Le Margaux, Montreal


LE MARGAUX ,
classic French Bistrot, 5058 Ave du Parc, Montreal
514-448-1598
http://www.lemargaux.com/
Dinner there on Nov 29th 2012, 19:00

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
Most recent reviews: Maison Boulud, Café Sardine, Restaurant Helena, Brasserie Central, Restaurant Mezcla, Hotel Herman, Lawrence,
Park, Kazu, Hambar, La Porte, Au pied de cochon ,

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

Le Margaux is a  French bistrot mostly inspired by  influences of south western France’s classic cuisine . Bistrots focusing on classic regional  cuisines of France do not abound in Yul, and  the few that I have tried passed as simply Ok to me (Paris Beurre being one that comes to mind). This is not to be confused with a a Bistrot like Au 5e Péché, which has indeed a Chef from France, but which cuisine  leans towards modern French bistronomy.  The cooking at Le Margaux is a cuisine  I am very familiar with for having spent many years in South west France. It (south western France) is also the other  place around the globe, after the Indian Ocean, where I have fine-tuned my cooking skills, both places having a strong influence on my long years of cooking and in my food likings, naturally.

We are not in Southern France, so I’ll keep my expectations to realistic degree and will apply myself to situate this meal to its closest local peers, if you can call that comparison… (as I wrote earlier on, real authentic French bistrot do not abound in Montreal).

The meal started with an amuse bouche of  creme de cepesAn exciting and refined  ‘crème’ with fabulous buttery and earthy mouthfeel. The best item of my meal, tonight.  9/10

 

Then crab cake/lobster bisqueThe good news: the price, $8.95. Who can do better? Another good news: tasty, generous (you had pieces of bread, with rouille atop and emmental cheese)… all of that for 8.95!!!!!!!! Can’t beat that cost performance. Now, as much as I like this place, as much as  I need to get down to business here: first, too many things going on … too busy as a dish! A simple stunning crab cake (this crab cake was forgettable,  its bread crumbs lacking the beautiful golden color of a winning crab cake, its expected meaty-ness and more importantly taste of the crab barely present) with a memorable bisque (‘passable’ is how I would describe that lobster bisque, since the crustacean never managed to express itself with this bisque. A world away from the one I had last year at  Le Bonaparte) would have been a blast.  Also: I did really not need the emmental cheese. It is a very generous table, and many will appreciate this feature, but oftentimes  I find dishes this generous to be mostly over-done, especially at Le Margaux. Le Margaux is at its best when it sticks to doing the classics in their sheer simplicity (I’ll repeat this oftently in this review) , not when it tries too much to please, in my opinion.  5/10

Ris de veau en persillade $25.99 – Those sweetbreads were done in proper classic French cooking traditions, seasoned as it should and I could see that the classic sweetbreads/persillade process was indeed applied beautifully (as we all know, the pre-cooking preparation being a key feature of the execution of a ris  de veau en persillade, and I could observe that this part was well mastered just by the fresh quality and consistency of the meat itself  ), but they lacked the excitement in visual appeal and depth of flavor that a place like Au 5e Péché, as an example,  manages to pull out from its sweetbreads.   Cooking is no miracle: a little detail such as an additional last minute addition of fresh parsley would have made a good improvement here.  Generosity is Le Margaux’s forte, so  the sweetbreads came with a flawless hachis landais,  bites of duck confit, and a spoon of duck  foie gras. The accompaniments were good, but I wish the sweetbreads would be packed with the beautiful plump texture of its better versions.  5/10

