Restaurant Raza, Montreal

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

Restaurant Raza
Cuisine: Upscale blend of Modern French/Latino fine dining
Addr: 114 Laurier West, Montreal, Qc
Phone: 514.227.8712
Url:
http://www.groupemnjr.com/ 

All meals sampled at Raza Restaurant are gathered in the current article (please find below, the reports of all my dinners at Raza  listed in chronological order
)
                                 
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)


The following is my review of my 4th meal at Raza on February 11th, 2012 20:00 – Dinner @ Raza on this Saturday evening Febr 11th, 2012.  As the readers of this blog already know, Raza is my #1 favourite restaurant in Montreal and despite this regrettably tepid reported meal (I don’t review Montreal’s top dining ventures anymore, just re-visiting my favourite restaurants in town and dropping some few updates here), Raza remains my #1 because there’s in this house the basics of what make a restaurant better than its competitors: a Chef with great maturity, pride, common sense, exceptional talent and a better understanding of what a Restaurant should achieve. Naturally, the latter statement will pass as out of context  given the report about this meal of  Febr 11th, but the previous dinners (they are all reported right below) largely back my assertion. Now, the beauty of my work is that I’ve stayed away from making friends with the restaurant industry, and this leads to the advantage of enjoying experiences that most diners, 99% of the patrons at a restaurant, are experiencing for real. Thus the possibility of enjoying things as they come. No one wants his number #1 choice to fail, alas tonight’s dinner  had simply nothing to do with the Raza that has impressed me for so long. It was unfortunate to have experienced this, especially me: when I feel confident to go all the way to raving about a place, it’s usually done with rigorous thinking and backed by solid evidence (level of cooking, consistency, mastery in the depth of flavor combinations, amazement of the taste, etc). Tonight, all those superlatives that do usually define what I have found there were remote souvenirs: a simple braised beef  with sparse pieces of veggies could have been better executed at home …(6.5/10), chorizo in a bouillon was just that: sausage in a bouillon..hardly something that excites at a restaurant (5/10), salmon covered by a  creamy coconut concoction was ok, shrimps in a revised version of a bisque was pleasant but not on par with the standards that I am used to at Raza (7/10)…let us stop here and politely say that we were  miles away from Chef Navarrette Jr’s stunning cooking. Even the service was odd: wine pairing to each of the 7 courses does not mean pairing to just some of the courses…    We can see this through different angles: the 3 previous meals were stunning (they are all detailed on this current web page — just scroll down — .and this, I hope, will benefit to some of the apprentice cooks out there: when you have the luck to learn alongside one of world’s best Chefs, Chef Navarrette Jr is definitely one of them: seize that damn opportunity to level UP your cooking!! ). This is the only time that I am disappointed, in 4 occurences. Which is far from being bad. On the other hand, it is clear that next time that I am going to Raza, I’ll talk to Chef Navarrette Jr and make it clear that it is his cooking that I am paying for!  Chef Navarrette Jr is a  Gentleman who wants to give a chance to his cooks to shine. But that aide he had on this evening cooks food that I am not willing to pay for…………. I’ll go back: it would be stupid to stop myself at the only one slip of all these amazing dinings at Raza. Chef Navarrette Jr can easily cook gustatory marvels comparable to what you will  find on  most top 2 star Michelin tables  out there, but of course, he needs to avoid being surrounded by lesser talented apprentices or else the huge gap in talent between him and those will be felt in a frustrating way by his patrons.

The following is the review of my 3rd meal @ Raza on Saturday October 22nd  2011, 8 PM ->
This is my  3rd visit with my wife here. Raza now offers a surprise tasting menu, left at the discretion of the Chef’s creativity, a trend that is now widely spread around the world. The default surprise menu is the 5 courses at $59. If you ask for it, you can also enjoy a 7 course surprise menu at $70. As on both previous two dinners, we opted for the latter (which I find to be a bargain for the high level of dining that’s offered – We also appreciate the surprise nature  of the tasting menu,  given how creative Chef Navarrette Jr has always been).

