Event: Dinner @ Le Marly restaurant, Montreal
When: Saturday April 23rd 2011, 19:00
Type of food: Modern French Bistronomy (on lunch), Fine dining gourmet (on evenings)
Addr: 1065, cote du Beaver Hall, Montreal, QC
Web site: http://www.lemarly.ca/
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)
UPDATE JULY 2012: CLOSED SINCE NOVEMBER 2011 – THIS REVIEW IS KEPT ONLINE FOR HISTORICAL VALUE. CHEF BELAIR IS NOW EXECUTIVE CHEF AT AIX CUISINE DU TERROIR.
(English review to follow) – J’anticipe votre réaction “hein,..quoi..du calibre d’un 3 étoiles Michelin…mais il est fou celui là”. Et vram le survol d’attentes surréalistes! Rires. Soyons clairs: je ne fonctionne qu’avec ce que je vis, je conclus que sur ce que je sais: Je ne suis point devin et ne pourrai prévoir si vous vivrez le meme sentiment , mais ce repas du Samedi 23 Avril 2011 à 19:00 fut tout aussi spectaculaire que la majorité des meilleurs repas 3 Étoiles Michelin que j’ai eu l”occasion de savourer. Que vous dire d’autre? Ah oui, qu’il faut pas jouer à l’autruche: un restaurant c’est d’abord un Chef qu’on le veuille ou Non. Alors, j’ai fait mes devoirs: j’y suis allé un Samedi Soir car je ne m’attends pas à ce qu’1 Chef soit aux fourneaux 24/24, midi et soir, 7/7. Parcontre, Un Vendredi ou Un Samedi Soir, je m’attends à ce qu’il y soit (oui, je sais, certains Chefs travaillent nuit et jour, Peut etre que le Chef Belair est dans cette ligue, mais c’est surhumain) et le Chef Belair y était comme il y est souvent d’ailleurs. C’est un Chef au talent exceptionnel. Oui, de calibre 2 à 3 étoiles Michelin. Facilement. Si vous y alliez sur l’heure du midi (c’est rare de trouver du gastronomique élaboré sur l’heure du midi ici ou ailleurs) , ou au moment qu’il n’y est pas et que vous m’envoyiez un courriel pour me dire que ce ne fut pas aussi grandiose que ce que j’y ai vécu, alors il faudrait peut etre relire ce que je viens d’écrire!. Et je concluerai sur ceci: Le Chef Jean-Francois est un Chef d’exception!
I know…with a title like ‘Food of 3-star Michelin level!‘, one might think that this is a new marketing strategy. Especially because this is Montreal, a city that …in the perceptions of most foodies and gourmands around the globe….can not succeed at such level…..perceptions, dear perceptions, oh you dear perceptions….I still remember those folks, defining Montreal food restaurant scene’s perfection to Le Club Chasse & Peche and Au Pied de Cochon….my project (the current web blog and my top 15 best dinners in Mtl & surroundings) was a direct response to them: buds, you got it all wrong!
Le Marly…I will be honest with you…has never captured my attention as far as food goes: its night-club feel is enticing, indeed, but there was no particular interest in its food: the initial reviews on its restaurant confirmed that I was right. But then Le Marly sent a serious warning to Montreal’s food scene: in February, they hired a Chef with an exceptional raw talent, Jean Francois Belair. I waited 3 months before stepping foot, enough time for Chef Belair to set his comfort zone. I will, for once, let the food talk for itself…before we talk about anything else:
Cream of corn, parsley foamy milk, coq au vin nugget: – The nugget of coq au vin is cooking at its best: a depth of taste that simply revolutionizes the taste of coq au vin, which on its own is already one of the most flavorful French meals. Whilst the coq au vin nugget, a reference for any upper level cooking performance, was impressive, the cream of corn/parsley foamy milk would be of fair 2-star Michelin refinement (of all corn-based creations that have left great impression, only Navarrete Jr’s Corn soup, Potato salad, chives, aioli, crab meat fared better than this one of Chef Belair, for its more flavorful impact), but it stood no short of excellence: a mastery in balanced taste (both the taste of the corn milk and the parsley were harmonious and complemented each other well) and texture. 10/10
Carpaccio of beef – perfect raw meat, of impeccable quality, expressed through impeccable technique and mesmerizing deliciousness. Each morsel of the composition elevated the overall dish brilliantly: parmesan cheese in its best condition, utterly fresh quality bok choy providing an un-matched kick of taste when paired with the parmesan cheese, parnsnip rediscovered at its best, home made potato chips that are nothing short of perfection…who would think that a potato chip —an already delicious item — had a lot more to prove? Obviously Chef Belair is one of the few who thought so. Carpaccio perfected! 10/10
