Bistro Cocagne, Montreal – In my top 3 bistrots in Montreal

Click here for a recap of  my picks of all Montreal’s top fine dining & best Montreal’s bistrots.
Also: My  3 and 2 Star Michelin restaurant review web site
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 , Le Margaux.

 

Recent update ***Meal on Friday August 30th 2013, 18:00
Corn is in season at this moment, so corn cream (7/10) had beautiful luscious texture, the taste delicious, the creamy consistency balanced well (light and yet with proper body to it). Nordic shrimp accras (5/10) –there’s no name for accras in English, they are some sort of fried dumplings very popular in creole cuisine —  did disappoint  me  since I had some of the best accras in town right here, under this same roof. This time they lacked the heat  and exciting plump texture of last minute  made accras. I also found Nordic shrimp to be too subtle for accras to be exciting. Accras are fantastic with cod or any meat which mouthfeel can be deeply felt. Or else, the accras taste bland, at least to my palate. A simple beef filet steak  had nice deep fresh meaty flavor, cooked to ideal tenderness (7/10). All in all, this one was an Ok meal, just not  among the finest I had here.

 

 

Bistro Cocagne
Date and Time: December 31st 2012 18:30PM
Type of food:  North American (QC’s) Market cuisine Bistro
Location: Addr: 3842 Rue Saint Denis, Montreal, QC

Phone: 514-286-0700
Web site: http://www.bistro-cocagne.com

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

French(review in English will follow): Au vu de cette soirée ci du 31/12/2012 , fort bien réussie, Le Bistro Cocagne continue à se maintenir  dans le peloton de tête des bistrots Montréalais. À mon avis, facilement dans le top 5 des bistrots locaux (avec le Lawrence, Au 5e Peche, Bouillon Bilk et Kitchen Galerie sur Jean Talon). Comme à tout restaurant, vos favoris ne faisant point exception,  j’ y ai évidemment dégusté des plats meilleurs que d’autres au fil des années, et connu des repas spectaculaires et d’autres moins.Mais la qualité des produits, le niveau technique, ainsi que le travail du gout  furent d’une régularité quasi irréprochable. Un restaurant se maintient dans le peloton de tête grace à sa capacité de se surpasser par des repas qui sont occasionellement (il serait utopique  de s’attendre à de l’exceptionnel à chaque détour …un restaurant ca n’est pas un spectacle de magie constante à la Walt Disney ;p) exceptionnels, et de tels performances, j’en ai de temps à autre vécu l’expérience à ce bistrot.  Il y’a eu aussi, bien sûr,  les moins bons coups, tel que cette ‘macaronade au foie gras’ pourtant si populaire (preuve et rappel que tout ceci n’est que subjectif, il ne sert donc à rien d’en faire un plat..ce ne sont que des avis…héritage de notre culture démocratique et clin d’œil au fait que tous les goûts sont dans la nature;p) mais que j’ai trouvé un peu trop lourd et surtout banal, ou encore cette éternelle entrée de‘raviole’ qui me parut  naguère épatante, beaucoup moins avec le temps ..et cela malgré les variations du contenu de la raviole –par exemple, parfois avec de la viande de bison, parfois avec d’autres types de viande — (les plats signatures ont parfois cette facheuse tendance à souffrir  de l’évolution des …tendances. Si ce plat est toujours un plat-phare c’est que beaucoup doivent l’apprécier. Tant mieux pour ce plat, mais pour moi ca ne passe plus l’épreuve du temps). Mais voilà, et  c’est ainsi que je prends la pleine mesure d’un grand bistrot : même dans les moments les moins mémorables, la performance demeura tout de meme au-delà de la moyenne de ce qui se fait dans la pluspart des autres bistrots. Je peux me tromper (à preuve : les plats que j’ai moins apprécié sont hyper populaires et l’un de mes meilleurs repas ici fut composé de choix à la carte ) mais j’ai  personnellement pu mieux apprécier la pleine capacité de ce très bon bistrot au travers de leurs menus ‘dégustation’ plutôt que dans le menu à la carte (sans vins, sans folies, comme n’importe où, je pense qu’on s’en sort avec un excellent rapport qualité prix). Quant au menu dégustation de ce 31/12/2012, absolument rien à redire: le boudin blanc fut ravissant en textures et en saveurs,  le reste tout à fait à la hauteur d’un grand repas bistrot.

31/12/2012 – Everyone in Montreal has his/her own idea of the finest bistrot in town, but the fact of the matter is that Montreal is not Tokyo nor San Sebastian,which means there are not that many choices of real top bistrot to pretend playing around with multiple suggestions.

Let us face it: there is just a handful of top bistrot options here, and by handful  I mean no more than a dozen, and that is a big reasonable maximum. I know it sounds hilarious to spot such a tiny quantity of top bistrots  in a city with 6000 dining options and more, but again…Montreal is not the dining destination it thinks it is. Far from that. I can tell you that more than half of those eateries would have long gone bankrupt in many places abroad.

Bistro Cocagne has always been, in my view, throughout the years and despite the variable nature of all operational restaurants (sometimes at their best, sometimes ‘running out of steam’)  — your  finest ones are no exception —- one of the few that kept itself consistently among Montreal’s top 5 finest bistrots. Given that all tables will, anyways, always have off days and weaknesses, I believe that the proper way of evaluating a dining venture is to see how far it can go when it is in its prime.  Consequently, the most accurate way to compare them is to evaluate their better performances. In their prime (of course, they are not always at their very top, naturally) , I could see only bistrots like Bistro Cocagne, Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon, Bouillon Bilk, Lawrence and Au Cinquième Péché truely standing out of the pack. Like to hear this or not: it is as good as it really gets at the finest bistrot level in town, at this moment.

There are of course other little favourite of mine, ones that I truly enjoy like M sur Masson and Au Pied de Cochon, but their finest performances did not appear to me as strong as the heights that the likes of Bistro Cocagne, Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon, Bouillon Bilk, Lawrence and Au Cinquième Péché can reach.

