Au 5e Péché: could this be the best Montreal Bistro?

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

Au 5e Péché
Type of cuisine: Modern French Bistro
Addr:  4475 Rue St Denis (this is their new addr)
Phone: (514) 286-0123

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

Mon bistrot #1 en ce moment en ville (avec le Bistro Cocagne). Quel talent, ce Chef Lenglet! Quoi dire de plus? Sinon que j’y retournerai en courant et que…ah oui…que c’est rafraichissant de voir 1 chef de qualibre 1-2 étoiles parle d’un VRAI, ici….s’activer aux fourneaux meme en pleine tempete de neige (lisez mon ‘update’ du 13/01/2012)…à une époque ou des pseudos ‘cooks’ de circonstance, avec meme pas le 1/10e de son talent…se ridiculisent à parader à la télé sous pretexte qu’ils se sont imaginés en nouveaux ‘roi des fourneaux’. Seul BÉMOL de ce restaurant: c’est un péché dont il est difficile de s’en passer!!!!Ha..Ha..Ha

UPDATE Sat September 29th 2012, 19:30 – Dined here with my wife on this  Sat September 29th 2012 evening. We picked a multiple-course tasting menu. “Pressé de courge” was a good creative idea, the butternut squash having interesting complexity with mustard and maple leaf syrup matching so well on this dish. The overall was topped with prosciutto. All of top quality as it’s always the case here, the overall really pleasant (7/10), a nice fresh piece of salmon  paired with mushrooms was enjoyable but not in the league of the better dishes of this tasting menu (6/10), a piece of foie gras au torchon showcased  great work of the texture, great depth of taste, appealing presentation  (9/10), guinea fowl legs were comforting in taste, its accompanied beet purée of excellent texture (7/10), mackerel in vin jaune sauce was a good idea with the successful and delicious vin jaune sauce moderating the natural strong taste of the mackerel , a good joyous and tasty dish (7.5/10) and as dessert, we had iced nougat/granité of basil/tomato confit, which both Jannice and I found exciting in mouth, with the contrasting ingredients blending surprisingly well together (9/10).  A pleasant meal, with the  staff as fun as usual and wine pairing still among the most interesting in town. Overall food rating for this Sat Sept 29th 2012 meal: 7/10