Medaillon d’agneau, lentil du puy au Chorizo, purée d’olives noir, jus simple – Chef Belair has great humor: at two occasions, he mentionned ‘jus simple‘ (simple jus) both on the initial ‘Snails’ dish, and then on this dish. I am sure he believes that his sauces are indeed simple, but in reality most of the 3-star Michelin Chefs that I know will revere him for his amazing sauces. Sounds too flattering, you might think? Nah..would be reality’s response. Have you noticed that I do not bother anymore losing my time with technical notes like ”the meaty beefy note of the sauce was balanced by a perfected texture, enhanced by a well seasoned jus”…??? Right, there’s no need for such description…especially when the food is perfected to this point. This was Jannice’s food and I had no intent to sample it. But she insisted: huney, you should try this lamb…pure perfection in cooking technique..pure perfection in refinement of taste…you should taste the purée of olives, a redefinition of the perfect olives purée… Jannice is one of the few which palate I trust the most and this has nothing to do with the fact that she is my sweet half, she does have a profound and unique developped ‘sense of taste‘. I tried the lamb (a flesh of impeccable quality, with an excellent mouthsome and a top-tier jus which lifted the dish well) 3-star Michelin perfection, on this dish . 10/10
Supreme de pintade, champignons pied de mouton, nage de mais, daikon – In March, when we were dining at 3-star Michelin Ledoyen in Paris, my mum had the ‘poulet de bresse’ which is highly regarded as one of the finest poultry at that top level of dining. Ledoyen’s meal has not impressed as you can read on that review (although that ‘poulet de bresse was not reviewed on that post), but from bites of my Mum’s ‘poulet de bresse’, I have to admit that her dish was in the top 3 best poultry dishes I ever sampled. The supreme de pintade of Chef Belair is in its own league though: far superior to the Poulet de Bresse in all aspects: excellent depth taste, perfect moisture consistency, accompaniments (potatoes, apple, shrimps, daikon) that were cooked and tasted of exquisite perfection. 10/10
Meyer lemon pie, lemon sorbet – Here, I wish I had a top of the line camera. The picture does not do justice to this dessert. regardless, I want to say this: you know, at our top of the line world’s best tables, buzz aside, what you get on your plate is usually one or two marvellous dishes of exceptional level (the 10/10 that I use), and then a lot of well mastered courses but with nothing out of this world (the 8/10 that I use). And usually, you have either stellar savoury dishes or stellar desserts (L’Ambroisie was one of the few 3-star Michelin tables that delivered stellar execution in both savories and desserts), but rarely both. Tonight, Le marly’s kitchen offered 3-star Michelin perfect food not only towards their savoury dishes, but also in their desserts: the lemon pie and its sorbet were not only packed with a stunning depth of fruity flavour (loved the intense flavor of the sorbet) but their respective execution was nothing short of perfection. Stellar! 10/10
Caramelised poached pear, churros, salty caramel – I used to say that France is unbeatable when it comes to desserts. I kept saying so even after having tasted the amazing desserts of Quebec’s talented pastry Chefs like Patrice Demers (Although, I have always preferred Rouyé‘s desserts). But the pastry Chef at Le Marly has put an end to my belief: he did not even need modern sophisticated creations to impress. Nah…he went right in the basics, the simple ingredients, the simple techniques, the simple pastries (poached pears, churros, salty caramel) and elevated everything to rarely matched execution in terms of perfected refined taste and texture (here, the quality of that pear stood out, the execution of the churros was flawless). 10/10
Modern, design, Bistro-chic decor. There’s a night-clubbing feel to the place, but obviously they take the food very seriously (not a huge place: when you enter, the bar is on the right, the restaurant part facing the bar on your left. They will also have a 30-seat terrace open for summer).
