Saturday, 27 October 2012
Restaurant La Porte
Addr: 3627 Boulevard St-Laurent, Montreal
Type of food: High end French fine dining
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
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
Most recent reviews: Maison Boulud, Café Sardine, Restaurant Helena, Brasserie Central, Restaurant Mezcla, Hotel Herman, Lawrence, Park, Kazu, Hambar, .
UPDATE: DINNER AT LA PORTE, SATURDAY OCT 26TH 2012, 20:00 - Romantic dinner with Jannice, therefore no pictures taken, but you can find plenty of photos of the interior of the restaurant in the review of my last meal here (see below, in this same post). This is only my second visit at La Porte, and last time I was here it was over two years ago.That first meal shone, once the sum of all its parts assembled, as a solid 3 star Michelin meal by European standards (which was no surprise: Brittany's Chef Rouyé was already a Michelin star Chef back home) . On that first dinner there, even the petits fours were perfected to world class standards. They won Open Table's 2012 diner's choice for Montreal, which is in itself quite remarkable given that Open Table is about very serious diners of this city's elite high end dining destinations like Toque!, XO Le restaurant, L'Europea, Club Chasse et Peche, La Chronique.
La Porte's decor remains as beautifully exotic as I remember it from last time, the decor pretty much similar to the one you see on the photos below, with a major change since my last visit here: the color theme switching from some kind of orange to the nowadays omnipresent glamourous tone of grey. La Porte's decor is indeed very pretty in its genre.
On the food aspect, they still have nice deals on lunch (lunch prices: $30 for 3 services, starters at $10, mains in between $15-$23, desserts at $10 ), but I'd guess -- like it is the case with most restaurants -- that the best way to discover the full potential of this kitchen (the cooking here is French from France but 'updated' with modern twists, the Chef calling his cuisine 'franco-urban' ) is to splurge on a dinner. Still, I heard that their lunch deals are among the best value in town. Dinner is more pricier (you have all their prices on their web site), with à La carte items as well as a $80 and a $100 multiple-course menu.
I went with one of the tasting menu, in order to fully enjoy the huge potential of this kitchen.
Carpaccio de pétoncle, radis, tapenade d'olives: Before going any further, let us be clear about this -> the ratings you will see concern only the category within which La Porte is competing, which is haute French dining. For those familiar with Michelin star standards in Europe, this evening's meal largely pertaining to a strong 1 star Michelin in France, for example. With many items in strong 2 star Michelin category as well (those with the 9/10 and 10/10 ratings). Regarding the carpaccio, this was a beautiful generous slice of top grade New Brunswick's scallop, left in a sea shell, with remarkable marine freshness. When I hear chefs using the phrase "letting the produce expressing itself", I am always disappointed, but here, they obviously have no time to lose with words, only the real action matters: this scallop carpaccio being better described as a mouthful of bliss 9/10
Macaron de crème de sésame, chutney de courge, terrine de foie gras : I wish I had a top quality camera or a HD video cam on me, this plate being so beautiful to espy, its colors so appealing. But the kitchen had obviously decided that beauty was not going to be its sole feature as it comprised of a benchmark terrine of foie gras (competing comfortably with the finest in France), sandwiched in an equally flawless macaron of sesame seeds. In typical Chef Thierry Rouyé's style: creativity, palatable excitement, beautiful presentation and superb technique intermingled. A world class dish 10/10
Langoustine, crèpe au sarrasin, crème de pomme, andouille - A delicious langoustine, cooked and timed to perfection, sized to appropriate tasting menu's proportions was wrapped in a crèpe au sarrasin, accompanied by two items that are true benchmarks in their own categories: an impressive andouille as well as a superior apple cream. Top stuff. 8.5/10
Lotte, purée de pomme de terre, jus de daube A piece of Burbot, oozing of memorable marine freshness, its flesh perfectly moist and its texture flawless, was paired with an equally faultless and delicious potato purée and a jus de daube masterfully executed. 8.5/10
Pigeonneau, Merguez, mille-feuille choux et beacon, foie gras poélé - Perhaps the only dish of this evening that was the least impressive, and yet I'll keep the overall score high because this was by no means an ordinary dish, and it certainly deserve its 'very good' tag even on a 1 star Michelin table. What made it pass as 'less impressive' is actually not a fault, but a touch of familiar cuisine that many may like: the addition of the Merguez and beacon/cabbage mille-feuille. They were of course tasty, but they took me by surprise since I do not have them in mind while attending such dinner. But again, they were done with refinement, and there is no strict rule about what ingredient should make it to a fine dining event. Thus, consider this as nitpicking. The other qualm I had was regarding the pan-sear foie gras: its texture and consistency could not be faulted, but I wish it had a deep livery sensuous punch I do expect from my favourite pan-sear foie. And yet, with a piece of squab as expertly cooked as this, its taste divine, consider this as a very strong 7.5/10
Then a platter of local cheeses, with one of my favourite being the 14 arpents. It is hard for any high end restaurant in North America to compete with its France's counterparts when it comes to cheeses, but those were as good as you will get this side of the border. They were served with a nicely made home made prune marmelade.
