Le FILET restaurant, Montreal – The new excitement in town

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
Phone: 514-360-6060

URL: http://www.lefilet.ca/

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


BEST TABLES OF MONTREAL: Le Club Chasse et Pêche

Event: Dinner at Le Club Chasse et Pêche Restaurant
Friday November  13th, 18:00-21:30
Addr: 423 St Claude Montreal, QC H2Y 3B6
Url: http://www.leclubchasseetpeche.com
Phone: (514) 861-1112
Type of food: High end refined North American dining

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

(English review to follow) – Officiellement, cette table est dans le top 5 Montréalais. Je dirai que c’est exact si je me base sur mon repas du 13 nov 2009.   D’abord, lors de ce repas, j’ai été épaté par le plat de sanglier braisé. Un plat d’anthologie, pas seulement digne des meilleurs 3 Étoiles Michelin mais aussi de la crème des meilleures tables de la planète. Cela a beau sembler exagéré sur papier, mais ne l’est point dans les faits. Puis un plat de morue digne d’un solide 2 étoiles Michelin. Malheureusement, tout ne fut pas parfait: le dessert et l’entrée de pétoncle ne furent pas dignes du triomphe des deux plats précédemment mentionnés. Au final, c’est du top pour sa capacité à surprendre ici et là par un grand coup de magie (le sanglier, par exemple, lors de ce repas confirme que le Chef Pelletier est capable de froler le ciel).

Going to CCP is mystic affair (I love mysticism, it just have to happen naturally and charmingly. Which was the case here) for me: from booking a table over the phone with Ray, one of their staff gentleman (Oh man…this gentleman has that quiet powerful full-in control tone of voice of a young godfather, . Mystic was starting to blow in the air, right there!)…to watching the mystic appeal of their web site…to the choice of a Friday 13th…6PM (yeah..I know, it would be even better at midnight)…to lurk into the dark lanes of the Vieux port…

to the nostalgic soviet acronym (CCP)..to the somber  interior of CCP:
…it was really a feeling I have so rarely experienced before going to a restaurant. Although I truely felt that mystical mood — I could not help myself from stopping to build up on the inside — to be very special/funny/and welcoming since years of intensively eating at restaurants had put aside the sweet excitement I once used to have whenever I was going at restaurants (there are feelings you just cannot control), I was also certain of  one ultimate bottom line result: my judgements will be at the exact heights of my tastebud enthusiasm: mystic or not, I will rave if the food is great and will not hesitate to call a cat a cat if it’s less stellar .

Upon arrival, I am courteously greeted by a dynamic wait staff (very dynamic, helpful, courteous. You can see that they were very well selected, very well trainned). I truely like this refreshing melting pot (from different backgrounds/origins) of well-mannered, professional and yet accessible gentlemen and women. My dedicated waiter, Phillipe Morissette, is a gem of  his own: soft spoken, very well educated + articulated, this cool high class gentleman is service-oriented, very knowledgeable and his past experience at some Relais & Chateaux shows towards his impeccable service (along with Sidonie at XO,  Phillipe  — up to now — is among my personal top two favourite Mtl waiters of 2009).

The decor is dark (the cool kind of dark ), narrow, with low ceilings:

Because of it’s omnipresence of somber colors (oil-painted alike dark grey on the walls, dark burgundy  armchairs, dark colored ceilings and floors),

it brings a cozy feeling but make no mistake: this place is very popular and this evening  was lively (lots of people, great ambiance, nice background music of techno and other type of trendy music types. Background Music was set to perfect volume since you could talk without having to raise the voice and you could easily hear others with them talking at normal tone). Pics were of course taken right at the opening at 6PM, so people were not getting in yet (but less than an hour later, it was packed).

It is important to note that there’ s no official tasting menu at CCP. But they are so accomodating that they will concoct one upon your special request. That  is the case here and I highly appreciated the move:

Course #1: Pan-seared scallop cooked à l’unilatérale
(cooked on one side) with an artful line of fennel cream. The solo big scallop had a succesful sear, was evenly cooked  but I wish it  had more of the fully marine flavour punch and exciting effect of its far better peers. Fortunately, this was not an indication of what would follow next  5/10
Accompanied wine: a 2007 Alsace Bergheim’s white Marceil Deiss pinot. I have a long time soft spot for most wines from Alsace (they are accessible, have a nice light fruity taste I am fond of) and this was no exception. The slight creamy and apple-y flavors of this subtle sweet elegant wine is ideal pairing to the scallop.