At this visit on Sat Oct 22nd 2011, the latino genius continued to impress with creativity and exciting food that remain leaps ahead of anything to be found in town.

The meal started with a ceviche of mahi mahi (9/10) that had an enjoyable depth of rich taste, the marine freshness of the fish shining through nicely. The quality of the fish being remarkable.

Next was a dish of  quail egg, dehydrated mushrooms, squid ink aioli. A dish that shows an impressive level of technical mastery with the mushrooms properly dehydrated and served to an ideal powdery consistency, its taste vivid (we are far from the dehydrated mushrooms that taste nothing: here the fresh taste of the mushroom is retained), the cooking of the quail eggs mastered to precision (perfect runny inside). An exciting dish with multi layers of flavors blending impressively well together. In Montreal top level dining standards, you won’t see anything close to this. Certainly not as expertly composed as this. 10/10
 
The following course of the tasting menu was a delicious soup of chestnut, tomato confit, chives. The palatable impact is maintained high, with again, exciting flavors that tease the palate, a characteristic of Chef Mario   Navarrette Jr’s cuisine 10/10
I had a glass of Chilean Errazuriz Chardonnay Wild Ferment, Casablanca Valley (2010), which complex and rich characteristics balanced harmoniously with the earthy profile of the chestnut soup.

Then came a dish of ‘Braised veal flank, butternut squash gnocchis, parmesan, red wine reduction” – Not one single item was short of palatable excitement (the recurring use of the word ‘excitement’ in my review is intentional for sake of accuracy in describing what attracts me towards the work of this genius, but also for  paying justice to the type of cuisine served by Chef Navarrette Jr).  Each item of this dish had dazzling taste; mixed together, the succulence reached a rare peak in deliciousness. The display of impressive cooking execution and refinement continued on this dish (the cooking of the gnocchis and the veal was exemplary). 10/10
This was matched to a nicely Merlot Rubini colleccion Crianza (Ica, Peru 2006) which appealing density went thoughtfully well with that dazzling braised veal flank.
 
Next came a ‘sabayon, blue cheese, pears, apple compote‘. The sabayon had all elements whisked expertly to proper temperature, thickened to ideal consistency, with not one single spotted fault. The blue cheese imparting a welcoming counter-kick of flavor, and the top quality fruity components enhancing perfectly the enticing rich flavor profile of this course. Another dish which intent to impress the palate went beyond the targeted goal. 10/10
 
This dinner  ended with a jar of Chef Navarrette Jr’s take on the theme of ‘nutella’ and ‘banana‘. I am not a fan of  nutella  and chocolate since I was born and was raised in a tropical environment where chocolate and candies were replaced by pineapple, coconut and mangoes  (this naturally explains why great desserts based on those tropical ingredients do benefit from better appreciations from my taste buds), therefore chocolate-based desserts suffer from having to stand out at all cost. But to elevate a combination of such classic elements (banana, nutella) that are already known to deliver delicious taste on their own to newer heights of palatable impact like what I found in this dessert is the kind of achievement that, in my view, defines a GRAND CHEF. I know I gave lower marks in the past to more complex desserts, but that is because they failed to be this delicious. 10/10
 
CONCLUSION: This looked like a distribution of 10/10, Rfaol! Even the ceviche, which I rated with a 9/10, would be a perfect 10 in most talented hands (9/10 is ‘excellent’ in my rating system. A 10/10 is of benchmark material, which  btw, as far as my evaluations of ceviches go, is detained by Chef Navarrette Jr’s ceviches that I have previously sampled).
In facts, it’s  just the result of when you pair an endless source of exceptional talent with creativity and a unique palate. That inevitably provides stunning dishes like those. Talent, raw and exceptional talent, makes all the difference: I have seen, many top level Chefs offering ceviches that failed to come as close to half of the excitement found in Chef Navarrette Jr’s.  A while back, a top level Chef had  cooked something similar to the corn velouté that Chef Navarrette Jr once offered at A Table. My conclusion was that there is Chef Mario Navarrette Jr and  then you have the rest. Modern creative cosmopolitan marvels like these will always perfume my sweetest gastronomic souvenirs. So, again and again: another exceptional meal by an exceptional Chef.

