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 siteMost recent reviews: Maison Boulud, Café Sardine, Restaurant Helena, Brasserie Central
. Restaurant MEZCLAType of cuisine: Contemporary Mix of South American / French
Addr: 1251, De Champlain Street
Phone: 514 525-9934
URL: http://restaurantmezcla.com/en Mezcla
, recently opened in the Eastern Montreal area of Hochelaga Maisonneuve (End of May 2012), has made the headlines as one of the latest strong additions to the Montreal restaurant scene, and according to many, this is top level dining destination. Food journalist Thierry Daraize even rating Mezcla with a near to perfect 4,5/5
. I was not as blown away, but I'll invite you to read on: this place has charmed me much more than other places which meals I had to score higher for technical reasons, not based on pure pleasurable grounds (I'll explain later on, in the food review section + also have a look at the 'overall rating' section at the end of this article) .
The food here is Latino American Fusion food (Nuevo Latino), perhaps the only type of fusion cuisine that I appreciate the most, which, for someone like me who has always favored minimal interraction between different cooking styles, speak volume about how, when done really well, this fusion can indeed entice. Nuevo Latino is nothing new anymore this side of the border: Chef Navarrette Jr
has been doing it for years in Montreal, and in Trois Rivières, Au Poivre Noir
's Mexicano-Quebecer Chef José Pierre Durand has been, sometimes (not all his dishes are of the Nuevo Latino style), inspired by Nuevo latino cuisine. Perhaps, another proof of my admiration for Nuevo Latino food is that both Chefs count among my favourite Chefs around the globe, as many Nuevo Latino restaurants do feature among my favourite restaurants around the world as well: Cobre in Vancouver, Ramiro's 954 in New York (I was impressed by a recent meal there - New York is relatively not far from YUL, so whenever you pass by, give this one a shout!). Service
on this evening was a charm: my main waitress, Melissa, an amazing French/Italian woman being not only the type of waitress I would expect at a top dining destination, but oh my gosh..many, many, I repeat many .. would give her an award for fun, amazing, hospitable world class personality. Melissa, you're simply an incredible world class woman! Perhaps the only thing I would recommend is to always get the customer to taste a sample of the wine first, before filling the glass (although I am pretty sure, given the amazing professionalism of Melissa, that this was a very minor omission) . The rest of the team was superb, the two other women working alongside Melissa being so attentive, welcoming, professional. But many people I dearly love do read my blog and I owe them the truth and only the truth: Yes, there was something that could have perhaps hit on some nerves, but trust me, it's not a big deal: the only Gentleman of the wait staff squad did not change my fork and knife between two courses. Ah..ha..Ah..Ha..
He even asked me whether he should change the glass of wine or not. Ben là..la, Rfaol!
;p Drama? No. No. No, because this Gentleman was really amazing, pouring water on a more regular basis than at most serious restaurants, and really a cool man. No, because there are some serious restaurants where you sometimes keep your fork and knife. A hint? Well, what about 3 star Michelin Bras in Laguiole? Ca vous va? But for the wine, indeed...change the damn glass, Bro! ...Rfaol!
Again, this was superb service despite Bro's Laguiole's standards.
Allez, we have just one life to live, so Bro's performance is to be taken with humor and in a very cool way. You will be surprised how I really liked Bro. Anyways, Melissa and the other women of this amazing squad will balance everything with the classic grand service you are accustomed to when in a more serious mood. And Bro, remain yourself. Just change that damn glass of wine, I 'm telling you! Decor
here is no luxury, but exotic and warm elegance: wood, wall bricks, plenty of light penetration due to the big glass window they have. It's contemporary warmth, and cozy enough for all kind of dining events: romance, between friends, familial, etc. Perhaps an exception to the nowadays restaurant trends: you have no bar around the open kitchen. One thing I found odd, though: they have two Chefs. One was in his section, the other in a separate area. I'd guess this was perhaps a temporary situation it would make sense to have both Chefs in the same kitchen's area?? Food & Wine
- On this evening, the menu comprised of starters priced in between $10 to $16 (for eg, Tuna/Aji amarillo, cancha/vermicelli $14, fish and seafood ceviche $15, crab/tuna tartare $14, Galette of Yuca/Chorizo of Charlevoix/chicha syrup $12, Blood pudding/corn bread/Jalapeno/ $14, Crab cake/Tartare sauce $12, etc), main courses priced in between $19 to $33 (for eg, Seafood rice $26, braised Gaspor piglet $33, Braised Cornouailles chicken $19, etc). Desserts were all priced at $6 ( Trilogie de sorbets from bilboquet
, Crème brulée, chocolate fondant) . And they have their $34 tasting menu (5 courses), which is clearly a steal: I took it, and not only the courses were generous, but top tier items featured on that menu. At this moment, this is one the best value tasting menu you can have in YUL, all type of dining offerings included. I do not know how long this will pursue, but at this moment, if you can manage to discard the fancy stuff like wine pairings and extra 'bling blingos', you'll leave with a huge smile on your face for a while.