Did I  purposely forget the more classic bistrots? Absolutely NOT! The more classic ones are pleasant and I do frequent them once in a while, but they are by no means outstanding ones. I mean, go visit a simple laidback classic bistrot like la table D’Aki in Paris, and that is just one random example –not even the 1st choice that pops up as a top classic bistrot when you ask most Parisians — , come back, pick whatever you think is a top classic bistrot in Montreal and tell me if you still want to argue, Lol. Not that I am comparing Paris with Montreal, but certainly to get the idea of what can properly be qualified as a top classic Bistrot as far as food goes. It is one thing to think that a bistrot is top, it is another story to get it right ;p

Up to my meal at Bistro Cocagne.On this evening, the offer is a new year eve’s tasting menu.  No pics since Janice and I wanted this dinner to be fully intimate, thus devoid of the distraction of taking pictures of the meal.

The meal started with some amuses of refined foie gras cromesquis. They do those really well here: ideal consistency, fresh enticing taste.

Next:

Saumon mi-cuit, crêpe de pomme de terre, émulsion à la lime et caviar de Tobiko  – Quality of ingredient has always been high at this bistrot, and this was no exception : impeccably sourced salmon, the ‘mi-cuit’cooking providing the expected enjoyable contrast between tender low-temp Vs firmer cooked flesh.The salmon was encased in a mini “potato crepe” posing on a layer of deeply delicious beurre blanc sauce.  A simple item at first glance, but this was proper “top bistrot” item (the execution, the sourcing).  Very good.  8/10

Boudin blanc à la truffe, purée decéleri rave, pleurotes érigées, bok choi, jus au vinaigre d’érable–  It is the first time I am having boudin blanc at Bistro Cocagne. It is with items like these that it is easy to see why  Bistro Cocagne is a highly regarded bistrot. From the irreproachable ideal temperature, right amount of heat, divine taste, this boudin blanc was easily competing  with the finest boudin blanc I had in France. This was a reminder that memory of taste passed from generations to generations is the key ingredient to food that has soul. Excellent  9/10

Terrine de foie gras, beurre de pomme à l’érable – Well sourced quality foie gras with stand out dense and creamy texture. Very good  8/10

Noix de cerf poêlé et collier braisé, trompettes des morts, sauce périgourdine – High quality fresh venison meat (they use venison here, in place of the popular ) cooked beautifully, with taste to match. Here again, the selection of the cut (noix de cerf  is gets praised for the right reasons ) is of prime mention. 8.5/10

Fromage 1608 fondu sur abricots et amandes, croûtons  et huile de pistache  –   Fromage 1608 is a famous Non-pasteurized (thermized) cheese from Charlevoix (Laiterie Charlevoix de Baie-Saint-Paul ),an area known for what count among the finest diary produce of Quebec province.The particularity of this widely praised cheese being that it is made with the milk of a very rare breedof cattle (only 200, but Charlevoix is not the only place where you can find them), the ‘Canadienne breed”, which in 1999 was considered by Quebec government as part of the province’s agricultural heritage. I found this to be a successful and creative diary-based culinary interpretation .  8/10

Chibouste chocolat, sablé cacao, crème vanille et réduction de griotte –  Good (7/10) I am not a fan of chocolate in general, therefore it takes mountains of prouesse for a choco-based item to satisfy me, but this was certainly properly executed, using fine ingredients. Just to give you a visual idea, it looked a bit like the entremet mousse au chocolat you can see here.

As usual, there is not much to pique at with such a very good bistrot. Unless the Mayans are right and a real new cycle of life is under way, with people’s palates being resetted, Rfaol.. there is no  major problem to foresee with the cooking here. It is an updated take on classic French/North American bistrot fares  that is well executed, delicious and as good as you will get from  what Montreal is currently offering at its  finest bistrot levels.

Wine pairing (I went with wines by the glass) on this evening has been  remarkable as usual,with beautiful discoveries throughout. The finest bistrots  of this city (Cocagne, Bouillon Bilk, Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon, Lawrence, Au 5e Péché) doing a fantastic job in the aspect of selecting exciting privately imported wines.

Pros (of this meal of 31/12/2012): In the top 5, to be safe and as accurate as I could in my evaluation  (I personally would situate it in top 3) of Montreal’s finest bistrots as proven once again by this evening’s tasting menu. As usual, Bistro Cocagne managing to pull the best out of  well sourced ingredients. Special mention too for the service: warm, welcoming, knowledgeable while remaining pro.

Cons (of this meal of 31/12/2012) :  None on this evening

My overall food rating for this evening’s dinner (meal of 31/12/2012):  By the finest Bistrots standards in Montreal (for example: in comparison to the better performances of Lawrence, Au 5e Péché, Bouillon Bilk,  Kitchen Galerie Poisson on Jean Talon), I would rate this meal with a strong  8/10 – An overall very good bistrot meal (updated classic French/North American bistrot), as I came to expect from Bistro Cocagne.

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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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Café Sardine, Montreal – The day this kitchen will unleash its full potential….

 

UPDATE- MAY 2013  CHEF AARON LANGILLE IS NOT WORKING THERE ANYMORE. THIS POST IS THEREFORE KEPT ONLINE SOLELY FOR   HISTORICAL PURPOSE.

