Tuesday, 06 July 2010
Dinner on Tuesday July 6th 2010, 18PM
Type of Cuisine: North American, Market Cuisine Bistro
60 Rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal, QC
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
(English review to follow) - Alors, j'imagine qu'il y'a deux camps, rires: ceux qui adorent leur version 'Poisson' (Kitchen Galerie Poisson) au Vieux Port (hop là, ne comptez pas sur moi pour célébrer celle là) et ceux qui préferrent l'autre: le Kitchen Galerie sur Jean-Talon (alors là, j'en suis un fan!). Au Kitchen Galerie sur Jean-Talon, deux Chefs (Axel et Bourdages), ainsi que leur petite équipe m'ont cuisiné un repas qui redéfinirait le mot 'délicieux' en des termes bien plus élogieux que ceux qu'on retrouve présentement dans le petit larousse . Ils sont jeunes, inspirés et talentueux comme très peu peuvent s'en vanter, mais c'est leur sens du gout qui m' a tout simplement renversé. Un restaurant demeure un restaurant, Un chef demeure un etre humain, donc ce meme émerveillement, je ne pourrai vous le garantir mais je vous le souhaite car lorsqu'il laisse sa marque comme sur ce repas, il est épique. Entretemps, pour moi, et ce jusqu' à preuve du contraire, Chef Axel et Chef Bourdages font parti des plus GRANDS car en fait, il est là ma définition d'un GRAND Chef: celui qui de très peu (ici, pas de moléculaire ou des techniques de fou, mais une cuisine qui, dans sa simplicité et ses riches saveurs, sort du lot) , batit des montagnes tout en ayant cet atout hyper précieux: un excellent sens du gout (il ne suffit pas de se contenter de saveurs riches. Encore faut-il qu'elles épatent en bouche, et ca, ils le font comme très peu parviennent à le faire). Présentement, dans mon top des meilleurs bistrots Montréalais en compagnie d'Au 5e Péché, Bouillon Bilk et le Bistro Cocagne.
Simple rustic copious upscale comforting food is Trendy
For this report, I needed a restaurant that portrays well the "simple, rustic, homey, upscale comforting food" -- name it the way you want -- that rose as the big trend in this city's restaurant scene, for a while now. I wanted to go to Joe Beef but Jannice preffered a spot that's closer to home, hence the choice of Kitchen Galerie.
To quote Chef Jean-Philippe St-Denis of Kitchen Galerie (Ref: this article of the WSJ): “Simple food is the new food of Montreal.”. In fact, the simple comforting food trend is now largely in operation in Mtl and it's list of ambassadors keep growing: Joe Beef, Greasy Spoon, Le Chien Fumant, McKiernan Luncheonette, Restaurant Garde-Manger, and the list can go on and on. Appearently, that is what the most, in this city, seem to want these days. I have no reserve before such: simple or not, all I care about is how tasty my food stands. Make it devilishly delicious and I'll dance samba with you!
Kitchen Galerie is a tiny (less than 30 seats) popular Bistro that has attracted lots of enthusiastic followers, raving reviews and critics since it's debuts.
It's chefs, Chefs Mathieu Cloutier and Jean-Philippe, are stars of the Montreal gastronomic scene and recently won the prestigious pan-Canadian culinary 2009 Gold Plates contest. I like KG, but it's important to know what it is and what it is not: It is a simple small bistro with just the Chefs doing both the serving/cooking/dish_washing/yari_yaring (a unique concept for now, in Montreal) with straightforward comforting bistro fares. KG's backed by highly talented Chefs like Mathieu Cloutier (Who once worked under the sky of 2 Michelin Stars Rouen's restaurant Gill + many other big restaurants) and Jean-Phillipe (Trainning at 3 Michelin Star George Blanc restaurant + Chef at Lemeac, Holder) is a reminder that in Montreal, there is a dormant base of stunning talent to be revealed one day: there is no doubt that those Chefs can throw any of the stunning food items you see at the top hottest Michelin Star restaurants around this globe. With that in mind, one would naturally ask: BUT why..for god sake..those comforting simple bistro fares (Creme Brulee, Cote de boeuf)??...The big question is unarguably this one: is there, here in Montreal, a strong clientele for the 6th dimension luxurious fine dining experience? When one of World's top skilled Chefs, Chef Corey Lee, who was at the head of one of World's best luxurious fine dining restaurants, the French Laundry, reminds us that “ --- These days, people are looking for options ---" you quickly realize the hulky challenge behind selling upscale luxurious stunning dinings like those at World's top tables. For now, both KG's chefs are muting that potential of luxurious fine dining and do offer an amazingly affordable skillfully concocted local maket-driven straightforward/simple/casual bistro fare.