PS: I was reading  a recent article of Quebec’s top food critic Marie-Claude Lortie on Raza. She loved her meal and holds Raza in high esteem, but wished  most of the food would be more spicy, more provocative (as she wrote: more chilly, more spices). I enjoy Madame Lortie for her great sense of culinary analysis (I personally believe that she is in the top 5 of world’s best food journalists and I would bet on her palate to be the most accurate of them all), but here I don’t agree with her: if you put more spices and push the exotical aromas to some extent in  the cooking of Chef Navarrette Jr, then  you end up with a cuisine that is not Modern Cosmopolitan anymore. The reason it is modern (as in Modern French cuisine, for ie) lies in the fact that its intent is to move away from traditional cooking (spices, strong aromas in the case of Classic Latino cuisine). Also: Chef Navarrette Jr Cuisine is more accurately about a big majority of food items pertaining to Modern French cuisine with latino influences and some Modern interpretations of couple of Latino-based dishes like the ceviche, for ie. And I insist: this Genius deserves a city with better visibility!

The following is the review of my 2nd meal at Raza on AUGUST  14th, 2010 20:00  =>

Restaurant Raza

Cuisine: Upscale blend of Modern French/Latino fine dining
Addr: 114 Laurier West, Montreal, Qc
Phone: 514.227.8712
Url:
http://www.groupemnjr.com/ 
Event: Dinner @ Raza on Saturday August 14th 2010, 8 PM

Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)


(You will find the English review, below) – Un génie, le Chef Mario Navarrette Jr. Personellement, je le considère comme étant le meilleur Chef Montréalais, et largement dans le top des meilleurs Chefs de cuisine moderne cosmopolitaine à travers le monde. Du calibre d’un deux étoiles Michelin, facilement. Souvent, ca frise le calibre d’un 3 étoiles Michelin coté talent culinaire. Il mérite de briller sous des cieux plus cléments: Shanghai? Dubai? Tokyo?

This dinner was primarily a romantic tete à tete with my sweet half.  I still brought my camera, though. For Jannice, it is the opportunity to taste the food  of  a Chef largely praised by her food enthusiast of a husband, and here, we  will get to taste what I’m truly  praising:  when you go to Raza, Chef Mario Navarrette Jr is there, cooking for real. Even more important to me: he is not slowing down with his creativity.

 Jannice and I went for the grand fiesta: the 7 service tasting menu. I love giving carte blanche to highly talented Chefs: you are inventive, go ahead..unleash it!

The night started off with great music (whoever thought about that collection of great latin american and spanish music that was playing last night has great  taste in music. It’s rare that I talk about music played at a restaurant, but what was playing last night added to the festive and tasty meal we were enjoying) and their iconic Pisco sour cocktail:

Followed by:

Course #1 Black kingfish (Cobia) ceviche, bouillon of ginger, sweet potato purée – Excellent quality of fresh fish marinated in a delicate and nicely balanced acidic based  jus that brought perfect moisture to the flesh. Top marks to the technique of marinating that’s behind this ceviche: expertly precise. The gingery taste was well thought and that scoop of potato purée that you see atop the fish paired surprisingly well with  the light gingery broth. 8.5/10

Course #2: Poached shrimps, sauce seco, parmigiano-reggiano, gnocchi – The shrimp, juicy and of generous portion, kept its freshest flavour and texture.
Jannice — of Italian descent and a severe judge of Italian cuisine — said of Chef Navarrete’s light and delicate gnocchi that ‘it was done with the heart and soul of an Italian grandmother‘.
Impeccable delicious lumps, I must admit .. but knowing well the versatile talent of this Chef, I was not surprised at all. The gnocchi was bathed in a delicious beer-coriander based sauce seco. The cheese added an extra gustatory dimension to this nicely composed dish.  10/10