. Dinner @ Café Sardine
Addr: 9 fairmount, Montreal, Quebec
When: Tuesday, 26 June 2012 18:30

Type of Bistrot: Neo North American Bistrot
Ambience: packed, tiny, popular, laidback
Decor: rustic, plenty of dark wood, wall bricks, close-up tables
Phone: 514-802-8899
Website: http://cafesardine.com

  (English version, to follow) – Ca faisait belle lurette qu’on avait pas d’innovation relativement ‘tranchante’ du coté de la restaurantion Montréalaise. Il y’a eu Bouillon Bilk l’an passé, peut etre le filet dans une certaine mesure, puis plein de belles initiatives mais rien de vraiment différent. Café Sardine apporte donc quelques petites touches innovantes, par ci et par là. Pas étonnant, vu que le Chef Aaron Langille a déjà fait ses classes au restaurant Noma, temple d’une cuisine moderniste ultra innovante. Donc, meme si il y va molo (à Montréal, pas question de brusquer les us et coutumes –on est pas ultra conservateurs, Rfaol, mais certainement pas des plus aventureux non plus), sa cuisine est plein de petites découvertes peu ou pas du tout offerts à Montréal: travail poussé des herbes marines (par exemple, sa salade de pois de mer, laitue de mer), la transformation de ces dernières en meringue  par exemple, ainsi que bien d’autres éléments tel que le travail de tous les éléments de la plante de concombre (le plat ‘maquereau, purée de concombre) en textures peu courantes dans les restaurants de Montréal (par exemple: assécher certaines partie de la plante de concombre, un résultat qui est vraiment pas mal). Bref, un peu de Noma dans certaines créations. Mais encore? Une cuisine interessante, des touches innovantes (en regard de nos standards Montréalais) et certainement la plus interessante que j’ai eu l’occasion de savourer sur une table Montréalaise depuis l’ouverture du Bouillon Bilk.  Des prix doux, des ingrédients  de qualité, un rapport qualité prix qui est dur à battre. Bémols? Les défauts (bruyant, petit, tables hyper rapprochés) de ses qualités (ambiance électrisante dû justement à la superficie toute menue des lieux, des plats bien exécutés qui feraient palir de jalousie plein d’autres   tables offrant du moins bon à plus cher..ceci expliquant pourquoi plein de Montréalais investissent les lieux) , mais au final  ca vaut un petit détour entre amis amateurs de bonne cuisine et de bon vins (les flacons, au verre surtout, valent leur petit pesant d’or) , histoire de découvrir ces  petits plats plein d’intérêt, gouteux, bien faits, aux petites touches bien pensées et parfois quasiment suprenantes. Oublions les nappes blanches, oublions le coté guindé, oublions les décors sophistiqués. Après tout, n’est-ce pas ca un resto: avoir du fun, manger des bons petits plats et se laisser aller au petit coté ‘party” de la chose. Peut etre pas un coup de coeur, dans mon cas, mais  j’ai bien apprécié.

Café Sardine is the new hit of the Montreal restaurant scene. Its Chef,  Aaron Langille has spent some time at Noma in Copenhagen (this is the only reason that led me there: I have been waiting, for a while now, after  some kind of fresh new  culinaric creations on the Montreal restaurant scene. Especially if Noma’s ideas could inspire those..I am dreaming, I know..since I’d doubt that Mtlers will widely adopt Noma’s foliage standard bearing creations. But some inspirations, coming from Noma, adapted to Montreal scene…why not? )  before working for several restaurants in YUL.  Opened around the end of March, it is a popular tiny eatery that fulfills  its role of a café in the morning, of a luncheon destination  at noon, as well as a bistro in the evening.  They told me that they do not take any reservation when I called them and given how popular this place is, they certainly do not have to bother with potential last minute cancellations. I think Café Sardine is the most prolific restaurant concept  I ever saw  in YUL since a long time being  basically a ‘’compilation’’ of everything that works nowadays: low prices, shareable sized portions of food , short menu, flexible eatery (café/luncheon place/dinner) and avoiding loss of time with un-popular bistrot items (for ie, their dessert section is short…why losing time with creations that are not in big demand? ).

YUL is known for its myriad of eateries, it counts among North American cities with the most restaurants per capita.  Each year, hundreds of restaurants  keep opening …alas, it would be more appropriate to call most of them ‘replicas of  restaurants’. The 100th cote de boeuf, the 101th veal chop dish, another marinated beet, and so on. Not even the 100th cote de boeuf but one that would be a …stand out Cote de Boeuf. Not even.  Or when they sounded original, it was basically  about unexciting dishes just presented differently.  Aside from what I consider among my favourite in YUL,  and since the likes of Bouillon Bilk and Le Filet, now over 1 year,   I have seen many serious dining destinations opening in town,  with the will of doing really well, but virtually none that brought standout surprises. It is, as if, everytime someone is opening a new restaurant, that person’s existential question is the same:  How to survive? Although it is of course absolutely normal to think about profit, I seriously question the passion of  some of those restaurateurs. How come, in a tiny city like San Sebastian, they are all doing pintxos and yet finding thousands of  exciting ways to surprise your palate? How come, at a time when thousands of restaurants kept doing the same thing, Au Pied de Cochon found original ways to give a new exciting dimension to rustic QC’s cuisine, Kitchen Galerie (on Jean Talon) managed to pull out a neo-rustic bistrot cuisine  that’s more exciting than what others can deliver, Bistro Cocagne and Au 5e Péché managed to stand ahead of  YUL’s very best bistrots . None of those are re-inventing the wheel but they are, in many ways (skilled cooking, food with an edge on the palatable aspect, etc)  at the forefront of current Montreal’s restaurant dynamic  . My intent is not to bash for the pleasure of bashing. It is a city that I dearly love, therefore  wished it could shine among world’s most exciting dining destinations. The intent is just to bring some food for thoughts that will hopefully end up somehow, somewhere, in new ears willing to push Montreal to a potential World’s exciting gastro city. As you’ll see below, Café Sardine is far from being just another restaurant. It is an inspired eatery concept that brings fresh new air to Montreal restaurant scene.