 UPDATE Thurs Febr 23rd, 2012 17:30 – 3rd dinner at Au Cinquième Péché on this Thurs Febr 23rd evening and as you will see from this quick report, the cooking here keeps shining with consistency. A very reliable restaurant, indeed and even with courses that I rated lower than 8/10, you’ll see that it was not because of technical fault nor any sort of letdown. Far from that: I started this dinner with ‘carpaccio de veau, gremolata‘. A bargain at $9, especially for the stunningly fresh and remarkably sourced veal. Less would be more here, though: way too many ingredients in there made this dish unecessarily too ‘busy’ to put it boldly. A 7.5/10 for me, but again, there’s nothing technically wrong with the dish and this goes down to a matter of personal preference: I tend to be more excited by dishes  that manage to bring so much out of very little, for ie the carpaccio on this dinner at Le Marly is a great example of what I do expect. Followed by “Carré aux dattes, canard confit, foie gras” $18 featured a square of duck confit and date fruit (work so well together) and the usual top quality duck liver (au torchon in this case) that I’ve always found at 5e Péché. 8/10 for that dish. Then one of my favourite dishes at Au 5e Péché: their ‘onglet de boeuf‘ (hanger steak) $28 that I have tried for the 1st time in Febr 2011 (you’ll see its review at the bottom of current article). This time, the steak is complemented by gougères. Here, a lot of dazzling features showing the superb talent of Chef Lenglet: on its own, the mastered work of the gougère’s texture stole the show on this dinner. The meat, successfully cooked and worth of praise. Even my quibble over the piece of pork that was underneath the beef (that piece of pork seemed out of place on this hanger steak dish;  I’d personally replace it with something like a bold rework of  a ‘tartiflette’ for example) could not stop it from deserving a 10/10 mark. Crème caramel, apple and dulce de lecce brought this dish to its end: an 8.5/10 dessert with nothing really wrong (the mousse of dulce de leche had superb flavor, the crème caramel so appetizing), although I suspect that  a different choice of fruit would have bring more excitement than the apples. Bottom line, a very enjoyable meal as au 5e Péché continues to deliver with reliability. Service was marked by the genuine hospitality and usual professionalism that I have always found here: on this evening, my waitress was the same amazing mulato young woman who was on duty during the last dinner in January. Wine pairing as thoughtful as I have always noticed  it at this table. Overall food rating for this Febr 23rd 2012 meal: 7.5/10
UPDATE Fri Jan 13th, 2012 19:30 – For the record. my ‘project” of text & photo reporting on Montreal’s very best  bistrots and fine dining ventures is over. The only Montreal restaurant updates you will see on this web site will cover re-visits at tables already reviewed here (no more photo reporting but a text summary of the meal ). This Fri Jan 13th, 2012 meal is my only  second visit  at au 5e Péché, now located on Saint Denis, right at the corner of Mont Royal on the premises of the previous  Le Vintage Tapas Et Porto restaurant: the small stone-wall bistrot has a warmth that I now really enjoy (I say ‘now’, because their old location on Mont Royal was as attractive as a card board box…). I sat at the bar (a comfy bar, btw!) overlooking the kitchen. The meal started with an amuse of white beans purée with lime (10/10): as my readers already know, I do not force my imagination to unecessarily relativize things or partake in theorems such as ‘nothing is perfect’ – for some, a creme caramel or a purée can’t deserve a 10. I don’t agree. If it’s flawless as this amuse was, I don’t see why it won’t deserve a perfect score. The $14 starter of  ‘foie gras terrine, jarret de porc fumé, confiture poires/raisin‘ had fabulous foie gras terrine with texture and taste  that left no room for reproach, and yet the pear/grapes marmelade brought this dish to  benchmarking levels that pertained to what you would expect on a solid 3 star Michelin level. I am not saying that Chef Lenglet is a 3 star Michelin capable Chef (It’s hard to go all the way to such conclusion when bistrot food limits you to a certain level of relative restraint compared to fine dining – I’d need Chef Lenglet to cook couple of food items I value as 3 star Michelin worthy before jumping to such conclusion,  but it’s clear that Chef Lenglet’s cooking is anywhere in between 1 to 2 Michelin firm star level). Another 10/10 for the foie gras terrine/pear-grape marmelade.  Next, I took ‘Canard, pain perdu aux chataignes, jus de veau, fleur de sel, pleurottes, choux de bruxelles‘ ($27): a 9/10 dish. In Montreal, from what I can talk for, few magrets ever came close to the dazzling taste of this duck, its superb quality and remarkable construction. Only reason it’s not a perfect 10 has to do with my only qualm: the trio of small pain perdu  (chestnut-flavored portions of bread pudding that would benefit from a greater depth of flavor, so perhaps replacing chestnut by another ingredient). Cheese cake, confit de prune (10/10) was another 2 star Michelin capable dessert (of course, not your usual cheese cake) with not one single quibble but a reminder that even at the very top bistrot level (Au 5e Péché is clearly Montreal’s top #1 bistrot along with Bistro Cocagne at this very moment), it’s rare to see such top performance from the very 1st nibble up to the dessert. Although Bistro Cocagne is, in my view, the other top Montreal Bistrot, I have got to admit that Au 5e Péché has offered (on those two meals I’ve sampled there) a slightly more ‘complete’ top level bistrot performance (even the less significant items such as  desserts, have been impressive at au 5e Péché – always varying in between 9 and 10/10, a rare occurence at top bistrots here and abroad). It’s interesting to see a CHEF like CHEF  Lenglet with such amazing talent (clearly a 1 to 2 star Michelin level European standard, I re-iterate), c o o k i n g    for real there…right there…behind his stoves on a harsh evening of snowstorm (A major snowstorm blanketing Montreal on this Friday Jan 13th) where other half-accomplished  cooks believe that it is a priviledge for you to enjoy their presence on ..TV!..and then pay the big bucks to indulge in lacklustre dinings cooked by their name bearers at their name-bearing restaurants while they are ….   Au 5e Péché has  excelled far away from that questionable practice and established itself efficiently, in my opinion, as Montreal’s  #1  bistrot (along with Bistro Cocagne, ahead of my two other bistrots favourites: Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon and Bouillon Bilk). They are even careful with the bill: sweet prices for such top level of food and cooking skills. The service was flawless too (I had a superb waitress at the bar, a young mulatto woman , who will quickly become one of Montreal very best waitress and sommeliere — wine pairing was simply superb and inspired all along this meal  —  no doubt about that!). On this Jan 13th dinner, if I am not mistaken, I also saw a young woman who I think was one of the finalists of les Chefs, Laurence Frenette??, in their kitchen. This young woman is super talented , but for now, she is lucky to work along one of the most talented Chefs in North America! Real talent. This meal, from start to finish, was as strong as any 2 star Michelin level of cooking performance in Europe. Forget the tablecloth, forget the stuffy grandeur of some fine dining ventures, remember that it is a bistrot , its menu displayed on a wallboard and enjoy the cooking of this amazingly talented Chef. There are sins that I’ll always forgive!  Overall food rating for this Jan 13th  2012 meal: 10/10

The following covers the 1st dinner there. That occured at their previous location (on Mont Royal street) – Dinner on Saturday Febr 12th 2011  20:30 ; the table you see on those photos are those they had on Mont Royal. On St Denis, at  their new location the tables are made of  darker wood ->

Kicked off with an irreproachable home made lentil hummus ( with a kalamata olive tapenade): light, tasty and refined. Very good. 8/10

Before I go ahead, I have to pay special mention to the young French sommelier. I chose wine pairing by the glass for each course, and his picks were inspired, well thought. The Gentleman is skilled: at the beginning of the meal I purposely abandoned him to a tricky challenge: a terrine of foie gras and oysters. Find the perfect wine for that. Most would say ”this patron is an imbecile’. He was smarter than most: he found the perfect wine pairing for it.