Joue de veau braisée à l’ancienne $ 23.99 – A generous portion of beautifully tender veal cheeks. Some would look down on dishes like this because it is more homey than gourmet, but that would be an error: this kind of classic dish is expected to have a homey feel. It is the way it should be. This had a really nice taste and showcased great respect of traditional French cooking methods. Those familiar with créole sauce rougaille (http://recettes.de/rougaille)  would particularly feel at home since the sauce tasted exactly like a sauce rougaille, with the fresh tomato tang and the parsley flavor being this time so well exploited . A well executed one, btw. It takes  dishes like this to  remind us how cooking is vast and the more you know, the better you appreciate. This, in its genre, was a successful classic French dish.  Just stop serving that spoon of duck liver crème brulée  dish after dish (it featured again as an accompaniment to this dish) . 7/10

Mousse noisette, sorbet à la manguehazelnut mousse was excellent confirming what I have always thought of Le Margaux since its very debuts, years ago: sheer simplicity  isbetter for them  (7/10), but I found the mango sorbet ordinary for its lack of vivid texture and color, although the taste was Ok, still far from the most successful fruitier  versions that abound in town or that I could have made at home  (4/10)

PROS of this meal: The crème de cèpes! The kind of item ppl would tell you that it is no big deal but ask them to deliver it, lol!  What a crème that was!  Still on the food aspect, I appreciated the bright homey flavors  brought by the rougaille tasting joue de veau. On a personal level, I have always liked the pristine all-white clean décor of Le Margaux. I feel so good here, in my element. It is, with the décor of La Chronique, the type of simple European setting that I am fond of.

CONS of this meal: On this evening, the crab cake, the lobster bisque, the sweetbreads, the mango sorbet, all done with great intent but lacking in palatable excitement. 

Overall food rating of this evening’s meal5/10 based on what I came to expect from a classic French bistrot outside of France.The overall score being low here because the crab cake and sweetbreads were essentially too weak. But Le Margaux can, at times, do better than this, especially when they stick to dishes oozing of sheer simplicity such as that crème de cèpes, the joue de veau à l’ancienne (remember, this was not the neo-bistrot version of the veal cheeks but one classic French interpretation of it), the simple but well executed hazelnut mousse.

Bottom line: Le Margaux is considered by many among Montreal top bistrots. I like this place, but I can’t confidently situate it among Montreal finest. Let me explain: this is my 3rd visit here in 5 years, and when Le Margaux sticks to sheer simplicity, it can indeed do great  as proven by the item of crème de cèpes, an item that even many grand tables can’t always deliver with equal panache. But as on my 2 other visits here, the amazement was unfortunately not always continual. Exactly as I have experienced this evening: crab cake and sweetbreads that seemed to me to have never shone at the heights of the crème de cèpes. Tip: when you go there, focus on their strengths which, based on my experiences with Le Margaux, have been their work of the duck (duck magret, for example). Foie gras is also king there. I am not too sure if they still do it as well as I have enjoyed it on my 1st visit there, but they also used to do some nice things with  veal kidneys (again, I have no clue if they are still  as good as those  I had on my 1st meal here since I never re-ordered veal kidneys ther for a long time).  This evening I seemed to have pushed them a bit out of their comfort zone (notice that I took no duck magret, ordered no foie gras, etc). Service on this evening was top! 

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER – Not much on top of what  I have already written. I don’t think that Le Margaux will ever be a top classic French bistrot (well, I hope for them, that they can prove me wrong), but it certainly can, here and there,  offer some pleasant traditional flavors

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KGP, Montreal – The non happening

Dinner @ Kitchen Galerie Poisson 
Saturday June 4th 2011, 9PM
Addr: 399, Rue Notre Dame Ouest
Phone: 514-439-6886
Type of food: North American Bistro/Seafood
URL: http://www.kitchengaleriepoisson.com/menus/index.html

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

(English review will follow) – A ces prix là, one ne peut pas se permettre une seule soirée ‘OFF’! Oh, oui j’allais oublier: c’est un copie-coller du meme commentaire que je fais pour chaque repas qui m’a décu car en fait, je ne suis inspiré que lorsque c’est…inspirant!
 