Décor:  Prior to visiting this place, I have read that it had a Parisian bistrot décor. Well, not really. First off, the majority of Parisian bistrots have mostly chairs and traditional tables,  whereas here you have bar stools and tall tables. Most Parisian bistrots (A la Biche au Bois , Au pied de fouet, Josephine “Chez Dumonet”, Bistro de Paris)  have tablecloth (more and more are putting the traditional tablecloth aside, for ie Bistrot Au Passage, Cartouche Café, Le Miroir..etc  but that’s not typical of classic Parisian bistrot style), which is not the case here. Also: even if things are changing a bit on that aspect, it was no custom to sit and eat at the bar or a counter at most Parisian bistrots (which you can do at CS). Café Sardine décor has more accurately a mix of  some elements from some English pub (the dark wooden floors, plenty of dark wood décor elements) and their own take on some neo-rustic bistrot style with ideas inspired from 1950s-era pop-art style (the Café Sardine solo wall painting), very interesting retro touches as that fun old-school phone in the gents room (wow..really really loved that all wooden retro décor in the gents room. Pick that phone in the gents room and listen to what they say..Rfaol!), 1930s hollywood glamour painted brickwork. You can seat at the bar counter, the few tall tables (mostly for 4 pers), or at another  counter close to the window.

Service: In such a tiny packed place, you can’t expect flawless synchronized service, but they did the best they could in being relax, cool, professional and friendly. A charm.

Wine list: At the table, they have a small list of wines divided in 5 sections: reds from France (14 bottles, with wines as low as a $34 for a 2009 Chateau Jouclary Cabardes Cuvee Tradition, then some few bottles in the $40+ range, then some in the $60+,  some in the  $70+, up to a $102 Vosne-Romanée Village Domaine Daniel Rion 2009. Worth noticing: a $78 2009 Domaine Amiot Guy et Fils Les Chaumes, Chassagne-Montrachet),  reds from other parts of the world  (11 bottles from $40 up to $88, for ie a $44 Igt Toscana 2007 Calviolo, Le Querce or a 2006 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe at $82), white wines from France (13 bottles, from $37 to $78 with some nice picks like a $45 Dom. Les Éminades Montmajou 2010, Saint-Chinian or a 2009, Pouilly-Fuissé  Maison JanotsBos at $75), as well as white wines from other parts of the world ranging from $44 to $62. Constant changes to that list are of course applied, so next time you go there, other wines might feature on that wine list. They do also have far more gems than those on that list, and I went with wine pairings by the glass (in between $8 to $10) which exposed far more treasures (plenty of amazing biodynamic wines). A little coup de coeur, in my case, for a lovely 2009 Toscana i.g.t., Cabernet Sauvignon, Calviolo.

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

The food
: The menu at Café Sardine is inspired by a trend: the menu just features quick  lists of the ingredients, for ie –tomato, basil, thyme-  (think Eleven Park Madison, L’Astrance). Of its time, obviously, but come to think about it, not a bad idea at all: you list the ingredients and that gives you the freedom of composing whatever you want with them. 

We started with a starter of baguette bread topped with tomatoes ($2). This is an item widely present   in the the mediterranea, but this version I was having on this evening lacked many elements to truely shine on par with its med counterparts: it needed more acidity, perhaps capers, a touch of olive oil and such starter needs stunnier tomatoes. But at $2, I guess I am asking way too much, Lol.  4/10

Then Boeuf, épinette, pimbina, consoude, rose, tournesol ($14) – Beef tartare served atop a leaf of  ‘consoude’. here, a first influence from Noma’s  foliage trend  with the use of consoude leaf. The tartare on its own was just ok (seasoned as it should, but certainly not a benchmark one – it lacked prime beefy flavor impact), but eating it with the consoude leaf did definitely turn this into an interesting experience. Talking about interesting, the dimension brought by the presence of the rose really kept  this tartare in worth-to-pay-for category. Lots of efforts and thoughts went in this tartare, enough efforts to forgive the otherwise just Ok beef tartare    7/10

Then Truite, caviar de poule de mer, sur pomme de terre confite et crème fraîche – Top quality trout, cooked to ideal consistency. Logical matching ingredients such as potatoes and crème fraiche completed this dish. Hard to fault such dish, and certainly not a dish that will make me leave the comfort of home for, but at $13 and with what lies ahead, this is certainly acceptable. 7.5/10

Next was maquereau, purée de concombre $13 – Mackerel and purée of cucumber had references to Noma with all parts of a cucumber being exploited: the cucumber itself came in purée as well as in its pickled version. There was also a noma-esque exercise of drying some parts of the cucumber plant, the latter being a total success of functional modern interpretation of foliage.  This could have been a 7/10 dish in other circumstances, but in this case, there were many glimpses of outstanding efforts as shown in the work of the cucumber. The mackerel itself, although packed with enticing grilling flavor, did largely benefit from the amazing work of its outstanding pairing companions. 8/10

Then Gigot d’agneau, purée de noix de grenoble, moutarde mariné, onions vert – Excellent lamb that did, again, benefit from the enticing flavor coming from the grill on which it was cooked. At $15, with such low $$$, you can easily see why this place is so popular. But it’s really in the glimpses of brilliance seen on some other dishes where my interest lies. Still, nothing to complain about. 7.5/10

Joue de boeuf, radis – $14  A delicious and tender piece of top quality braised beef cheeks. At $14, I have really nothing to pique at. I know places serving such dish at twice this price and the palatable impact is not as high. Had the sauce being as stunning as the meat itself, this would have been a benchmark of its genre. But on this occurence, I’ll rate it with a 9/10

Pois de mer, laitue de mer, sabline, cendre, huitre$10 – A salad of sea foliage was the reason I have full faith in the depth of skills that’s in that kitchen. For a  palate that’s focused, what I was having would be a treasure of interesting discoveries. If you do not like sea foliage, this will not be your thing. I love sea foliage and this was certainly a 10/10 salad as far as I am concerned. Noma foliage inspiration was strong here, too. Top marks for a little meringue made of sea foliage and oyster. That was world class meringue (I really hope that Mtlers will adopt such unusually -seen elements on the Montreal restaurant scene like for ie, sea foliage meringue, ashes mades from  elements of the sea. They add so much to the enjoyment of a dish, and that’s coming from an old-school gourmand like me). Adding oyster emulsion to that salad was one of those little touches that showcased the great depth of inspiration invested on this dish, and as with anything inspired, it brought emotions right up to the very last inch of the palate.