The oysters were fine.  8/10

The terrine of foie, a master piece. It was a skillful conception where a top quality terrine of duck liver was surrounded by tasty meaty duck meat A 3 star Michelin caliber terrine of foie where execution, taste and outstanding precision in details (texture, moisture of the meat) were met. 10/10

Onglet de boeuf, paleron  à la flamande, endive au jambon – I rarely rate a piece of meat (‘Onglet de boeuf’ is ‘hanger steak’) higher than an 8/10, as perfect as it might taste. Sure, any decent Chef should not miss his meat (still, many do!) …but here, Chef Lenglet reached newer heights:  this meaty marvel was an outstanding demonstration of balanced texture, flavors and cooking precision. Another 10/10, a rare rating for me when it comes to rating grilled or braised red meat.

Ris de Veau, Soubise de betterave, pleurotte – Many consider Chef Lenglet’s sweetbreads as the best in town. I will surprise you: this dish was perfect in my opinion, but for its accompaniments rather than for the sweetbread. Yes, it is among the best sweetbreads in town. But No, it is not ZE  BEST sweetbread in my opinion. Why? Simply because I had better sweetbread at Club Chasse & Peche for ie. Let’s continue with this very odd discussion: on its own, was this sweetbread perfect? Response: YES! Yes, because this is what sweetbread should be all about, in my view: successful golden exterior, nice moist meaty consistency within. But sweetbread is a bit like soya chunk: it is as tasty as what you’ve decided to mix it with. It was mixed with nothing here. But wait…it was perfect: tasty, well cooked. Now the real deal: I am fed up of those fake Chefs who pretend elevating veggies to newer heights. Most of the time, the concept outweighs the promised magic. Chef Langlet delivered that magic so oftently announced: he cooks veggies better than most of the supposedly world reknown magicians of the greens. I told you, this dish was perfect: a 10/10. Yep!

Concluded with a cheesecake  (Cheesecake aux marrons, Argousier) that paired creativity and delicious taste. Another perfect 10

With, for me:

Gateau Susie, Chocolat blanc, courge – Here, total surprise..again! Usually, most Great Chefs are kings on the savory department and leave the desserts to a pastry Chef. To my surprise, this — a work of a very talented pastry Chef — was the work of Chef Lenglet himself. This was a mix of tasty chunks of choco and delicious fruity creations. ‘Courge’ means ‘pumpkin’ and on this dessert they are discovered under a totally curious and enjoyable angle. A 9 over 10.

Even the Brazilian coffee @ Au 5e Péché was among the best ones I’ve enjoyed in Montreal………

Service: efficient, accomodating, pleasant.
Decor: It is a small bistro. So do no expect tablecloths and hush tone ambience. The menu is on two boards strategically located.
Price: $29 for the sweetbreads, $27 for the beef, $9 for the gateau susie, $8 for the cheese cake to give you an idea. With the quality of ingredient, skillful cuisine at play and relatively generous portion of the food, I found this to be of good value. 
Menu: Short but smartly varied. This evening, they had 5,7 starters (foie gras, oysters, marinated fish, etc),  couple of  main courses (wapiti meat, gnocchi, guinea fowl,  sweetbreads, hanger steak, scallops), 3 desserts.

PROS: In my assessment, this is easily the #1 bistrot in this city at this moment
CONS: As far as I am concerned, Nothing to complain about

I know. It just sounds too good to be true. I myself have hard time believing in the ‘real deals‘ being so oftently ripped off by PR BS or buzz that’s never backed by effective realisations. But  Au 5e Péché does not suffer from that and reached out to its well deserved reputation: one of the best bistro in town, indeed. Even more revealing to me, I consider it as my top #1  best Montrealer Bistrot along with Bistro Cocagne and Kitchen Galerie.  One of those few restaurants  where I’ll go back for sure.

Overall food rating
(febr 12th 2011): 9/10 Excellent from what I am accustomed  at this level, at comparable dining level
Overall service rating
: 8/10 How are they doing this: despite being buzzy busy busy, they maintain a really good standard of service.
IMPORTANT: ‘Overall food 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.