Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Event: dinner at restaurant Le Filet
When: Tuesday April 19th 2011, 18:00
Type of food: Modern French-based Cosmopolitan Bistronomy (with focus on seafood***)
Addr: 219 Mont-Royal O, Montreal, QC
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7)
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).
Avec le Bouillon Bilk, voici le vent de fraicheur tant attendu en Ville. Les entrées et plats principaux furent créatifs, et gouteux. Peut etre pas mon dans mon top 10, mais pas loin....et j'y reviendrai!
I am finally resuming with restaurant reviews at home, following the launching of my Michelin star dinings web site and the memorable trip to San Sebastian in Spain.
I have not abandoned the main mission of this blog: reviewing Montreal's finest bistrots and fine dining ventures. But as I have already mentioned, I will not lose my time with reviewing generic dinings just for the sake of entertaining my readers. My benchmark in Montreal lies in my Mtl's & surroundings top 15 best dinners listing. Only a restaurant that can bring something refreshingly different or better will catch my attention, or else why bother? Which brings me to Le Filet, a seafood-oriented Bistro which opened its doors three months ago, in February. In three months, Le Filet has received a media attention (web blogs, restaurant review sites, mags, etc) that most restaurants would never enjoy in their entire existence: just do a search for it on the web and you will get what I mean. The latest is not the reason that motivated me to step foot in this restaurant, though. I had gathered enough reliable informations to believe that Le Filet, at this moment, is bringing what I am seeking for: creative bistro creations that either stand out or do at least bring some fresh appeal to the Montreal's bistro scene. A warning: book way in advance if you want to dine there, especially for thurs, fridays, saturdays (this place is already popular).
They do offer tapas-sized courses, too, (very practical, in line with their main purpose: making their food more accessible, affordable) but I went for 3 "full" courses :
Marinated sardines, Miso, Radish, leek: a layer of meaty portuguese sardines that were marinated in miso and ginger (very tasty) covered with another layer of some sort of rice-krispies (brings the necessary 'crunch' to make the dish 'multi-dimensional' with regard to consistency) and radishes (expertly marinated with a sourness that was well controlled and remarkable flavor) . A 7.5 over 10
Crab risotto, asparagus, crustacean jus: My current benchmark for risotto, out of all Michelin-starred and Non Michelin-starred tables that I went dining at, is the one I sampled at Bistro Cocagne on Sept 4th 2009 (a showcase of perfect cooking paired with sublime taste, the only 10/10 that I ever gave to a risotto up to lately, it is the one that was served with the lamb shank dish that I ate and reviewed on that dinner). Recently, during my trip to San Sebastian, another risotto has joined the one of Bistro Cocagne as my personal benchmark for risottos: the one I had at la Cuchara de San Telmo (click here and scroll to the middle of the text), the second only 10/10 I ever assigned to this dish (completely different from the one of Bistro Cocagne but stunning in all aspects: taste, cooking, texture / keep in mind that outside of North America, especially in Italy, Spain..etc, they do not really use the common 'arborio' rice that we do use here for cooking risottos, and that leads to a totally different appreciation in textures and taste. The risotto at la Cuchara, for ie, had terrific flavour and vibrant texture ). I have enjoyed many stellar risottos in Italy (If you go there and love risottos, lurk around regions like Veneto and Lombardia just to get some kind of new gustatory reference as far as risottos go ) and all around the globe, but those two have stole the show as far as I am concerned. Their risotto at Le Filet was nowhere close to the mind-blowing 'perfection' (in execution and divine taste) of the above mentioned risottos at Bistro Cocagne or La Cuchara de San telmo, but it was so delicious, well seasoned and enjoyable that I emptied the entire plate. An 8 over 10
Fluke, Japanese plum, wasabi, cucumber: here is a refreshing unusual dish. I picked this dish simply because it piqued my curiosity as I was wondering how the subtle fluke and cucumber would combine with the latent heat / spicy sensation of the wasabi in this version of their own creativity. It turned out that the wasabi was not dominant (good news), that the brown sauce that you see around the fluke's flesh (this white fish was of impeccable quality) was successful (right consistency, exciting sweet-sour depth of taste). What is in fact a delicious plum-based sauce (the brown sauce) reminded me of my childhood's beloved tamarind-based concoctions as well. That plum sauce taught me a lot about Chef Yasu Okazaki great talent: I measure the talent of a great Chef by his sense of taste. Nothing less. And my definition of a great 'sense of taste" has to go through the taste of your sauces. Some may overlook sauces as 'simple pools of fatty liquids', but in reality, sauces reveal a lot about the ability (or inability) of a cook to bring forward brilliant flavors. Recently, when I was at 3-star Michelin Ledoyen in Paris, I knew right from the first sauces that I was sampling that the meal was going nowhere (I kept my cool and was not disgracious in my review of that meal since there is no point to put down people, the purpose here is to constructively share our dining experiences, not to bash for nothing...but what had to be underlined with honesty, was!), and I was right. Creatively well conceived tiny potato chips (they tasted great and were amusing in their mild-sweet kind of mouth feel / that alone was a showcase of unusual brilliant technique and originality in flavors) were topping Chef Yasu Okazaki's creation. 8 over 10
Dessert was Tres leches, mango, pineapple, coconut - A sponge cake soaked in three different type of milk, topped by tiny cubes of pineapple/mango and 'chips' of coconut. This was ok, a 6 over 10. I am forgiving the low rating of that dessert; Honestly, who really cares about top of the line desserts at a bistro? Sure, bistros like Bistro Cocagne, Au 5e Péché and M Sur Masson have amazed me with some of their desserts, but it would be a mistake to judge an amazing bistro like Le Filet over a simple dessert. Le Filet has way more than that to offer: an inventive cuisine that brings enough refreshing novelty and excitement to the Montreal restaurant scene that it worth great consideration. Loved this place and I shall go back.
During my recent visit in Paris (which gave birth to my 3-star Michelin dining web site), I realized that the gap that once existed between Montreal and Paris (with regard to restaurants and food) is not that big anymore. Facts: most of their top bistrots are not that superior to Montreal's equivalents anymore. Same could be said of the average restaurants. On the fine dining level, I do not see .....what Chefs at Chateaubriand (in top 15 of S Pellegrino's world best restaurants), L'Astrance (same), Passage 53, La Regalade...to name a few... could do and that our most talented Chefs like Laprise (Toque!), Navarrette Jr (Raza), Loiseau (Bistro Cocagne), Rouyé (La Porte), Pelletier (LCCP), Juneau (Now at Newtown), Mercuri (XO Le Restaurant), Lenglet (Au 5e Péché)...could not do?? Paris has a big advantage, though, at the 3-star Michelin level (especially with restaurants like 3-star Michelin L'Ambroisie that I did review during this trip, in March, to Paris), but Montreal has already a potential 3-star Michelin restaurant, too if Michelle Mercuri"s XO Le Restaurant excels, all the time, at the level of what I found on my last dinner there (click here for that review). With that said, draw no comparison between L'Ambroisie and XO Le restaurant: both are different, but stellar on their own unique ways. I know some may not agree with me, perhaps -- in part --- because of 'perceptions', but in facts, and in-the-mouth, what I have just raised is happening. Now, do not get me wrong: I love Paris. It is the City where I grew up, the city that taught me the love of great food and the importance of developing the palate. But times are changing, and places that were not used to be known for their gastronomy are now dominant (for ie, I initially thought that San Sebastian's cocina miniatura was a product of buzz syndrom but reality was totally different once I got a taste of it), let alone the 'cosmopolitanisation' of Parisian cuisine in general (the new generation of their Chefs have a more International (oriental influence in Asian food, for ie) approach that you now see everywhere in North America, Europe and elsewhere). With that said, along with their far dominant 3 star Michelin fine dining ventures, Paris (and France in general) are simply unbeatable when it comes to bakeries, desserts (In Montreal, the local Chefs like Loiseau at Bistro Cocagne or Vachon at M Sur Masson are doing an amazing job with regard to desserts, but the big majority of the best desserts came oftently from France 's Chefs as it was the case with creations from Chefs like Lenglet @ Au 5e Péché, Rouyé @ La Porte, Jerome Ferrer @ L'Europea and other French Chefs as well).
SERVICE: Superb hosts greeting customers with care. They were all friendly and yet professional and you can see the willingness of doing things properly. At 6PM, when I stepped in, it was half packed (started to be extremely busy about one hour later), so I had time to chat a bit with the waiter about the logo of their restaurant: so, the F for Filet (which means a 'net" in English) is a clin d'oeil to the net that is on the tennis court facing the restaurant. Of course, it is also referring to the net of the fisherman (it is a seafood restaurant). Second part of the logo represents a fish, and the dot refers to a tennis ball (again a clin d'oeil to the neighbouring tennis court). And the red/orange tablecloths refers to the "clay" of a tennis court. Amusing!
Urban contemporary interior decoration, with marine life's representations (at the back of the bar and on one of the walls), walls made of steel, some old school wooden chairs (tavern chairs alike / but the overall decor is not old school at all), with black and clay 'orange/red. (tablecloths) tones color schemes.
Some original and creative (to Montreal standards) well mastered flavor combinations and textures were found all along this meal. Chef Yasu Okazaki manages to combine enticing oriental flavors to French cuisine in a brilliant manner.
*** For those who like meat, you won't be left aside: they have beef tataki, sweetbreads, duck and other red meats (you can have a look at their online menu).
PROS: Sometimes, when it is different (as usual, relatively to what we have here in Yul), well, it is exciting. And this was the case with the fluke/Japanese plum dish. The risotto was another delicious dish.
CONS: I want the sweets to shine at the level of some of those savouries.
Overall food rating: 7/10 Well, good of course given what we already know about the cooking team at LCCP (their Chef was part of that team). Some might even rate a meal like this higher, since it is refreshingly different (again, to Montreal standadrs), the technique hard to fault on this repast, and the taste not under-looked. This can certainly not be accused of being a boring replica of what we see in town: that dish of fluke, for eg, being an exciting dish we do not see in Yul.
Service: 10/10 Lovely service on this dinner
Monday, 21 March 2011
Skipped the Michelin-star tables - Although Spain is at the forefront of world gastronomy, only two michelin-starred spanish restaurants do catch my attention at this moment: El Celler de Can Roca (Girona) and Quique Da Costa (Denia). I regrettably missed both due to a lack of time. As to San Sebastian's multiple Michelin Star tables (3* Martin Berasategui, 3* Arzak, 3* Akelarre, 2* Mugaritz), I gathered enough intelligence on them to decide on choosing none. Michelin star tables in Spain are affordable, especially compared to those of France. And I heard that the service is not stiff, star Chefs are more accessible, the overall dining experience more pleasant at most of the best tables of Spain. I was seduced by reports about the amazing service at Mugaritz, the charming and friendly Chef Berasategui, the mesmerizing view from the large glass windows of Akelare. But when it comes to 2* and 3* Michelin star restaurants, I have my own personal preferences. At the highest Michelin star level I am more oriented toward France's haute cuisine: my style is more Roellinger, Michel Bras, Briffard, Piège when he cooks haute cuisine, Christophe Moret, Guerard. This comes at a price, I know...but I'd rather save enough $$$ for what I really want rather than sitting at a Michelin star table just for the sake of it!
One last notice about Spanish Michelin-starred dinings: the price you pay at those 3* restaurants is a fraction of what one would pay in Paris or New York at most 2* or 3* ventures. Spain is definitely where you should go if you want to experience Michelin star meals whilst not emptying your pocket.
***A lot from Paris, a bit from Bruxelles and Rome - There's no secret that some parts of SSB could remind you of Paris (they were clearly inspired by France's architectures), but did you know that the small streets of Parte Vieija could remind of Rome? And look at this:
It's their plaza de la constitucion. Once a bullring. Nowadays, just a plaza with terraces. At night, a remote feel of Bruxelles in the air ;p And last but not the least, I do not see many complaining about a piece of Nice's '''La promenade des Anglais''' in SB: the long walk along Playa La Concha
...A romantic feel - If I can say of a city that it has sensuality and a distinctive romance feel, then SSB would qualify to the designation. Here are three elements that do not fail as a romantic call:
-The gardens in front of city hall late at night:
The charm of the small streets of Parte Vieija, at night (like a little version of Rome):
Their long walk by the seaside:
Or take the long walk by the sea, along Paseo Nuevo, right behind Monte Urgull:
(This is one of the scenic seaside views you will get from the back of Monte Urgull, along Paseo Nuevo, in the direction of Paseo de Muelle). I did personally did not enjoy going up on Monte Urgull, but this is a question of personal taste. I'd still suggest you try Mount Urgull since the views from up there could appeal to some, I'm sure.
...A fuego Negro - Indeed, one hot pintxo bar which cult I am embracing. I usually I tend to stay away from the big advertised places, but I have to give it to AFN:
the bar, the pintxo, the staff and the spot are super cool, modern, well thought. They have the sense of pleasing and you just feel good there. There was my introduction to txakoli, the iconic white wine of the Spanish Basques. This wine surprised me: really pleasant, light, enjoyable in mouth (could pass as a remote version of a champagne. It is NOT a Champagne, but gets somehow close to it). 1-0 for AFN (I am seduced!)
Update on March 24th 2011: Just learned that the fact that they had to close was due to an urgent last minute event. I am therefore removing my words of unsatisfaction and do offer my apologies for the misunderstanding.
...Bar Martinez, 31 de Agosto, 13. Tel 943 424 965 (closed on Thurs, Fridays):
the surprising spanish omelette - With Bar Zeruko closed, we decided to hit two of their current most popular pintxo (tapas) spots. First Bar Martinez on Calle de Agosto 31. The thing here is to come around 8:00-8:30 if you want to avoid the crowd. Mission accomplished: barely no one in a bar that was going to get full later around 9:00. Here, I picked some 'croquettes' of cheese: tasty. Croquettes of ham and asparagus: tasty. I am writing 'tasty' because they were, but I am quickly getting the 'buzz' about those spanish pintxo spots: they do indeed make those ''croquettes'' way better than most of the best restaurants around the world. Yep, that's what surprised me the most. But wait till you read about what I've experienced at La Cucachara de San Telmo (next paragraph). In the meantime, I had to try their Spanish omelette. I love those simple things that barely attract attention to the most. This is exactly where I do play attention at your creation...
this is where I do tag you as a hero or a zero! This Spanish omelette is basically made of potato, tomato, chives, eggs. Its deliciousness was unexpected: omelette redefined! And I am not talking about redefinition of texture or whatsoever un-natural aspect of it (which I usually call ''pure BS" btw)...nah, I am talking about the main purpose of an omelette: its TASTYNESS! We could argue forever with possibilities like 'it is just a different omelette that I have never tasted before'. Regardless, it is superior to whatever omelette I have yet sampled all around Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia and it stands as as my new reference as far as omelettes go! Bar Martinez: 9/10! Pratical note: Bar Martinez has tables where you can sit down.
La Cuchara de San Telmo, Calle 31 de Agosto 28 Bajos, Tel: 647 787 444 - Our second stop after Bar Martinez. Largely the most advertised pintxo place along with A Fuego Negro. In other corners of the world, the buzz is pure BS in the hands of those who can capt the attention of the media or of the Public relationship fake drama. You surely know what I mean. Here in SSB, they obviously apply themselves to back buzz by real genius. Both la Cuchara de San Telmo and A Fuego Negro proved, on my visits at their establishments, that they are simply the best at what they do...perhaps even more than that! Anyways, let's get to the fact:
(1) A risotto, in its "pintxo version. I do not know how to write this, but I am bold, and there's no way I'll try to find words or BS descriptions to come to the point: this risotto they served to me was simply a new reference, a creation that was way superior in both taste, appreciation, and cooking mastery than any of the best risotto I ever sampled at 3*, 2*, 1* Michelin starred tables. Let alone at the rest.
Again, forget about the fact that I've never been to SSB before and that this may have been the effect of novelty. Thinking that way would be simply naive. The fact is that their risotto is stunning, way superior than most of the best risottos on offer out there, and we need to face it. Basta!
A 10 over 10
(2) The pan seared foie gras - Those folks do a superior pan seared foie than even my world's favourite ones (sorry Eau a la Bouche, Sorry Bistro Cocagne,
I love your pan seared foie...but la Cucachara makes it twice better). The depth of taste of their foie, the mastery of its cooking is way beyond expectation, and then you have the sour/sweet puree accompaniments that were simply un-matched. In two bites, La Cucachara did way better than the best 3* I could think about (without the decorum perhaps, but all I care about is the superiority of the food!). Simply the best of the pintxo places I have tried in SSB (just remember that there are no tables there. It's a tiny place.
Once you enter the place, just head to the bar on your right, stand up there and just order your pintxos off the small board that's on the bar's wall. Just 6 to 8 items, written in spanish and easy to read. Stand up and eat. Not that big of a drama since this is not a big meal, remember...but just samplings of food --aka tapas / pintxos).
Before I forget: I read here and there that this place is hard to fine. I agree: you can miss it easily...because it is not really on 31 de Agosto.. or it it? Lol..once you get there, you will better understand what I mean. For now, keep this in mind: once you are on calle 31 de Agosto, it is at the corner of Valle Lersundi Plaza. Carefully look afar and you will see a yellow sign "Keler". It's right there (looks like a street that goes nowhere --in between Bar Martinez and La Cepa on 31 de Agosto--, but stick to that path).
...Come here in summer - It's a small seaside city
with perhaps more interests than just the sea and the food (pintxos of course, plenty of seafood), but visit San Sebastian in summer if that's a place you're planning to visit. I came here this time in March for personal reasons, but summer would have surely been better. I was afraid that San Sebastian would be just another of those oversold touristic places. SB is touristic, there is no doubt about this. But at least, I find, it has some interesting things to bring: the city itself is charming (the seaside part worths a visit on its own. Perhaps not the perfect caribbean type of beach, but scenic enough and the beach is in good condition (where I'll rate the best beaches of the Caribbean with a 9 to 9.5 over 10, those of the Atlantic side of Mediterranea with a 6 over 10, I've got to rate SB's beaches with a 7 over 10 - The water is relatively clear and the sand, although not white but light brown --- think of the desert -- is soft and nice). The city is romantic (taking a walk at the back of Monte Urgull, on Pasealeku berria / walk at night by La Concha beach, etc), with plenty of fun bars and eateries on top of being a city-beach resort. Can't fail to seduce as far as I am concerned.
Fish from trouble waters ... tend to generally taste better. That is why their fish is quite tastier (please do not go there with un-realistic expectations towards their fish. It is among the tastiest ones, point blank). Ironically, my palate has a softer spot for their tropical cousins: the fishes of warm and quiet tropical seas (sometimes packed with less upfront depth of taste --- compared to those I've sampled in SSB --- but I find their taste more enticing, almost 'nutty-er' especially in my preferred way of cooking fish: grilling).
...For shopping: look around carefully. There are bargains amidst expensive stores. And they are everywhere to be found: Alameda del boulevard, Calle Urbieta, in the small streets of Parte Vieja, etc. My "coup de coeur" went for a small boutique for women accessories and shoes / clothes called "Koima" on Idiakez Kalea, corner of gipuzkoa plaza. This was first discovered by my mum, the only person I trust for opinions on best value buyings. She told me that I should go there to find interesting women accessories and shoes for my wife. She was right: The price there are ridiculously low and the items varied, creatively assembled. A true small little gem found out of nowhere and a great way to boot your shopping spree in a city of great shopping opportunities (If you look around carefully, jewelries, women accessories, shoes and men suits are insanely cheap compared to the rest of the world).
...Affordable eats: Since all infos on the web have covered virtually all eateries of SSB, I will cover those that were left behind but worth a detour if you want to save money in food spendings. You can do better than the average eur 20 "menus del dia" that most restaurants do offer. My best locations for cheap but good food are:
(1) Ricky Pollo in la Bretxea cinema/commercial centre - Rotisserie, pastas. Great cheap food with better service than at a bunch of top restaurants!