Gateau au citron, sirop de poire, violette$5- Usually, at most Montreal’s bistrots, desserts are an afterthought. And seen just 2,3 items on their dessert menu, I was ready to give up on the dessert part of this meal. But they proved me wrong:  this was largely one of the very best lemon cakes ever sampled on a Montreal table, with a depth of enticing lemon and pear flavor that lingers on the palate for long. Excellent 9/10

Chocolat blanc, fromage bleu, thé du labrador, rhubarbe $7 – The staff explained that the desserts are made by a pastry chef during the day. This gentleman needs more visibility as dessert after dessert, his creations are certainly not your usual ordinary Montreal restaurant dessert creations. His style is definitely not boldly modern but  its shows a great sense of taste and unusal inspired work. 9/10
 

Bottom line: the best dishes of this repast were refreshingly novel to Montreal restaurant standards and revealed a great potential in this kitchen. I can’t say that I was blown away (always a subjective thang, right?) , but I’ll have to concede that it is the most interesting restaurant meal I ever had in Montreal since a long time, with ingredient quality that’s high, cooking techniques on point, a Chef who’s obviously talented, and the dessert creations sampled during this meal might appear ‘normal’ at first glance but they unveiled a sense of taste that is certainly superior.  To an attentive eye / palate, plenty of little details will not fail to catch attention. Don’t expect perfection all the way though: the charm of this tiny eatery really lies in balancing its strengths (busy popular ambience, surprising culinaric highs here and there such as the 9/10 and 10/10 dishes of this meal) with its weaknesses (such a popular place has inevitable downsides such as being too noisy, having the tables too close to each other, etc).  In the end, it is a refreshingly interesting place that has a lot to offer. And the day this kitchen will unleash its full potential, oh my …my…

PROS: A braised beef cheeks course of world class execution, even if its sauce was not as spectacular. Very creative by Montreal standards. Desserts were also of solid level.
CONS: That tartare and tomatoes on baguette bread ..were surprising not at the level of the rest. Way below a general level of cooking that’s quite good, and more importantly interesting.

Overallfood rating: 7/10 Really good for what I am accustomed to /thus do expect at comparablerestaurants/dining category. Closer to an 8 over 10 btw, because the hits here (although sparse on this meal) are bold, veryexciting! And when such an unassuming hole in a wall makes you doubt aboutsome top gunners, you know that when the lion will roar, only the sky will bethe limit! I still can’tbelieve that only a handful of the numerous 2 and 3 star Michelin  I madein the past decade have been able to offer dishes with the stunningimpact that their joue de boeuf (it’s a market cuisine, so no signature dish) was oozing of! Of course, it’s not a grand luxe place, but there’s alion in the house ;p If it roars ….
Overallservice rating
: 7/10 Professional. They do their best, but what can you do: its is so busy, packed,electric, so ….they do their best in the circumstance.
Décor: 5/10  laidback,shoulder to shoulder. But hey, it’s FUN!  Trust me (even with the bunch of stoopid susceptible characters we had next to us on this evening–Lol, they wereshocked because I was caressing the hair of my wife. Sad characters of thepaleolithic age, Lol)

IMPORTANT: ‘Overall food rating’ HAS NOTHING TO DO with the arithmectic calculation  of all dishes. It is my personal subjective rating of the overall foodperformance  on the specif meal I am sampling  only.

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Maison Boulud, Ritz carlton Montreal – Monsieur Boulud’s top standards of hospitality

Before going ahead, here are the two major links of current web site:
(1)A recap of all my reviews of Montreal’s finest bistrots & fine dining ventures
(2)My 3 and 2 Star Michelin web site



Event: Dinner at Maison Boulud (Ritz-Carlton Montreal)
When: Thursday May 31st, 2012 18:00
Type of cuisine: Contemporary French/ Italian /Mediterranean fares
Addr: 1228 Sherbrooke St. West, Montréal, PQ, H3G 1H6
Phone:  (514) 842-4224
URL : http://www.ritzmontreal.com/en/dining/maison-boulud/
http://www.danielnyc.com/maison_montreal.swf

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

(The review in English will follow) Il est avec Gordon Ramsay (dont l’aventure Montréalaise a coupé court, récemment, au vu de la fin de son association avec ses partenaires d’affaires Montréalais) , l’autre Chef 3 Étoiles Michelin qui mise sur Montréal. Son restaurant, à la cuisine aux inspirations Franco Méditerranéennes, situé dans le Ritz Carlton Montréal,  est désormais ouvert depuis la fin Mai 2012. Point de vue décor, ca vaut le détour : le luxe à la fois  contemporain et classique du Ritz,  en contraste avec le charme chic-épuré et légèrement japonisant de la Maison Boulud m’a beaucoup plu. Dans l’air du temps, comme dirait mon voisin Léo. Aspect cuisine, il est trop tot pour juger, mais je prends toujours la précaution, afin d’etre aussi précis que possible, de rappeler que je ne juge (jugement toujours subjectif, bien évidemment) que les repas que j’ai pu déguster et jamais le restaurant. Car la magie d’un repas réussi, ca demeurera toujours un souvenir impérissable qui ne décevra jamais. Alors qu’un restaurant  peut éventuellement  décevoir, naturellement. Sur ce, l’éxécution technique, lors de ce repas du 31 mai, fut au rendez vous : donc, cuissons réussies, assaisonnements  maitrisés en général (avec un léger petit reproche pour le coté sur-salé de certains plats; à prendre constructivement), harmonie des saveurs. Et du gout, beaucoup de gout du coté viandes. Somme toute, un repas plaisant dans l’ensemble, sans éclats particuliers (excepté pour l’exceptionnel filet de veau), sans ratés non plus. Donnons sa chance à ce tout nouveau restaurant, ou la qualité du service et l’humilité du Chef  Riccardo Bertolino (des années au service des plus grandes tables de Mr Boulud, et pourtant pas une seule once de tete enflée…ah, l’humilité des grands! Fallait le voir écouter attentivement les petites remarques constructives du petit Joe anonymous que je suis. Lui qui a pourtant vu tant d’autres. Voilà un Chef, un Vrai, un Grand! ) servent de véritable lecon de vie: un resto, ce n’est pas que des plats réussis et des égos sur-dimensionnés. C’est effectivement bien plus que ca! On est dans la cour des très Grands, ceux qui prennent rien pour acquis, ceux pour qui le moindre avis compte, ceux qui établiront toujours les standards à suivre.