Now OFF with the existential yari-yaring, ..and ON with the food I had there:
Jannice and I started off with two gazpacho shooters:
NOT your next door simple gazpacho. Think of an elaborate superior delicious type of light gazpacho with a work of taste that's remarkable (tasted fresh, with an enjoyable playful acidity that was mastered so well). Great work on avoiding the usual too thicky consistency that I can't stand with most gazpachos I had. This one paved the way to deep explosive fresh flavors. The way I wish all gazpachos should be. By far the best gazpacho I ever enjoyed on any of Mtl's top tables. Excellent! 10/10
Foie Gras Poélé, Tarte tatin aux pommes, Sauce Caramel - The picky lover of pan seared foie gras that I am ... is extremely picky about what complements the pan seared foie, too. This is what Jannice picked. She naturally shared some bites with me: we both agreed that the perfectly well cooked and deeply flavored fresh livery foie was not the only star of this dish. Reminder to all Chefs: if you are seeking for the best companion to a pan seared foie gras, give a call to KG! That apple tarte tatin at the bottom of the foie was not only unbelievably delicious (I was afraid that the caramel would overwhelm it with an overdose of sugar, but I was wrong), but it stood as the best pan seared foie gras companion I ever tasted since a long time! Needless to brag about it over and over, I just can't find words. Only some kind of deep endless pleasant emotions, a feeling of having flirted with the 8th marvel of the world, hi hi 10/10
I opted for their iconic signature foie gras offering: Pot de foie gras cuit au lave vaisselle, gelée de muscat au poivre long - A creamy foie gras au torchon alike concoction. Basically, it is seared in a jar + poached in a dishwasher. Of course, there are other techniques to achieve the same resulting foie gras concoction but this technique of theirs adds to the fun and legend of this tasty foie gras. This is the only item that impressed slightly less compared to the rest of this entire superb meal (a 10 for the delicious taste, but less impressive than the rest) , and yet it tasted great. 7/10
Jannice's pairing wine to her foie gras was a glass of Château La Croix Poulvère 2006 (Interesting blend of muscadelle, sauvignon and sémillon that was dense, sweet and yet balanced + marked by an enjoyable freshness. Recommendable AOC wine). Mine was a glass of 2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine Cazes (Entirely made of muscat and marked by fresh grapefruit aromas. Sweet and well rounded.)
Jannice and I went on with another signature dish of theirs:
Cote de boeuf rotie, Jus à l'estragon, légumes racines, foie gras, truffes noires - This dish (for 2 persons) costs $80 without the extras of foie and black truffles, $120 with those extras. It is a generous portion, but as Jannice pointed out: it is fine for two. Jannice and I are average eaters (we do not eat that much), and yet we completed this dish. We were completely full by then, naturally! As much as I have hard time believing in total perfection, as much as I could not find anything but superlatives to describe this dish: the gravy was delicious, evenly seasoned, with a remarkable upfront enjoyable beefy flavor. The meat was of high quality, perfectly cooked at ideal medium rare (the best cooking for such, I believe) and packed with exceptional rich depth of meaty exquisite flavors. The kind of beefy marvel that most are confident to cook but only very few manage to make it memorable. KG are kings at working their meats and this dish was of unfogettable material. Superlatives have to be used for the accompaniments, too: amazingly well cooked and tasty veggies, remarquable top quality earthy fresh black truffles, succulent mashed potatoes (virtually no respectable restaurant should miss that one, and yet KG pushed the enjoyment to higher levels of creamy explosive richness) . Those Gentlemen are having fun in that kitchen and it shows in how they make those veggies shining in that plate. A good example would be the caramelized carrots: a tastebud wonder, like the rest of this dish actually ! Fyi: you can have this same dish with fish or other meats replacing your beef.