Up to the desserts and petits fours. I was a bit saddened to learn that Valentin, their great pastry Chef had left for Maison Boulud earlier on (see this review). But I was in for a good surprise on this evening: he is back, for a short time though (he will go to work at Chez Rémi?? ..from what I gathered). On this evening, as I am now accustomed to, with Chef Valentin Rouyé's pastry creations, the level of the desserts pertained easily to a comfortable 2 star Michelin level: coeur fondant à l'anis étoilé (10/10), butternut squash sorbet (benchmark sorbet), visitandine, an old fashion financier which he updated brilliantly, not hard to do but hard to make a stellar one, which he did (10/10), caramel macaron (Valentin's macarons have always been my favourite outside of France, no exception here 9/10), fruit paste (Valentin obviously knows how to make world class versions of those).
My 'coup de coeur' wine of the evening: CHATEAU HAUT MONPLAISIR 2007 CAHORS (MALBEC)
Service: Dominique, my main waiter on this evening, is the quebecois version of the cool young fun classy Italian wait staff I have encountered this summer at 3 star Michelin Le Calandre in Sarmeola di Rubano as well as 3 star Michelin Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio. Top class gentleman and easily among the very best waiters I ever met in Montreal. Fantastic service on this evening from Dominique. There was also another young waiter from France, a bit shy, but doing a pretty great job. As for Madame Rouyé, well, I guess that even with the best intent ... I'll just never be her fan (on this evening, her exploit was to simply pour the wine in the glass with no offering of tasting a sampling of the wine first. At many lesser eateries they do not skip that one anymore) . Yep, who cares since the rest, under this house, truely shines.
PROS (of this Saturday Oct 26th 2012): Exactly the kind of excellent meal I do expect at this level of dining. I am not the kind to naively expect miracles or anything special from food; I go to Walt Disney for the latter, or sip some booze. But to me, what needs to be done at this level needs to be fulfilled brilliantly..or else, what's the point of leaving the comfort of home? And that is what they did: a brilliant food performance from what one should expect from a top tier dining destination in Montreal. Second visit and still a huge fan!
CONS (of this Saturday Oct 26th 2012): When a heart is happy, there's no room to imagine trouble where there ain't.
Overall food rating: For this Sat Oct 26th meal, easily a 8.5/10 - On the food aspect, by the 1 star Michelin category I am accustomed to, in Europe, I am referring to the stronger ones, this was a superb meal, with perfect technique, superb flavors, beautiful creativity. Make no mistake: even by 2 star Michelin standards, this meal was perfectly in its element. And yet, Montreal has no Michelin stars. So imagine..I could easily give a 10 to this meal and feel very comfortable about it, based on just the observation that far lesser kitchens are enjoying the beautiful parade under the stars . What also impresses me is that Chef Thierry Rouyé is not seeking stardorm BS: on my two meals here, I never saw him nor his sons touring the room. If you see him in the room, I'd bet that you are a VIP, a journalist, or have specially requested to meet with him. Which I do not need. I need to be a normal diner, in communion with the best of what a Chef has to offer. All my life, I have never understood why fans (or what some illiterate cooks have called 'fanatics') would need to shake the hands of the creator of what they would have liked? The creation should be the star, no? Anyways, when Chef Thierry Rouyé is paired with his son Valentin, the roof..the roof..the roof is truely on fire! In the "big guns league" of fine dining in town (Toque!, Club Chasse & Peche, Nuances, La Chronique, L'Europea), this is my favourite along with XO Le Restaurant. This was a superb meal, and I hope you compare the ratings of each of its dish to the scores of the savoury courses of my latest meals at 3 star Michelin Le Calandre and Ledoyen in Paris. I compare meals to meals, never restaurants to restaurants, but this will, hopefully, help you better understand how superb this meal at La Porte was. In case you are afraid of comparing apples to carrots: do not. This is comparison that makes utter sense.
WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE REPORT OF THE JANUARY 15TH 2010, 18:00 MEAL AT LA PORTE:
(English version to follow) - Oh là là! Ce repas du 15 Janvier 2010, 18:00 fut marqué par des merveilles qui feraient palir d'envie les meilleurs 3 étoiles Michelin de ce bas monde: le tartare d'huitre, la raviole de la meme bete, et bien d'autres. Aux oubliettes les 2 plats qui ne m'ont pas emballé: ce repas du 15 Janvier 2010 fut 1 reve, meme pour les meilleures tables 3 étoiles Michelins! Celle ci fut une surprise car la pluspart des opinions semblaient situer cette table autour des 5 à 10 meilleures tables de la ville. Ce repas, en tout cas, avalerait tout cru ce qui semble etre généralement passer pour le top 3! Et vu que je ne me base que sur ce que j'ai vécu, je ne saurai vous dire autre chose que ceci: basé sur ce repas, La Porte est dans le top 3 des meilleures tables 'gourmet' de Montréal. J'ai d'ailleurs été personellement plus impressioné par ce repas que par celui au Toque, chez Nuances et au Club Chasse et Peche.
After my Thursday Jan 14th stunning dinner at Cavalli (Yep..you read this very well: stunning, I wrote! And I am talking about the food!) with Jannice and folks of her work, here comes Friday Jan 15th in a completely opposite trend. For this Friday, I booked a table at La Porte. I have always been curious as to where La Porte stands on the Montreal restaurant scene. We all know where Toque!, Club Chasse et Peche, Raza, Jun I, Nuances stand...but what about la Porte? Well, this fully detailed photo and text reportage will hopefully bring more light to that question. In the meantime, La Porte is highly regarded by many observers as among the top 10 of Montreal's tables. I will give you my opinion on that at the very end of the reportage after decrypting with you all the aspects of this latest dinner there. La Porte is a bit different from the latest restaurants I lately reviewed to you: it does not fully pertain to the bistro (Bistro Cocagne, M sur Masson) nor the latest North American Nouvelle Cuisine trend (La Chronique, Le Club Chasse et Peche, etc). It is modern French cuisine with Quebec's local ingredients. His chef is from France's region of Bretagne (note to myself: the second chef ever from that region, after Chef Sylvain Guillemot, whose food I sampled and highly enjoyed). Also different from what I reviewed here before: it has a familial touch with dad and son behind the kitchen + mum as the Maitre D' in the dining room.
Restaurant La Porte is located in one of Mtl's most busiest areas (restaurants, bars, cafes):
On saint Laurent Street (The Main):
From the outside, have a look at the classy elegant glass-fronted restaurant:
The overall decor of La Porte reminds me a bit of The "Thousand and One Nights" exotical decor.
Really pretty and to me, one of my personal prettiest restaurants in Montreal.
You will notice in the pics below, the little touches of the same designer who also re-designed LCCP (chairs
are in the same trend of colors as in LCCP and there are here and there little traits of LCCP
decor, albeit, in my humble opinion --- with all due admiration that I have for LCCP ---, La Porte is far more
So, the inside is very elegant, cozy, with a predominence of warm dark colors,
Elegant with candles on the tables, white table clothes:
Banquettes and alcoves:
Ideal dim-lit setting for romance:
Great presence of wood and glass:
Charming decor touches like those long vases of flowers on the wall:
On the left of the picture, their famous door from Morocco:
View on the bar, leading to the kitchen:
Ok Enough with the pics. You can find more pics of this reportage on my online Google's Picasa web Gallery.