Wines were decently priced between $29 (an Errazuritz, Casablanca Chili 2011 -
This is also offered at $6 by the glass / $19 he half bottle) to an $88 Perpetual, Priorat, Spain 2008
. In between, plenty of well chosen bottles: a $54 Brazilian Merlot Fausto de Pizzato, Vale dos Vinhedos, 2009
; a $40 Vouvrau Brut Chateau Moncontour, Loire
, a Dreaming tree, North coast California, 2009
at $46 the bottle, a delicious Vina Esmeralda, Cataluna, 2011
at $34 (this was paired, by the glass, with my initial starter of Ceviche. This wine seduced me so much, that it would have cost $5 or $80 and yet my appreciation of it would remain the same: a superb 'sensual' white wine, if this tag would makes sense to you. Those folks are not crooks: they charged me 1 glass at $8....I'll never forget this since I was charged twice this amount for 1 glass at lesser restaurants!!), a fabulous Grand Lurton Reserva Mendoza, Argentina 2007
$47 the bottle, $12 the glass (I love this wine).
My tasting menu kicked off with an item that many have raved about: their Ceviche
. Usually, they use some daily fish and other seafood on that famous Ceviche. On this evening, fresh salmon, octopûs, aji amarillo
sauce. As much as I would like to join the bandwagon and tell you that this was indeed one of the best Ceviches I ever had, as much as I found this item to be the main reason I could not assign a full 9 or 10 over 10 as an overall score to this dish: this ceviche was really pleasant, it would make most restaurant ceviches in town pass as amateurish. the produce really fresh and well sourced (how..for god sake...do you do that on a tasting menu of $34...no wonder this has turned as one of the most successful dining destinations in YUL)...BUT this was certainly NOT a TOP Ceviche: it lacked the refinement and "éclat" that I am used to with far superior ceviches. Certainly tasty (the piquant and fresh acidity will appeal, for sure) ... but I had better. far better, and right here, in YUL! 6/10
Then, Octopus, Cancha (Corn from Peru), Black olive sauce
- The Octopus nicely tenderized, the grilled corn would entice the most especially for the novelty aspect coupled with lovely grilled flavor , the black Olive sauce a perfect foil to the octopus. Clearly, if you expect lively flavors from genuine Latino Cuisine, you may perhaps be a bit disappointed. Set your mind to International cuisine, and this is as good as it gets. I am scoring this with a 7/10
since I can't see how more of an excitement this could have been, but in total honesty: this was as good, not exciting, as a delicious morsel of octopus could mingle with an accomplished olive sauce.
The 3rd item was one that I had ordered from the A la carte menu: the $16 pan sear foie, chicha (black corn from Peru), House-made corn bread and Jalapeno
- Hourrah! Some serious work here: the excellent corn bread suggests that they should continue with whatever bread they do in house. Then again and again, some nice piquant (Jalapeno) Vs sweet flavors (corn) thoughtfully complementing the superb pan seared foie gras. This, I'll tell you right away, is a 9 / 10 item, but there's a reason I do not score this with a 10/10 and they could fix this easily: folks, a stunning piece of pan sear foie gras
needs HEAT! It needs deep livery flavor. Which I missed on this one. Sizzle it and serve right away....;p Still, I know serious tables who could not even manage to deliver such amazing texture in their pan seared foie gras. Again, I was not teleported to Latin America here, something that Chef Navarrette Jr managed to provoke on numerous meals, but a 9/10
is well deserved, and where I had no choice but to give a 9/10 (excellent) to some dishes at other restaurants only for the technical mastery, here is dish that pulled off excitement
both visually (a dish crafted beautifully) and palatably. I just can't imagine how 'epic' that would have been had that deep livery flavor and last minute touch of heat been imparted.