It is common to see more and more Chefs offering 'foie gras / cote de boeuf' as the defacto meal for a joyous moment, but I have yet to sample one as dazzling as this cote de boeuf that Chef Axel has cooked at Kitchen Galerie on this meal. 10/10
The Cote de Boeuf for two was paired with two glasses of red:
A glass of Walden Cotes du Roussillon, 2007 ( An agreeable fruity syrah, with subtle acidity, surprisingly balanced, that's actually affordable, fyi) for me + a glass of Domaine de la Roche Buissière - Petit Jo ( a 'vin de table' that is quite surprisingly a nice bio wine, made of grenache -- a grape I used to not like, but some few recent wines made me reconsider my initial opinions and reconciled me with grenache).
Crème brulée, KG's version of the Jos.Louis cake + Cerise en blanc - I did not expect KG to shine with desserts. But they did on this dinner and they took me by surprise: the 3 cakes were flawless (The crème brulée had a rich custard base that managed to avoid the way too often annoying thick consistency that made me favoring Flan caramel over Crème brulée. In this case, the consistency was of a remarquable softness that you will rarely find in most Crème brulée + the hard crust had also the ideal slim layer I like with my ideal crème brulée, avoiding the annoying brutal shock of the spoon hitting against a rough layer of caramel). Their Jos Louis version is an airy chocolate wonder, a flashback to what I wish the initial JL should have been! The Cerise en Blanc was so well executed. 8.5/10
Pairing wine to the dessert:
Moscatel de Setubal, 2004, Joseé Maria da Fonseca - I am not a fan of this dessert wine. Although it's quite a good wine that the most will surely enjoy (nicely aromatic), I found it's depth of sweetness not to be to my liking.
Service is friendly, cool, relax and yet professional.
Omnipresence of black and red tones
Wooden tables and chairs:
Loved the little rutic touches they have here and there:
Their bar/Open kitchen:
This place offers a standard affordable table d'hote (1 starter, 1 main course, 1 dessert) that is priced around 30$$ something. But both Jannice and I opted for a bit of extravaganza (there's just 1 life to live ;p) which in this case included wine pairings to all our meals, 2 bottles of sparkling water, the $120 cote de boeuf for 2 with foie gras + truffles ($80 without the foie gras + black truffles), the $12 extra for my foie gras, the $22 extra for Jannice's pan seared foie. Total cost of $230 for two for that.
When food is as delicious as on this reviewed dinner, all the non 10/10 ratings you see (for ie 9 for the cote de boeuf) are in fact firm10s at most other restaurants. A food item deserving a 10 over 10 of my standards needs to reach spectacular refinement, taste, execution and conception such as those dishes that made my top 10 of finest food items in Montreal, but KG's cote de boeuf revealed a spectacular sense of savourishness on this meal that unofficially earned it a true 10. It sounds easy to tag a cote de boeuf or a gazpacho as a defacto delicious food that is hard to miss, but in facts few cooks have delivered them with such amazing flavours as found on this reviewed meal. It is dinners like this one that re-defined my culinary vocab with new entries such as "architect of stunning tastes" or "sense of savourishness".
Bottom line: This is the beauty of having your own food blog, not dealing with a payroll hanging over your head, and the freedom of talking with your own heart. You do not care about what people think. You just care about what comes from your heart. My heart was deeply seduced by this dinner @ KG. And that shines throughout my entire review. Simply a blissful feast (what I had on this one dinner was of extraordinary precision in cooking, seasonings, temperatures)! I see KG as a table delivering excellent food in a straightforward way, with remarquable creativity to turn top quality ingredients into exceptional delightful rich hearty meals. As far as I am concerned, this one dinner worth my money. I am looking forward to more feasts at KG.