Course #3: Scallop, risotto of quinoa & butternut squash), caviar – Atop, a plump tasty scallop nicely seared and fully flavored, adorned by some fresh cucumber carpaccio. Underneath, a succulent risotto of quinoa cooked with butternut squash. Mixing the fresh quality of mullet’s caviar to that risotto of quinoa was divine and to add an extra layer of complexity that works really well,  the overall was enhanced by a zesty touch of orange reduction. Creative, fun and very pleasing to the palate. A dish that Jannice qualified as a  pleasurable sin. 9/10

Course #4: Duck magret, Aji panca chili, green apple carpaccio, cipollini, cherry tomato confit – A short description of this  duck magret could go like this ‘the secret here lies in the  impeccable quality of this duck” but such statement would be utterly incomplete. It would be more accurate to include the exceptional work of delicious tastes and skilled cooking techniques to the equation. The Panca chili adds a pleasant kick (the pungent taste is present, but in an enjoyable subtle way. Not the hot and over spicy kind of taste ), the green apple bringing a nice acidic balance.The cipollini and cherry tomato were first grade ingredients. Next time, I need to know who are the farmers behind such quality products. An exceptional dish. 10/10

They dimmed the lights at that point, so the next picture did benefit from the flash of my camera and will look slightly different from the previous ones:

Course #5: Filet mignon, chanterelles, squid ink and aioli – That was a stunning piece of top quality Angus AAA meat, expertly seasoned, fork tender and drool-worthy. The earthy and nicely cooked chanterelles tasted great. The soft and creamy potato purée was delightful. 8.5/10 

A pre-dessert:

Course #6: Flash-frozen avocado purée, mango sorbet – Few of the best desserts I have enjoyed at the top restaurants of Montreal (and even abroad) could qualify as exceptional. This one is the newest addition to that very selective list. The fresh avocado purée was flash-frozen in an anti-griddle, paving the way to a unique frozen type of texture that made the avocado very enjoyable in mouth. The sweetness of the decadent mango sorbet paired so well with the avocado. Also of high mention: that gelée you see on the side + a savourish snowy-white airy mousse lying beneath. I was so distracted by the enjoyment of  the overall dessert that I do not remember what they were made of . This dessert was delicate, brilliantly creative. The taste, exquisite. 9/10

Course #7:  Chocolate cake (excellent moist and deliciously rich chocolate cake with a pleasant molten inside consistency ), Sugar cane Ice cream (lovely creamy quality ice cream). The nutella powder that was served along this dessert was a nice touch.  9.5/10

Bottom line: an exceptional meal by an exceptional Chef.
As far as I’m concerned, Chef Navarrette has once more proven to be among the few who truly can take it (the culinary experience) to the next level with outstanding creative cooking skills that translate in food that’s exciting to enjoy.

Excellent mention to the service: efficient and professional.
And this nice wine they served to me is added to my personal favourites, too: The 2005 Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza.

PROS:  Chef Navarrette Jr can easily cook gustatory marvels comparable to what I found on  most top 2 star Michelin tables I know. I’d not be surprised that he can go beyond that level

CONS:  Chef Navarrette Jr coking deserves a city with better visibility. Dubai? Tokyo?

Off I go!
If you find food of a level of what is offered at XO Le Restaurant/Toque!/Raza/La Porte/LCCP/Bistro Cocagne/ let me know and I’ll be more than interested to give it a shout. Till then, thanks for reading!