Kitchen Galerie, as most Montlealers already know, is a well established restaurant located on Jean Talon. The one on Jean-Talon is a favourite of mine following some outstanding meals like this one. Recently, their main Chefs (JF St-Denis and Mathieu Cloutier) did open another restaurant in the old Montreal: Kitchen Galerie Poisson (their seafood venue). Jannice and I paid a visit to their restaurant in the old Montreal this Sat June 4th 2011 and the cuisine, on this evening, was prepared under the auspices of Chef Jean Francois St Denis (a very friendly and joyous gentleman who went from table to table serving customers the food he had prepared for them).

We started with their Foie gras poêlé aux fruits confits, $ 21 – A far cry from what their   2nd line up Chefs, Axel and Mathieu Bourdages, have served me at Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon  (refer to this dinner’s review). I know that this type of story won’t please the most (I am the very first victim of such, since reporting about average dinings is a pure loss of time and guess what…MONEY!!), but … what’s complicated with pan-searing a piece of foie gras? This did not worth even 1 cent of its $ 21 price tag.  That tiny insipid   piece of pan-seared foie gras was…DRY!!, U-N-I-N-S-P-I-R-E-D!   All I was left with is to find consolation in souvenirs of  the stunning pan seared foie gras of Chef Axel @ Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon or the dazzling €2 (less than $4 memorable piece of pan seared foie gras @ la Cuchara de San Telmo in SSB).  0/10

Then we picked their Beignets d’huîtresoysters beignets. I know many food columnists have raved about those, and the buzz has gone a long way, but seriously … who can miss frying beignets, for god sake??  Have you noticed that I didn’t even bother rotating the pic of that dish properly? That is right: when I pay for food that has no inspiration, I have no business being inspired neither! 5.5/10

Next: one dish that they should not have missed -> their surf & turf, basically comprised of a straightforward filet mignon and a losbter tail.  I requested the cooking of the filet mignon to be blue rare. It was served medium rare! I just don’t get that one (cooking meats at desired doneness is not rocket science; at home, in their backyards, most people are not missing this one. Worst case: there are meat thermometers to come at your rescue, Rfaol!). But this was not my main quibble about this dish….the lobster was:  tempura fried lobsters that I will only remember for its cheapie-looking texture and  uninteresting flavor. At $45…this was amplified frustration!  Just serve those lobsters simply grilled…!!!   The photos I took suffer from lack of light, but honestly…you are missing absolutely nothing!  6/10

When it is not meant to succeed, it just won’t work…even their basic  dessert missed the marks:
A chocolate mousse-based cake topped with marshmallow was ordinary. Go figure… 5/10

Ironically, it’s at Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon, stronghold of their 2nd line Chefs, where  I’ve experienced inspiration and stunning food. Chef JF St-Denis, last year’s winner of Canada’s Gold Medal plates (along with Chef Cloutier) was in the dining room this evening @ KGP…but if this is what he is capable of, then I am afraid we do not share the same appreciation of  Gold!

258.05$ for two persons….that is what appeared on the bill..BUT for what, e – x  – a – c – t- l – t – y?? The gentleman who served us (an amazing fellow, btw) was surprised that I was taking a pic of the bill. If only he knew…. Not his fault, so I didn’t tell him anything about my frustration. Like in most cities, the majority of people want to hear  good stuff  about  their restaurants, but if improving matters to you … then reality has to be unfold!

My friendly advise: Put  style  (the compact all-wooden  and warm bistro decor is indeed cool, the laidback friendly ambience too, the visit of their top chef to the tables, etc…but…) aside and focus on substance!

I will keep going back to KG on Jean-Talon, but here…NO..Thanks!

PROS: Nothing on this meal
CONS: This meal was a 258$ disappointment! Never again.

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Kitchen Galerie, Montreal – An unforgettable gustatory feast!

Kitchen Galerie
Dinner on Tuesday July 6th 2010, 18PM
Type of Cuisine: North American, Market Cuisine Bistro
60 Rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal, QC
(514) 315-8994
URL: http://www.kitchengalerie.com/

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). 