Jannice was also deeply seduced: her words being that for her, KG is a star shining vibrantly in the sky of Montreal: Indeed, this --as long as they keep such standard found on this meal --- is food that the most will find outstanding in terms of vibrant tastes and the cooks of this evening, Axel and Mathieu Bourdages, are largely among the very best Chefs this city has. Their commitment to delicious food is rarely matched.
Thanks for reading, Aromes
PROS: Chefs Axel, Mathieu Bourdages and their team have blown my taste buds away. The D in D - E - L - I - C - I - O - U - S!CONS: Nothing to complain about
THE FOLLOWING IS THE REVIEW OF MY MEAL @ KITCHEN GALERIE, JEAN-TALON, ON DEC 10TH 2011:
Event: Dinner @ Kitchen Galerie (on Jean-Talon)
Type of cooking: French/North American Bistro
Addr: 60 Rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal, QC
When: Saturday Dec 10th 2011, 20:00
I have always expressed doubts when a cook uses the word 'simple" as in 'simple food'. It's a trend to democratize food: 'hey...come to my restaurant, I am cooking some very simple fares". Most of the time, it's a catastrophe for sure. The reason is simple: cooking has nothing to do with complex nor simple food. It has to do with raw impulsive talent.When one of world's most talented Chefs, Jacques Maximin cooks a simple piece of fish with olive oil and lemon juice....don't think that you'll reach the same results based on the simple appearance of his recipe! Don't think that most great cooks will achieve the same results. It might seldomly happen! Simplicity is a marketting slogan...deep raw talent (the touch of the cook) makes all the difference.
Raw talent is what comes to mind when I think about the work of Chefs Axel Mevel and Bourdages at Kitchen Galerie (the one on Jean-Talon). On each of my previous visits here, both Chefs have cooked some of the most delicious bistro food I ever sampled in Montreal. Their work of flavors being remarkable and rightly earned them a position in my personal top3 of best bistrots in town. Both Chefs have that rare ability of elevating simple fares to gustatory highlights.
This evening, it's Chef Mathieu Cloutier who's at the helm. Chef Cloutier is one of the the owners of Kitchen Galerie. Aside of this change from my past visits, I also notice that they have renovated the room: dark wood floors and walls:
Furthermore, you can now sit at the bar.
On to the food, we've sampled on this evening ->
All meals at Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon start with an amuse-bouche. This (their miniature take on mussel salad) is the least impressive of the amuses that I have sampled here. Perhaps a 7/10, only because past amuses I had at Kitchen Galerie on JT raised the bar so high: for ie, the gazpacho on my very 1st meal here and an equally impressive vichyssoise on my 2nd visit (both under Chef Axel's supervision). Reviewing food of a table that are among those setting the bar in a given city (KG on JT and Montreal in this case) gives interesting outcomes: such amuse would have surprised me at most bistrots in town. But KG on JT is no ordinary kitchen: those folks have a sense of taste and work of flavor that has an edge over the rest of the pack. Therefore, this is one of the rare cases where I am forced to compare a dish to the very own standards of its own creators . In the KG's standards that I am accustomed to , this was good (it's easy to see why I praise KG on JT: they are never short of imagination when it comes to provoke pleasure on the palate: the salad of mussel was flavorful, enhanced by rich elements: for ie, the way the crème fraiche and chives paired together added lots of palatable impact to the mussels, a thoughtful touch as KG on JT delivers so oftently ), not great (Yeah...there's a flaw that has nothing to do with the kitchen. It's in the nature of seafood salad in general: when you make such salad, guess what -> there's always the 'solid' part sitting atop...and naturally, its 'soft' liquid counterpart that lies beneath. When it' s in a big bowl, you can easily mix them up, but in a shell.....you can't do that since it's too small. Which gave this: first sampling of the salad..superb...then followed by the insipid liquid counterpart)! Of course, no need to dive into uncessary drama here. An amuse does not make an entire meal!
