors (oil-painted alike dark grey on the walls, dark burgundy armchairs, dark colored ceilings and floors),
it brings a cozy feeling but make no mistake: this place is very popular and this evening was lively (lots of people, great ambiance, nice background music of techno and other type of trendy music types. Background Music was set to perfect volume since you could talk without having to raise the voice and you could easily hear others with them talking at normal tone). Pics were of course taken right at the opening at 6PM, so people were not getting in yet (but less than an hour later, it was packed).
It is important to note that there' s no official tasting menu at CCP. But they are so accomodating that they will concoct one upon your special request. That is the case here and I highly appreciated the move:
Course #1: Pan-seared scallop cooked à l'unilatérale (cooked on one side) with an artful line of fennel cream. The solo big scallop had a succesful sear, was evenly cooked but I wish it had more of the fully marine flavour punch and exciting effect of its far better peers. Fortunately, this was not an indication of what would follow next 5/10
Accompanied wine: a 2007 Alsace Bergheim's white Marceil Deiss pinot. I have a long time soft spot for most wines from Alsace (they are accessible, have a nice light fruity taste I am fond of) and this was no exception. The slight creamy and apple-y flavors of this subtle sweet elegant wine is ideal pairing to the scallop.
Course #2: Sweetbreads/Gremolata/Artichoke
Sweetbreads is a touchy affair. It is bitter by nature but the most talented chefs know how to turn this snicky meaty chunk into a tastebud wonder. And this one at CCP was exactly this: a marvelous tastebud wonder!
Cooked in white wine, the sweetbreads were flavorfully intensily rich, utterly tasty, perfectly smooth on the inside, nicely crispy on the outside. Awesome expert work here to avoid the usual natural bitterness of the sweetbreads and making it very pleasant as I expect my best sweetbreads to stand. The accompaniment of gremolata is a genius classic accompaniment to veal meats and it was there, and it was a superbly tasty expertly concocted condiment. The light and vibrant mushroomy porcini reduction, the savourish creamy elegant celery-root purée ...all added an harmonious multiple dimension of tasting experience to this flawless course. 8.5/10
Accompanied wines: two glasses here. Really a nice touch from Phillipe, my waiter. He is also a sommelier, too. The idea here was to get the short finish light-on-the-palate 2005 Les Fourneaux chablis 1er cru to reach out with the artichokes accompaniment of the sweetbreads, while his buddy the 2005 Cotes du Jura Chardonnay (more vibrant/with a long finish and subtle nose of hazelnut) would take care of the rest of this course:
Not a bad idea at all since they all paired harmoniously well (particularly on a plate where there was quite a suite of ingredients: gremolata, porcini reduction, celery-root purée).
Course #3: Cod, oyster flavors, vegetables, Black garlick purée
Smelt very enjoyably freshly flavorful right away. Bathed in a light crème normande , with a fresh flavor of oyster and topped by artful slim slices of beets and carrots with tasty mushroomy accompaniment. Perfectly seared on the outside, with an ideal tender flaky and moist inside consistency. This was total blast in terms of impressive taste, freshness, tastebud amazement: it had that very memorable 'marine' flavor I seek in my perfect freshest pieces of fish. All accompaniments stood out well here: mushrooms were tender and packed of flavorful freshness. The crème normande was very tasty. I want to underlign a particular element on this plate that I would, If I were them, put a patent on: on the plate, there was a tiny trace of creamy sweet black garlick purée. This was not just original, it was a memorable treat -> heavenly tasty without the bad notes of garlick, this creamy marvel is true genius workout that I have never tasted before and that compete with the Bistro Cocagne's onion chutney I intensively raved about (check out the review of my Septh 4th Bistro Cocagne's dinner). Both CCP and Bistro Cocagne should put a patent on the above-mentionned creative dish accompaniments! 9/10
Pairing wine: the 2006 Savigny les Beaune (Domaine Catherine & Claude Maréchal). I had enjoyed some great Savigny Les Beaune (the Les Hauts Jarrons, 1er Cru, Nicolas Potel being one I highly enjoyed) and this one was in the same trend: full bodied, with a refined elegant texture and enjoyably aromatic flavor. Satisfying choice of wine, but I would personally chose a nice white Sauvignon (as usual, question of pure personal prefs).