The desserts:

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.

Decor:
Omnipresence of black and red tones

 

Wooden tables and chairs:

 

Loved the little rutic touches they have here and there:

Their bar/Open kitchen:

 

Location:

It is located on Jean-Talon street, in a relatively humble area with many restaurants around + the Jean Talon market.

 

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.

The owners of KG  have opened a second restaurant, in the old Montreal: Kitchen Galerie Poisson, in addition to  Bistro Chez Roger.

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
(514) 315-8994
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:

for ie:
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.

Standard

Kitchen Galerie, Montreal – An unforgettable gustatory feast!

Kitchen Galerie
Dinner on Tuesday July 6th 2010, 18PM
Type of Cuisine: North American, Market Cuisine Bistro
60 Rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal, QC
(514) 315-8994
URL: http://www.kitchengalerie.com/

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). 

The desserts:

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.

Decor:
Omnipresence of black and red tones

 

Wooden tables and chairs:

 

Loved the little rutic touches they have here and there:

Their bar/Open kitchen:

 

Location:

It is located on Jean-Talon street, in a relatively humble area with many restaurants around + the Jean Talon market.

 

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.

The owners of KG  have opened a second restaurant, in the old Montreal: Kitchen Galerie Poisson, in addition to  Bistro Chez Roger.

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
(514) 315-8994
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:

for ie:
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.

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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!  

 

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FAT DUCK, BRAY, UK – Sat Febr 7th 2009 7:30PM

Event: Dinner at the Fat duck, Bray, Berkshire (UK)
Date, Time: Sat Febr 7th 2009 7:30PM
URL: http://www.fatduck.co.uk/
Three-star Michelin
2005 Best restaurant in the world

FD2 FD3

Ok, so as part of the series “The GRAND restaurants of the moment”, I am posting here my review of the Fat Duck diner that Jannice, Anais, Teo, Rob and I had enjoyed earlier on this year). Exactly as what I did with the El Bulli’s and Noma’s review, my review of FD will cover some few dishes.

So, this was actually part of a tour of the Northern belt of Europe that Jannice, I, Rob, Teo and Anais had completed earlier on this year (Started this trip at the beginning  of February 2009). It was basically a mix of culinary (for all of us..lol) /cultural (for all of us , as well) /archeological (just for me/Touristic-oriented travel. It’s during that exact same trip that we had the chance to visit Noma (see my review on NOMA).

FD is located in Bray, small village of the Berkshire’s county. The county is no stranger to me, since I had spent 2 years of my life there: this had, at that time, to do — NOT with food (lol) — but with my passion for old architectures and history (btw: if those are part of your interests, I’d suggest you include Berkshire county and it’s surroundings on your spots-to-visit list / it’s also imho an ideal setting for romance at the countryside!) . Although tiny and sparsely populated,  Bray-on-Thames is a spot I knew so well. What I had not expected — back then — was that one day, this location would host one of the world’s most acclaimed table.  

Upon arrival, I noticed the low-ceilings, kind-of-simple decor with it’s round table-clothed tables and casual mustard-greeny-yellowy chairs. In harmony with the simple outside decor. We were greeted warmly and I did like the down-to-earth general mood that shined from the start to the end of the dinner.

Ok..Ok.. the food, now:

 

SARDINE ON TOAST SORBET Sardine on toast sorbet
When the dish appeared at our table, we found the idea of a sorbet with that meaty accompaniment to be plain odd. Everyone at the table asked me to try it first! lol!  I guess Teo, Rob,Jannice and Anais had thought something like “ughhhh….raw meat with ice cream??…heu..heu..not a match “…lol! BUT nah, it was none of that -> the magic was in the way they had marinated the fish: it resulted in a  tender meat with interesting taste. Jannice and Teo had turned it down complaining that it’s glue-y feel (I personally haven’t felt it to be that glue-y) was not their thing. Bottom line, the fish was neither memorable, neither bad. I was not enthusiastic about the sorbet: I do not like the idea of mixing up salty food with sorbets (even if  your sorbet is salty, that doesn’t make it a perfect companion to salty fares).
 