Keep in mind that it is in Montreal, as far as ambiance + decor goes, one of the most romantic dinning rooms
of this city.
Now, down to the food. I picked the 8 course tasting menu with wine pairing
First, a mise en bouche:
Course #1: Oyster tartare, truffled scallops, Parsnip Velouté - Finally a mise en bouche that's daring/moving on a Montreal fine dining table. I have always reproached the big majority of Mtl's finest tables to not be enoughly daring when it comes to mise en bouche. That is not the case of this one mise en bouche: The creamy parnsip velouté was of perfect creaminess, sporting an enjoyable subtly sweet taste . It was topping a meaty flavorful tartare of impeccably fresh oyster. Even the chip you see on that velouté was remarquable: very tasty, enjoyably crunchy.A mise en bouche that is not only stunning to Montreal restaurants but also to world's best tables. A mise en bouche of a strong 3 star Michelin level! 10/10
Course #2: Oyster ravioli, borecole, serrano ham, duck foie emulsion - The ravioli had perfect al dente mouthsome. The emulsion was light, and very well concocted. The fresh crunchy tasty cabbage was pure delish and the crunchy piece of samphire that was topping the overall was oozing of freshness. Another 5 star course with moving/daring/spectacular tastebud pleasing well balanced savors and definitely one that the majority of world's best tables would steal from La Porte. It was that amazing! Another dish pertaining to a solid 3 star Michelin caliber. 10/10
Pairing wine: Vouvray 2008, domaine des aubussières cuvée silex
A medium-bodied wine marked by an enjoyable mineral note, light and dry that is a natural pairing partner to the seafood found in that dish. My tastebuds also captured the light citrus flavors shining through this overall well balanced fruity wine. I found it's minerality to reach out so well with the the earthiness of the cabbage too.Good wine.
Course #3: Scallops, tapenade of blood pudding, apple cider, buckwheat sarrasin - The scallop was fresh, tender and tasty but the star ingredient there was definitely the blood pudding: I never had, in Montreal, all finest tables of this city included, a blood pudding that is as stunningly succulent and expertly concoted as this one. Kudos too for the apple cider reduction (on your right) which was heavenly delicious. On your right, a pink apple purée. Anywhere between a 2 to 3 star Michelin level. 9/10
Pairing wine: Entre deux mer 2008 château les arromans
It's the first time I was trying this affordable white bordeaux wine. Nice blend of white sauvignon and semillon. Perfectly sensed the expected enjoyable grapefruit notes from it, it is definitely of solid value: well balanced, pleasantly mineral. Great value and nice pairing especially to the scallop.
Course #4: Roasted pickerel, Black rice, Kari Goss lobster reduction, almonds - Another world class food item: the organic black rice was cooked with surgical precision and tasted really good. The chunk of fish had perfect moist inside consistency and was oozing of impeccable fresh seafood flavor. The touch of almonds on top of the fish is a welcoming nice touch in there. Lovely ane memorable inspired dish! 9/10
Pairing wine: Sancerre terre de Mainbray 2008 Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy
I barely focused on this wine but it was a decent wine. Found nothing wrong nor strong points from it.
Course #5: Gaspor's piglet cooked slowly, lightly seared red tuna and duck liver, squash, vanilla reduced jus
Heuh...what to think of this course? Let us decrypt this one: YES...each ingredient there was of high quality (the piglet from Gaspor is reknown for being a great meat and it is indeed a great piece of well cooked meat in there. That piece of foie gras was of perfect quality too. The tuna, cooked on one side was fresh and tasty. The squash really good and the vanilla reduced jus, a blast. The problem is that they simply did not add up as a whole. Basically, it came out more as an assembling of food items (a pile of ingredients if you prefer) that did not complement each other. Instead, make something elaborately more porky (since the Gaspor piglet seemed to be the central theme of this course). But I'll forgive this one, since it is the only mis-step among so many other stunning courses! 5/10
Pairing wine: Bourgogne rouge En Bully domaine Rapet 2007
Great wine. Enjoyably aromatic, balanced and elegant with a nice finish.