Course #4: Braised boar/Brussels sprouts/hazelnuts/Caramelized fig
Bathed in a very delicious light and flavorful meaty jus (the juice of the braised boar itself), this course has simply stole the show as my 2009 Mtl's best main course (along with the Free Form Lasagna I had at XO): with a light amazing tasty crusty coating on the outside (basically a light elegant cheesy coating), perfect browny texture, ideally tender on the inside. This marvel-to-the-tastebud wonder was a genius workout of amazing flavorful meaty taste with accompaniments that were creatively so well thought: the hazelnuts in there were not just another ingredients to try...they were a perfect harmonious addition to the rest of this course. The caramelized fig was pure genius food work: intensely rich and tasty, it was the kind of tastebud amazement marvel that secured for good what I think of this cuisine: one of world's bests (YES...you are reading this right! Do not go to CCP, order a risotto and complain that I am pushing a bit too much when I write this. Instead, be more accurate: Go to some of the best restaurants of the world like the Fat Duck, El Bulli, L'Osier, L'Astrance, Hermann. Then head to CCP, try this Braised boar course. Then you will get what I mean! Of course, I am not stating that CCP is as great as those. That is purely subjective and I wont go there. What I am stating is that on this tasting menu, some items compete with the best ones I ate at the Fat Duck, El Bulli, L'Osier..etc). Back to the helluvah heavenly caramelized fig: so it added to an already flawless course, a level that is hard to beat. This, folks, would send even the best tables of the world (El Bulli, Fat Duck) to reflexion. Stunned! 10/10
Pairing wine: Montecillo Gran Reserva 2001. To my tastebuds, this was perfect match with the boar meat. The oaky intense flavor of that MGR 2001 is exactly what I seek for with my game meats.
Course #5: Pan-seared duck liver, purée of dates, jalapeno flavoured apple jelly
Nice cooking technique here (very close to my two top personal Mtl's all time best pan-seared foie: refer to my Febr 13th dinner at L'Eau à la Bouche + the Sept 4th dinner at Bistro Cocagne): beautifully seared, slightly brown on the outside, enoughly smooth (albeit a little bit mushy at some point when I was digging deeper into it, which makes it just a tad behind the impressive one I had at EAB...but with accompaniments that stole the show over it's similar at EAB...mind you the one I had at EAB had barely any accompaniment...didn't need accompaniments neither since it was stellar on it's own self) consistency on the inside. The taste was flawless, very hearty and delicious. It was accompanied by a suite of pure wonders I have got to rave about, because not only they did add a welcoming degree of creativity and well thought additions to the duck liver, they also were very tasty: a delicious sweet fruity purée of dates (talk about adding marvels to the marvelous), a jalapeno flavoured apple jelly (Wowed! Patent..Put a Patent on this, my dear CCP! Heavenly delicious, elegantly concocted) , nice fresh slices of spice bread...all were heavenly breezes to my heart, eyes and tastebuds. 8.5/10
Paired with a QC's ice cider: that's the beauty of the new world touch -> as much as I liked my fruity Old world classic wine along with the foie, I must admit that ice cider brings better punch!