ballotine Ballotine of Anjou Pigeon
The meat was utterly tender, had the perfect texture and was ideally cooked. A deep bite of it, on it’s own (without any accompaniment) had proven to be very savourish. Kudos to that chunk of pigeon! I used to perceive pigeons as public park’s hang-around birdies…rfaol!..but now I will never ever perceive pigeons the same way anymore.  The accompanied pudding was just ok (nice texture, ideal smoothness, tasty enough) nothing to write home about.

snail porridge Snail porridge
I once had, couple of yrs ago, at a restaurant that I do not — unfortunately – remember the name anymore (not a famous one. Just one of those restaurants you run into by pure chance and tend to forget about), a dish that was mas o menos similar to this. I remember that restaurant had somehow marinated their snails to such a flavorful savor that I had yet ran into at any other restaurant since. Having that Snail porridge had reminded me instantaneously of that once utterly savourish dish…and naturally, comparisons emerged! So, back to this one I had at FD ->  One method I always use is to pull out a piece of meat out of a dish and enjoy it alone, with no accompaniments. This was going to be no exception. The chunk of snail — I did bite in — had nothing of that savourish snail I was referring to earlier on. This one was plain bland! I indulged into the parsley porridge: I was not enthusiastic about it’s texture, but it was flavorful on it’s own. It’s taste did not impress me neither: not that it was bad..no, not at all…just not the type of porridge that seduces me. I also didn’t found the pair to match: neither the porridge nor the snail did enhance the taste of each other. As for the topping of fennel, it was  actually the only part I did enjoy on that dish. But again, as a whole … it was an average juxtaposition of food elements.

BEET ROOT JELLY Beet root jelly
I was curious to see how this classic of the Brits would turn out on this table. It is actually one dish I had enjoyed on numerous occasions during my 2 years there in the UK. Being used to it, and having enjoyed it so many times, it was interesting to see how this highly creative table would re-invent it. When it was placed on the table, we were all in an awe of the beauty of those cute little beautifully-colored jellies. While the girls were impressed by it’s cuteness, my first reaction was “how special could this be?”. The texture was of perfect jelly-smoothness, firm, vibrant to the point that I had hard time moving on with the initial visual admiration step.  I was surprised to learn that both jellies (one is citrus / the other is  beet root) had to be eaten in a specific order (the beet root orange first)..wow! Anyways, they were tasty. But I was expecting a bit more fireworks: like, for ie, infusing different layers of surprising savory flavors within the jelly. That would bring that dish off predictable lanes.

mango_puree  Mango and Douglas fir puree
For the past weeks, I have been perfectioning this dessert — over and over — at home.  This is my type of dessert (I am fond of tropical touches, like mangoes/Lychees/pineapple, in desserts) and this one was at the top of my favourite food items on that evening at FD: The so refreshing milky/vanilla fresh creamy flavor was heavenly aromatic. The accompanied sorbet was nice: I know..there’s no big deal with a sorbet, but this one was well done and was a cut above the next door sorbet. The bavarois was rich, attractively unctuous, refreshingly tasty (I usually have a soft spot for mango bavarois, but the addition of the lychee’s flavor kinda paired fine. Not the best pairing I could think of, but it worked and had a nice welcoming sweet flavor). Overall, very good!

I really like the way the savors and flavors are worked out here. I do not mind visual appeal in food, but I want TASTE!! And taste is, along with the appealing presentations, a center piece of the equation at FD. Sure, there are juxtaposition of flavors/savors that I do not buy (for ie, the idea of assembling food products that have major flavor components in common…worked fine with some dishes, but ended up being borying with others), but most of it all was exciting to the taste buds! 

Aromatically yours,
Aromes

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