Course #2: Sweetbreads/Gremolata/Artichoke

Sweetbreads is a touchy affair. It is bitter by nature but the most talented chefs know how to turn this snicky meaty chunk into a tastebud wonder. And this one at CCP was exactly this: a marvelous tastebud wonder!
Cooked in white wine, the sweetbreads were flavorfully intensily rich, utterly tasty, perfectly smooth on the inside, nicely crispy on the outside. Awesome expert work here to avoid the usual natural bitterness of the sweetbreads and making it very pleasant as I expect my best sweetbreads to stand. The accompaniment of gremolata is a genius classic accompaniment  to veal meats and it was there, and it was a superbly tasty expertly concocted condiment. The light and vibrant mushroomy porcini reduction, the savourish creamy elegant celery-root purée …all added an harmonious multiple dimension of tasting experience to this flawless course. 8.5/10
Accompanied wines: two glasses here. Really a nice touch from Phillipe, my waiter. He is also a sommelier, too. The idea here was to get the short finish light-on-the-palate 2005 Les Fourneaux chablis 1er cru  to reach out with the artichokes accompaniment of the sweetbreads, while his buddy the 2005 Cotes du Jura Chardonnay (more vibrant/with a  long finish and subtle nose of hazelnut)  would take care of the rest of this course:

Not a bad  idea at all since they all paired harmoniously well (particularly on a plate where there was quite a suite of ingredients: gremolata, porcini reduction, celery-root purée).

Course #3: Cod
, oyster flavors, vegetables, Black garlick purée
Smelt very enjoyably freshly flavorful right away. Bathed in a light crème normande , with a fresh flavor of oyster and topped by artful slim slices of beets and carrots with tasty mushroomy accompaniment. Perfectly seared on the outside, with an ideal tender flaky and moist inside consistency. This was total blast in terms of impressive taste, freshness, tastebud amazement: it had that very memorable ‘marine’ flavor I seek in my perfect  freshest pieces of fish. All accompaniments stood out well here: mushrooms were tender and packed of flavorful freshness. The crème normande was very tasty. I want to underlign a particular element on this plate that I would, If I were them, put a patent on:  on the plate, there was a tiny trace of creamy sweet black garlick purée. This was not just original, it was a memorable treat -> heavenly tasty without the bad notes of garlick, this creamy marvel is true genius workout that I have never tasted before and that compete with the Bistro Cocagne’s onion chutney I intensively raved about (check out the review of my Septh 4th Bistro Cocagne’s dinner). Both CCP and Bistro Cocagne should put a patent on the above-mentionned creative dish accompaniments! 9/10
Pairing wine: the 2006 Savigny les Beaune (Domaine Catherine & Claude Maréchal). I had enjoyed some great Savigny Les Beaune (the Les Hauts Jarrons, 1er Cru, Nicolas Potel being one I highly enjoyed) and this one was in the same trend: full bodied, with a refined elegant texture and enjoyably aromatic flavor. Satisfying choice of wine, but I would personally chose a nice white Sauvignon (as usual, question of pure personal prefs).

Course #4: Braised boar/Brussels sprouts/hazelnuts/Caramelized fig
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 (YES…you are reading this right! Do not go to CCP, order a risotto and complain that I am pushing  a bit too much when I write this. Instead, be more accurate: Go to some of the best restaurants of the world like the Fat Duck, El Bulli, L’Osier, L’Astrance, Hermann. Then head to CCP, try this Braised boar course. Then you will get what I mean! Of course, I am not stating that CCP is as great as those. That is purely subjective and I wont go there. What I am stating is that on this tasting menu, some items compete with the best ones I ate at the Fat Duck, El Bulli, L’Osier..etc). Back to the helluvah heavenly caramelized fig: so it added to an already flawless course, a level that is hard to beat. This, folks, would send even the best tables of the world (El Bulli, Fat Duck) to reflexion. Stunned! 10/10
Pairing wine: Montecillo Gran Reserva 2001. To my tastebuds, this was perfect match with the boar meat. The oaky intense flavor of that MGR 2001 is exactly what I seek for with my game meats.

Course #5: Pan-seared duck liver
, purée of dates, jalapeno flavoured apple jelly
Nice cooking technique here (very close to my two top personal Mtl’s all time best pan-seared foie: refer to my Febr 13th dinner at  L’Eau à la Bouche + the Sept 4th dinner at Bistro Cocagne): beautifully seared, slightly brown on the outside, enoughly smooth (albeit a little bit mushy at some point when I was digging deeper into it, which makes it just a tad behind the impressive one I had at EAB…but with accompaniments that stole the show over it’s similar at EAB…mind you the one I had at EAB had barely any accompaniment…didn’t need accompaniments neither since it was stellar on it’s own self) consistency on the inside. The taste was flawless, very hearty and delicious. It was accompanied by a suite of pure wonders I have got to rave about, because not only they did add a welcoming degree of creativity and well thought additions to the duck liver, they also were very tasty: a delicious sweet fruity purée of dates (talk about adding marvels to the marvelous), a jalapeno flavoured apple jelly (Wowed! Patent..Put a Patent on this, my dear CCP! Heavenly delicious, elegantly concocted) , nice fresh slices of spice bread…all were heavenly breezes to my heart, eyes and tastebuds.  8.5/10
Paired with a QC’s ice cider: that’s the beauty of the new world touch -> as much as I liked my fruity Old world classic wine along with the foie, I must admit that ice cider brings better punch!