I wrote, on my review of Bouillon Bilk, that I was not going to dine at a celeb Chef’s restaurant (Ramsay, Boulud were planning  to open  restaurants in Montreal when I wrote that article).  Here I am at Boulud Montreal. I have contradicted myself and feel no  remorse: isn’t life, in itself,  a big contradiction: we live … in order to die. 

Daniel Boulud is, as most already know, the famous French 3 star Michelin Chef which eponymous 3 star Michelin dining  venture (Daniel) is located in NYC.  He has recently opened a restaurant in the Montreal’s Ritz Carlton, Maison Boulud. Most will tell you that you do not visit a restaurant on its first days,
but I have only my own rules to live by so I went paying a visit to what will most likely be considered among Montreal top finest dining ventures (Toque!, L’Européa, La Porte, Xo Le Restaurant, Club Chasse & Peche, La Chronique, Nuances, etc). This web site is dedicated to Montreal finest fine dining and bistrot tables, thus a visit to Maison Boulud’s in YUL.

For us, Montrealers, the Ritz turned into the ‘grande dame’ of classic luxury that generations of Mtlers saw growing, then aging to the point that it  needed some kind of serious revamp. For the past 4  years, they proceeded with major renovations and the new décor of the Ritz (now re-opened since the end of May 2012) pertains to  grand contemporary luxury (with nice classic touches in the mix). Of its time, indeed.  I am usually not a huge fan of grand luxury and will never be, anyways , but I know how to  appreciate it whenever the situation arises and the reno at the Ritz worths a detour I’ll recommend to anyone visiting downtown YUL. This (Maison Boulud’s opening in YUL) will certainly make the news in YUL’s actuality for the upcoming next months since it’s the major YUL’s restaurant event since the opening of Toque’s Brasserie T and Gordon Ramsay’s former and short lived Montreal’s restaurant experience (the restaurant is still opened, but Gordon Ramsay is not their Business partner anymore). Maison Boulud opened right on time for the upcoming June’s F1 racing event in Montreal. Perfect timing as well as ideal location (at walking distance to  downtown’s main attractions).

Menu: Their menu is updated online with the prices. But just as a quick overview, starters range from $13 to $25, main courses from $16 to $37 and there’s a section of the menu dedicated to side dishes (for ie: $9 potatoes,  $13 artichokes).  The menu is mostly composed of French-based classics (for ie, patés, salade tropézienne, supreme de poulet), as well as Italian  fares (porchetta, various pasta dishes, etc), all updated to  contemporary plating arrangements as well as flavor/ingredient combination. And as it is customary nowadays at most restaurants, plenty of local produce (Asperges du Québec, superb local veal)  feature on their menu.

Decor: The interior design  of the restaurant was overseen by reknown Tokyo based interior designers Super Potato (Park Hyatt Saigon, Sensi Restaurant in Las Vegas, etc), known for their ingenious contemporary use of contrasting natural elements  such as the chic wooden floors and tables of Maison Boulud Montreal,  its separator wall  of glass and granite, etc. It’s the warmth of casual functionality meeting with new world chic. The Japanese influence is present: it is strongly influenced by the concept of sabi (elegant simplicity) found in modern Japanese design, adapted here to a decor that is  familiar to our  North American eye. The kitchen is visible from the dining room (a large glass window allowing diners to have a look at what’s going on in the kitchen), a modern bar facing it (a patron said to the Maitre D that she found everything perfect, expect that the bar seemed too small to her. I think it’s a bar of the right size, approx 5 to 6 seats on each of the 4 sides of the squared-shaped bar.  A bigger bar would be out of context, in my opinion).  The dining room itself is divided in several sections, with one in between the bar and the kitchen, others in the far end of the room (the latter offering a more intimate atmosphere ). On their web site, the restaurant seems to feature orange tones. Unless I missed that part (I did not visit the entire restaurant), I observed only comfy beige chairs and a mix of light beige with dark wood alongside earthy tones of granite.

Service: I’m going to do something unusual. I shall write about service before writing about food, because tonight I was touched. Touched by how the service was exemplary on this dinner. For decades, I was tough on restaurants, expecting only their food to be the centerpiece of the overall dining experience. Then something happened about 2 years ago, when I dined at a star Michelin dining venture in NYC (No, it was not Daniel and not Per Se neither). The food was stellar but the service was so crappy that I could not appreciate the food performance at all. Slightly after that sad event, I had my meal at 3 star Michelin Ledoyen. This time, the food experience was not impressive but the Maitre D was one of the best I ever met and I suddenly realized how food was not enough. I felt so great at Ledoyen, perhaps one of the rare restaurants where I felt really at home and years later, when people look at my food ratings of that lunch at Ledoyen and tell me ‘ needless to ask you if it’s a recommendable place’, I urge them to understand that it is not the case at all. That it’s really a special place, and that despite what I perceived as some less enthusiastic food, I still had a great time.   Hospitality can really bring you a long way. The service, on this evening at Maison Boulud, was one of the very best I ever had. It was a perfect balance between casual and formal, and yet very professional. Mr José, my waiter, was not only attentive but at the summum of the art of hospitality. I won’t get into details because I come from  very humble backgrounds and I am not too crazy about royal treatment, but top standards of restaurant hospitality were applied all along this meal. The rest of the staff offered the same kind of perfected service as Mr José. Mr Boulud is obviously not joking when he insisted on his hospitality standards. 