(2) La Cueva del Pollo -- a cheap but great rotisserie. Both are close to each other.
Their ham worths indeed the detour. I regret of not having spent more times discovering them as much as I would have liked, but the care, the aging, the taste of their ham is memorable. You might be shocked at times by the price of some of their superior hams, but if like me you are passionate about this, I'd recommend to give them a try.
Pension Bellas Artes. An excellent pension (absolutely no complain) with excellent hosts who work hard and work well. It is a small pension, with a very personalized service, so do not draw comparisons to a standard hotel. Leire, the owner, did everything to make our stay enjoyable and what a honest person. From her pension, you walk straight on Calle Urbieta and within 10 mins, you are already at the jonction of Playa La Concha's seaside walk and the town hall/Parte Vieja.
Bottom line: San Sebastian is my type of place -> varied architectures and sceneries. Lots of fun little eateries and bars. A seaside that entices, and somehow a multi-cultural city opened to the outside (people were mostly really welcoming to me, and that is right there a remarquable proof of open-mindness / tolerance, believe me, Rfaol! Please do not abuse of their kindness). For the food, stick to their seafood. They are great at it. For their pintxos, start with the current leading spots: La cucachara de San Telmo, A fuegro Negro and from there try the rest: la Cepa, bar Martinez, etc. They are all very close to each other, and since the ritual is to sample 1 or 2 bites here and there, just go from one place to another. It is cheap (2-3 euros for 1 pintxo).
If you want to discover SSB through a romantic angle, I will recommend you do this:
(1)Book a table at restaurant La Perla, Playa la Concha for when the sun goes down. You will thank me ;p
(2)Take your sweet half to a night / or late afternoon walk along Playa la Concha or at the back of Monte Urgull (on Pasealeku Berria)
It is perhaps no Tuscany, Rfaol...but it can trade couple of punches with the earlier Italian star when it comes to romantic opportunities. Personally, it brings me even more enjoyment than Tuscany to many respects (they are different, of course. Just try them both to make up your own opinion).
Off to the next adventure. Miss you Montreal!
Thanks for reading.
Tuesday, 01 February 2011
It's where no one sees anything, that I am interested to see something. It's in futility that I seize the power of true raw talent or absence of purpose. Amen ------- Aromes, 2011
Before you go ahead, I want to remind those who consider themselves as sushi purists that you will have --most of the time --- to put aside any concept of pure classic Japanese sushis. It's Montreal, Not Tokyo. In Montreal, you will have to get use (at most sushi-yas) to some re-interpretations of the sushi (through for ie the use of mayonaise, addition of ingredients you would not find in the traditional way of making sushis).
***********The log file is a live update of the latest tried sushis***************
->Dec 28th 2012 - Take out at Sushi Volant. The sushi Chef I knew at the beginning of the year is not there
anymore. The new team does some decent sushis but that far less impressive that what I was accustomed
here. I am thefore downgrading Sushi Volant from 8/10 to 5/10
->Oct 13th 2011 - Take out order at Shiki Sushi (See the section "next door sushi eateries")
->Oct 6th 2011 - Dinner @ my favourite sushiya in Montreal, Mikado on Saint Denis. It is always frustrating to see your #1 deceiving but such is life: this dinner was inferior to my last visit at this same Mikado in Aug 2010. The problem this time around was that I did not get the feel of authenticity I got there in 2010 and the sushis were simply not as great as in Aug 2010. But Mikado remains my #1 even upon this slightly less impressive dinner. My companion on this dinner is an expert in Sushiyas and she did not hesitate to rate the sushis of Sushi Volant superior to those we were sampling on this meal. She is not wrong if I compare this latest meal @ Mikado to my latest take out order at Sushi Volant (Septh 30th 2011) + the Unagi I just had @ Mikado (usually an item that virtually never fails to impress me) was a pale contender to those I had @ Jun I and many other Mtl's sushi-yas. On the other hand. Mikado delivered, once again, enough items with prime palatability that I am still hesitant to demote it as my #1 best sushi-ya in town. I need at least 2 more dinners there, with perhaps an interval of 3-4 months to be enoughly confident about my definitive position about Mikado. I would still, following this dinner, run back to Mikado way before attending a dinner at most of its contenders (the value of my $$$ is still good here, the warm sake remarkable and the laid-back service more in line with what I prefer and the sashimi on this latest dinner was of outstanding quality). But Mikado is more than ever on the verge to give up its 1st place (in my classification) to another sushi-ya if things perpetuate at the level I found on this evening. Although, a long time connoiseur of Montreal sushi-yas told me that if I go back to Mikado and ask the Chef to create a menu of his own choice, I may have Mikado firmly planted as my #1 Montreal sushi-ya for a while. I'll see that.
->Febr 2nd 2011 Completed all the major Mtl sushi-yas
Maiko upgraded to 7.1 / 10, Tri rated with a 7 /10, Mikado remains my #1 sushi-ya, Sushi Volant remains my #1 choice for best value sushis in Mtl.
To be fair and focus solely on the sushis, I did my best to order the sushis for take-out except with the dinner I had at Jun I. The sushis I favored at all those places are the common classic basic nigiris and makis (red tuna, albacore, salmon, etc).
->Jan 31st 2011 19:30PM Kaizen (Take out)
Kaizen joins Jun I on my personal rundown with a rating of 7.6 / 10 (both "giants" occupying the rank of #2 right behind Mikado and slighlty ahead of neighborhood next-door eatery Sushi Volant. Mikado keeps #1 position of my favourite sushis in Mtl, and Sushi Volant is still my reigning king for "best value")/
That mantra (you saw as an introduction) from your humble host makes great sense when it comes to sushis. Sushi is so simple to make, and yet so revealing when it can flirt with perfection. Whether you like to hear this or not, let's face it: this is not like learning how to make ramen noodles. Sushis is no complex science: at home, take 1 month of rigorous sushi practise, develop a strong appreciation of fresh quality ingredients, buy the best one-edged sharpened carbon steel knife you can afford, patiently learn the art of making great japanese sushi rice (shari). Do not make things complicated for nothing: just focus on the traditional Japanese ways of making sushis (drop the mayo for now!). So ... '''why does this fool go to sushis restaurants then??'''' you may ask. Because there is true raw talent out there and when that is backed by stunning ingredients, your sushi dining experience can be a revelation worth of every penny you've sacrificed.
In Montreal, we have many sushi places (a problem, since -- unless you are a local like me who is willing to try as many as possible -- you'll be stuck with a load of unpredictable choices) , but please lower your expectations: not that we do not have decent sushis. We do, but we are not in Japan and it's not with what you get in the St Laurent River that you are going to make great sushis, obviously. Most of the ingredients are shipped from outside Montreal.
A bit like what I did for the 'Battle of macarons (Montreal)', I went in this case to sushi-yas that are known to stand out of the pack. Of course, public relationship do play a big role in buzz/advertisement, and we could always argue that those who are known as stand out places are perhaps just the better advertised restaurants, but make no mistake: I am trying them all, from the unknown street corner hole in a wall to Mtl famous sushi restaurants. Beware: this is an incomplete work. I'll keep updating this post with any re-visit, or newer discoveries. Those listed places are known to provide the best sushis in Montreal, but as I love to remind you : the best places are perhaps those we do not know. So, I'll keep searching for the best sushis in this city and report my experience here. I'll skip the places not worth of mention. Explanation of the ratings (over 10): 10-Exceptional, 9-Excellent, 8-Very Good, 7-Good. In order to better understand my ratings, please take note that I am extremely severe with sushis: since they are relatively simple creations by nature (hey, sushi hardcore fans...I know that there's the rice cooking technique, the mastering in cutting that fish and so on..and I do respect that...but we are not newbies at this, so with acceptable skills, we all can prepare some decent sushis. It's no secret of the gods...) , it needs to be an exceptional combination of the best of the best ingredients, combined with tremendous skills, techniques and exceptional deliciousness to grab a 9 or a 10.
You will notice that I am skipping the details about how the rice is made (The go-han ---cooked rice --- has been pretty much executed the same way at all those places listed on this report: properly cooked, with a stickiness mastered as it should with any good sushi rice preparation, not too acidic / In Mtl I haven't yet sampled rice with strong presence of vinegar --- as I've sometimes experienced abroad, and the quality of rice has not disappointed. Instead of endlessly repeating ourselves, I'll just mention those details about rice only when I notice major differences that go out of the aforementioned rice preparation pattern), details about the sushis (I find it annoying to repeatedly write that the rice holds together or not, that the taste of most of these ingredients is sweet, and so on. I'll do it the other way around: when I find something that's not correct like bad rice, poor preparation, bad quality of fish, I'll let you know! For the rest, the rating over 10 talks for what we need to know).
Last but not least, the method used to report about those sushis is the same that I use for reviewing most type of ingredients or food:
-chosing only the simplest and most common ones (for ie, the common basic classic nigiris, sashimis in this case) since they tend to be the best at revealing a lot about the depth of talent, care and presence (or absence) of quality ingredient that's behind the edible creation. I also prefer taking those sushis out: if your sushis are still impeccable and delicious when I hit home, that says a lot about the quality that's behind it (of course, I will not compare sushis that were sampled with a considerable difference in time interval between when it was picked out to when it is eaten). No methodology will ever be perfect, but this is the one that I rely on to get closer to an evaluation that I want as accurate as possible.
And remember: all that matters to me is the deliciousness of the sushi, regardless of the $$$ or any other considerations! Only sushis that stood out will be taken in consideration (I do have a huge list of sushi eateries that I found disappointing. It would need an entire web site for those, proof that it is so easy to be ordinary . I'll perhaps eventually leave this for a post dedicated to the worst ones).
As usual, I am listing first those with sushis that have impressed me the most in Montreal (this will be constantly updated; the rating of the latest updated meal at a given restaurant will be the only one displayed on this post ):
Latest, current #1 pick of Aromes in Montreal:
Mikado Sushi 8/10 (1731, Rue Saint-Denis 514-844-5705 ) has currently offered the sushis that I liked the most in Montreal as of lately. This can change quickly since I am lately on a serious chase of Montreal's best sushis. Warning: there are many Mikado Sushi restaurants scattered around Montreal. The only one that I am familiar with (hence the one I am listing as my #1 sushi place in Mtl) is the one on Saint Denis street. Delicious sushis, and above all well balanced (great rice, great techniques, grest ingredients) . UPDATE Oct 6th 2011 (see the above section untiled the 'Log file')
PS: Along with Mikado, another #1 pick for me in Montreal has always been Yoko Sushi Lounge, on Jean-Talon, in Montreal. It is also a trendy lounge bar, but this has not distracted their Chefs to offer among the very best sushis in town. It's closed for renovations for now (Oct 2011)
Close followers (of my #1 pick) on my personal Mtl sushi rundown:
-Kaizen: 7.6 (4075 Ste Catherine Street West 514-932-5654) Kaizen is a giant in Montreal (perhaps the most regarded, better advertised and best sourced too; this comes at a cost but I am not here to get angry at high cost. All I care about is the quality and taste of their sushis). UPDATED on 31-01-2011: Went to Kaizen for a take-out. Picked their 12 pcs Sushi-phile combo (costs $33).
Picked the take-out so that we all can focus on the food solely. We have to give this to them: to Montreal standards, they use great ingredients, which is the case at the other big Mtl sushi-yas such as Mikado or Jun-I. The cooking technique is slightly similar to Jun-I's and the work of the taste is also quite equivalent if I compare their most recent sampled sushis. Bottom line, they have great sushis and for the quality of the ingredients that they use, I forgive the relatively high $$$ although I'll opt for Sushi Volant as my frequent eatery since for almost half the price, SV delivered delicious sushis as well as mostly great ingredients. For now, Mikado on St Denis remains my personal #1 choice though.
-Jun I: 7.6 (156 Laurier O 514-276-5864) In my review of that sushi dinner @ Jun I, I was not too happy. Obviously, based on the amount of emails that I received, many Jun I fans were not too happy neither with my comments, but I am no Public relationship agency for the restaurant world! So, I'll say things the way they are: some of those sushis were not impressive. Satisfying, yes...but not impressive. Still, where Jun I did not impress in terms of moving taste (except for their Unagis) they filled the gap with the best and freshest ingredients + sushi preparation skills in town. So, they largely deserved to be close to my #1 pick. Also: this is one of the very rare sushi-yas in Montreal that gets as close to the authentic Japanese sushi experience.
-Mi Kasa 7.3 (2049, rue Peel Tel 514-907-8282) I only know the one on Peel; it is more impressive, decor wise than my #1 pick, Mikado Sushi. Their sushi can be at times as exciting if not more exciting that those of Mikado. But the Mikado on Saint Denis is more of my type: a classic feel, consistent in technique and delicious taste)
-Maiko, 7.1 (387 Bernard West - 514-490-1225) I only went to the one on Bernard St. Some friends did not like Maiko. We did: we found it romantic, charming decor-wise. And the sushi were fine, really no complaint here. Still a 7.1 since I found their sushis slighlty less impressive than those at Mikado (just pure personal taste, always remember that!)
@next door sushi eateries:
-Yuu Kai: 7.2 /10(5658 rue du Parc 514-278-4572) Good their sushis. Great value
-Azuma : 7.1 /10 (5263 St Laurent 514-271-5263) Good sushis. Nice value.
-Tri Express: 7 /10(1650 Laurier est 514-528-5641) Their sushis are good and I even find them of decent value (ordered their 14 morsels Omakase I for $21.50), but I do not get the buzz about Tri: it's packed, people rave a lot about it with many considering its sushis as the best in town, but I did not see what could stand as special here. I love Tri, loved the ambience I experienced on my visit, but their sushis, although good (they were good, there's no doubt about this) impressed me less than those at Kaizen (pricey, but better than those I've tasted from Tri ), Mikado (my #1 pick for now), Jun I (I had my criticisms -- read my review --- but they are technically skilled and their ingredients are top notch), Sushi Volant (my #1 pick for best value sushis), and many others.
-Sushi Volant, 5/10 (519 Rachel East Phone: 514-523-1085) - This was my #1 sushi place in the 'not-chic sushi eatery' category.
->Dec 28th 2012 - Take out at Sushi Volant. The sushi Chef I knew at the beginning of the year is not there
anymore. The new team does some decent sushis, really not bad, but that stood as far less impressive to what I was accustomed to.
here. I am thefore downgrading Sushi Volant from 8/10 to 5/10
-Shiki Sushi - 4/10 (5055, rue Saint-Denis Phone: 514-282-1913) This laid-back little sushi-ya located on Saint Denis Street, not far from the corner of Laurier Street, seems to have attracted quite its share of enthusiasts given the positive reports from food critic Thierry Daraize, the Voir. It's also a place that many locals have recommended to me. This was my very 1st and only visit there (a take out order on Tuesday Oct 13th 2011, 19:00). I picked their 17 sushi/maki/sashimi combo at $21 for fair comparison to what I took at the other places. Sadly, I was disappointed: the conception of the makis were forgettable (some were a bit mushy), the taste pleasant but without any particular interest (I am getting used to this North American trend of the use of mayonnaise at most sushi-yas in Mtl, but this time this annoyed me a bit) and all places mentioned above have offered sashimis that were way superior in quality.
Tip ... For better sushis, I'd suggest you call your sushiya early in the morning (say, around 10 am) and ask them if it is possible to pick the best parts of their fish and make your sushis out of them. Remember that the best part of the fish is the one closer to its head. Tell him you will pass by at a given time to pick them up (or sample them), so that he can freshly prepare them for you in a timely manner.
Next... Ratings can change quickly as I keep visiting and re-visiting most of the Mtl Sushi-yas. So do not be surprised to see a favourite one losing points or one that impressed less in the past, moving up on my list. Anything can happen!
PS ... you will notice that there are no discrimination (in my appreciation of sushis ) between authentic classic Japanese style sushis Vs the American type. This is done purposely as a reminder that all that matters to me is to find the tastier sushis possible, regardless of its style. I do though have the highest admiration for classic sushis, as much as its modern variations.
Sunday, 26 December 2010
At the end of each year, Aromes publishes the names of his choice of the #1 Chef in Montreal.
The Chef (or Chefs -- for the 2nd year in a row, it is not one but couple of Chefs who are chosen) needs to be an artisan Chef (Chefs who spend more time on TV shows rather than behind their stoves are not considered here) of exceptional talent, with a commitment to outstanding food.
Last year's winners: Raza's Chef Mario Navarrette Jr and Bistro Cocagne's Chef Alexandre Loiseau
This year's winners are three Chefs:
Michele Mercuri - XO Le Restaurant ; A Chef who flirts with the 3 star Michelin perfection >>>
Chef Axel - Kitchen Galerie ; This young Chef cooks the most orgasmic Bistro food in town >>>
Chef Rouyé - La Porte ; A Chef of 2 Michelin star potential. Amazing talent. >>>
This year, in Quebec's province, outside of Montreal, I have been impressed by the amazing talent of Chef José Pierre Durand at Poivre Noir, in Trois-Rivières: here, no absent chef syndrome bullshit, but a Chef right where he needs to shine: behind his stoves! And what a talent! On the shore of the Saint Laurent river, at Trois Rivieres, they truly have got a real gem of international caliber. This is for you if you like Chefs who dare avoiding the safe side of things and indulge in exciting modern fusion of flavors. Click here for my latest review of Poivre Noir.
In conclusion, Congrats to L'Européa for its inclusion as a new member of Relais & Chateaux . Well deserved.
Happy holidays to all,
Friday, 10 December 2010
In cooking, as in baking, as with anything else, there's a pattern in whatever the same cook is offering to you. We'll call it the DNA of the baker in this case. So I'll stick to the essential: instead of an unecessary litterature essay on each macaron, I'll analyze 2,3 macarons who are representative enough of the work of each macaron boutique's pastry chef.
And YES...I will spare you with the annoying redundant speech on the difference between macaroons and macarons! Ha ha ha...Geezzzzzzzz.......
What I am looking for in a macaron (marks over 10):
-overall depth of taste: good (7), Very good (8), Excellent (9), Exceptional (10)
-Work of the cream-based filling: Ok (6), Good (7), Very good (8), Excellent (9), Exceptional (10)
-Technique: Good (7), Very Good (8), Strong (9), Exceptional (10)
Cooking, baking is about technique, technique and technique.The better the technique,
the more vibrant the flavour, the more exciting the texture, the more memorable the food item.
I have baked those sweet confectioneries myself for many years, perfecting them week after week, and all I can say is that they are tricky, not as simple as its straightforward almond/icing sugar/egg whites combination
would suggest if you are interested by a macaron that's close to perfection. The technique part includes the macaron shell technique, work of textures too (not a determinant aspect since all I need is a macaron that tastes good, but this counts and needs to be underlined).
-Work of the shell: this is important, I know. And it involves a serious technique. There's nothing as depressing as a badly conceived shell. With that said, the taste is more important. I'd rather sample a delicious macaron that looks just ok than a great looking one that tastes bad.
What I am discarding:
-My personal preference with regards to flavor: I sometimes see people writing that they picked a rose flavored macaron whilst they can't stand that flavor. Surprise..surprise.. they happen to not like the macaron, Rfaol! The best way of increasing the non-biased ratio of your judgement is to avoid playing with fire when you know you'll get burnt ;p
***Unit price of macaron in Montreal: Between $can1.50 to $can1.70
The following will list the macarons that stood out (in my opinion) first, the ones that impressed less at last:
Point G 8/10
1266, avenue Du Mont-Royal Est
Montréal, QC H2J 1Y3
Visited: Thursday Dec 9th, 2010 14:00PM
Picked chocolate madirofolo (8/10 very pleasant chocolate taste, not too sweet, perfect smooth shell ), roasted pistachio (8/10 The pistachio filling is refined, delicious taste), Caramel fleur de sel (7.5/10 The taste was great, but I am removing .5 points only because the filling was slightly less inspiring as with their other macarons I tasted)
Pros: Perfect technical mastery to keep the balance between crunchyness and tenderness, airyness and sweetness, and excellent work of the texture (vibrant and refined) of the macarons too. $can1.50 to $can1.70 a pop (the normal price for macarons up here) and indeed, among the best macarons I had in this city. The only reason I do not rate them 9/10 and 10/10 is because of comparisons to my previous macaron tastings in Paris (Ladurée 8.5/10, Pierre Hermé 9/10, Gregory Renard 7/10, Fauchon 7.5/10, Aoki 9/10, Gerard Mulot 6.5/10, Arnaud Larher 8.5/10 ) , in Nancy (Maison des soeurs Macarons 9/10) and one that I had at Restaurant La Porte in Montreal (8.5/10).