The following is the review of my DECEMBER 4TH, 2009  20:00 meal at Raza restaurant =>

Event: Dinner at Restaurant Raza
Friday December 4th 2009 17:30
Addr: 114 Avenue Laurier West (Montreal, QC)
Phone: 514-227-8712
Web site: http://www.restaurantraza.com/
Type of cuisine: Upscale French & Latin American Fusion

Arome’s the food blog: Q&A’s, Guidelines, Ethics, Vision
I purposely chose Raza to cut a bit with my latest trend of upscale French/QC’s dinners  (Toque!, Nuances, La Chronique, Le Club Chasse et Peche and so on) . I wanted something a bit different but known for its creativity. A table that’s innovative. Here comes Raza.

Decor: Small, narrow but NOT claustrophobic at all: chairs and tables and well spaced, some along the grey walls (turning into brick walls on the second end of the restaurant’s wall) :
 
others in the small — and yet well exploited — squarrish area that’s in between the entrance and the bar:

Here’s a picture of their little bar:

The overall is surprisingly elegant, romantic

(well thought dim lightning, and cute little
candles sitting in small blue glasses filled with  with corn seeds), cozy, far from being intimidating:

It is also sparsely decorated (couple of paintings here and there + few black and white farmed-photos).
One last immersion in Raza’s dinning room before skipping forward to the food:

Food:
Total cost: $165 (7 course tasting menu with wine pairing + 1 cocktail + 1 Cognac’d coffed)

I asked Francis, my waiter of the evening, for a suggestion of cocktail.
Naturally, the star cocktail of the house is the Peruvian (Chef Navarate has Peruvian origins) Pisco sour  cocktail:
Based on the Pisco spirit, a south american brandy made of grapes, Raza’s cocktail contains the expected lime juice,  a bit of lemonade and espuma mousse (aka foam)  + syrup is here replaced by some fruit sugar. The Pisco sour was without reproach: ideally frothy, it had the  enjoyable bitter sour flavour I seek in my ideal Pisco Sour. The potent flavor of the pisco was amazingly well balanced here by the enjoyable citrus touch. I still dream every night over that divine martini-litchi I had at XO, but this Pisco sour was equally seducing.

First came the home made bread:
I remember raving over the bread of Chef De Montigny at La Chronique. Well, Chef De Montigny has some serious competition,  right in front of his restaurant (La Chronique and Raza face each other). Actually this one beats Chef De Montigny’s  bread  because not only this bread is as light, airy, fresh and delicious as the one of La Chronique … but it is more exotic: Chef Navarate bakes his bread with yukon-gold potatoes and his bread oozes of an incredibly fresh-baked aroma. Just devour that bread fast while it’s warm, since you wont wanna miss this beauty in all its warmth and splendeur.
The bread to send all bakers to retirement! 10/10

Next, the wild mushroom soup:
It’s presented in 2 steps. First, a plate filled with flavorful fresh chanterelles, yellow oyster mushrooms (pleurotes jaunes), black truffles:

Then, the waiter poured an unctuous all flavorful mushroom creamy soup in the plate:

The overall soup was impressively intense, powerful and delicate, enjoyably unctuous and richly seasoned. The fresh mushroomy flavor was so addictive on this one. And NO…this mushroom soup is just NOT another mushroom soup. It’s a luxurious version of a muhsroom soup with smart fresh ingredients and an impeccable taste you just cannot  compare to most usual good mushroom soups. 10/10
Pairing wine: Tabernero Chincha, Peru 2007. This mixed Sauvignon blanc & Chardonnay has an enjoyable light minerality that reached out fine with the earthiness of the soup. Good choice of wine pairing on this course.

Course #2: Magret de Canard (duck)/Onions Jelly/Mango Vinaigrette
Bathed in a nice mango vinaigrette (flavorful, unique, enjoyably moving in terms of taste ), onions gelée (Wowed!), fresh coriander, the duck magret (breast of a moulard duck) had a perfect melt-in-your-mouth quality, was of impeccable texture and was delicious. This tastebud marvel of a dish was sitting on top of a nice unctuous creamy purée. Here’s a dish  with flavors/taste that’s daring in an enjoyable way. The zesty mango vinaigrette enhanced the overall with a memorable enjoyable acidy touch that added punch to an already tender delicious magret. Technically flawless + Tastebud-wise yummy!
Pairing wine: Wayne Gretzky in my wine glass!!  Rfaol! It was the 2007 Wayne’s  Sauvignon Blanc (Estate Series, from Niagara). Dry and fruity, it was fine on its own. As for the pairing, it complimented the dish just ok.