Food:

Porchetta de lapin à la provencale ($16) –Obviously, one of those occasions where the meat of a rabbit can brag about being flavorful and not dry. It came in the shape of a paté (as opposed to the classic Italian porchetta presentation), was well seasoned with, as expected,  plenty of meaty flavor coming from the tasty roast pork element.  It is a starter, so the portion is naturally not big and yet I’d recommend a touch more of the veggies (marinated onions, radish, carrot) elements that accompanied the dish. In the work of the veggies, an aspect so oftently ignored by many Chefs, I could see the great potential of this Chef. I personally found  this terrine’s version of the rabbit porchetta a bit hard to tantalize me, but it might certainly reach out to others (a matter of personal prefs: having grown up in France, anything that  comes in the shape of a terrine or paté suffers from harsh expectations)  6/10

Ragoût d’Agneau, Rapini et Pecorino ($18 in its starter version) – the Chef is Italian (Riccardo Bertolino. Hopefully people close to the restaurant world  in YUL  will do their homework and will shed  more light on him, since there’s a scarcity of infos on this Chef, at the moment of writing) and obviously at ease with his homeland fares, given how the lamb ragu came through without virtually nothing to quibble about: the meat cooked as it should, with proper timing and a thoughtful balance of ingredients. It is certainly not your typical Nonna’s ragu (which I am a huge fan of), but one that is nicely updated to nowadays fine dining standards. Solid points too for the proper doneness of the egg-based Garganelli pasta, and this was packed with lovely flavors. A bit too salty, unfortunately, . 6.5/10

Filet et ris de veau Saltimbocca ($36) – As expected from a Daniel Boulud’s dining venture, the ingredient is taken seriously and the top quality of the veal I was sampling testifies of the latter assertion. Mind you, Quebec is blessed with some of the most amazing veal in the world. But I caught another glimpse of the big talent of Chef  Bertolino:  this Gentleman cooks meats beautifully. I had roman  saltimbocca dish (veal, sage, prosciutto), a simple dish that I tasted on numerous occasions few years ago in  Italy. I can’t compare this version against those sampled in Italy (not the same veal, not the same land, therefore pointless comparison), but there’s little to argue about the favorable rich and tasty nature of this one I had just enjoyed. The filet element reaching excellent levels (9/10 for that Veal filet, so succulent). What piqued my curiosity, though, is the sweetbreads that was part of the saltimbocca dish. In Montreal,  despite the popularity of  the ris, I was surprised  to have found only a handful of amazing sweetbread dishes at most of the leading restaurants (bistrots, fine dining ventures) in town.  To that regard, two tables stood out , in my view: Chef Daniel Lenglet’s Au 5e Péché, which sweetbread preparations (I think Chef Lenglet is one of the few – that I know of – who can truly master all aspects that lead to the cooking of this flesh: preparation, proper cooking technique, better understanding of that meat, etc) have always appeared outstanding to me, followed by my second best ever in town, the Sweetbreads/Gremolata/Artichoke dish I had at Le Club Chasse et Peche. LCCP’s was tastier, but Au 5e Péché’s was better accomplished. Chef Bertolino’s seemed, in my view, not as remarkable as the one that I sampled at Lenglet’s Au 5e Péché  but it was certainly nicely prepared, its consistency  as plump and firm as it should, and the flavor as delicate as only veal sweetbreads are known to deliver.  8/10 for his sweetbread.

Wines: A 16 pages thoroughly constructed classy booklet of predominantly French and Italian wines, with, as well, its share of wines coming from various corners of the rest of the world. There are also Canadian wines on that list. Prices will reach out to all sort of budgets with price tags as low as a $45 for a Telmo Rodriguez, Rueda Basa  2010 (there are plenty of wines in the $40-$60 category: for ie, the $59  Tselepos Moschofilero Mantinia 2010, the $58 Beaujolais Domaine du Vissoux 2010, etc ). On the splurge side (the side that I can only dream about, Rfaol) , you can have a $920 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassiciaia 1999, a $670 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes 1993 (375 ml), and  some major names of sparkling wines do feature on that list, too: Champagne Delamotte, Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Laherte frères. There are also several wines available by the glass.  The woman who was my sommelière of the evening is highly knowledgeable (She is not new at this, and she used to work alongside one of Quebec’s most famous sommelières, Elyse Lambert ) and her wine pairings  on this evening  were absolutely thoughtful.

PROS:  The amazing veal filet, the hospitality standards of a Daniel Boulud’s dining venture and the  lovely contemporary setting of the restaurant. A good dining experience is indeed sometimes more than just food.
CONS:  Time will tell. I have nothing to say for now since it’s only in its first week (actually second day, only)

PS: An aside note –> I saw that Chef Marc Veyrat dispenses cooking lessons since couple of days, in Annecy (France). This gentleman, known to many  as the non-official best Chef  of all times (many consider him as even better than Joel Robuchon), will certainly not dispense courses oftenly. It’s actually a rare occurrence to see Chefs of this “high velocity” caliber dispensing courses.  For those who may be interested, this is a unique occasion.  Cours de cuisine, 7, avenue de Chavoires. 74940 Annecy-le-Vieux. marcoveyrat@gmail.com http://www.marcveyrat.fr/en/marc-veyrat.htm