Fourth item was part of the $34 tasting menu: Blood pudding, beurre blanc, chorizo from Charlevoix, nuts
- There was, next to me, a family of latinos. I love being discrete, but I wish I could ask them: so, what do you think?? Lol. Anyways, they seemed to appreciate their meal. I, for sure, appreciated mine: The blood pudding is one of the most successful ones I ever enjoyed in a restaurant in YUL. Spicy, tasty, meaty, deliciously bloody. Other praise-worthy element: this Beurre blanc,
was not just nicely done by them, it was excitingly revised. I like that when an item (a simple beurre blanc in this case) is pushed to newer heights, serving as a remainder that you can still do a lot more with what's usually "taken for granted". Chorizo from Charlevoix: great! This was an exciting piece of International cuisine. Excellent! 9/10
Then their Braised 'Cote de Boeuf ' , green beans, panais purée, chica sauce, pieds de moutons -
The mushrooms were world class, the green beans properly cooked , the 'panais purée' without reproach, but nowadays, braising meats is a 'granted affair" that even home cooks are not missing, let alone professionals. It is a restaurant, thus we do expect nothing less than professionals. Which triggers this question: why an overcooked piece of braised meat? Why some parts dry? Why were some parts chewy, others tough, other superbly edible? Why? I did enjoy this whole dinner way better than my last meal at Brasserie Central, but because of items like this, I could not assign a higher overall rating to this evening's meal. Brasserie Central would not dare making a subpar braised beef. Braised meats, as we all know, depends on careful timing of the braising. This was braised too long. 5/10
The dessert of this tasting menu was in line with the philo of this house: generosity! It is hard to assess things properly before such generosity, but it is a challenge that motivated me into sharing my side of the story. I pointed out what I had to, eventhough a $34 tasting of such calibre could have largely expedite my feelings in 'Mr lover, Luva' mood. My conclusion: indeed, one of the few best value tasting menus in town (I still believe that L'Un des Sens tasting menu, without wine and all bling blingos is the very 1st best value tasting menu). As for the rest, well. my assessment of each dish talk for themselves. Ah..Oh..zut...I forgot to tell: the dessert was a chocolate mi-cuit with some ice cream (7.5/10)
, of which I can say one thing: it was delicious, well done without teleporting me on the moon.
I'll go back to Restaurant Mezcla, way before even thinking about some tables that I had no other choice but to score higher (usually because they technically did a better job, not necessarily a more exciting one though..
). Not to give shit to my buddy, Bro...Rfaol!
I told you, I really liked the guy, but to keep scoring hard on that $34 tasting menu till it gives up.
Again, a fabulous value for a $34 tasting menu, by Canadian standards. If you decided to splurge and went beyond and above that bar, then it is YOUR problem! As far as I am concerned: not blown away (No fiesta for me when a ceviche
lacks optimal refinement, a braised cut of beef missing excitement) , but certainly charmed (I once said to a 2 star Michelin Chef '''mais est-ce si compliqué de poéler du foie gras
??"""" ...Mezcla, even with a pan sear foie that needed more heat and more depth of livery flavor...did better!!!!
) ... and their blood pudding course, on this evening, was simply something exciting. How often did I write the word 'exciting' in my reviews.....PROS
: (1)Melissa, a superb host. My little quibble over the fact that I need to sample my wine before my glass is filled substracts nothing from her outstanding performance (2) The blood pudding and pan-sear foie gras came so close to outstand, the former being utterly delicious, the latter missing just that little heat and depth of livery flavor to catch up to its finest versions. CONS
: (1)The Ceviche: its juice lacked the refinement of the best ceviche I had (2)The braised cote de boeuf: braised way too long...thus taking away all the appeal of the successful nature of braised meats (3)Bro, Rfaol! ....change the glass of wine. Do not ask if it should be changed. (4) I am nitpicking here, since Melissa was an outstanding host, but please..please: let me taste a sample of the wine first, before filling the glass!
Overall food rating
: 7/10 (good) for what I am accustomed to at comparable dining level/style. I was more excited by this meal than at many recent ones which were scored higher ONLY because they technically achieved an almost ''sans faute"" with accomplished work of textures and the usual culinaric 'class act' that comes along. But for the excitement, Mezcla's has the edge over those. The reason I am NOT completely in an awe here is because technically, some of the dishes (for eg the ceviche
, the subsequent course of octopus
, then the subpar braised cote de boeuf
) lacked the ultimate world class 'refinement' and perfection that would force me to think of an 8/10 or even better as an overall score. Interestingly, I found that world class refinement in the 'blood pudding' course and the pan-sear foie gras dish, despite needing more heat and deeper livery flavor, would have not felt 'out of place' on a serious 1 star Michelin table. Service
: Melissa = Wow! Bro = whatever you want..Lol...but change the damn glass of wine, Rfaol!Decor
: Simple, and yet versatile, which means appropriate for a romantic dinner, familial , etc. It is warm, cozy.WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER
- I haven’t re-visited Mezcla yet. The blood pudding and pan-sear foie gras dishes (I had) suggest that this is a promising brigade, but they need to wipe off the inconsistencies found during that initial meal: the ordinary ceviche, subpar cote de boeuf. This is a place that will undoubtly attract many rave comments over the web since they understood what most people want: affordable meals, in cool/relax ambience. But for me, a restaurant needs to rise beyond the simple observation that its lucrative goals are achieved, especially when my meal showcased some poorly executed dishes (a cote de boeuf has to be tasty! it is what any cook takes for granted right from the beginning, and this applies to a ceviche,too!)...BUT I believe in this place and I know they can do better. Actually, whenever I start going back to restaurants in Montreal, I'll pay a visit there.