Course #6: Paris-Brest topped with a popcorn ice cream
The popcorn ice cream is one I never tried before.This one was surprisingly delicious and elegantly superior (in taste, richness of the flavors) to the usual good ice creams. Heavenly tasty ice cream with bites of nuts that were crunchily nice, but the overall Paris-Brest, although not bad at all, failed to seduce me: the choux pastry ring was nice but not memorable. Same opinion over the pastry cream. I am fond of Paris-Brest, but this one was slightly sub par to the top ones I had at the high end pastry spots of Montreal (Patisserie L’Escurier, for ie). Sorry for the comparison but judgement is an equation of comparisons. So, the Paris-Brest was acceptable but not great. 6/10
Just need to underlign a nice little touch from their part, here: the Paris-Brest was served with a nice cup of warm enjoyable light Assam tea. This is a great idea, since the amazing malty light flavor of this type of tea really balanced harmoniously well the sweetness of the Paris Brest. Nice touch!

I found the delay very reasonable between the courses (average of 30 mins between the course, but never mind the numbers here…this is perfect timing to enjoy one course at a time as it is supposed to be!). I sometimes see criticisms about tasting menus being too long: that is a non sense. A tasting menu is supposed to be slowly fully enjoyed. What is a tasting menu if I feel like just stuffing my mouth one food item right after another??

If you ask me, given a complete economical blackout, what Montreal restaurant would be the very last to close, I’d say CCP: get this -> without big advertisements, with just mouth to mouth recommendations, this place is packed of devoted fans. And that is happening with nearby great restaurants like Chez L’Épicer. When success wants you, there is no escape out!  I am sure the owner (s) must laugh at night while sleeping: just mouth to mouth reputation and they end up with one of Mtl’s most admired tables. Well deserved because this is a stunning cuisine! It is also a place that shines with an impeccably well trainned admirable staff (here, I deeply felt that everyone is equally treated with class and full attention with a level of professionalism and accomodation that all restaurants would gain from following).

The only 2 reasons LCCP is getting a VERY GOOD mention from my part, instead of EXCELLENT  (it is very close to Excellent btw, and they truely do not need my opinion to know that. Look at how they are appreciated by armies of food fans…that right there talk for their greatness) is just because I expect such highly talented cuisine to blow my tastebuds with an impressive dessert course  (make no mistake, I am sure they can deliver tastebud blowing desserts like those I enjoyed at EAB, M Sur Masson, Bistro Cocagne and Nuances) + the 1st course of Pan-Seared scallop lacked the fully marine freshness and taste I do expect on an appetizer of Seafood .

On my way to CCP, this Bob Marley song was playing in my mind: ‘there is a natural mystic blowing through the air…’. On my way back, another song was reworked to suit my subsequent feelings: Black Eyed Peas ‘I got a feeling that tonight gonna be a good night’ was simply renamed ‘Tonight was a very good night’. There are moments in your life that are simply filled with greatness, and in this imperfect world of sins and economical turmoils, I pray for such spectacular happyness to spread over the destiny of the less fortunate!

PROS: Some of the savouries were of world class level on this dinner, especially the braised boar and cod
CONS: What were that weak scallop starter and forgettable dessert doing there?

Ok, Folks I am out! For more and better pictures on this dinner, please visit my Google’s Picasa.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATERI went back two more times, with friends, since that reviewed meal, and based on those visits, I  can indeed safely confirm that the finest food items I had here pertains to world class level. The braised boar, as an example, was as spectacular as any of the best food items at a  world’s top 10 best table, if such top 10 makes sense to you. But I have hard time electing LCCP as a strong favourite, for a very simple reason: some items I had here were not items I would expect at the level of their finest dishes. And that transpired right there on my reviewed meal: the lacklustre scallop, the ordinary paris brest. Still, this is easily in top 5 Montreal’s finest fine dining destinations, even top 3 would make perfect sense. Is it number 1,2,3,4 or 5? Hard to say. Perhaps no one will ever know, since it would take several visits to the very top of Yul’s fine dining ventures  (XO Le restaurant, Toque!, La Porte, L’Européa, Nuances) to really get a strong personal subjective opinion about this matter. Keep in mind that even even as a subjective personal opinion, you will still hit another wall: some are into European cuisine, others French, others North American. Good luck!