Course #6: Curcuma melted sauvagine cheese on potatoes and chitterling sausage - This is the cheese course. This course, despite high quality ingredients, remains --- whether they like it or not --- a homey simple food item. Simply put, if I take camembert and let it melt on a piece of oven baked potato, I am getting the same effect. So, Yes it was good but I know they have a huge talent in that kitchen and can surprise us with more daring cheese courses. 6/10
It was paired with a great 20 yrs Optima Porto.
Course #7: Citrus salad, hazelnut ice cream, Vanilla/Ginger/Coconut cream
The French from France are simply unbeatable when it comes to desserts! The title and the picture do not do justice to what stands by far as the best dessert I ever devoured on any high end fine dining table in Montreal & surroundings. Freshness of the ingredients, spectacular juxtaposition of tastes, vibrant and moving are among the superlative that come to mind and my tastebuds will drool over this one for years. PS: You do not see it well on this picture, but there was a greenie citrus jelly roll in there that was simply heavenly as far as tastes go. Wowed! 10/10
Naturally, the light grapefruit tone of the pairing Sauvignon blanc Monkey Bay 2008 was perfect match to that dessert.
La Porte managed to keep me stunned till the very last. YES...that's the type of mignardises I do expect on a fine dining table -> The macaron you see there was stunningly good (airy, fresh,decadent). The chocolate sausage is a nice touch and was delicious. That Pina colada fruity jelly-paste: I am simply in love with it. Simply superb!
This dinner at La Porte, despite my reserve towards the cheese + piglet course (they were not bad, just not daring enough), was simply stunning. I have never been to La Porte before and I can't give a definitive opinion based on just one visit, but this reviewed dinner is the type of performance expected at a solid European 2 star Michelin establishment, with items like the dessert, courses 1,2 3 and even the mignardises flirting with a perfect 3 star Michelin caliber.
This dinner at La Porte is also a reminder that some need to do their homework properly: this dinner was of strong 2* Michelin caliber whilst many other tables supposedly superior to this one had offered food in between a no star to at best a 1 star potential.
Ambiance: What a cozy ambiance! It was half full of patrons at about 7pm, 1 hr upon my arrival.
Service: Madame Rouyé, the Chef's wife, was paired with another woman for service in the dining room. All was ok (professional, attentive,helpful ), although Madame Rouyé could smile a bit more / be more relaxed.....
PROS: This was a dinner of solid 2 star Michelin level. Forget the little misses I wrote about, they were largely overwhelmed by excellence.CONS: The wife of the Chef should smile a bit more. A restaurant is a place of enjoyment, after all! Allez, un petit sourrire svp!
Overall food rating (Jan 15th 2010's meal): 10/10 Again, I can talk only for what I have experienced on that solo visit. And YES, for those who feed themselves on huge spoonful of skepticism, there have been some lacklustre dishes. So why 10/10? Because the best dishes of this meal outshone by leaps the lacklustre ones that I can’t remember what was lacklustre, Rfaol!
What I keep remembering are courses, so impressive on that visit, that would make a top 3 star Michelin table in Europe melt with jealousy! As usual, I do not know if La Porte performs like that all the time, but again: I can only talk for what I have experienced! During my meals at Toque! and LCCP, I had some stunning courses, but the best dishes I had here at La Porte were easily ahead by a notch or two. I’ll go back and I want them to keep the bar this high on that next visit. I don’t know how they can do this….it was so high!
Overall service rating: 7/10 Professional. Fine, BUT their Maitre D’, Madame Rouyé, although professional …. needs to show more warmth.
Décor: 10/10 Ah..Ah…look at the pictures. There are plenty of them in my review. Then if you like that style,you are in my club!IMPORTANT: 'Overall food rating' HAS NOTHING TO DO with the arithmectic calculation
of all dishes. It is my personal subjective rating of the overall foodperformance on the specific meal I am sampling only.