Cons: Nothing to mention.
-Overall depth of taste: Very good (8) Liked the depth of flavors
-Work of the cream-based filling: Very good (8) Their ganache shows lots of skills, great refinement,
great texture and taste.
-Technique: Very Good (8) A macaron is meant to provide an enjoyable initial crunch that turns into a
gentle melting mouth bite. That's exactly what their macarons delivered.
-Work of the shell: Strong (Exactly how it should be: not fragile, and yet not mushy nor hard. Ideal smoothness)
Restaurant La Porte's macaron: I had at Restaurant La Porte, Montreal, perhaps the best macaron I ever sampled in Montreal along with those of boutique Point G. It is a restaurant, not a macaron boutique, but I still insist on inserting this note given the outstanding level of that macaron. I called them on this Dec10th and they confirmed they have their macarons available for take-out. They only had caramel macarons available today. You can have a look at the amazing macaron I had on my last dinner at La Porte by clicking here.
Esprithé 7.8 / 10
112 av Laurier ouest, Montréal
Visited: Friday Dec 10th, 2010 16:00PM
Ésprithé is known for its tea-flavored macarons. But they also have the classic macarons, which I picked for the sake of a proper comparison to the other boutiques 's macarons that I chose: choco, strawberry,lemon,pistachio and so on. I'll spare you the flavor details on each (whether I like pistachio better than chocolate is irrelevant here) and will go straight to what we need to know: Regardless of the flavor, there was a great technical mastery at play throughout. Each bite had perfect balance between perfect vibrant texture, amazing taste, mastered consistency of the ganache and meringue. Clearly the second best of this evaluation right after La Boutique Point G, which is a surprise to me since I was somehow left under the impression (whilst reading most opinions on Montreal's macarons) that La Maison du Macaron was slightly ahead.
I was welcomed by two amazing francaise women, very welcoming and great professionals. At some point, the younger francaise woman had some problem with the cash machine, and here comes a francais -- I presume the owner --- with a loud arrogant '''C'est quoi le problème''! In French, this is mean, plain mean. A great way of ruining the amazing service of both women. AND I am French, from France! So Imagine...You just do not do that in front of customers! I hope this was just a misunderstanding and that it is not usual, because I too can lack warmth....and tend to give up on places where the owner does not understand that it is not an obligation for a customer to knock at his doors.
La Maison du Macaron 7/10
4479, Rue de la Roche, Montréal,
QC H2J 3J2 (514) 759-9290
Picked Lemon (sweet lemon cream filling, nice but not mind blowing 6/10), Pistachio (I would have preferred a more refined pistachio ganache, but it still had a nice depth of taste brought by the intense pistachio cream filling 6.5/10) , Raspberry macaron (upfront sweetness, classic raspberry taste 6/10), chocolate (Good 7/10).
Pros: At $can 1.50 apiece, they are affordable sweet little treats, great service plus little extras like the accompanied booklet and notes of introduction to the macaron, its history, etc
Cons: some of the macarons had shells that cracked easily + the fillings would benefit from more refinement
Overall, satisfying macarons. Not great, but good enough.
Located on the Plateau Mont Royal, both La Maison du Macaron and Le Point G are close to each other (approx 3 minutes walk)
EUROPÉA ESPACE BOUTIQUE 6.5/ 10
33, Rue Notre Dame Ouest "Vieux Montréal"
Tel : 514-844-1572
Visited: Friday Dec 10th, 2010 15:00PM
Couple of classics, as with the other choices, so that apples are compared to .... apples:
Pistachio (the tastier pistachio macaron I ever sampled in Montreal. Delicious 10/10 ...but technically not well conceived: the shell lacks consistency, the ganache missing firmness). And this pattern continued with the chocolate, raspberry, vanilla macarons. The problems with those macarons were important technical ones:
It is as if the macarons were cooked by two different bakers. One focusing on the taste (very tasty macarons, indeed...although at times the strength of sweetness kinda overwhelmed the appreciated depth of aromas that was present in each bite; pistachio really tasted pistachio, vanilla tasted vanilla, etc), the other on the textures and consistency (weak in both the ganache and the meringue)
This is a reminder that a kick of exciting sweetness is not enough to make a great macaron: you also need balance, and conceiving it properly (again, the ganache here turned liquid easily + the shell was too fragile).
Just an ending note on the service: the Francaise woman who was at the counter on this Friday Dec 10th 15:00PM had this as a welcoming message '''it is obvious that the counter is overthere!'''. Now, I have no pleasure in writing negative notes. I have more fun with pleasant reviews, but truth be told...good education / tact is something widly mastered in the civilized world! Usually I call back the restaurant and file a complaint for such, but I will pass on this one since she ended being correct afterwards. The two other Gents standing behind their respective counters were fine.
Bottom line: I did also try the macarons at XO Le restaurant, all the major patisseries of Montreal, and also
at some restaurants who do offer them. All good, but there was no point of repeating ourselves over and over thus
I chose to review only the major places specialized in macarons in Montreal (The exception being La Porte, which is not specialized in macarons, it is a restaurant, but I chose to review its macarons because I had one there on a previous dinner that did impress me to the point that I thought they are worth of mention in this rundown on Montreal's macarons. Since it is not a specialized macarons place, do not expect a huge variety of macarons. For ie, on the day I called they had only those caramel macarons).
In Paris, I love both Pierre Hermé and Ladurée macarons.
I'd rate most of their macarons in between 9/10 to 10/10.
In March 2011, while visiting Paris, I bought this box of Ladurée's macarons. As you can see from the photos, there's not much to criticize in terms of textures. The size of the macarons is also ideal, in my view. They are well done and that is no surprise: they have been around for so long, mastering their macarons with the best baking techniques out there. Indeed, excellent treats. All I can say is that more and more macaron boutiques around the world are now offering macarons that are as nicely baked as those of Ladurée. While it used to be a must to travel all the way to Paris to get a touch of Ladurée (or Pierre Hermé) macarons, it is no more the case.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
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
Dinner at L'Eau à La Bouche, Sat Febr 27th 2010, 18:00PM
3003 Boulevard Sainte-Adèle
Phone: 450 229 2991
Particularity: A Relais & Chateaux restaurant
Type of dining: Upscale market cuisine / French Fine dining
READ: My report about the 1st dinner here (Febr 13th 2009).
Second visit at Restaurant L'eau à la bouche, Sainte-Adele in the Laurentides (in between Montreal and Tremblant). As most already know, this is the restaurant of star chef Anne Desjardins and one of the very few Relais & Chateaux tables of Eastern Canada/Quebec. L'Eau à la Bouche is one of QC's very top best fine dining tables along with Hotel Saint-James XO Le Restaurant, Toque! / Nuances in Montréal, Initiale in Quebec City, Quintessence in Tremblant. Last time we dined there, that was on February 13th 2009 (ref: click here for my review of that dinner) and that tasting menu we had back then was simply stunning. We were excited to see if this magic would perpertuate and went this time again with their tasting menu.
Next came a mise en bouche of:
Wild mushroom/chives/creme fraiche potage: evenly seasoned, not too creamy not too light, enjoyably slightly peppery with the chives adding a nice touch to the earthiness of the whole potage. Welcoming refreshing touch from the crème fraiche. Good. 8/10
Smoked trout from Sainte-Agathe crème fraiche, horseradish, wakamé, roasted sesame seeds - The cold smoked fish's flesh sported an ideal pink texture. The trout was oozing with it's enjoyable natural strong flavour. The sweet, smoky flavor of the fish was delightfully enhanced by the mix of the creme fraiche and horseradish that provided an excellent kick to the smoked trout (although common --- horseradish/creme fraiche acompanying smoked fish is common affair--- this was more importantlyl very tasty). 10/10 for the match Smoked Trout/Horseradish/Creme Fraiche.
Wakame: Crunchy, fresh and tasty. Drizzling it with the sesame seeds was a great touch and turned out to be a convincing great work of taste. On it's own, it was excellent, but not a convincing accompaniment to the smoky trout.
Precision of the cooking: 5/5 (The trout ont it's own was nicely smoked)
Tastyness: 5/5 for the taste of the trout, same for each other element on their own
Overall Value: 4/5
Pairing wine: Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Reserva Selection Limitée , Montes - Vallée de Leyda, Chile
It is a wine unknown to me, which is exactly what I seek for since I love discovering wines. And it turned out as a welcoming surprise to my tastebuds: nice medium-bodied mineral wine, aromatic with a nose of grass and enjoyably fruity aromas too (my tastebuds sensed aromas of litchi and cantaloup). I love this white wine: it's aromatic, intense. To my tastebuds, this balanced so well with the smoky aspect of the trout. Great wine pairing.
Fresh duck foie gras from "la Canardière" "au torchon", celery, honey caramel - To be honest, although "au torchon" preparations keep most part of the taste/flavors of the foie, I am more a fan of pan-seared foie (especially the ones concocted by Toque!, Bistro Cocagne and APDC. I have always said that Laprise-Loiseau-Picard have among the best techniques of pan-seared foie gras concoctions. L'Eau à la Bouche's pan-seared foie on my 1st dinner there in Febr 2009 was also a blast, sharing actually the position of best pan-seared I ever had on a fine dining table -- here & abroad's included -- with the item #3 of the last dinner at Toque!). It just blows my tastebuds way more than the "au torchon" version. To make matter worst, I really had average experiences in Mtl & surroundings with most preparations of the "au torchon" version (even at upscale restaurants, with only the one I had last summer at M Sur Masson being a highlight (it was tiny in portion, but oh so intense and of high quality) along with the one at Toque!, too.
As to this one, the pate consistency was ideal: beautifully velvety, not too firm, not mushy and enjoyably meaty, like I expect my au torchon foie gras to be. The La Canardière foie gras is a truely top quality foie produced in QC's region of L'Estrie.
Tastyness: Excellent freshness + superior quality of the foie reflected in this lovable tasty au torchon foie gras in it's simplest splendour. The honey caramel was delicious and complemented so well the foie.
Overall Value: for the top quality foie gras, this is definitely of nice value. As for the accompaniment, I'd skip only the celery (not to be seen as a reproach here: the celery --you can see it at the bottom of the picture--- adds actually a cute textural visual balance to the overall dish, was good and fresh on it's own but not quite complementing the foie, to my tastebuds opinion) but the honey caramel was simply divine!
My only suggestion: put more complexity into the 3 pieces of toasts, for ie offer 1 honey-flavored baked toast, another one could be spice bread..etc. 8/10
-See how they cook one stands to me as the best pan-seared foie I ever tasted on any upscale fine dining table, here and abroad included.
Pairing wine: Gaillac Doux 2006, Grain de Folie Douce, Causses Marines - although I know so well this wine (one favourite of mine), I do also appreciate seeing it served on a restaurant table. It's a great wine full of intensity, dense, with aromatic nose of prune, honey, currant, and an enjoyable long finish. Solid value. As for the pairing, it tuned out, in mouth, as nice match to the foie (Undoubtly even better with some pan-seared foie gras).
Served in a tajine:
Roasted squab - There are some few meats that are victims of severe judgements from my tastebuds like Squabs and Quails, courtesy --- perhaps--- to the fact that I seldomly get to eat them and many cooks managed to somehow serve it either bland or try to my table. The rewarding aspect of this stands in the fact that whenever it impresses me, the squab or quail had to be an exceptional exercice of cooking mastery and tastebud wonder (well, to my tastebuds of course!).
This simple preparation of theirs perfectly accented the natural flavors of the fowl, the pigeon's meat had the ideal texture, slight smoky-ness and tasty meaty juicy-ness. Delicious tender squab taht kept it's gamey taste intact. The squab was roasted to perfection. 10/10 for the roasted squab.
I feel a bit uncomfortable when judging risottos: I have been perfectionning this at home for years, at least once a month, so needless to stress that in such circumstances you are afraid to be harsh on judging others risottos. Fortunately, I can be completely detached from that aspect and fully focus on someone else's risotto as my tastebuds sense it. This risotto was delicious and delicate on it's own, not mushy but at ideal al-dente consistency, sporting a nice texture, ideal creaminess, delicious taste and enhanced by a subtle enjoyable citrus aroma. 8.5/10 for this risotto. The risotto I had last year at Restaurant Primo & Secondo in Montreal is still KING, but the Desjardins are doing a really good job at this, too.
The mushrooms brought the right level of earthiness to balance with the earthy-tone of the squab meat.
Complexity: Honestly, High. Think about how time-consuming and fussy a risotto can be. I know, this is a big league restaurant and surely a simple affair for them, but it is still not as simple as 1,2,3 + it takes a considerable level of focus, patience and skills to make a delicious risotto. This was definitely not our so called easy easy home made risottos. Add to this, the master cooking behind that flawless roasted pigeon + the righful balance of flavors in there.8/10
Pairing wine: Niagara Escarpment VQA 2006, Gamay, Malivoire Wine. Being profoundly attached to France's terroir wines, I mistakenly left canadian wine sleeping a bit under my radars, and this was a nice reminder to look also this side of the world since some solid nice wines have made their way for a while, now. Unfortunately, this very specific 2006 Malivoire made of Gamay grapes was disappointing to my tastebud: it lacked body (way too light-bodied for me) and character. Slight nose of rosemary, tannic, just not as delicate and aromatic as I wished.
Wild Boar, roasted contre-filet, braised shoulder, rutabaga and butternut squash, cranberry and green pepper corn sauce - The best Boar dish I ever had since a long time was the braised Boar I devoured at LCCP on Nov 13th 2009 (It's the Braised Boar / See course #4 of that dinner): that was pure cooking genius and a stunning concerto of decadent flavors/textures/tastes. Since then, I had my share of satisfying, but not memorable, boar dishes at many restaurants this side of the border. So I was looking forward to taste L'Eau à la Bouche's take on the Boar: the meat came in two ways: roasted (tender and flavorful) + braised (even more enjoyable to my tastebuds since it was packed with deeper flavors and tasted great. In both versions, the meat was nicely tenderized, and they manage to skillfully avoid the easy dry-ness this meat can easily indulge into. Nice work too on keeping the natural gamey taste of the meat. 8/10
Pairing wine: Palacio de Ibor Reserva Valdepeñas 2004. It's a wine from the Spaniard's region of Castilla de la Mancha. Appelation Valdepenas. This affordable tempranillo (made from a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, too) wine (off side note: if you are seeking for nice value wines, this one is a great value red wine for the $$$, btw ) is packed with a nice tannic presence, has low acidity, a nice structure and remarquable enjoyably fruity (cherry) notes + aromas of coffee. Nice complexity. Liked it, especially with the Boar meat ( found it to pair nicely with this meat).
"Heirloom" beet salad, creamy goat cheese, ham salt, roasted nuts - The quality of the beet is remarquable here. Nicely boiled, the various types of beets tasted great and the work of textures at display on this dish is appealing to the eyes. The creamy goat cheese was tasty. Roasted nuts adding an enjoyable nutty touch to the overall. A simple dish, with a homey feel.
Pairing wine: Arbois 2005, Béthanie, Fruitière Vinicole d'Arbois. It's a France's region of Jura (Sub region of Arbois) Chardonnay that I know very well. Very affordable rich fruity wine, with fine minerality, citrus aromas. Paired naturally well with the beets salad dish.
Before I conclude with the dessert, try this highly recommendable 1986 Château-Chalon Yellow wine if you get a chance:
Mango and litchi, coconut "macaron", mango jelly - I have a huge weak spot for tropical fruits. Mango and litchis are among those I like the most. Last year, L'eau à la bouche won my heart with an amazing...roasted pineapple marvel (hi..hi..I told you: those tropical fruits drive me nuts! Rfaol!). This time, it sounded as interesting too with such thing like mango jelly and coconut macaron and I was looking for my tastebuds to interpret this all: although enjoyably flavorful , the macaron (6/10) was too dry and too crunchy. In the middle, a sorbet of litchi (delicious, rich and memorable 10/10) and on the far right a mango brunoise (6/10 Just ok).
SO, Voilà! My last year's tasting menu at L'Eau à la Bouche (ranked #1ex aequo personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise) was more on the 'upscale fine-dining' range whereas this year's (ranked #15 personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise) pertains to the 'upscale bistro-esque' repertoire. Either way, L'Eau à la Bouche can deliver some of the top finest dining experiences of this province (on this dinner, most patrons at neighboring tables who picked some of the à la carte menu items had experienced the full potential of the huge fine dining talent of this table, so do not rely solely on the bistro-esque trend of my latest tasting menu).
IMPECCABLE WORLD CLASS SERVICE, AWESOME SOMMELIER
What a charming wait staff: sociable, extremely accomodating and professional. Exactly what I do expect from a Relais & Chateaux (Remarquable High standard of customer service). And charming they are: At some point, our sommelier of the evening, Valerie (who does, by the way, an awesome work at patiently describing and elaborating on each wine), learned from my part that I was charmed one year earlier by the poetic presentation of wines made by Mr Pierre, who has been one star of the restaurant for almost 22 years. She made sure that Mr Pierre appeared at my table towards the end of the dinner. Awesome charming touch!
CHARMING COUNTRYSIDE INTERIOR DINNING ROOM
As you already know from the Febr 13th 2009 report, the interior decor is simple, small, with low ceilings and above all, in perfect harmony with the basics of French countryside interiors that it naturally has to relate to. Although simple looking, it has a charming elegance to it. Let's go through a little visual tour of it all:
PROS: This is indeed in the top 3 finest tables of Quebec Province. All the top tables supposedly as great or greater than this one have failed to prove me otherwise. I am not talking about value for my bucks here, but the 'gourmet' aspect in itself. So, the 1st meal (Febr 13th 2009) there was simply stunning. We had at our neighbouring table a couple who was familiar with this globe's finest tables and they agreed that that meal (they were having the same tasting menu we have chosen) was of top 2 star Michelin standard even right at the heart of Michelin stardom: France. But...
CONS: But...the 2nd meal was inferior to the 1st (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the 1st occurence is always more 'magical'). Talking about the 2nd meal, I do expect such top level dining venture to not miss a simple macaron. It is a forgivable slip given what they have proven on the 1st meal, but this should not happen. And when you opt for something slighlty less 'gourmet' and more 'bistro' ( as it was the case with the tasting menu on the 2nd meal), I become less of a fan. Lastly, The 'smoke trout' and the 'foie gras au torchon' dishes would have benefited from a more elaborate 'gourmet' concept/construction (they were too straightforwardly conceived for this level of dining). What justifies an outstanding gourmet level of dining is its complexity, done superbly well. I did not get such depth of successful complexity on this 2nd meal ..which I should expect at at such high $$$!
Saturday, 18 September 2010
Lunch Friday September 17th 2010, 12:30
Type of Cuisine: Fine french dining
54 Rue Saint Pierre,
Particularity: One of the few Relais & Chateaux of Eastern Canada
Arome's the food blog: Q&A's, Guidelines, Ethics, Vision
Restaurant L'Initiale is regarded as one of the elite restaurants of Eastern Canada's fine dining scene along with restaurants like XO Le Restaurant, L'Eau à la Bouche, Quintessence, Toque!, Poivre Noir and some few others. It's also a Relais & Chateaux (Toque!, L'Eau à la Bouche and L'Initiale are the only three R&C restaurants of Quebec's province).