Tarte tatin, pan-seared foie gras 7.5/10 is this time two notches behind the one I had sampled at KG on JT in July 2010 (that review can be found here) -> first, portion is smaller. Which I can understand: in that lapse of time, the price of ingredients have reached new heights. So, I won't penalize this aspect, although this remains a case where portion matters. But the upside-down tart, on its own, is not as stunning as the one I had in July 2010 (its apples would benefit from better caramelised texture and more importantly, the rich and delicious taste --- of the previous version --- is not as transcendent here. This one still tasted good, but not as great as the previous).
Whenever we have visited KG on JT, we've always opted for the cote de boeuf pour deux (in its super-size me version: truffles, foie gras, etc). The best cooking for this plate is definitely medium-rare. You need to have a huge appetite for this. It's generous! When Chef Axel Maeve and Bourdages cooked it in July 2010 (reviewed here), I raved over their dish and received several emails reminding me that such meal can't fail to be savourish anyways. The kind comments recommended many places where the cote de boeuf was just as great. I have tried the recommended places and in total fairness, I came to the conclusion that it is just erroneous to think that all steaks taste the same, all seafood taste the same, all veggies taste the same. The thing to always keep in mind is this: the touch of a talented cook makes all the difference! KG on JT's cote de boeuf is simply tastier, done way better: on this evening, for ie, the sauce was outstanding, the purée of potatoes far superior to what I found on many michelin-starred tables that I’ve tried (for those like me who grew up in France and were familiar with Joel Robuchon’s famous potato purée --- I started being a fine dining gourmand within the 3 yrs leading to Chef Robuchon’s retirement --- this purée was as perfect as the one of Chef Robuchon. I know this may sound exxagerated --- I myself would be the very first to find this surreal, especially when no one is virtually missing a purée nowadays---, but this stood as smooth, succulent and flawless at the one that Robuchon was cooking at the Hotel du Parc, for ie, before he retired. I wish I could cut a bit with the superlatives of this cote de boeuf, but I can’t . I can’t because the meat was outstanding in all aspects (precisely seasoned, and an impact of the palate that went far beyond what a standard delicious piece of meat delivers), the cooking of the veggies mastered in a way that would make 3 star Michelin Chefs Alain Passard (L'Arpège) and Pascal Barbot (L'Astrance) ..jealous! Especially Chef Barbot who works really hard on perfecting textures with veggies. A 10/10 (This dish is a perfect 10, there’s no doubt about this, but the kitchen should be careful with the over-cooking of this dish's chunks of foie gras: a very minor technical slip that I am forgiving this time around since this should not distract from this overall stunning dish…. .but keep the timing of foie gras pan-searing in check). As usual, there’s no need to build unecessary expectations: will you stumble upon the exact same stunning purée? Veggies? Cote de Boeuf? I am not God and can’t guarantee anything, Rfaol! I myself had enjoyed this cote de boeuf at KG on JT for the 3rd time in 2 years, and it was a perfect 10/10 the 1st time (not one single flaw and the palatable impact stood really high), an 8 over 10 the 2nd time (it was tasty for sure, but the overall impact was less impressive than on the 1st try) and a 10/10 again on this occasion. What I can tell you though is that in Montreal standards, this bistro raises the bar really high (for its inspired and skilled cooking, for delivering flavors that are mostly eventful) and a dish like this one keeps KG on JT firmly planted in my top 3 best bistrots in Montreal. When I go to a restaurant, I don’t expect all my dishes to be a perfect 10 (It happened to me once or twice in a lifetime, but come to think about it: how could you do this anyways…unless you manage to read in the mind of each of your diners??? …Lol)… I expect a depth of inspiration in your cooking that somehow sets you apart. That is what I sense in KG on JT’s cooking.