Course #3: Artic char/Blue Potato purée
cooked to perfection, the fish kept its skin on one side, had a perfect light crispy nicely seared coating and impeccably moist inside. Tender and fresh, it had the freshness  of a fish that would have been caught right from the sea (enjoyable marine flavor). But this is not just another piece of well cooked fish: it had a tastebud blowing spicy zesty enjoyable taste that my tastebuds will have hard time forgetting about. My pictures might not suggest it, but may it be the artic char or the previous course of  duck magret, those are food items that would hit the world’s  best tables on a heartbeat for their impeccable rich daring explosive tastes and flavors (infused beer was a hit on this one, blue potato purée was tasty and elegant, the coriander added a subtle punch)  and the subtle genius work that is done with each element of those dishes. Michelin needs to taste this!  10/10
Pairing wine: Pairing wine: Nekeas Navarra Spain 2006. This Chardonnay had a light texture, was, mineral and clean in mouth. Not a daring full bodied wine, but its lightness was what I needed to accompany the fish.

Course #4: Quail/Pumpkin cream/guava-barbecue sauce
Look very homie, hein? Lol. Well, forget about the look, we are far from our next door homie fare here.  Our little bird was ideally firm, evenly cooked, nicely seasoned. The prosciutto-wrapped quail was very tasty. As with the previous  food items, flavors do blend so well here: the flavorful meat was enhanced by a surprisingly decadent mix of barbecue  and guava sauce. Also noteworthy: the succulent pumpkin cream that you can’t miss to spot on the photo. 9/10
Pairing wine: Sancius Ribera del duero Spain 2004. A very nice tempranillo with an enjoyable flavor of cherry that reached out so well with the guava/barbecue sauce and the subtle sweetness of the quail. It is also nicely oaky, long and elegant in mouth, with lots of character. Largely a personal favourite of mine and of perfect companionship to the quail (it was not ideal pairing only to the pumpkin cream).

Course #5: Veal cheeks/Oyster mushrooms/Chorizo/Potato purée
Accompanied by chorizo, oyster mushrooms (pleurotes), a nice potato purée, the veal cheeks were ideally cooked, juicy,  had a very pleasant mouthsome (tender and yet firm enough) and a remarkable beautiful brown texture. I had my share of great veal cheeks in Montreal, but this one put them all to rest. Cheeks are the toughest cuts to cook and yet, they were superbly well cooked with such an amazing ease on this dish, a  rare achievement at the heighest levels of fine dining. Easily a plate that the best 3 star Michelin tables out there would be proud of! 10/10
Pairing wine:  Taymente Huarpé, Argentina 2004
Elegant Malbec that’s as fruity (berry,cherry ) as floral. Smooth in mouth, it was an amazing natural companion to the veal cheeks.

And to round this successful meal off (This meal was of solid 2-star Michelin calibre. To give you an idea, normally a meal with only at least one 10/10 and a 9/10 is already of solid material, largely worth leaving the comfort of home for. A dish with two 10/10 usually pertains to a 1 star Michelin level. There are 4 food items of 10/10 rating on this single meal), two desserts:

Course #6: Lucuma Ice cream, papaya gelée – The papaya gelée was absolutely delicious, not only because I  am fanatic about papayas but also for  the upfront fresh and natural taste of the fruit that came through  remarkably well on this dessert. The  ice cream exuded fresh lucuma flavor, had rich tasting and the  right thickness.   9/10
Pairing wine: Vendanges tardives Concha y Toro (VTCT). This white sauvignon is a perfect companion to desserts, blessed by an elegant body, long in mouth delicious sweet taste. Intense and full bodied, this wine was really nice on its own and should have worked well with the papaya jelly, but my tastebuds thought otherwise: despite several attempts of fully concentrated tastings between the papaya jelly and the VTCT, the harmony I was trying to find in the marriage between both was not convincing.