The restaurant is located in Quebec City, at approx 3 hrs drive from Montreal ---- and I hate driving hours and hours --- but when it comes to discover outstanding tables, your humble host will never back down! Well, with one last condition: when I called, I had one major question for them: '''Is Chef Lebrun going to be there on this lunch???'. YES was the response! ''Done deal'' was my reaction. Sorry, but from now on, I am investing my hard earned money on restaurants which master Chef are there...for real..where they should be: behind their stoves! No wonder I have the highest respect for Chefs like Alexandre Loiseau (Bistro Cocagne), Michelle Mercuri at XO Le Restaurant, Mario Navarrette Jr's Raza, Normand Laprise's Toque!, Axel and Mathieu Bourdages at Kitchen Gallerie .... they are right there, where they should be!
I have, I must admit, a deep preference for Classic French fares. The Chef (Chef Lebrun) and co-owner of L'initiale are from Brittany, France. France's classic deep rich savourish meals are to me the summum of food enjoyment. It must be done well, though. Bloodily well!
Foie gras poélé, betterave confite, coulis de prune et orange, tarragon - Seared to perfection, the foie was oozing of pleasantly livery savour. Excellent smooth creamy consistency. The foie was complemented by an enjoyable beet confit (nicely done), succulent drop of prune/orange coulis and some fresh tarragon leaves. In between good to very good 7.5/10
Jannice's roasted duck breast was perfectly roasted and seasoned, juicy and full-flavoured throughout. The accompanying celeriac purée was well executed, had a refined texture and tasted delicious. The elderflower touch was a smart additition to the overall. Good 7/10
Fricassée de veau et cuisse de pintade farcie, sauce moutarde et romarin - Savourish, flavorsome roasted guinea fowls. Cooked perfectly. The morsels of veal were delicious. Harmonious flavors nothing heavy and yet enjoyably filling). Well composed dish where all ingredients did complement each other flawlessly. Good 7/10
Ended the meal with several sweet bites: from right to left, an amazing arlette (9/10 stunning taste, Very good) was disposed atop the chocolate pudding (7/10 nice custard texture, deep taste of excellent quality dark chocolate). On the left, a rich and decadent caramel ice cream. 8/10
As it is the case with most restaurants and based on the interesting menu they serve on evenings, a dinner here might be more elaborate. Other Quebec City's tables that I liked throughout the years: Le St-Amour, Toast, Le Panache.
Bottom line, the food was cooked with great precision and care, the ingredients were of high quality. Not some boring classics. To the contrary, it was an enjoyable modern take on French fine cuisine: refined, updated.
Service by the Co-owner, Rolande, was courteous, very attentive and helpful. Two waiters serviced at our table: both were offering a service of high standard.
The decor, as you can see from the above photos, is chic with colors of cream, brown, large windows, high ceilings and plenty of space between most of the tables.
Next, I went to dine at another highly regarded table of the province of Quebec: Le Poivre Noir at Trois-Rivières.
Thanks for reading,
***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).
Dinner @ Restaurant Poivre Noir,
Type of cuisine: Modern French fine cuisine with eclectic influences (Oriental, Latin American, etc)
Friday September 17th 2010, 07:30 PM
1300, rue du Fleuve
Phone: (819) 378-5772
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
This friday, we went visiting two cities outside of Montreal: Quebec city and Trois-Rivières.
Since I am always in search for fine dinings that are in the upper echelon of Eastern Canada's restaurants, we went at two elite dining ventures of the province of Quebec:
L'Initiale (Quebec City) for Lunch and a dinner at Poivre Noir.
The restaurant is located in Trois Rivières, a city located at approx 2 hrs drive from Montreal, 1hr and a half from Quebec City.
Poivre Noir's setting is elegant with a comfortable and inviting feel to it, promoting a real sense of serenity that both Jannice and I have enjoyed on this evening.
The contemporary interior cohesive design is marked by warm and bold colors
The table-setting style: white tablecloths, Candlelit, quality glassware:
The view on the Saint Lawrence river (scenic)
adds to the charming romantic warm decor
On this dinner, Poivre Noir featured an attractive menu, blending modern/European French fine dining fares with Oriental (there were Chinese, Indian influences on this dinner)/Latin american ingredients .
We picked the tasting menu:
Tourte de saumon - A first nibble of salmon pie was served along a fresh lemon-coriander yogurt. The pie was perfectly baked with an excellent meaty salmon filling that was packed with superb fresh marine robustness. The yoghurt was light, tasted fresh and delicious. 8.5/10
Fromage bleu en Baluchon (amazing quality cheese, perfect depth of enjoyable rich tangy taste), a thin slice of fresh cucumber wrapped around a raspberry (simple, but I guess this was more of an ode to the products. I'll take it that way since both the cucumber and the raspberry were exceptional in terms of quality), Black Corinth grapes (the product for the product. They were of excellent quality), foie gras au torchon (well done with an ideal soft buttery consistency, perfect salmon-pink texture, great taste) 7.5/10
The next course comprised of
-An espuma of tarragon and Mozarella di Bufala (10/10): there have been, all along this dinner, couple of exceptional food items. I'm referring here to performances you usually find on 2* and 3* michelin starred tables. One of those is this espuma. Simply outstanding in terms of taste (moving / will set the bar to most of it's variations on the upper scale of fine dining), impeccable texture and overall execution.
-Halibut en papillote, Garam Masala, baked peach (3.5/10): the only weak food of the entire dinner.
The halibut was masterfully cooked (beautiful golden texture, nicely moist consistency of the flesh), but it tasted bland! One major ingredient of the Garam masala blend of spices made things even worst: a subtle taste of cumin added unpleasant bitterness. The baked peach was of no help neither.
Dommage, because the idea was ambitious.
-Marinated beets, cabbage, parsley, radish salad (10/10): Only an exceptionally talented Chef can work his veggies to such highest level (amazingly tasty, superbly seasoned, outstanding well balanced taste). At some point, Jannice and I made a joke about this: we laughed over the idea that those veggies would walk from our table, get into the kitchen and start thanking the Chef for the amazing job he did with them ;p
My main meal of this tasting menu was the Duck magret.
The dish was of generous portions. Aside from the duck magret itself (10/10 top quality meat, expertly cooked and remarquably savourish), I also had the following accompaniments:
-Truffles, chives, mascarpone millefeuille: another outstanding food item you will usually find on a table of 2 or 3* Michelin caliber. This one specific brilliant rendition of that millefeuille was a cutting edge coherent nibble bursting with outstanding vibrant flavors. A reference to most palates. 10/10
-A mixture of cooked veggies: filling and tasty. Seasoned perfectly well. Good +. 7.5/10
-Butternut, orange espuma: light, enjoyable. 8/10
One of France's most celebrated knives, the Laguiole knife, was in action to cut that delicious duck
The main course of Jannice was a tempura-alike lobster tail:
this was another successful dish since the top quality lobster managed to keep an upfront depth of marine freshness flavor. Superbly well cooked. It was accompanied by a cube of tasty squash stuffed with walnuts, a bowl of bok choy (We both love cabbage, so the bok choy was much appreciated. This oriental cabbage was cooked at ideal crisp-tender consistency and kept its best sign of freshness: a perfect bright green color) corn meringue with mild pimenton (enjoyable), a kumquat (the tartness level of the kumquat was brilliantly lowered by marinating the fruit in a delicious syrup), an outstanding delicious white chocoloate/coconut sauce (made perfect sense to complement the subtle sweetness of the seafood, although both Jannice and I opted to enjoy it separately). 9/10
an impeccable duo of luscious peach gelato (fresh taste of flavorful peaches) bathed in an eau de vie was served as a pre-dessert. 8/10
Ended with the
Beets,Raspberry shampoo (not an acquired taste to the most, I presume, but definitely an interesting surprising taste to discover and re-discover), coffee and dark chocolate meringue (nice dark chocolate, the meringue was elegantly airy and rich without going overboard on the sweet side). 8/10
This is one type of restaurant that I like a lot since it is a cuisine that stays away from the safer side of gastronomy. It explores new frontiers, varies it's cooking methods, dares setting new gustatory references and it works. For me, only the halibut en papillotte missed the marks on this dinner. But where it counts, they scored really high with regards to the highest fine dining standards: the level of perfection of their main course of duck magret is to be expected on a table pertaining to a 2* Michelin star caliber or higher. The same could be said of the mille-feuilles of truffle, mascarpone, chives, and their sauce of white chocolate/coconut.
The lobster was outstanding. Many food items were unique, in a very enjoyable way, and could serve as newer references to some.
This was a fun and exciting journey through the flavors of the world without losing the main focus on the enjoyable aspect of modern french fine dining. Moments where this dinner did not fail to awe were numerous.
It is also an all-rounder. It pleases those who -- like me -- are willing to submit their palate to different tastes, but it will also reach out to those who want to take safer paths: I found them to be very accomodating (it is part of their philosophy as explained by their Chef on this video. You are welcomed to indulge in their inventive creations, but they will address your needs for a more conventional cuisine as well).
Service: Professional, friendly, knowledgeable. Special mention to our main waiter, Simon: he talks about wine like Oscar Wilde writes about Arts.
PROS: At this moment, a top-tier table in this province. I prefer a table like this, that takes risks, where the technique is mostly outstanding and the end result exciting rather than a top table that's taking the safe routes of predicatability. The best dishes of this meal was of solid 2 star Michelin caliber.
CONS: At the end of Sept 2011, I dropped by on lunch time. It's clear that this table primarily shines at night, like most high end tables anyways, but not at lunch. The lunch we had was way too pricey for the offerings on display: I had no quibble against my choice of a 15$ plate of nachos with chicken since the nachos (their own take on nachos) --- although sounding overpriced --- were so outstanding (for a plate of nachos to impress that much tells a lot about this Chef's skills) that I did not mind the $$$. My problem though was with my wife's croissant of crab meat. At approx $27, this was frustatingly pricey and at that price, I expect some fresh bake croissant coming right from the oven! Anyways, at night, the dinner is an event that counts among this province's very best so dinner is the way to go! And it's (dinner) at reasonable cost.
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
XO Le Restaurant’s Free Form Lasagna – It’s being a while since I tried this dish (Oct 10th 2009), so I do not know how it did evolve. But this one I had on that specificc dinner was one triumph of a 3* Michelin caliber meal over the highest standards of fine dining at any corner of this small planet. Here’s how I did describe it, back then:
Called "Free form lasagna", this dish -- I predict -- will quickly become the signature dish of their chef, Michele Mercuri: although, at first glance, it might not look like your typical lasagna, it is packed with all technical goodies of a lasagne: cheese, pasta and so on. But this is a unique luxurious creative version of the lasagna -> as you can see on the picture, it's more of a "deconstructive" version of it. What the picture wont tell you (and that is why I do predict that this is a signature dish to come) is about the remarquable work that is done in terms of savourishness: from the small tasty chunks of lobster, succulent braided sweetbreads, enjoyable lobster emulsion, fresh tender baby spinash and oh so lovely stracchino cheese....every little element of that dish was a blast in terms of taste. Impeccably delicious. 5/5 and more if I could!
Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/714228763/montreals-luxurious-tables-xo-le-restaurant/
What do I think, months later: That specific one dish I had on that evening is still my top #1 dish in Mtl up to now, in the top #5 dish if I include top restaurants that I visited abroad. XO Le Restaurant, along with Toque! are Arome’s top choices for world class fine dining in Montreal at this moment. Currently, easily of solid 2* Michelin caliber based on my two dinners there.
Bistro Cocagne’s Braised Lamb/Risotto - This dish shares my 2009-2010 top #1 meal in Montreal with XO Le Restaurant’s Free Form Lasagna. If I include the top tables that I have tried abroad, it’s in the top #3 ever! Yep, as stunning as that! Bistro Cocagne is a market driven table, so I was a bit sad when I recently found my favourite dish removed from their menu. My description of the dish:
that was a generous portion of fully flavoured, perfectly cooked (awesome braised caramelly textured on the outside, so tender -- on the inside -- that it would slide off the bone effortlessly). Heavenly! 5/5 for the lamb. So, as those who are used to me already know, I always eat the meat first, then it's accompaniments separately -> The accompanying risotto was very interesting and refreshingly different from my usual risottos: it had some fresh enjoyable crunchy corn seeds, pieces of carrots, a perfect lite creamy consistency with a subtle enjoyable touch of sweetness (there was also what looked and tasted like slices of tamarind. I think this was sun-dried tomato, but they did really taste like tamarind. Those were a well thought addition to that savourish risotto). The risotto was evenly seasoned with amazing little savourish crunchy grains of rice (looked like arborio rice, to me).
Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/711358238/bistro-cocagne-montreal---friday-sept-4th-1800/
What I think months later: Montreal, wake up! Put pressure for this dish to make a comeback! The laws of supply and demand can make this happen. Borrow my palate for free and it should work, Rfaol!
Club Chasse et Peche’s Braised boar/Brussels sprouts/hazelnuts/Caramelized fig – I’ll let my description talk for it: ‘’’’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. This, folks, would send even the best tables of the world (El Bulli, Fat Duck) to reflexion. Stunned!
Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/716460932/best-tables-of-montreal-le-club-chasse-et-p%C3%AAche/
What I think months later: Forever stunned !!!….if only I could find more of this where I do expect it: at 2,3 Michelin star caliber restaurants. Should I say more?
Chef Mario Navarrete' s Tuna ceviche, Mango purée – Most of the dishes that this Latino genius has cooked for me, turned out impressive. I picked one of them, one that is of the next dimension. This dish is a showcase of precision and exceptional skills. Why? Because in the hands of an average cook, a mango purée is the ticket to overwhelm anything that it is mixed with. In the hands of a genius cook like Chef Navarrete, it is a revelation. The purée, of outstanding light consistency and delicious taste, was of ideal combination with that fresh morsel of tuna (here again, a lot of brilliant work in balancing well the peppery/spicy/acidic marinated taste of the tuna ceviche). Genius work to let each ingredient oozing in their pristine purity and yet complementing themselves. This is easily of solid 2 to 3 Michelin star caliber.
What I think, weeks later: Speechless! Looking forward to more of the innovative cooking of Super Mario!
The amazement here started with the exceptional textural visuals of this Velouté. In order to do justice to it, I am forced to pick a designation pertaining to the world of fashion/beauty: a glamourous texture! This one I was having on this lunch has a unique dense/glamourous/unique orange texture miles away from the usual orange pumpkin texture (We are all used to what a good pumpkin velouté looks like depending on whether it is deeply ripe or not, but this one's exceptional texture was the equation of both the pumpkin itself + what the Chef made out of it). It was not too creamy, not too light but at ideal consistency. The work of tastes here was true genius: not only the taste of the velouté on it's own was exceptionally moving/daring/unique, but the tastebud wonder concerto was not going to end there: couple of tiny slices of deep flawlessly cooked flavored chorizo added a supreme smartly well thought smoky-ness. The slightly-cooked tasty pumkin seeds found in that velouté added an extra dimension of welcoming nutty flavors to this Velouté to end all Veloutés. Note to myself: Finally the velouté that has stole the show from my all time world's favourite haute fine-dining soup/velouté, Guy Savoy's signature dish Black truffle artichoke soup! I always remind people that it does not take a myriad of meals to sense the exceptional greatness of a Chef. It takes one meal, convincing enough, to give you a definitive idea of the greatness (or not) of a Chef. This is more than ever the best proof of such statement. There was in that one single food item a showcase of exceptional talent, creativity, an passionate commitment of a Chef to it's food. An exceptional dish that pertains to the repertoire of the best food items at any greatest Three Michelin Star. As stunning as that!
PS: They change their menus oftenly, so that Velouté is not a Signature dish and may not necessarily be served regularly.
Report of that Lunch: http://aromes.xanga.com/723067367/best-restaurants-of-montreal-la-montee/
What I think months later: My personal experience with Juneau's cuisine has evolved this way -> (1)A spectacular close to 3-star Michelin caliber lunch on Friday March 5th 2010 (2)A just ok dinner on June 26th 2010 (3) A dinner on May 31st 2011 where I simply had enough and decided to give up on him!
Instead of offering the traditional plate of cheese, they brillantly concocted a cheese based marvel: caramelized apples with Comtomme cheese (turned into a slight cheesy fondue) might not be exciting on paper, but this dish is, to my tastebuds, one of the best daring/exciting/tastebud pleasers I could think of this year. From the nice crunchy mouthsome to the sweet and salty decadent balanced flavors and tastes, each bite of this tastebud marvel was a decadent propulsion to heaven. Litterally! In terms of moving tastes (as if that was not enoughly decadent, the creamy slighly peppery touch of Espelette chilly was shining through the dish, not to mention the delicious and exciting gelée of chilly) , this was simply a blast! Largely one item that all the world's best restaurants would want to steal from Toque!.
Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/716627762/best-tables-of-montreal-toque-restaurant/
What do I think, months later: Cheese-based courses need more of that type of fun creativity.
Lamb Tataki at Restaurant L’inconnu – Perhaps, the best mastered cooking (preparation + execution) that I sensed behind a meat since a long time. Enjoyably spicy. That exceptional fresh upfront well balanced and yet daring spicy Soya/Ginger/Chili/Lime taste will mark my souvenirs for a long time. The meat was nicely marinated, of impeccable tenderness, with a depth of flavor that was pure heaven. Fresh fennel completed this amazing dish. Largely a dish pertaining to the level of the best 2* Michelin tables. One that will set a reference to the most in all accounts: exceptional daring taste, exceptional work of the flavors, exceptional meat quality, genius work of the spicings. Simply an exceptional dish!
Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/725756742/restaurant-linconnu-montreal/
What I think: Quite a work to turn such a common dish (lamb, beef, tuna tatakis are common these days on Mtl’s tables) into an impressive tastebud marvel.
Restaurant Laporte’s 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. 5 star mise en bouche!
Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/719924847/best-restaurants-of-montreal-la-porte/
What I think: Along with XO Le Restaurant, Le Marly, Raza and Toque, this is my top favourite choice for upscale fine dining in Montreal. In another city, and on the back of that stunning dinner (never mind the 1 or 2 little reproaches I did address on that review. All great meals has its share of grainy edges. Look at the overall, and as such this dinner was of outstanding level) , La Porte would be a double Michelin Star table easily.
Foie Gras Poélé, Tarte tatin aux pommes, Sauce Caramel I go to restaurants for only one reason: educating my palate to potential new benchmarks of deliciousness. I go to restaurants only to experience prime palatability, or else..what's the point of paying for food? This course of pan seared duck liver is my benchmark for savourish restaurant food of all levels, all around the globe. Euh..euh...yeah, I saw many talented Chefs trying this...but their creations never came close to half of the remarkable taste of this one dish I have sampled at KG. Now, do not run there hoping to reach the moon: it is food, remember? All I am telling you is that this one pan seared foie gras, on that July 6th 2010 meal at KG, have blown my taste buds away and will be remembered (by me) for a long time as one of the tastiest dishes I ever sampled.
Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/722855124/kitchen-galerie-montreal---an-unforgettable-gustatory-feast/
What I think months later: Few Chefs, at all levels of cooking that I have experienced, have proven to be gifted by such a natural easy-ness to deliver food that delicious. Axel is a young gifted Chef and with food like what he cooked on this meal, he has left his culinary imprint on my best dining souvenirs. If he keeps up with this standard, found on that reviewed meal, his talent will undoubtly seduce most palates.
Very elegant chunk of beautifully-textured (perfect soft unctuous texture) pan-seared foie. Evenly cooked, deliciously tasty with an impeccable smooth inside consistency. It kept all it's fully inner flavors. Bathed in a light subtly sweet delicious apple jus, with dices of apples and heavenly delectable dices of honey gelée. That apple jus is very distinct and lightens the dish. Simply, WoWed! Largely among the best pan-seared foie Items I ever had on any of the finest tables I dined at in Canada and abroad!