Chef Axel Maeve was serving in the dining room, on this evening. For those who are not aware of this, Chefs are cooking and doing the service here. It's a cool concept that made the reputation of this amazing table. Chef Cloutier is cooking tonight, and one of my favourite bistrot Chefs in Mtl, Chef Axel is serving. Chef Axel Maeve is not only one of my favourite Bistrot Chefs around the world (YES...you read this correctly), but he also can beat many sommeliers at the art and passion of chosing wines. Being very pragmatic, he suggested a wine that does a great job whilst not being too $$$ (hey..if I was Bill Gates, I wouldn't mind picking the pricier bottles, but I am not!!!! ): a 2007 Norfolk Rise Cabernet Sauvignon (cold soaked then fermented in tank, fruity aromas of dark berry; I enjoyed the nice tannins, fine bouquet, good balance and appealing intensity of this wine) - an affordable and throughtful match to the cote de boeuf (being medium-bodied, this red wine harmoniously complemented the red meat) .
The desserts are assembled by their brigade. And here again, I am impressed: I saw new faces on this brigade tonight, and yet they never ran away from the standards of KG on JT:
The carrot cake - I found that most opinions about KG on JT’s desserts have hard time being accurate, perhaps because of the simple nature of the desserts at KG (it’s a bistro, so no fancy dessert) or perhaps because most ‘crèmes brulées’ or ‘brownies” tend to taste and look the same after a while. When a dessert is average (5/10, 6/10) , or simply well done but not deserving of any particular interest (7/10 but no more), I don’t hesitate to mention it and my ratings always reflect that aspect. On 3 visits here, the desserts have always stood among what’s best done in Montreal bistrots (usually in between 8 to 10/10, and since we are talking here about classic desserts like crème brulée, brownies, carrot cakes, this speaks volume about how their desserts are inspired treats). Take this carrot cake, for ie: they could have baked a simple straightforward carrot cake and knowing how they always manage to make things taste good, I would have been very happy. But they came up with their own take of the carrot cake (a baked square, which consistency was firmer than the one of classic carrot cakes), used the unusual yellow carrots, paired the cake with a finely-cut fresh pineapple salad that was in its turn aromatically enhanced by basil. I’ve seen some brilliant cooks trying those kind of combinations, but rarely with similar exciting palatable impact. And imagine, I rated this a 8.5/10 (I think that a 10/10 would have been possible, in this case, had the cake been lighter, read: a slightly more airy / puffier consistency) - Certainly a 10 at most bistrots in town. Talking about depth!
Then the choco brownie - I'd be on my 1st visit here, and I'd hastily jump to the following pre-sampling comment : "bah...just another brownie..”. But NO...once in mouth, it was packed with exciting flavors, a feature that I sadly rarely find in brownies anymore. The choco flavor being deep and unusually enticing. I didn’t think that I could one day assign a 10 to a brownie and rave over it with such satisfaction, but if a brownie worths a 10, then this is a 10/10
That crème brulée you saw at the back of the choco brownie....is also a 10/10. How come?? How could a crème brulée be a 10? Come on...we all can cook a flawless crème brulée! I agree with you. I too can cook a flawless crème brulée effortlessly. But KG on JT's version on this dinner has an edge. It' s just superbly done.Food is food, it is elementary and there’s no need to elevate it to theatre. And yet, KG on JT made it again, on this dinner: they found a way to assign a pleasant task to food: transferring some excitement on a palate.
I know it may sound over the top to rave over a crème brulée and a brownie. But when it's executed flawlessly, I don't see any reason to not assign a perfect rating to a food item.With that said, it is a bistrot, so if you are expecting sophisticated desserts, then a fine dining table would be more appropriate.
KG on JT (Jean-Talon) does really have an edge over its bistrot peers. While reviewing this dinner, I had to stick to KG on JT's own standards, Rfaol! If I had to compare it to other bistrots in town, there would have been an insane profusion of 10 / 10 s! Many tables with 7/10, 7.5/10 items would have triggered frustration from my part. Not Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon, because the standard here is simply higher as proven by the rest of the meal high scores. And I am surprised to see new cooks on their brigades who manage to follow that tradition of higher standards. Either they know how to transfer their knowledge, or they are lucky to stumble upon new cooks who learn fast. KG on JT stands among my top bistrots in town along with Au 5e Péché, Bistro Cocagne and Bouillon Bilk.