Course #7: Chocolate custard, Dulce de Leche ice cream, Corn powder  – The addictive dulce de leche ice cream boasted superb flavor intensity. Next to it, a smoky-flavored  layer of marshmallow was resting on a tranche of  chocolate custard. All components combining thoughtfully   with an  additional spoonful of corn powder. Inspired! 8.5/10

Service: My waiter, Francis, is a courteous young gentleman. Humble, professional, very attentive, patient and helpful, he has the huge advantage to be very knowledgeable for having worked in lots of restaurants and for having worked as a cook too. He used to work at Navarate other restaurant, Madre and told me that I should not miss the brunch at Madre. I am not into brunches, but took note of this.

PROS:  Chef Navarrette Jr can easily cook gustatory marvels comparable to what I found on  most top 2 star Michelin tables I know. Of course, he needs to avoid being surrounded by lesser talented apprentices or else the huge gap in talent between him and those will be felt in a frustrating way by his patrons.

CONS: A Chef who deserves a city with better visibility. Dubai? Tokyo?

Find better pictures of this dinner on my Google picasa’s gallery:
http://picasaweb.google.com/comorosislands/RAZARESTAURANT#
 
Conclusion:  For a long time, Alexandre Loiseau of Bistro Cocagne was alone — in my books — as my choice for this year’s best chef in Montreal. But on the back of this stunning dinner, I have no choice but to declare a draw — up to now — between Navarrete and Loiseau at the very top. If there’s one aspect where both chefs shine better than most it’s exactly where it should:  the rise of stunning tastes! In other words, the word BLAND is not part of their vocab ;p Navarete is unarguably a genius of creativity, an architect of stunning refined and researched tastes, and surprisingly he is beating the boys of the block at their own game: remember those upscale bistros or new QC’s/new North American fine  dining … well, Navarette has surpassed them and raised the bar very high, albeit of course with a light touch of Latin American’s influence. To each their own, and to me such dinner pertains to what I expect to see at the best Relais & Chateaux or  Michelin stared tables (of course, such creative genius of a cook should not be judged over simple fares such as a steak. It would be  pure non sense. Let him fly over a tasting menu where his creativity takes all its sense, and then enjoy!). 

RAZA
Overall food rating
: 10/10 on thefour initial meals, 3/10 on the 5th meal.  Chef Navarrette Jr is simply in my lifetime world’s ten best Chefs ever, and  in case you are wondering, this list includes Chef Constant, Pacaud, Maximin, Besson, Piège. The 5th meal was underwhelming, but he was trying to give his chance to one of his assistants on that evening. The Gentleman wassimply not on par with the standards of his mentor. Four stunning meals of at least 2 star Michelin culinaric perfection, at times easily 3  vs 1 failure only: I prefer this, anytime, over 5 meals over 5 that would have been just good, or safe enough. The latino Genius remains my #1, all type of dining  offerings taken into account. The proof is that I went there more oftently than at the other prestigeous big gunners inYUL. 
Overall service rating
: There’s a standard here and it shows: always professional, charming.
Décor
: 8/10 I have always loved Raza’s décor. It’s not grand luxury, but charming, very charming with, the last time I was there (they have made big changes to the décor since) a beautiful wooden floor lending its warmth to the grey tones of the walls. There was something very Zen in that décor.
IMPORTANT: ‘Overallfood rating’ HAS NOTHING TO DO with the arithmectic calculation  of all dishes. It is my personal subjective rating of the overall food performance  on the specif meal I am sampling  only.

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