Report of that dinner: Report of that dinner: http://aromes.xanga.com/716627762/best-tables-of-montreal-toque-restaurant/
And you, what have been your best meals or food here or abroad (it could be your best meals ever if you want, not necessarily the best ones you have enjoyed recently)?
Thanks for sharing,
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Aromes reviews are written in a style that is not sellable / media or buzz-friendly. In other words, you will rarely find my reviews advertised on restaurant web sites or promoted in the foodie blogosphere. This is exactly what I want since the purpose of my reviews is to be as indepent as possible from the restaurant industry.
How this food blog works:
Here's my method: I pick a city known to have great food (latest : Montreal, Canada).
For several months, I gather the maximum information possible about its restaurant scene.
Then I indulge in intensive visits to the maximum of restaurants possible (If you are serious about what you do, there's no need to go to ALL restaurants. You won't have a life to fullfill this, anyways. But after several months of intensive and smart research and dinners, you will get a serious idea of what counts).
From there, I review only the restaurants that are in many ways (originality, creativity, outstanding cuisine) leading the pack in that given city. This is far from being a tough task: in any given city, you won't find hundreds of restaurants that are outstanding from the rest, but usually one or two dozen of them at best. Although my interest is mainly about French fine dining and upscale bistroTs, I do at times also cover other type of restaurants.
Here are the sources that I rely on (virtually everything on restaurants except those that are known to advertise about them, naturally):
-people on the street
-folks at work
-foodie circles (foodie gatherings, conferences and all types of other foodie events do bring a lot to your experience as a food enthusiast)
Evaluation of restaurants:
(1)In the past, I was using the tag "Best of" in the title of reviews covering the top restaurants of a given area. That sounded like an advertisement, Rfaol! My readers know that my current work is focused on the finest dinings. No need to add more. I did not modify the title of the old reviews --- that contained the "best of" description ---- but from now on, this will not be mentionned anymore in my titles.
(2)I have definitely adopted the 'marks out of 10' rating
Please click here to learn more about my food review ratings.
The big NO..NO...
(1)No familiarity with restaurant staffs nor management
(2)Never accept invitation from restaurants
(3)No free meals
BUT anonymity like you and I will enjoy.
You can find more about my ethics on my Michelin Star dining web site.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Dinner @ Restaurant À Table
Friday July 16th 2010 17:30PM
Addr: 124 Fleury West, Montreal, QC
Web site: http://www.groupemnjr.com/
This week is marked by two restaurant openings in Montreal: Bistro Lustucru opened this Wednesday on Avenue du Parc, in Mile-End (on their Facebook page, I see Guilllaume Vignola as part of their culinary team. If this is the same Guillaume Vignola who was at ITHQ around 2006, then they have a potential world class Chef who could push QC's gastronomy to newer heights -- IF he wants to, of course) followed by the opening of Restaurant A Table in Ahuntsic neighborhood this Friday July 16th.
I have now a great reason to enjoy Ahuntsic: the latest restaurant of Mario Navarrete Jr., a Chef I already described as "a genius of creativity, an architect of stunning refined and researched tastes". Quite simply in my personal top 10 Canadian Chefs, top 5 Chefs in Montreal. I remember being blown away by a dinner on December 4th 2009 at his upscale Latin/French fusion table, Raza. A souvenir that is still ranked high in my 2009-2010 top 15 best dinners in Montreal.
Raza, Navarrete Jr's flagship restaurant, offers a cuisine known as Nuevo Latino, a modern blend of Latin American cuisine that's inventive and exciting. I'd define it as a superbly well done take on upscale French/Latin fine dining (lots of the cooking techniques are French, some of the ingredients are tropical, most are locally sourced). The thing to keep in mind is that this is food that appeals to our occidental palate: no shocking tastes. This evening, for this opening, the essential of the team behind Raza was working at A Table: the mastermind in person, Chef Navarrette Jr, was cooking alongside Chef de cuisine Rodrigo (Chef Rodrigo will be the main Chef at A Table / Find more about Chef Rodrigo at the end of this post). The food this evening, as you will see in the upcoming descriptions, were in pure Navarrete/Raza style: inventive, exciting, varied, tasty and backed by top quality ingredients .
First, some photos of the overall decor (as I usually do, whenever possible, I went there a bit earlier right before people start arriving, in order to take those pictures). :
As opposed to Raza, the restaurant A Table, a charming 24 to 28 seats eatery, opts for the Bistro trend with no tablecloths
And a menu written on a chalkboard:
The overall design includes warm neutrals (brown leather chairs), and bright accent colors as with the blonde wood tables:
light colored hardwood flooring, elegant touches of a few dark wood furniture
great penetration of natural light, thanks to the front glass window:
At the back, a tiny corridor with couple of tables for two:
As with most market cuisine restaurants, the menu will naturally vary. Today's menu (as you can see on the picture of the chalkboard below) can still give you an idea of what could be on offer:
This evening, appetizers (Ceviche of tuna, corn soup, duck carpaccio, etc) were priced in between $10 to $15, main courses (filet mignon, artic char, scallops, shrimp risotto) in between $24 to $28 and desserts (chocolate cake with Dulce de Leche Ice cream $7, caramelized peaches/orange mousse/fennel for $6). I found the prices to be reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients + what accompanies each dish (carefully look at what is on that chalkboard and you will notice that each food item comes with a variety of accompaniments).
I went for the tasting menu, a bargain at $50 for 6 courses (wine not included):
Salad of spinach, tomatoes,jicama - Fresh veggies of remarquable quality. Loved the playful interraction between the gentle sweet / subtly sour / delicate acidic flavors. The overall was dressed in a pear balsamic vinegar. The jicama was a well thought addition to the salad: tasty and enjoyably crunchy, the jicama is actually an ideal alternative to green apples in salads. For those who have not tasted jicama yet, it is a bit reminiscent of a green apple but without the upfront sour taste. Simple at first glance, but a lot of work and punch in there. Well done. 8/10
Pairing wine: 2008 Pircas Negras Torrontés. Excellent light and sweet refreshing white wine, with discrete floral consistency + aromas of green apple that reached out so well to the jicama. Nice match to the overall salad.
Tuna ceviche, Mango purée - This dish is a showcase of precision and exceptional skills. Why? Because in the hands of an average cook, a mango purée is the ticket to overwhelm anything that it is mixed with. In the hands of a genius cook like Chef Navarrete, it is a revelation. The purée, of outstanding light consistency and delicious taste, was of ideal combination with that fresh morsel of tuna (here again, a lot of brilliant work in balancing well the peppery/spicy/acidic marinated taste of the tuna ceviche). Genius work to let each ingredient oozing in their pristine purity and yet complementing themselves. This is of Michelin star caliber. 10/10
Pairing wine: 2006 Medalla Real Sauvignon blanc - Nicely balanced, great acidity, refreshing white wine with tropical aromas that reach out to the mango purée and the ceviche.
This soup, served cold, had a succulent rich milky buttery taste with an agreeable consistency that was neither too thick nor too light but rather harmonious. In the soup, a pristinely fresh morsel of crab (tasted wonderfully of open sea) that was incredibly tender, meaty and juicy woke up my taste buds. The warm potato salad, nicely cooked, tasty and earthy, added smartly well to the appreciated contrast of warm and cold temperatures. Again, in line with Chef Navarrete's well known ability to cook food that beautifully stays imprinted in the mind.. Excellent 10/10
Pairing wine: Santa Julia chardonnay 2008 - This fresh and crisp white wine matched well with the earthy potato + corn soup. It's elegant and subtle fruity aromas complement with the subtle sweetness of the corn. Smart pairing.
At this point, I moved to an another table. So the next pictures will not benefit of natural light as the previous. They are still taken in good conditions:
Artic char, caviar, quinoa, avocado, salsa verde - On top of the morsel of fish, a delicious light airy purée of fresh avocado. When mixed with the caviar, the taste and texture were simply outstanding . The tangy, zesty flavor of the salsa verde is remarquable. The fish, a morsel of superior quality and of outstanding marine freshness, was cooked with care and tasted great. Quinoa was ideally cooked and packed with flavour. The overall stood as a well structured and delicious dish. Another scrumptious meal. 9/10
Wine: Swan Bay Pinot Noir 2008 - In line with the meal, it has structure and character. It's an interesting wine that I kept rediscovering on each sip. It's earthy tone and firm enjoyable acidity + charry oak finish reach out so well to the seared morsel of fish. My type of wine and another clever match to the food.
Filet mignon (Angus AAA), chorizo sauce,mushrooms, butternut squash purée - Quality, quality, quality. Freshness, freshness, freshness. I kept repeating those words like prayers to myself upon savoring each bite of this lovely executed fork tender and intensely flavorful filet mignon. The cooking was masterful with a strong focus on optimizing the beef flavor . That is how I want my beef! The chorizo sauce was beefy and delicious. The butternut squash, nicely done. The green beans served along the filet mignon were barely cooked, paving the way to upfront freshness of the veggie. 8/10
Pairing wine: 2007 Cousino Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon - Excellent red (I highly recommend this one), with dark fruit aromas, great intensity and savory flavors that are perfect match to the filet mignon.
Concluded with the dessert:
Dulce de Leche ice cream, Chocolate cake - I think I've scared my main waiter, Jean-Francois, when I told him -- right before the dessert was served --- that my years in France is the result of me being extremely picky with desserts! Jean-Francois, no worries : although my palate was used to the mostly superb rich desserts of France, our beautiful province does great too: come to think about this, all desserts of Chef Navarrete have highly satisfied me and this one is no exception: a delicious milky rich flavorful ice cream of superior quality with a chocolate cake that was really well done. 7/10
Pairing wine: 2003 Cosecha Tardía Ocucaje - A lovely Peruvian white wine, made of Muscat grapes, marked by it's expected musky fresh-grape flavors, that I was discovering for the first time. It has the typical sweet floral aromas you expect from most Muscat based wines. The sweetness here is moderate (I can't stand overwhelming sweetness in white wines) and the overall is elegant/ well structured, characteristics that I seek for in my dessert wines. Balanced so well with that Chocolate cake/ice cream duo.
I've promised myself to cut a bit with the raves and superlatives when faced with excellent food. As we say in French "Trop, c'est comme pas assez"! But I can't: when food is that outstanding, my heart has to express it's full enjoyment. Mind you, unless a catastrophe occurs (of course, even the greatest have sometimes their weaknesses -- we'll cross that bridge whenever we'll get there), it's virtually impossible to find flaws when your reviews are focused on the works of Chefs like Laprise, Navarrete,Alexandre Loiseau, Pelletier, Mercuri..etc. Another saying in French goes like this: '''prends le pendant que ca passe!'''
Now, it's your turn to play, Chef Rodrigo!
There's lots of pride in Navarrete's cooking and it's impressive. So impressive that I can't see many Chefs being able to fill his shoes. Luckily for us, diners, Chef Rodrigo (the man who will be the permanent Chef at A Table) has an impressive background too: many years alongside Chef Navarrette Jr (he was his Chef at Madre), and strong experiences at Daniel Boulud's and Spain's Xavier Pellicer Abac restaurants. I'm excited at the idea of going back to A Table and this time enjoying chef Rodrigo's take on Navarrete's Jr high standards.
Also of high interest: a visit to Raza, Navarrete's stronghold (I personally compare Navarrete's creativity and talent to an open sea of discoveries...it never ends!).
Jean-Francois (he told me that he usually works at Raza), my waiter and sommelier of the evening, went with smart wine pairings. Service from his part was very attentive, knowledgeable, professional and courteous. Same could be said of the entire staff (amazingly in full control despite this one busy night).
Bottom line: This evening was of exceptional mention (the food was great, ambience was relax, service was focused and friendy). I am confident that Chef Rodrigo understands very well the importance of perpetuating Navarrete's high standards and look forward to indulge in Chef Rodrigo's talented cuisine.
Thanks for reading, Aromes
Brunch @ A Table
Sunday July 26th 2010, 11:00AM
NOTE: This brunch was cooked by the Mastermind, Chef Navarrete himself.
So, up to now I haven't had the opportunity to review the cuisine of A Table's permanent Chef, Rodrigo Flores. It will take me a while before I can review Chef Rodrigo Flores cuisine since I have couple of restaurants to visit in the short term (including a romantic dinner I want to book @ Raza with Jannice).
PAIN DORÉ, CHOCOLAT NOIR, PECHES CARAMÉLISÉES - This is the choice of my daughter. I had some bites of her french toast: I like the fact that for once, a Chef understands the importance of not cooking something his patron could have done at home. Instead of the common bread dipped in milk and egg, we have here a bread that is of outstanding quality with an eggy presence that is deep and remarquable (I need to know where he buys those fresh eggs!). In mouth, this was definitely not my common french toast. More accurately a gourmet french toast (the delicious sweet sauce was of high marks. Same could be said of the top quality chocolate with it's deep cocoa taste). Caramelized peaches were successful (well cooked and tasty).
BAVETTE AUX ÉPICES, OEUF, PATATES ROTIES ET AIOLI - Flavorful, juicy and meaty, the flank steak was cut in several tender pieces instead of one big steak. Nicely cooked potatoes, onions, tomatoes, green beans and a delicious meaty sauce completed this excellent dish. Chef Navarrete added his own touch of chorizo foam on top of the egg:
A Table brunch menu is short but smart: instead of a huge list of redundant ingredients and menus that unecessarily pertain to the book category, their menu ,on this brunch, was composed of 8 main courses covering the essential of a brunch meal: some with meats (''smoked salmon, salad of eggs, aioli, tomatoes'', ''smoked salmon with poached egg, potato crepe, caviar'', ''bavette aux épices, sunny side up egg, roasted potatoes"), some with french toast, some with crepes and one omelette accompanied by mushrooms, roasted potatoes, onions, sauteed tomatoes. You also have the usual juices and coffees + some aside offers like the soup of the day, sauteed chorizo, roasted potatoes.
I must admit that I am too picky with brunches and breaksfasts: in 5 years, very few brunches made it on my repeat list. Mtl's long time popular brunch / breakfast tables like Cosmo's, L'Avenue, Beauty's have not seduced me. It took 3 visits at the Sparrow, perhaps one of the latest most famous Mtl tables for it's amazing brunches, to get me enthusiastic about their brunch (I'm a fan of the Sparrow now. The 3rd visit there truely made a great impression). Even my all time favourite breakfast place (Le Cosmopolitain in Laval) has sometimes been challenged (bottom line, their breakfast at Le Cosmopolitan fare better on weekends, I found) by your host. For now, only 3 brunches are getting away with favorable opinions from my part: the one at XO Le Restaurant (a luxurious take on the brunch), this one at A Table (delicious, creative and refreshingly different), and the very last brunch I had @Sparrow (varied, homey,copious).
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.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
UPDATE (SEPT 2011): THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED. THE FOLLOWING IS THEREFORE JUST OF HISTORICAL VALUE.
Event: Dinner @ La Montée de Lait
Type of cuisine: Modern North American Bistro fares
Saturday June 26th, 8PM
Read: Review of March's 2010 Lunch @ La Montée
Addr: 5171 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC
La Montée has moved recently (not that long since they were still at their downtown's location on Bishop Street on that last lunch, in March) to a smaller establishment, on St Laurent Street in Mile End. I was a big fan of the previous location (beautiful Victorian building --- a treat for one who loves architectures like me, great penetration of day light, lots of space, with a modern bistro chic feel -- See pics of that decor in my latest review). The location, the general mood, the staff, everything was at my likings when they were downtown.
This time, the space is smaller, packed, loud, electric, marked by close proximity of tables (not a reproach at all. It's a trend you see nowadays: small, busy bistros have warmth and are very appreciated. Think Au Pied de Cochon, M sur Masson, etc).
Warm touches of red (banquettes), dark wooden tables and floors, brick walls:
In typical classic bistro style, you have the menu printed on blackboards:
The new spot is the one of Le Bouchonné, a wine bar already owned by them.
As you can see on following pics, the wine theme is omnipresent as with those bottles hanging from the ceiling in one of the Gents room:
Or those bottles disposed against this dark-blue wooden wall:
A view, in the corridor, from the kitchen towards the exit:
They also reclaimed their initial name La Montée de Lait (as opposed to the shortened name they had when located downtown: La Montée).
So how was the food on this dinner?
Both Jannice and I opted for a few courses of their choices: with hugely skilled Chefs like Juneau, I always prefer a free pass to creativity. As I love to say: 'you do no not tell a great painter what colour to use and what to paint!". Same applies to skilled creative great chefs.
-Ceviche de kampachi, Poivrons marinés: very good ceviche, with an enjoyable zesty citrus flavor
-Stick de Canard, Mayo au cari: presented as a skewer. Excellent quality of the breaded duck meat. Tasty. The curry flavored mayo was not overwhelming at all. To the contrary, it had a gentle balanced sweetness and freshness to it.
-Pétoncle à la plancha, marinade de poireau: excellent scallops. Big and juicy. Nicely seared on it's top.
-Tataki de boeuf, lentilles vinaigrette - The beef tataki did not impress me. A bit boring, but the quality of the beef is remarquable. It fared better to Jannice though. She said she likes but that it would gain from a bit more of spicings. Indeed, it was a bit bland.
It was paired with an enjoyable 2008 mineral white from Alsace. Nice pairing, not only against the scallops, but also against the duck, the ceviche too. 7/10
THON BLANC DU PACIFIQUE (KAMPACHI TIRADITO), RADIS - The Hawaian Yellow tail fish (Kampachi) was of a remarquable freshness and exceptional top quality. Amazingly tasty too. Marinated radishes were superb (I like their way of marinating veggies. Most of the time, restaurants ---I have been to --- had mostly marinated veggies that turned either too sour or overwhelming. It's not the case here: this one had balance and enjoyable taste) .
Wine: 2005 Pinot Grigiot 2005. Excellent smooth and refreshing white wine with enjoyable fruity aromas of apricot balanced by lemony and honey flavors. It paired well with the dish since it's minerality and remarquable freshness reached out to the tuna + top quality crunchy radishes. 8/10
CRABE PANÉ, PETITS POIS - It's an entire crab that was breaded. I usually love my crab not breaded, as close as possible to it's pristine purity but I must
concede that this one was oozing of perfect fresh marine robustness and amazing taste. Great mastered cooking technique and work of the taste.Green peas were crunchy, fresh and matched well with the delicious version of their mayo. 8/10
FOIE GRAS, MORILLES - The pan seared foie gras was tiny, but that is understandable since it's a part of a tasting menu. It was nicely seared, had perfect texture and depth of flavor. Very tasty. Morels were fresh and delicious. Top marks to the delicious meaty sauce. 8/10
Wine: Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d'Alba 2007 Excellent medium-bodied red wine, with light tannins, mastered acidity, with enjoyable red fruit aromas. It was perfect match to the pan seared foie gras.
POITRINE DE PORCELET - Poitrine de porcelet croustillante, Tomate de Mr Legault, Fromage parmesan 30 mois. The fatty tender piglet was savourish, meaty and flavorful. Enjoyable crusty top layer. Tomatoes were fresh and tasty, on top of being superbly marinated. Top marks to the 30 months aged parmesan cheese ravioli: deeply flavorful and cooked well. Very good.
Wine: Green & Red Zinfandel Tip Top, 2005. Loved the oaky aroma of this wine, on top of the enjoyable fruity (blackberry) taste. My type of wine. It paired well with the piglet, to my tastes. 7/10
CHEESE PLATTER - A nice goat cheese from QC's town of Chateauguay., a Taleggio cheese (a nice washed rind Italian cheese with strong aromas) + a 3rd morsel that I unfortunately do not recall the name (was way too distracted by the Taleggio cheese + the delicious dices of apricot gelés found on that plate).
Wine: 2008 Domaine Saint Antonin Faugères. A nice blend of Grenache/Syrah/Carignan/Mour, with predominant aromas of red and black fruits + spices. Nice gentle tannins and quite well balanced. Ideal to spiced + grilled meats, but it really worked nice with the cheese.