Course #6: Paris-Brest topped with a popcorn ice cream
The popcorn ice cream is one I never tried before.This one was surprisingly delicious and elegantly superior (in taste, richness of the flavors) to the usual good ice creams. Heavenly tasty ice cream with bites of nuts that were crunchily nice, but the overall Paris-Brest, although not bad at all, failed to seduce me: the choux pastry ring was nice but not memorable. Same opinion over the pastry cream. I am fond of Paris-Brest, but this one was slightly sub par to the top ones I had at the high end pastry spots of Montreal (Patisserie L'Escurier, for ie). Sorry for the comparison but judgement is an equation of comparisons. So, the Paris-Brest was acceptable but not great. 6/10
Just need to underlign a nice little touch from their part, here: the Paris-Brest was served with a nice cup of warm enjoyable light Assam tea. This is a great idea, since the amazing malty light flavor of this type of tea really balanced harmoniously well the sweetness of the Paris Brest. Nice touch!
I found the delay very reasonable between the courses (average of 30 mins between the course, but never mind the numbers here...this is perfect timing to enjoy one course at a time as it is supposed to be!). I sometimes see criticisms about tasting menus being too long: that is a non sense. A tasting menu is supposed to be slowly fully enjoyed. What is a tasting menu if I feel like just stuffing my mouth one food item right after another??
If you ask me, given a complete economical blackout, what Montreal restaurant would be the very last to close, I'd say CCP: get this -> without big advertisements, with just mouth to mouth recommendations, this place is packed of devoted fans. And that is happening with nearby great restaurants like Chez L'Épicer. When success wants you, there is no escape out! I am sure the owner (s) must laugh at night while sleeping: just mouth to mouth reputation and they end up with one of Mtl's most admired tables. Well deserved because this is a stunning cuisine! It is also a place that shines with an impeccably well trainned admirable staff (here, I deeply felt that everyone is equally treated with class and full attention with a level of professionalism and accomodation that all restaurants would gain from following).
The only 2 reasons LCCP is getting a VERY GOOD mention from my part, instead of EXCELLENT (it is very close to Excellent btw, and they truely do not need my opinion to know that. Look at how they are appreciated by armies of food fans...that right there talk for their greatness) is just because I expect such highly talented cuisine to blow my tastebuds with an impressive dessert course (make no mistake, I am sure they can deliver tastebud blowing desserts like those I enjoyed at EAB, M Sur Masson, Bistro Cocagne and Nuances) + the 1st course of Pan-Seared scallop lacked the fully marine freshness and taste I do expect on an appetizer of Seafood .
On my way to CCP, this Bob Marley song was playing in my mind: 'there is a natural mystic blowing through the air...'. On my way back, another song was reworked to suit my subsequent feelings: Black Eyed Peas 'I got a feeling that tonight gonna be a good night' was simply renamed 'Tonight was a very good night'. There are moments in your life that are simply filled with greatness, and in this imperfect world of sins and economical turmoils, I pray for such spectacular happyness to spread over the destiny of the less fortunate!
PROS: Some of the savouries were of world class level on this dinner, especially the braised boar and cod
CONS: What were that weak scallop starter and forgettable dessert doing there?
Ok, Folks I am out! For more and better pictures on this dinner, please visit my Google's Picasa.
WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER: I went back two more times, with friends, since that reviewed meal, and based on those visits, I can indeed safely confirm that the finest food items I had here pertains to world class level. The braised boar, as an example, was as spectacular as any of the best food items at a world’s top 10 best table, if such top 10 makes sense to you. But I have hard time electing LCCP as a strong favourite, for a very simple reason: some items I had here were not items I would expect at the level of their finest dishes. And that transpired right there on my reviewed meal: the lacklustre scallop, the ordinary paris brest. Still, this is easily in top 5 Montreal’s finest fine dining destinations, even top 3 would make perfect sense. Is it number 1,2,3,4 or 5? Hard to say. Perhaps no one will ever know, since it would take several visits to the very top of Yul’s fine dining ventures (XO Le restaurant, Toque!, La Porte, L’Européa, Nuances) to really get a strong personal subjective opinion about this matter. Keep in mind that even even as a subjective personal opinion, you will still hit another wall: some are into European cuisine, others French, others North American. Good luck!