Relatively short but smartly thought (varied): for ie, the main courses included a variety of food items (guinea fowl, boar, lamb, fish) with diverse accompaniments. The same could be said of the starters and the wine list (wine list has lots of affordable choices, with mostly plenty of wines from France and Italy but also some from other parts of the world). I found the by-the-glass pairings to be among the ones that I enjoyed the most in Montreal (Alex, my waiter and sommelier of this evening mastered so well his pairings). Here’s a sample of their menu.
impeccable (Alex, our waiter, was the perfect balance between professionalism, accomodation, coolness, patience and took great care of his customers). Great work ethic from what I could see on this evening’s dinner (not stuffy at all, but caring and friendly).
A bargain for such level of food. You can see the prices on their online menu.
What impressed me the most with this dinner was that rare ability of elevating familiar cooking to excellence: take those snails, the lamb medaillon, the lentils, the guinea fowl, the poached pears for ie. They sound very familiar, perhaps, but the modern re-work of those dishes was superb, exciting, and as Jannice stated ‘this is food that brought emotions“.
What about the 10/10 marks? Does perfection exist? I am not one who forces his imagination to see trouble where there is not. If a dish has superb depth of flavor, is very well executed and stands as ultimately delicious to my palate, then that is a perfect dish to me. If it is lacking, then that is not a perfect dish. The marks over 10 should not be a surprise: this blog is not about ‘adventure-sly’ discovering restaurants, but focuses on restaurants that has long proven to stand out in Montreal. In the case of Le Marly, it is the arrival of talented Chef Belair at this place that attracted me there. And yet, despite focusing on a certain level of skilled cuisine, some meals at other restaurants have failed miserably if you take time to go though all my reviews. Regarding each course of this meal at Le Marly, they deserved their high scores for the amazing top quality ingredients and high level cuisine that was experienced on this evening. And even where they sounded simple (snails, poached pear), they were executed with outstanding refinement. Being able to make the most out of the least, that — in my opinion — is one important equation of a skilled kitchen.
Recently, when reviewing le Filet Restaurant, I was stating (following the launch of my latest 3-star Michelin Star dining web site that saw light in Paris), that Montreal most talented Chefs (Michelle Mercuri at XO Le Restaurant, Navarrette Jr at Raza, Rouyé at La Porte, Normand Laprise at Toque, Loiseau at Bistro Cocagne, Pelletier @ Club Chasse & Peche, etc) are mostly as stellar as the best 2 Star Michelin Parisian Chefs. I also mentionned that Paris had a big advantage on the 3-star Michelin dining level and that only Michelle Mercuri’s XO Le Restaurant was of 3-star Michelin caliber. Chef Belair, on the back of this exceptional dinner performed to a level of perfect 3-star caliber Michelin cuisine. Furthermore, this meal is the new #3 of my top 15 best dinners in Montreal’s & Surroundings.
What about the reference to the 3-star Michelin? Was that a joke? Rfaol…Nope, not at all. First, I am talking about 3-star Michelin level of food. In Montreal, up to now, only 4 dinners have reached that level in my opinion:
-XO Le restaurant’s March 19th 2010 dinner
–Raza’s October 22nd 2010
-To some extent, the dinner I had at La Porte was almost of that level, too
-This one dinner at Marly
Of course, they are not identical: Raza was modern Latino/French, XO Le Restaurant was Modern European, La Porte Modern French, same could be said of this one dinner at Le Marly. Those were all food that definitely left better impression on me than at some attended 3-star Michelin meals like my 2008 lunch at Jean Georges, or the most recent 3-star Michelin meal at Ledoyen. With that said, from my perspective, food of a level of 3-star Michelin just means food which cooking and taste have been perfected to a rarely matched level. But even at that level there are several sub-levels of perfection: a 3-star Michelin table like L’Ambroisie, for ie, pertains to the top of the crop of 3-star Michelin perfection, and even among the best well established official 3-star restaurants I don’t see many approaching to the excellent level of L’Ambroisie. So, in the case of this above reviewed meal at Le Marly I am referring to a good level of 3-star Michelin level, which although is by no means to the level of L’Ambroisie remains a solid dinner performance of the highest order. I’ll go back!
Wishing you the same amazement!
PROS: This was a startling dinner. As long as Chef Belair keeps the heat ON as what I found on this meal, Le Marly will be in Montreal’s top 3 fine dining destinations.
CONS: Nothing to complain about. But a reminder: I believe that the best time to indulge at most restaurants with such skilled Chef is in the evening, especially a Friday or Saturday evening.