We concluded with:
CRÈME GLACÉE CARAMEL, FINANCIER AUX AMANDES - Excellent refreshing top quality ice cream. The almond financier, was light, airy, with a perfect spongy consistency. Remarquably tasty and well baked. 8/10
Overall, a successful bistro dinner. There was no food item of exceptional mention in terms of sophistication/complex daring taste (like that pumpkin velouté on that short Lunch I had there in March), but La Montée de Lait is always a safe bet: they consistantly offer great quality meal bistro fares that is always well executed. Chef Juneau was not in the kitchen whilst I was there, but his team does a good job. Although, I must confess that I miss the daring playful meals like those you see in this December 2009 La Montée Dinner's report of Ivan Shaw (click here for details/pics of that report).
Service was excellent: our waiter, Vincent, is fun, cool, professional and very helpful. Same could be said of the rest of the staff (very welcoming).
Thanks for reading!
o on your left to read my report of the dinner I had there.
Friday, 18 June 2010
Lunch @ MAS CUISINEFood rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
Date/Time: Friday June 18th, 2010 12:15
Addr: 3779 Rue Wellington
Location: Verdun, QC
Phone : 514.544.3779
UPDATE: NOVEMBER 2010: They do not serve lunch anymore as/per notice on their web site
(English review will follow) - Ce fut un repas vraiment ordinaire. Surprenant, étant donné la popularité de l'endroit et la renommée du Chef. L'on m'a dit parcontre que c'est vraiment mieux en soirée. Pourtant le Chef était là sur l'heure du midi, aux commandes des fourneaux. Bref, allez-y mais ne comptez pas sur moi pour en faire l'éloge!
Mas Cuisine is the stronghold of Chef Michel Ross who has made a name for himself behind the stove of his previous popular Montreal's table, Brunoise. Moving away from the pricey downtown's real estate was a smart move. Verdun, where it is now located, is still not that far from downtown Montreal.
At lunch time, Mas Cuisine offers a prix fixe three course meal menu
For the main course, I could chose between a salad (kill me next time I chose a salad at a restaurant, you will be forgiven! ), or a soup of the day. The soup of the day is a gazpacho on this Lunch:
Gazpacho - The cold Iberic originated soup was nice -> perhaps not as authentic as some purists might want it to be, but who cares: it tasted great, so fresh. Authentic or not, it has the merit of technically be well composed: olive oil (substituted by pimenton oil in this case), pepper, garlic, tomato + an expected vinagary dimension. Good gazpacho (flavorful, zesty) A fair 6.5/10 (would have been a 7/10 with more refinement and better shrimps).
Artic Char Seared on one side (the skin was way too dry!) , it was accompanied by fresh green peas, oyster mushrooms (pleurottes) with an emulsion of tomato and saffron. The fish on it's own --- apart the disappointing texture of it's dry skin -- was just ok (tender, cooked ok) but lacking refinement and depth of taste. The presentation looks cool and modern, but the elements just do not bring excitement: this emulsion of tomato and saffron was a ticket straight to boredom!! 0/10
Vanilla panna cotta with Quebec's stawberries - Enjoyable creamy consistency, balanced sweetness (I do appreciate), with the overall sugar/cream/milk being simmered well. Simple dessert that tasted delicious. The Quebec strawberries were fresh and sweet. Good 7/10
Total cost: $49 (the 3 servings, coffee + 2 glasses of Riesling gunmetal Hewitson 2009's Aussie white wine***), Without the wine , the meal comes down to $49.11 - $18 = $31.11
There are a lot of affordable meals in Mtl: for ie, the low cost lunche at Decca77 and many other top restaurants of this city do offer surprisingly great meals in the $30 price range (of course, wine exclused)! At night, Bistro Cocagne offers a $20 two meal service after 9:30PM, Milos and Lemeac do offer bargain meals too, passed 10PM.
It was packed, especially around 1PM . Most customers seemed to be regulars.
With respect to the patrons, I refrained from taking pictures of the restaurant.
It is a very small room, simplistic, with blond wood floors, tables and dark leather-covered chairs.
Service was attentive, knowledgeable although I would recommend that they formulate some kind of appreciative words when the customer is leaving ..........this should not be an exclusive privilege for regulars.........
Bottom line .... Nah, it didn't do it for me
Overall, this Lunch at Mas Cuisine was just ok.
I was not seduced at all. I expected more gustatory excitement, here, more punch.
Yes the gazpacho was fine and yet not that perfect and the main course of fish was simply u-n-a-c-c-e-p-t-a-b-l-e! (how could one miss such a simple piece of fish??) .
The panna cotta was technically successful and tasty in mouth...but not stellar neither.
Chef Ross was cooking on this lunch. I wish him the best, but it is a NO repeat, for me.
Thanks for reading!
***Riesling gunmetal Hewitson 2009's Aussie white wine - Nice white wine with the usual upfront minerality of most Rieslings. Nice citrus aromas. Personal rate: 75/100
Friday, 28 May 2010
As I lately pride myself to orientate this food blog towards Montreal's tables standing out of the pack, I naturally had to pay a a visit to a table that is highly regarded by most connaisseurs of the Montreal Sushi / Japanese food scene to fly ahead of it's peers: Jun I, establishment of Kyoto's born Star Chef Junichi Ikematsu.
Restaurant: Jun I
Addr: 156, avenue Laurier Ouest, Montréal
Event: Thursday May 27th Dinner, 18:00PM
Phone: 514 276-5864
Pros: A humble Chef. A table that's among the very best (top 10 easily) in this City.
Cons: The sushis did not blow me away (but they are famous for their Asian-Fusion food. So, I have got to try this next time). I found Mikado's sushis far superior to my taste. Here's a rundown I did on major Mtl's Sushi-yas.
I've always reproached Sushis in Montreal to roam a bit in the boring lanes, always within the same uni-dimensional styles...and this reproach is going to the upscale sushi spots...let alone the myriad of soporific average sushi offerings of this city, with their laughable myriad versions of makis. C'mon folks: Sushis, YES..no problem, but with extra miles into the Japanese food repertoire please...use a bit of ambition: I do not know..find out..go travel throughout Japan once a year..see how it evolves there...Out of Japan, go pay a visit to Nobu, Masa, Urasawa and come back... do something....the Oshizushi style of Sushi once in a while ? or any other style / create, revolutionize...stop using the same ingredients from the same suppliers...stop thinking just about the western style rolls, vary, surprise, do something for god sake!!
Luckily, Chef Junichi Ikematsu is known to be "hard to beat", in Montreal, when it comes to innovation, creativity and superb cooking technique. But what really interests me with Chef Ikematsu remains in the fact that he is famous to outshine it's peers on two keys of the sushi equation: the quality of it's ingredients + the efficiency of his cooking techniques (which reminds me that I should expect perfectionism from his part in the cooking of the rice, an aspect where I stand firmly and deeply picky since rice is the perfect ingredient to measure ambitious cooking talent in it's full purity, versatility and creativity).
This evening, I purposely focused solely on Sushis and went with some classics + some few items to be widly known for being among some of their best sushis.
Kicked off with:
Unagi Dynamite - You can't go wrong with those caramelized-looking smoky textured eels. They just have a natural tempting taste. I wish their taste was more upfront/daring here, but they were still good though.
The mix of rice (loved the semi creamy texture of this rice and it's mastered subtle sweetness) mixed with the rice crispies brought a welcoming playful touch that was very pleasant in mouth. Very good. 8/10
Spicy Kani Age - Enjoyable crunchyness of the soft shell crab. The shell crab on it's own was tasty, with a loveable fried texture. Soya and cajun spice gave a nice exotic touch to the overall. Technically well concocted, but it lacked the extra punch I am used with it's equivalent I had elsewhere. Good. 7/10
Then the multiple sushis plate that I had ordered:
On that plate: Maguro sashimi, Sake sushi, Tai sushi, Hamachi in sashimi, unagi as sushi, bonatebi as sushi, Tobiko + Kani + Rising sun (as Gun Kan Sushi), Arc-en-ciel futomaki + Dancing unagi temaki:
-Hamashi Sashimi: It was fresh, sported a perfect texture. Tasty. Excellent. 10/10
-Maguro: I love my red tuna in Sashimi shape.My personal favourite sashimi btw. This piece was fresh, had the perfect texture I expect in my top notch maguro sashimi. Without reproach. Very good. PS: Sorry, I forgot to clean my plate from the soya left over. I was way too busy devouring that maguro and completely forgot about picture-friendly presentation. Ironically, it's the piece that I wanted to shoot in the best condition. 8/10
-Sake sushi: Another common sushi. Good salmon (Fresh, nice texture) + the rice ideally cooked (not too creamy, not too grainy). Good 7/10
-Unagi Sushi: My personal glaze-grilled favourite. As already written about the previous Unagi dynamite, that meat has it all: enjoyable sweetness thanks to the kabayaki sauced meat , smokyness, great flavors + enjoyable taste. Very good. 9/10
-Rising sun sushi: my other favourite of this dinner, along with the Unagi + Dancing Unagi temaki. I found the topped small quail egg (fresh and delicious!) to mix so well with the tasty fresh fish roe. The scallops added depth to the overall. It's also an amazing work of harmonious complimentary ingredients that never fault together. Excellent! 10/10
-Kani. Preferred it in it's Gun Kan sushi shape. Tasty and fresh crab (snow crab). Ok 5/10
-Dancing Unagi in it's temaki shape: A medley of what I like the most: red tuna + eel, filled with amazing flying fish roe (tobiko), complemented by avocado and cucumber. Rich and tasty. Excellent 10/10
The rest was good enough: Arc-en-ciel futomaki (6/10) did not seduce me but was filling and enjoyable with it's meaty richness (crab meat mostly). Botanebi sushi was ok 6.5/10 (similar to it's equivalent at most sushi places in this city).
This overall sushi dinner lacked sparkles. I had sushi dinners, in Montreal, with mas o menos most of the same similar classic sushi choices and they reached higher notes.
Next time I go there, I will opt for his omakase so that the Chef can freely unleash his creativity.
Service was impeccable + I like the Chef humble and very welcoming attitude.
It's not a huge restaurant, and yet the layout is enoughly airy, well exploited:
Nice fusion between elegance, simplicity and a bit of the upscale bistroesque feel:
The bar, sports the perfect Zen deco, with blond wood and great lighting:
Pascale Girardin Ceramics -
I found that cool that they encourage the work of a local ceramic artist, Pascale Girardin.
Here are some of her works, translated in cute ceramic plates that they use at the restaurant:
SO, were those the BEST Sushis in Montreal?
Some of those sushis definitely pertained to the best that my tastebuds have sampled in Montreal (the Unagis ones + Rising sun), Indeed.
The BEST? Hard to say. Since some sushis kinda matched those I had at Mikado and Sho Dan in terms of quality and freshness of ingredients + technique of execution. Some few others were even surpassed.
With that said,
let's remain rational: with such prices (they are relatively not that $$$ for such quality Sushis), NO one should expect Jun I to be the Masa or Ryugin of Montreal. Most would not accept paying for Masa or Ryugin material in this city. Not too sure if a restaurant would dare offering such $$$ in Montreal anyways. But the point here is that those upscale top Japanese/Sushi spots of Montreal would gain from inspiring themselves from giants like Ryugin. Jun I is very good, in many ways truely at the top of the Montreal Sushi spectrum, BUT it needs to bring more in my personal opinion: perhaps going beyond the usual sushi fares + it's fusion fares, and bring some traditional tastes of Kaiseki, Wa shoku too. And above all, truely outshining the Montreal top Sushi / Japanese fare scene by stepping up to newer unseen (not yet covered in Montreal) levels. It's not a reproach, but a constructive suggestion because if Montreal wants to surpass itself in terms of Japanese fares, it's not the average joe blow Chef that will make that happen but hugely talented Chefs like Chef Ikematsu!
Back to the strict sushi fares, there are also ingredients I would like to see them serving:
this summer I'll call them to see if there's any chance they serve Katsuo for example (I know it's a tuna that's a bit $$$ and rare, but absolutely worthy. A must on a good sushi table). I'll check for Anago too (I personally prefer the sea water eel over Unagi). Also: amuse with say, a grilled shitake sushi for example. And when I talk of "Sushi Yes...and go beyond sushis too", I mean offering little treats like a favourite broth: the matsutake tobimushi? Serve a Yuba Chawamusha? Try Dried/Grilled fish (sakana-no-hoshimono/yakizakana), grilled Shishamo fish (it's mostly shipped from Canada!), Inarizushi? Anyways, the idea is NOT to do an inventory of what could be added on this table...nor suggesting to bring Nantaimori/Nyotaimori to Montreal, that is not the point and by no means realistic, but to expand the experience to the larger Japanese food repertoire.
What about his French fares with oriental touches: I know, Jun I is also about fusion but it is for it's Japanese touch that I went . SO, Let me know how your experiences with Jun I's fusion fares turned out to be?
Looking forward to discover a lot more from Jun I's: It's rare that I left a restaurant with the need to go back and discover more from it. It's the case of Jun I. I want to go back soon and try an Omakase there. This time, I would like to seat at the bar, contemplating the Chef at work. And why not: perhaps an another visit for it's French/Oriental fusion.
Food for thoughts to ALL the top Sushi Chefs of Montreal: Give a bit of break to the endless western re-interpretation of Sushis and Japanese fares. I do understand that the huge majority of your customers are fond of the latest cutie maki, which is fine and I encourage you to keep up with that too, but you can't rely on just such: If I was a top Sushi Chef of Montreal, I would go right to NY and dine at Masa. I would then --no need to go way over to Japan -- stay on this continent and pay a visit to Urasawa, California. And next thing you know is that I would fall in full embarassment! Again, I know I would not be able to charge what Urasawa commands in Montreal...but the huge tri-decade apart gap between what is going on abroad Vs what we have here makes no sense!
PROS: Among the few most authentic and better sourced sushis you may in town
CONS: Re-read the entire article! Where I was less impressed, I clearly stated it. With that said. this is easily a top-tier sushi place in Montreal. In October 2011, after less impressive sushi meals at my past favourite sushi-yas in town, I came to the conclusion that Jun I was indeed in the top 3. In 2012, it became clear in my mind that Jun I is the best of all Montreal sushiyas.
Thanks for reading, Aromes.
WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER: Upon publishing my review on Jun I, many fans of this restaurant wrote to me expressing their admiration for this well known place and also their disagreement with some of my views. I get it: Jun I is very popular and as such, I too do expect it to shine at the heights of his popularity. I was personally impressed by the humility and genuine personality of their Chef. A Great man that many would like to have as a friend, for sure. I was also impressed by the amazing courteous, polite, friendly and yet professional service. But I also went there for the amazing food they are well known for, and that this entire city is raving about. The best sushis, was I reminded, the most talented Japanese Chef, etc. I have no doubt about Chef Junichi Ikematsu talent. I am actually a big fan of him and I do consider him, indeed, as one of this city's best Chefs. I have no doubt that he can cook among the best food in town. But my current report is neither on Chef Ikematsu's talent nor his cooking in general. It is about this one specifically reported dinner and what had to be reported was: it was good, but not great! With that said, they have way more than just sushis and next time I visit Jun I, I'll sample the French-Japanese fused fares + their tasting menu served at the bar.
Friday, 14 May 2010
Summer is at the Gates (ironically, it's not warm at all here in Mtl, despite being in the middle of May..anyways..). Time for some seafood feast!
When it comes to seafood, I skip lots of requirements I would usually look for in most dining situations such as the best value for my money or the layout at my eatery: I just fly deep into my gustatory involvement of the quality of the seafood that is put before me. What brought me to food has always been my lifetime sacred veneration for Seafood. The problem: being born and raised on the banks of the Indian Ocean with Dad, on his spare times, fishing the freshest seafood one tastebud can imagine raving over from the warmest sea waters, and I devouring them right there on the beach with barely any long delays between fishing to eating...you just grow up with very high expectations about seafood. Moving far from my memorable seafood pals, being in so many places where seafood rose as pure jokes, I litterally hoped that I turned allergic to them. But for some reasons, I just could not stop myself to try seafood everywhere I went with some places truely giving the seafood of my childhood an almost close "run for their money".
Everywhere I go I knock at all possible doors that has seafood on their menu. Montreal is no exception.
Montreal is a city that many regard as a great city for French/North American Bistro fares BUT only decent on the Seafood department. The reality is actually brigther than just "decent": Lots of seafood tables like Milos and La Mer offer seafood shipped from abroad (Mediterranea in the case of both previous mentionned restaurants) on top of some North American seafood products as well. In my humble opinion, there's in Montreal, a nice selection of restaurants who are truely serious about providing some solid quality seafood. It is just a matter of rigourously stepping into the field and finding them.
With time some few seafood tables in this city made their way among those I adopted as personal frequent reliable seafood favourite tables, based solely on the remarquable high quality of their seafood (Le Nantua when I want to be alone or with my sweat half in a quiet atmosphere of Classic French elegance, Milos --- their lunch and late night dinner specials are un-matched bargains for such high quality seafood in this City --, Joe Beef when I am with a bunch of folks and feel like partying over high quality fresh seafood in a cool warm bistro-esque setting, Trinity when I feel the need of a touch of the stunning beauty of Mediterranea, La Mer once in a while, and -- although I found myself at both places on very very few occasions --- La Queue de Cheval, Rib N' Reef. The latest are primarily Steakhouses BUT they do offer stunning Quality fresh Seafood.). And you have many more (Restaurant Les Crustacés is another one great seafood place that had served me top quality seafood too, Oyster Shack did a good job last time I was there about couple of weeks ago, and virtually the big majority of tables do offer seafood..so drop me a word about those that have emerged as your favourite seafood restaurants in Montreal) , but those I mentionned previously stand out of the pack as far as top quality seafood goes in this city.
Naturally, one smart reminder would be this: you can't buy top Caviar with Loonies! As most will guess, for Seafood, you truely get what you pay for: do not expect stunning seafood in a $8 Lunch, or a $12 lobster please...I am not here to launch a debate over how much a lobster should cost. I am not here to debate over the best value for your $$$. I am here to talk about the best freshest quality seafood and to remind you that there's a cost to it! And that cost, If one is well placed to have challenged it, it is your humble who used to pick the freshest top quality seafood right from the sea, for free! But I won't. I wont because there's no point for this: we are not at a stone throw from the Ocean, we are not fishermen and we need to be conscient that we have to pay for the cost behind a top quality seafood. Basta!
Event: Dinner @ Lucille's Oyster Dive
Friday May 14th 2010, 18PM
Type of cuisine: Seafood
5626, avenue de Monkland (Montreal, QC)
Phone: 514 482-1471
Lately, I was curious about this seafood eatery
that is attracting hordes of eaters in the Western side of Montreal and where I never went to: Lucille Oyster Dive.
I went paying a visit to Lucille Oyster Dive this Friday evening and I was warned by friends who went there: this is a small and very busy table, as busy as Au Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef, Le St-Urbain. Exactly what I was seeking for: feasting as in seafood, feasting as in crowded! I went earlier than the 6PM opening to maximize my chances of shooting photos before the rush hits the place.
I came at Lucille's Oyster Dive
with pre-defined orders in mind (Rfaol): I was in for some oysters (I came close to ask if they could grill it like at Etxebarri in Spain...I am telling you, I just can't take that place out of my mind. I need to go there, in this life or the next!) , Lobster roll (Heard that Lucille has the best ones in town: what do you think? Let me know. Not that I am a huge fan of lobster rolls -- I prefer raw seafood usually and if cooked, I like them served on their own, with nothing surrounding them so that I sense them in their pristine purity or close to that ---but this place is known for it's lobster rolls so I had to pick this item) and a Grilled Lobster (If you ask me what have been my most memorable lifetime meals, the answer my friend are those tremendously fresh Grilled lobsters "'with a bit of garlic butter aside" from my tender Childhood ...Ah the beauty of the simple things, so delicious, so pure, that just make you so happy! ). And If I could humanly eat more without getting full, I would have surely asked for crabs, fish, and the sea too!
Kicked off with Blackberries Mojitos:
Sorry, but this was not a successful cocktail: more watery than memorable (rhum was muted and prdominance of lime would be better than those berries). Anyways, berries do not seem to be a friendly mojito ingredient. Just keep it classic (white rum, sugar lime, sparkling water and mint) and it will sing! 2/10
Jannice picked the Salmon tartare:
The wine I chose to accompany our diner:
2008 Simi Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County - Perhaps the most memorable white wine I ever enjoyed since a while: Oozing of unparralel freshness, it's concerto of amazing fruity notes (guava, apricot. melon, apple) makes of this wine one that can be a crowd teaser particularly in summer with high quality fresh seafood. I now understand why this wine is highly rated among wine experts (it was the first time I was trying it). Lucille has identity, Lucille has personality as in hosting that heavenly wine in a an unexpected cute recycled Heinz Ketchup tin can:
Started off with my first order:
Although I have rarely came across bivalve molluscs of stunning quality as those the Indian Ocean pampered me with, I still enjoy my bivalve molluscs friends everywhere I go: Sometimes, I was amazingly satisfied On some rare occasions, they were the opportunity for me to crack some smart jokes at the wait staff like "It's from the Sea and not the fridge that you should have picked it up!'''.
SO at Lucille Oyster Dive, I started my seafood journey with an order of 12 bivalve molluscs and while sampling them with the hightest respect I always pay to anything coming from the sea, I scribbled some notes:
-Marine robustness: HIGH
-Quality of the oyster: TOP
-Work of the shacker: 10/10
-Level of deliciousness: SUBLIME!
Their oysters come from various locations: New Brunswick, The Main, British Columbia.They offer some from the West (British Columbia), some from the East (Main, etc). Western ones were bigger in size, did I notice. Briny, with a remarquable depth of marine robustness, those oysters were among the best I ever had on any Montreal seafood tables and I am including the big names here! EXCELLENT oysters! They were served with the classic mignonette sauce (expertly executed with perfect balanced acidity from the vinegar and an amazing freshness oozing out of the shallots), a Tabasco Green Pepper sauce (nice idea, try it! I prefer my oysters in their natural state but pick just one oyster, match it with that sauce and see if you like), and their in house tomatoey sauce:
You will never ever see me mixing oysters with sauces (I am a purist), but I had their in house hot sauce sampled separately from the oysters and that sauce rocks: it's a delicious spicy tomatoey sauce, dense and instense, made of scotch bonnet peppers and vinegar. Delish! I know some friends who would love mixing up that sauce with anything, oysters to start with. 10/10 (the oysters, on this specific visit, were simply stunning!)
The Lobster Roll: I am not a huge fan of lobster roll. As you would expect from someone who favors high quality seafood in it's full pristine greatness, a lobster roll is just a comfort food item that can be undoubtly tasty when done well, so this is an exercice that I find pretty straightforward: I will judge my lobster roll not based on pre-defined expectations (just make it tasty and I'll be a happy camper!) but solely based on how tasty it turns out to be.
-Quality of the lobster meat: Top
-Cooking of the lobster meat: Top
-Quality of the Mayo: Top (not overhelming. gently spiced, still flavorfully enjoyable)
-Quality of the roll: (Fresh bun, nicely cooked hot dog looking bun)
-Type of roll: it's hot dog bun roll as you can see on the pic
-Level of deliciousness: High. I have no complaint here. Realy well done, but I am just not into lobster rolls in general being a purist in anything seafood. 7/10
@ALL- So where could your favourite lobster roll be found (New England, I guess)? Let me know! To me, my lobster roll should be an equation of: great quality lobster meat + mastered seasoning/taste + an appropriately thought bun (I am not a baker, but there is surely some fun evolutive work to do on this department) + a well balanced mayo mix (way too much requirrements for comfort food, hein?)
Poached? Grilled? After a slight hesitation I went with my lifetime favourite cooking of the lobster: grilled! Just put a bit of garlic butter aside, keep that lobster fresh, simple and I'll walk away with a huge smile on my face.
In Montreal, you can get lobster virtually anywhere. The thing is to get it cooked the way I like it (yeah..yeah..ya..they all say it is easy to cook a lobster..sure..sure..sure...but very few have delivered the proper balance of nice cooking/great quality lobster/resulting memorable taste I search for. To me, a meal of Lobster is the epitome of the equation "talent behind a kitchen" + "top quality ingredient").
So, here again, the notes that I scribbled on this one:
-Marine robustness: HIGH
-Quality of the lobster meat: HIGH
-Cooking of the lobster meat: SUPERB
-Level of deliciousness: PERFECT
-Work of the Fishermen: Lol..just kidding on this one ;p I highly respect fishermen, especially them!
Before heading to a location, especially for seafood, I always phone and enquire about where the seafood comes from: the Gentleman over the phone explained that the lobster currently served (at this moment) at the restaurant comes from Nova Scotia. Their lobster weight around 1.5lbs/Maximum 2lbs and cost between $can28 - $can 32 (In Montreal, you can pay in between $52 to $80++ for some top of the top lobsters of that size..but again, that pricing probably reflects the fact that those tables are not seafood distributors/providers). Quite a bargain for top quality lobster, imho, but they explained to me that they are also distributor/providers of their own seafood, which explains the low cost. Their lobster is of exact same high end equality as those I had at $80 elsewhere ...! At barely $30, half the $$$ I would pay at some highly regarded seafood spots, this lobster was remarquable: perfect depth of flavor, tasty, well cooked and of top quality. The classic garlicky aside sauce was superb too. Excellent! 10/10 (This one lobster, on this specific visit, soared so high in terms of exceptional quality ).
Seafood soup - This place has idendity/personality. And this soup is just one example of just that: done differently from your usual seafood soups -> instead of a bowl full of seafood broth, you have here the seafood morsels shining atop (crab, clams) and a bit of the broth seating beneath. The freshness of the seafood continues to impress here: delish, tatsy and oozing of enjoyable saline flavors. The bit of broth beneath was delicious and harmoniously flavored. 9/10
Even when the boat could have sunk, Lucille fought back and shone:
Impressed, I should concede: even when the boat could have sunk, Lucille fought back and shone as in very little details like those that will follow -- very little details, barely noticeable to the most, but that I am taking time to write about because they mean a lot in my own appreciation of this seafood spot:
Detail #1: At some point, while Jannice was talking to our main waitress, a young very tall charming lady, she ..the waitress...out of nowhere .. cut short to the discussion, dived in distraction, and hop la ..reappeared! I then said to myself "Oh NO, I think Jannice will hate this move"...Jannice was a long time waitress, and such little details are noticeable to her. And she did notice it. BUT, the waitress came back, charming and focused as ever! From there on, she was shining on par with all best wait staff I ever encountered in this province. When you come back strong like that, how to not fall under the charm of it all? Great come back ;p
Detail #2: Before going there, the Gentleman over the phone told me they usually have lobster in the kitchen and that I could just request that one is grilled. The same main waitress, instead of verifying with the kitchen, told me straight that there was no grilled lobster available. I told her that I was informed they would have lobsters in the kitchen but that it's fine, we could forget about it. BUT she smartly thought about the most important principle in a restaurant: pleasing your guests as she managed to find a lobster for me. Another GREAT come back!
I know those are little details, but they mean a lot to a guest: it shows ACCOMODATION and DESIRE TO PLEASE! All of a sudden, the little futile sorrows turn into MINES OF GOLD!
The wait staff in general was great (always made sure that water was available, wine refilled, table cleaned from water drops. One young charming Gentleman even came and promptly fixed the unbalanced table we chose) and I should say .. HANDSOME.
Lucille Oyster Dive has deeply seduced me: this charming tiny spot has seriously made it's way to the top of my favourite seafood tables in Montreal for it's stunning quality of seafood, charming service, and cute minimalist and yet warm bistro alike decor. And this place gets crowded very fast (make no mistake: my pics were taken early, as soon as they opened the doors, a bit before people arrived, but less than half an hour later it got busy), so book in advance (albeit you still can find seats at the bar if you haven't booked and are lucky enough).
Service on this dinner had perfect timing: we started at 6PM, were done by 7:40PM with no feel of being rushed and enough space in between services to digest before the next food item would hit the table.Furthermore, the staff was accomodating with regards to the timeframe we wanted to follow. But anyways, this is purely a subjective matter: you should not go to a restaurant to complain about delays JUST arrange your timeframe with the wait staff (I never understood people complaining about slowness in a restaurant...what about talking to the wait staff and telling what you really want..instead of expecting them to guess for you??)
Lucille knows how to be distinct
I do not know for you, but to me , as little as they may appear, I like little details that makes a table distinct from others. I know that the wine presentation (in a Ketchup tin can) or the unexpected rendition of the seafood soup (focused more on upfront presence of the fresh and top quality seafood items with just a little bit of soupy broth underneath as opposed to be entirely brothy) will not revolutionize the Gastro world, but they sent to me a clear message: this table is passionate about what it does.
Bottom line: Seafood is not just seafood. At least, an iodized saline soul like me can't think that way. Quality in seafood is priceless, and Lucille Oyster Dive impressed me with top quality fresh seafood like I wish I could find everywhere else. I will run back at Lucille's Oyster Dive way before running back at any of my other favourite seafood tables in Mtl, because of the overall cool, charming, unpretentious mood and above all, for the freshest seafood that this city has to offer. This report is disproportioned, purposely reflecting my sacred epic lifetime fascination for seafood.
Respect to the sea! Thanks for reading, Aromes.
WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER - My initial meal at LOD was a superb one in regard of the seafood bistrot standards here and abroad. Not only the food was delicious, but it was technically well accomplished. It remains, years later, one of the finest meals I ever had in a Montreal restaurant. The typical kind of issue that unfortunately awaits this type of place (quality seafood bistrot) is this: people, when things are pricey (quality seafood can't be cheap) .. they do not care about details such as the cooking skills, the quality of the food. It is the price tag that dictates how good is your food. And I will add that the nice looking wait staff at LOD may bother some with a very high level of jealousy ;p Oh well, too bad for those. There's also the fact that ppl tend to associate a certain type of experience with a price tag: for example, Bistrot La Marine in Cagnes sur Mer is one of world's finest seafood bistrots. Consequently, since it is quality seafood that is served there, there's a price that comes with it. And yet, many flock there to complain about the place being a ..bistrot and that it's too $$$ for a bistrot. A way of foolishly suggesting that they expect a certain price tag to be associated with fine dining only … as if bistrots are condemned to earlier century’s clichés with you know…the bottle in the hands…the hunter’s hat…It's being a while that I haven't re-visited LOD (it's far from where I leave), but I hope they keep up with the standards I found on that initial visit (my second and third visits here were not complete meals. I took oysters only, but quality oysters always leave a deep hole in a pocket when you pick them at restaurants, so I'll need to try another proper seafood meal here). But yes, it is not cheap as expected
Friday, 07 May 2010
Lately, some few newer tables appeared on the Montreal restaurant scene (Reminder: I am focusing mainly on French/North American food). Nothing to shake the Top Tier of the upscale fine dining repertoire (Toque!, XO, La Porte, Nuances and to some extent Raza/LCCP have no new companions as of lately) for now, Nothing neither to seriously disturb the top tier of the Star Bistros of this City neither (La Montée, Le St-Urbain, Bistro Cocagne, APDC, etc), BUT some rising stars already attracting hordes of eaters: Le Chien Fumant, L'un Des Sens and the subject of my current (Also: Note that Madame Lamarche and Chef Laprise, from Toque!, are expecting a new table to open soon) review: Le Quartier General.
Le QG was opened very recently and quickly made the headlines of Montreal Gastro actuality. It is a Bistro type of restaurant with a cuisine essentially oriented to Contemporary Quebecois Cuisine/French. On my way there, I was very enthusiast, for once, to distance a bit from the beautifully presented upscale fine dining meals and indulge in a cuisine that's known to be more focused on the work of pristine ingredients and flavors, elevating the food to what it should be on the first place: a delicious gustatory experience, L'Éveil des saveurs franches.
I started with the:
Gateau de Crabe, Poivron roti - Perfect marine robustness to the crab meat. The crab cake was flavorful, moist, and evenly spiced. The overall croquette had a nice crust, an ideal crispy consistency , was nicely fried (not one Oz of oily nor fatty trace) and delicately breaded. It was complemented by a roasted creamy delicious orange pepper preparation. This elegant gourmet crab cake was excellent!
Foie gras, Fruits de la passion, Haricots Kenya, Purée de betteraves - There is no secret: MISS my Foie Gras or Seafood and I will kill your kitchen! Stun me with the Foie or the Seafood and I will love you forever!!! I remember -- like a kid remembers his best candy store --- the genius behind Toque's Chef Laprise pan seared foie. I remember with dove's feather emotions the Pan Seared foie of Chef Alexandre Loiseau @ Bistro Cocagne. I remember the tears of joy before Chef Desjardin's Pan seared foie @ L'Eau à La Bouche or the one that was topping my savourish Poutine of Foie @ Au Pied de Cochon. I remember what's memorable and beautiful. And now, ADD le QG's Pan seared Foie Gras to this selective list of my personal favourites: Sure, I could play the smart *#% and complain about the candy pinky beet purée (Perhaps a purée of dates fruit, or a concoction worked out around walnut honey would have seduced me, BUT this is of pure personal prefs and that beet purée was tasty and well done, so no complaint at all. More of a constructive add on) that was accompanying my Star pan seared foie, but I WONT! I wont because nothing deserve to detract from this utterly savourish chunk of heavenly pan seared foie: keeping it's enjoyable depth of livery flavor, seared to perfect golden texture, served at perfect temperature, remarquable for it's high quality, this generous chunk of foie gras (here's what I call a smartly thought proportionned chunk of foie) was pure heaven on Earth. Accompanied Green Beans were barely cooked, keeping freshness and enjoyable crunchyness to upfront welcoming enjoyment. All was bathed in a delicious foie liquid saucy marvel concoction. 8/10
Porcelet de Gaspor, Salade de Quinoa Royale - Here they caught me by surprise, and I appreciated that: Everytime I had the well known high quality QC's Gaspor Piglet, it was usually in it's version of a savourish fatty chunk of tender meat cooked usually through the Sous Vidé cooking Technique. And Oh God, that has always been the bar to reach, for it's succulent daring deep flavors and tastes 8.5/10
Naturally, here, the dish has a different outcome, being from the leanier part of the Gaspor piglet. This rendition is interesting and surprising: it is presented like a Spring roll, cut in half, with the meat remaining tender, flavorful and the spicing well mastered (nothing overkilling here). The quinoa salad was tasty! 8/10
Lapin de Stanstead, Sauce Dijonaise, Carottes Nantaises, Topinambours - The slight smoky chorizo flavored meat of this rabbit was of high marks (makes it distinct and enjoyable). Impeccable cooking mastery here: tender and yet, ideally firm. Quality of the rabbit is definitely of high praized. Those bunnies aint no joke! Carrots were fresh, of high quality, nicely crunchy, barely cooked and standing humble before nature in all it's splendeur (I've rarely been impressed by the smart mastery of veggies served at a restaurant. I might give this to them: they know how to make veggies shine. Never too over nor under cooked and always upfront in it's pristine pure expression. Loved this!). Topinambours (Jerusalem artichoke) came as a purée and had perfect soft paste consistency on top of being tasty. The bathing sauce (sauce Dijonaise, fond de veau) was simply divine. 8/10
Ended with a dessert:
Chocolate Marquise - Delicate, with an irreproachable dark chocolate of high quality. The marquise tasted good. The black raspberries topping that marquise were fresh, sweet. A beautiful fresh Physalis heterophylla (Lol..it's just the other name for ground cherry aka, groseille du cap, aka Cerise de Terre) was shining at the top of that Marquise.8/10
They have two services, one at 6PM, the other at 09 PM: smartly thought since in this city, people start massively piling up at restaurants at 6Pm in General. As for 09PM, why not?
High ceilings, clean warm bright colors
In a city where BYOBs are kings, add some good food to this and attractive $$$, Le QG was assured of it's instant well deserved success. Le QG is not revolutionazing the world of food nor setting the bar of this city's Gastro scene, but it is a smartly thought table that hits the right notes: Great value smartly and expertly well concocted bistro fares.
Service by Charles was cool, professional, charming, efficient, courteous and even fun. Same could be said of the rest of the staff. As for the delay, it was perfect: arrived at 6PM, left at 7:45PM with no feel of rush at all. All in perfect balance and timing.
This place is popular and gets packed easily, so book days in advance. Keep in mind that they have two services: a first one at 6PM, a second at 9PM.
Pros: This meal showcased some nice cooking, appealing playfulness, creativity. Indeed, a nice neighborhood bistrot. But be careful with un-justified over-enthusiasm: for some reason that I can't point out, some seem to confuse this place with the very finest bistrots in town. It's a good bistrot, but it is by no means a leading one like say Bistro Cocagne, Au 5e Péché, Lawrence, Bouillon Bilk, Kitchen Galerie. For sure, when you surprise those top bistrots on an average day, you may think that Le Quatier General is superior, but that is not the way to judge restaurants. A great restaurant is judged based on its capacity to be way better than its peers when they are all performing in their prime.
Cons: If I recall properly, they were not making desserts on the premises, on that evening I was there. That, I do not appreciate: everything should be done on the premises! Again, that was what seemed to have happened on that evening. I can't talk for anything outside of this occurence.
Thanks for reading, Aromes.
Overall food rating: 7/10 This was a good enjoyable bistrot meal on which I have no reproach to underline.
What I think years later: I went back couple of times and it is still a good bistrot that I appreciate a lot. But as I wrote in the ‘Pros’ section, it would not be accurate to elect QG as the best or in the very finest bistrots in town as some seem to suggest. The best ‘bring your own wine’? Certainly not if you have experienced Raza (it is now a BYOW), A L’Os, etc at their best. Again, on a day when QG is in its prime whereas the other top bistrots in town are caught on an average performance, you could get the impression that QG is superior. But I doubt that QG at its best is as stunning as Bistro Cocagne/Au 5e Péché/Bouillon Bilk/Lawrence or Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon at their best. The most accurate way to compare two kitchens being to evaluate their top performances, and not just through the incomplete and superfluous exercise of evaluating sparse dining occurences. It is only after several meals at those tables, meals that showcased their highest and lowest performances, that I was comfortable with my opinion about which stands better than the other.
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
This Friday (April 23rd 2010), I went to pay a visit to two major tables considered by the most as Montreal best: A Lunch @ DEREK N' ALEX, then I completed the day with a dinner at L'Inconnu (See next review for the review on L'inconnu).
355 Marguerite D'Youville St. (Vieux Port / Old montreal)
Type of Cuisine: A Mix of Modern French/Mediterranean/Italian
Arome's the food blog: Q&A's, Guidelines, Ethics, Vision
DEREK N' ALEX (DNA) is widly known as one of Montreal hottest and most popular
restaurant of the moment. Located in the Old Montreal, at a stone trow from the
harbor, the restaurant is hosted in a beautiful building:
What I like with DNA is it's commitment to a cuisine that goes way beyond the usual monolithic same of the same usual Bistro/North American fares that's spreading all around this city, thanks to it's mediterranean touches and original takes on game meats, seafood,
thoughtful ingredients. Ironically, during for this Lunch @ DNA, I did not pay justice to their own unique dishes (Sorry DNA! ;p). More on this later on.
Upon arrival, on this Lunch, I felt transported in an oasis of beauty: their rooms (a lounge section on the
Left of the reception area dominated by warm orange touches):
the main dining room on the right (dominated by glass and an overall light-penetrating modern and trendy looking area) are beautiful renditions of attractive design:
In it's genre, perhaps one of the most beautiful restaurants of this city (with La Porte remaining my personal coup de coeur for it's Milles & Une Nuits decor / But both are from 2 different styles, obviously).
I first thought about paying tribute to their usual classics (sweetbreads in agro dolce, etc), but the beauty with most of those fresh Market-focused Montreal restaurants are the little surprises they just brought from the market. So the waitress informed that they had also snow crab salad and fresh halibut. Sorry Chef Dammann for not paying a tribute this time to your classic own creations, but I am a son of the Sea (born and raised at a stone throw from the Indian Ocean surrounded by the freshest mass of seafood in the warmest waters;p...perhaps one of those rare moments I didn't fear to surrunder to the mass! Rfaol!) and was seduced by the Seafood offerings.
Choice #1: Snow crab, Meyer Lemon, Aioli
Disposed on a fresh piece of bread, the crab salad was drizzled with aioli. Oozing of freshness, the Snow crab meat was of impeccable freshness. With a more upfront punch of marine robustness, this crab meat would have been pure joy in heaven. My second best crab salad in this city after the one I had at Cuisine & Dependance. 7/10
Choice #2: Halibut, Salsa rustica.
Topped with a perfect golden crust, the fish was ideally moist and had an unbelievably beautiful snowy white texture (within) that made no doubt about it's impeccable freshness. It's cooking, it's tempting taste, it's balanced texture and precise spicings made of it an impreccable piece of fish. We may not, in Montreal, be as gifted as in Japan or on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea and yet some restaurateurs are doing miracle in managing to catch up with great fresh seafood. I tend to lower a bit my expectations with seafood in Montreal since it's unfair to compare the level of stunning fresh seafood I was surrounded by on the banks of the Indian Ocean (totally on a different scale, there), but honestly I know many cities who would envy Montreal for that. To conclude on this dish, underneath the fish there was wheat seeds replacing rice. Cooked at enjoyable al dente consistency and packed with it's pristine flavors, this was a masterfully well thought addition. The accompanied salsa rustica was good, light and precise. 8/10
The overall was accompanied by a wine that I asked the waitress to chose from her own inspiration: Pinot Blanc Lake Breeze 2008. Her choice turned out to be an ideal spot on match to the seafood and the wine on it's own was without reproach: nicely balanced, enjoyably aromatic with remarquable freshness, enjoyably fruity (sensed perfectly well the subtle aromas of pears +citrus). Excellent.
The welcoming and the service was also of admirable mention: the several ladies who served were impressively patient, attentive, efficient. Their class and quality of service is of high mention.
The dominant festive music (varied rythms of Jazz, Reggae, French and more), the beautiful layout, the remarquable charming and impeccable service, the great food, the proximity to the waters/harbor (I can see lots of couples enjoying a nice roamantic walk on the water front after their meal there)...DNA is unarguably a HOT spot!
I hope you do not limit yourself to my two simple meals there (make them sound like a seafood place ;p).
For something more elaborate, I'd suggest you go with their dinner. From a past dining experiences there, a while back, I recall a level of gastronomic coup de force that skyrocketted this restaurant easily among the very top best dining experiences I had the good fortune to enjoy in this City, not to mention how creative and original they can be!
Friday, 23 April 2010
(THIS RESTAURANT HAS NOW CLOSED SINCE MAY 2012 - THE FOLLOWING IS MAINTAINED ON THIS SITE AS HISTORICAL MATERIAL).
3807 Rue Saint-Andre
Montreal, QC H2L 3V9
Type of Cuisine: Market cuisine/Contemporary French/North American/European/Upscale Bistro with ecclectic touches
Dinner on Friday April 23rd 2010, 17:30
Je vous souhaite un jour d'etre autant émerveillé que lorsque j'ai gouté à leur 'tataki' d'agneau'. La nourriture, c'est de la nourriture. Pas la peine d'en faire un plat (au fait, on partage ici nos expériences par souhait de partage, mais pas par 'fanatisme" ou 'adulation non nécessaire' pour ce qui se trouve dans / ou hors de l'assiette! Rfaol!), mais lorsque c'est un moment de bonheur infini comme celui là, faut se laisser aller: de la virtuosité gastronomique! Sans compter que j'ai adoré cet endroit (un havre de paix)! Les produits magnifiques, de l'excellent boulot par ci par là, et hop..aux oubliettes les quelques petits plats qui ne m'omt point emballé . Ce qui compte c'est que ce fut globalement excellent ce repas (le service de grande qualité, les choix judicieux des vins, le sentiment d'etre bien. Pour moi, c'est ca la recette du bonheur)
When it comes to Modern French/North American Upscale bistros, a few cities in the world are as gifted as Montreal. It's unarguably the forte of this city. Treat of all treats: may it be North American or French, Bistro or fine dining fares, most are nowadays doing a mix of everything.
My main interest lately is just that: North American/French upscale Bistros or fine dining options in this City. Please recall that my writings are mostly oriented towards this city's restaurants already known for standing in some ways ahead of the pack. Restaurant L'inconnu qualifies in this latest category: opened since 2007, L'Inconnu is a highly praized table with lots of critiques(1, 2, 3, 4 ) raving over its strong food performance. It is highly regarded as one of montreal best tables. It's being a while that I was looking forward to dine there, and this is my very first visit ever, here.
with grey wall,
an overall urban interior design feel to it.
A quick look at their menu points to a clear identity of their cuisine (I liked that, since some restaurants sometimes have menus pulled in all directions with no clear gastro orientation): 'modernizing' some French/European classics with a strong focus on the Bistro style / emphasis on market ingredients. I am amazed also by the prices: $55 for 5 courses, 3 courses for $40 are reminders that that Montreal is lucky to have such level of cuisine at bargain $$$ (Let me know if you find the equiv in most World's cities?? ).
I chose the 5 courses tasting menu:
First wine was a 2007 Le Clos Du caillou Cotes Du Rhone, Bouquet des Garrigues - It would serve as companion to the initial course:
BEETS, GOAT CHEESE, CORIANDER - Fresh beets, enjoyably crunchy and expertly marinated with a nice sourly taste. The matching fresh goat cheese is a hit. Each bringing punch to another. That goat cheese (Bouton de culotte) is terrificly stunning (If you did not like goat cheese before, this will convert you into goat cheese on a heartbeat! Gone are the old school perception over goat cheese's disagreeable, assertive, strong, way too tangy, excessively gamey tendencies. This one is packed with the freshest, most agreeable and remarquable balanced goat-milk flavors. Follow that one!). 10/10 (As great as cheese can be!) As for wine pairing, the Medium bodied 2007 Le Clos Du caillou Cotes Du Rhone, Bouquet des Garrigues was without reproach: great concentration, enjoyably sweet, well balanced. Great match.
TATAKI OF LAMB, CHILI,GINGER, FENNEL - Perhaps, the best mastered cooking (preparation + execution) that I sensed behind a meat since a long time. Enjoyably spicy. That exceptional fresh upfront well balanced and yet daring spicy Soya/Ginger/Chili/Lime taste will mark my souvenirs for a long time. The meat was nicely marinated, of impeccable tenderness, with a depth of flavor that was pure heaven. Fresh fennel completed this amazing dish. Largely a dish pertaining to the level of the best 2* Michelin tables. One that will set a reference to the most in all accounts: exceptional daring taste, exceptional work of the flavors, exceptional meat quality, genius work of the spicings. Simply an exceptional dish! 10/10
BREADED FRIED QUAIL, MAYONAISE, MUSTARD, HONEY - Ideally breaded, nicely cooked meat, enjoyably crispy on the outside, tender within. The bird was nice (kept its fresh and deep flavor) and comforting. Good. 6/10
BEEF RAVIOLI, VEAL CONSOMME - The consommé was at ideal consistency (not too thick, not too light), flavorful, with small dices of veggies (carrots among them). The ravioli itself was just ok: cooked well, it simply lacked the complexity and daring work I am accustomed to with its equivalent on the Montreal restaurant scene. 4/10
MAGRET DE CANARD, SAUCE DE FOIE GRAS, FIDDLEHEADS, LARDONS - The quality of the duck is of high praize here. Of sublime deliciousness, the duck was remarquable by its tenderness and yet ideally firm consistency. Gorgeous texture.The foie gras sauce was balanced and delicious. Fiddleheads were fresh and complemented so well the dish. Lardons are always a terrific tasty welcoming addition and they brought amazing tastebud punch to this already great dish. 8/10
Montreal top Chefs cook stunning duck magrets, but up to now, this is among my all time favourite duck magrets in Montreal along the one that Chef Marc-André Jetté has served to me @ Restaurant Newtown on March 5th 2010 dinner. Excellent.
Wine that was served at that point:
2008 PIERRE-MARIE CHERMETTE FLEURIE PONCIÉ- Enjoyable Medium-bodied Beaujolais with some good acidity. Sensed perfectly well the expected nose of violet + elegant subtle and well balanced fruity mouthfeel (cherry, strawberry). Matched well with the Duck Magret. Loved this wine.
Ended with the dessert:
PASTRY RAVIOLIS - They were light, airy, tasty, with a mastered sweetness to them. Their fillings were varied (some had nutty almonds in them) and tempting. They were oozing of fresh baked aromas and delicate floury consistency. Nice. 7/10
The dessert was matched with an impeccable porto:
CASA DE STA. EUFEMIA PORTO - Enjoyably concentrated thanks to its 3 decades of being fortified. This Porto pays tribute to the beauty of long aging in barrels and casks. The spicy plum coming through nicely. Perfect tawny texture, result of long aging in casks. Loved the well balanced and yet upfront tobacco/dried red fruits/coffee aromas that I sensed. Remarquable long finish.
I took note of the great quality in the selection of wines at L'inconnu. Smartly thought selection of great value wines. Love that efficiency.
Concluded with a successful
World Class Service:
The two young women who served on this evening are great professionals of very high standards. Courteous, highly efficient, it is a breeze to see people mastering what they do at such great level.
A Hit that will stay in my best souvenirs:
I will have hard time forgetting that Lamb tataki. When a single dish rises to the point of being a reference, not just to Montreal standards but way beyond --- think 'World's best tables standards' --- your mind and tastebud tell you that you want to taste more from the Chef that' s behind it. And this it exactly what I am planning to do: get to know more of Chef Jeff Stirrup's cuisine. It was my first time there, an introduction to his works, a quick look at what he does. On a next visit, hopefully, I will focus this time on some of his à la Carte menu too. It is also a restaurant where I look forward to spend some romantic cozy meals with my sweetheart since it's elegant, cozy.
PROS: I loved this restaurant. I can see myself returning to this place again and again, something that I rarely do since I prefer permanently discovering new eateries. The lamb tataki, the beets/goat cheese were memorable. The wine pairing so inspired. Service was charming. Lovely table!CONS: The beef ravioli...please, never ever serve that again! It just does not deserve to count among splendid dishes like that lamb tataki, the beets/goat cheese, the duck magret. As always: to be taken constructively!
Thanks for reading!
Friday, 16 April 2010
This restaurant is now CLOSED.
1429, Rue Amherst, Montréal, QC
Type of Restaurant: Asian-French Creative upscale fusion
Event: Dinner on Friday April 16th 2010, 18:00PM
I always think about variation in styles when I dine at restaurants:
After last Month's outstanding exceptional sumptuous upscale tastebud-blowing fine dining of 2* Michelin star level @ XO Le Restaurant (see latest report), I wanted this time something different and somehow unique in the city. When I heard that Star Chef Biron (once playfully exciting the city along another Star Chef, Laurent Godbout, at Le Duel) was back behind the wheels with his creative take on Asian-French Fusion (a quick look at his online menu offerings and you will understand that what he is doing is not that common in this City), I had to pay a visit to his restaurant. Chef Biron and his team are super cool GentleWomen and Men, very modern in their open minded overlooks of things, proud of what they do and proud to let the foodie world enjoying what they do, so seeing a food blogger interested by a reportage on them was welcomed.
The inside Decor is attractive: a charming stylish eclectic mix.
You'll find some light touches of Art Deco (shape of the chairs), a bit of the retro style (in the overall design of the counter facing the open kitchen),
Warm touches of dark woods (tables, floors),
Nicely thought contrasting White walls, too, with a smartly thought long table
disposed in the middle of the restaurant (ideal for groups):
Back to the small bar, with it's retro style, facing the open kitchen:
I decided to sit at at the bar, so the view is on the kitchen.
This dinner started with a new Cocktail they have just thought about
Cocktail of Gin, Strawberry syrup, Yuzu and Strawberry Jelly - Deep enjoyable strawberry flavor, perfect balanced sweetness, delectable cocktail with little dices of strawberry Jelly that added an extra dimension of playfull-ness to the cocktail. Mastered impressively well, this cocktail was simply H T! 10/10
The tofu tapenade with red curry, honey and basilic was unctuous, decadently delicious, with an harmonious concerto of exotic flavorings of superior standards. Excellent.
The Mirin vinegar sitting on the forefront of the picture was a hit. The bread, another hit (a beautifully textured-looking white snowy bun, enjoyably light, airy, soft and fluffy like dove feathers, with a subtle envouting sweetness to it and a remarquable freshness).
I went on with:
Soupe froide de concombre, Sorbet de cantaloup au Basilic Thai - This soup, made cold (soupe froide) consisted of little cucumber dices of different colors that provided a charming crunchy-ness to the overall soup. In the middle, a light sorbet of cantaloup and Thai basil. The little "pipette" that you see on top of the sorbet is filled with Parsley oil. Refreshing. 4/10
Tarte de foie gras presse aux oignons caramelises, bacon, foam de boudin, pickel de legumes - The tart, filled with pressed foie gras (definitely some high quality foie gras of perfect velvety and meaty consistency, dense, rich, smooth with perfect champagne pink texture! ... and Bravo Chef for working your foie that well. I am very picky with most renditions of foie, but this one had skillful mastery behind it. Excellent) was cut half with each parts disposed on the opposite ends of the plate. They were topped by a delicious light, airy foam of black pudding (Excellent) and accompanied with veggies (radish, caramelized onions, mushrooms, arugula) that were worked so well (kudos to the work behind the caramelized onions + the light sweetness of the mushroom was a treat). 9/10
Langue de Boeuf de Kobe, Moutarde Japonaise BBQ, Saute de Calamars aux herbes Thai - The braised Kobe Beef tongue was of impeccable tenderness, packed with a great depth of beefy flavor and an enjoyable smokyness to it (Excellent). When I indulged in my first bites at the calamaris, I had a flash at a dream I wish I can realize one day: I am drooling over the now worldwide famous grilled seafood at EtxeBarri, Spain. And those outstanding tender and superbly cooked, decandently delicious calamaris of Chef Biron transport me a bit closer (or who knows, probaly even better, rfaol!) to what I keep hearing of the grilled seafood at EtxeBarri. In this life or the next, I hope I will get a chance to measure the seafood @ Etxebarri against what has now emerged as my personal "coup de coeur" reference of any rendition of those lovely tentacles that my mouth has ever enjoyed (may it be sauteed, grilled, seared): the Calamari of Chef Biron (Masterfully concocted, Giga moons away from your usual chewy calamaris, with a texture to die for. Excellent)! 10/10
Final frontier, the iconic Kobe Beef Buger of Chef Biron:
Here is a statement by Thierry Daraize, considered by your humble food blogger as one of World's most accurate and rigorous food columnists, over the Burger @ Biron Restaurant :
“ Puis, vint enfin le plat qui fera courir toute la ville: Burger farci de Monterey Jack, champignons, mayonnaise japonaise, sauce BBQ, tomates confites et bacon, oignons tempura, servi avec poutine au miso. Complètement débile, le meilleur burger que j'ai mangé de ma vie, rien de moins ” --- Link: Mr Daraize's review of Restaurant Biron.
In a Nutshell, Mr Daraize qualified this burger as his lifetime Best. I have a special attentive ear to Daraize's opinions: Not only was he a great Chef, but he is more importantly one of the most passionate, knowledgeable and devoted professionals of the food entertainment Business (Food TV Shows, etc). Naturally, not all my opinions are in accordance with those of Mr Daraize. STILL, when Mr Daraize qualifies something as one best, Chances are that I have got to give that one a try.
Up to this one burger @ Restaurant Biron, couple of Montreal restaurants offered some of the Best burgers of this City: Mr. Steer, L'Anecdote, Santos, La Paryse, Brgr:M. BUT none came close to the level of Chef Biron's upscale Gourmet Burger (Luxurious ingredients, Cooked by one of QC's most talented and creative chefs).
Burger de Kobe farci de Monterey Jack, champignons, mayonnaise japonaise, sauce BBQ, tomates confites et bacon, oignons tempura servi avec poutine au miso Pour l’expérience totale : foie gras - The burger does hold itself up superbly well, thanks to a remaquably freshly baked delicious bun (any great baker would concur that all the pre-processes behind this bun turned around some rigorous expertly works of it's dough. At touching, you feel right away that the pre-works have involved perfect reach of it's dough elasticity, risen at the exact ideal dimension, stretched expertly) , firm and yet airy (excellent bun, cooked up to ideal rising), with elegantly well disposed high quality meat and other fresh tasty ingredients: The superior Kobe meat is nowadays not a secret anymore, oozing of outstanding deep beefy upfront flavors and standing stunningly tender, but what is even more remarquable is the genius of Chef Biron at enhancing this meat with punch for the tastebuds: stuffed with fresh Monterey Jack semi-hard Cheese, the meat was cooked to perfection and evenly spiced (still, with an enjoyable kick). Mushrooms were deliciously earthy. The Japanese mayo was enjoyably vinegary as it should and brought nice acidic balance to the meat. I would suggest them to offer a version with Karashi accompaniment as well. Other ingredients consisted of Confit tomatoes (really good), onions, Miso poutine (Very tasty gravy, fries having a unique intense appealing yellow texture). And as an Extra, I chose the Foie Gras (Nicely seared with it's enjoyable depth of livery flavour). 8/10
NEXT TIME, I will let this brilliant Chef fly over his $80 freestyle tasting menu (a bargain considering this highly skilled cuisine). For those who are new to QC's Gastronomy actuality, Chef Biron was once at the head of the then widly acclaimed Asian-French Fusion Quebec City's restaurant Yuzu (Yuzu was a major table in North America back then when Chef Biron was the Chef there). He then paired with other Star Chef Laurent Godbout at the now defunct Duel Restaurant. Chef Biron has previously worked with/for reknown Master Chefs Normand Laprise (Toque! Restaurant), Junichi Ikematsu from Montreal Star table Jun I and many others.
SERVICE @ RESTAURANT BIRON IS AN "EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW"
They manage to be at the same time professional, very courteous, full of grace/class and still accessible with a remarquable efficiency (the wait staff knows it's wines and food very well + they have a remarquable sense of accomodation/hospitality). They are also fun, with a great sense of humor. Largely one of the best Restaurant staff of this province.
CHEF, MAY I SUGGEST...
Chef Biron's food being strongly creative, playful and eclectic, I personally believe that he is the perfect type of Chef who could bring Montreal gastronomy to newer levels of not-yet commonly experienced excitements in this City. A bit like how Arzak, Mugaritz, Akelare had propulsed Spain's gastronomy to newer modern exciting trends.
Montreal, as we all know, is a gifted city for it's great Modern/Mixed French fine dining & QC's/North American/French Bistro offerings, BUT it is about time, now, that it fast forwards to newer gastro dimensions. It has a huge potential for such. Why not, for example, since Chef Biron is inspired partly by Asian touches, come up with a new dimension gastro trend like what Aronia de Takazawa does? We are not talking about mimmicking other Chefs here, but as an inspirational example. Chef Biron could, for example, continue offering his usual current great meals with the option of enjoying somekind of a revolutionary (to Montreal gastro standards in this case) gourmet tasting menu he could call, as an example 'Biron s'éclate sur la lune!"!
Thanks to all for reading! Aromes