MAISON BOULUD
Overall food rating
: 5/10 Average for what Iam accustomed to /thus do expect at comparable restaurants/dining category. It was their 2nd night only, if I am not mistaken. So they may have improved a lot by now. I have no doubt that this house  will do way better, but I have got to give my personal appreciation of what I have experienced: not bad at all, to the contrary,  tasty food was generally served all along my meal there (be careful with the salt on that ragout, pls), but nothing  outstood neither (yes, the veal filet was something, indeed, and I rated it with the 10/10 it fully deserved…but still, it is a veal fillet and many of us can cook 10/10 veal fillet at home, too).  In your first week, in a new city which patrons you are not familiar with, it’s virtually impossible to please right away. So, the assessment of such a young  restaurant will naturally evolve quickly.                                                      
Overall service rating
: 10/10 Think ‘GRAND’!Very GRAND! On that evening I was there. 
Décor
: 8/10  Class, with very cleancontemporary lines in the décor.   
IMPORTANT: ‘Overall food rating’ HAS NOTHING TO DO with the arithmecticcalculation of all dishes. It is my personal subjective rating of the overall foodperformance  on the specif meal I am sampling  only.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER: I am glad to see that they have vastly improved from their humble beginnings. I do not care about reviews all the time and had not reviewed my last  visit there, but it is true that they are now one of Montreal finest gourmet destinations. Way better than what I experienced on my 1st meal here. What I like with them is that they are not doing great food just for the foodie food bloggers, Lol. No, they also cook great food for every diner, no matter who you are. But again, I am not surprised: even on my 1st visit there, I could feel that they were genuinely interested to get better. Une grand table, indeed. Long live to Maison Boulud! I think they have now found their way.

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Le comptoir charcuteries et vins, Montreal – Worth the buzz?

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

Le Comptoir charcuterie et vins
Addr: 4807, boul. Saint-Laurent, Montréal
Type of cuisine: Modern French/Cosmopolitan Bistro
Phone: 514-844-8467
Dinner there this Friday November 11th 2011, 17:00

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

(English review will follow) – C’est le nouveau prodige de la scène gastronomique Montréalaise. Un petit bistro/bar vraiment charmant: accessible, le service aimable, l’ambiance vivante, le décor chaleureux. Coté cuisine, oui, ce fut généralement réussi: ils ont l’intelligence de savoir jouer sur l’acidité, le gras, le croquant, les gouts riches..donc des plats généralement savoureux sans etre bouleversants. Quoique pas vraiment à la hauteur du buzz (à mes yeux, évidemment): des ‘shorts-ribs’ sans saveur, les meme garnitures sur plusieurs plats, des pates tièdes (le plat de cannelloni)..donc à la texture peu enviable…j’ai beau vouloir faire partie du buzz, mais désolé..il manque de jus dans ce cas. Ce fut quand meme beaucoup mieux que mes repas  Chez Victoire, KGP, Newtown mais moins saisissants que ceux  que j’ai dégustés Au Kitchen Galerie, Bistro Cocagne, et Bouillon Bilk. Pourtant, le buzz ca ne conduit pas nécessairement à des attentes exagérés: à preuve, San Sebastian…c’est du buzz….et la prestation gourmande surpassa le buzz. Le Buzz c’est pas de la faute du resto CCV, mais en meme temps ca ne l’aide pas car ce soir, je suis sorti de là en me disant que ce fut vraiment bien…mais pourquoi autant de bruit? Lol. Attention: tel que je l’ai mentionné, ce fut bien mieux qu’à d’autres bistrots en ville (eux, au moins, ils s’assurent que ca goute bon!). Mais d’un endroit avec autant de buzz, sans exiger  de la perfection sur toute la ligne, je m’attends au moins à quelques plats qui tonnent et transcendent. Y allez? Oui, allez-y! A la hauteur du buzz? Non (à mon avis). Retournerai-je? Oui  Dans mes favoris? Non. Aussi: j’espère que c’est un cas isolé ->  le chef était dans la salle au lieu d’etre en arrière des fourneaux au moment de notre passage (Vendredi 11 Nov à 17:00)..??? À leurs époques, de grandes Toques comme Ducasse, Joel Robuchon bossaient  fort en arrière de leurs fourneaux. Ici à Montréal, des Chefs de grand  talent (Rouyé, Alexandre Loiseau, Mercuri, Navarrette Jr) font de meme: ils sont en cuisine. L’on se pose donc naturellement des questions… Paul Bocuse? Robuchon? J’aurai compris..mais là… Bref, c’est pas un drame..d’ autres jeunes cuistots Montréalais sont de toute facon concernés par ca…Lol.. et c’est surement pas tout le temps comme ca..du moins je l’espère…, mais la cuisine c’est aussi une question de perception! Au final,  lisez attentivement la description de chacun des plats que j’ai mangé: tout y est exprimé en toute franchise.

This web site  focuses on what stands out amidst Montreal finest dinings and bistrots, but honestly, lately … I am disappointed: many good tables have recently opened but none (in my view) really worths spending time to write about. I have visited a good dozen of the latest  new ones, and mostly ended with  comments like ”oh geez…can someone surprise me a bit please“!  Most of us cook since a long time (in my case, since my tender childhood), so I don’t expect surreal fireworks from food (it’s not a circus, it’s food) at restaurant but for the money I pay, I do expect either  a work of flavors that is outstanding (as usual, compared to what the most are offering in the same city of the restaurant that I am eating at) or things I seldomly see at most of the competitors of that restaurant. Wherever I go, I like comparing local apples to local apples. I am not the type of person expecting one city to be compared to another. When I write, for ie, that a restaurant is creative or stands out, that is in comparison to its closest peers (wherever it applies, I’ll of course mention if the restaurant performs to standards I saw abroad) . 

Le Comptoir charcuterie et vins may appear, at first glance, to not fit with what this web site is focusing on, but this restaurant is THE new star in town, with an avalanche of massive raves coming from all parts: the medias, food critics, and way more. I know this does not guarantee that things will necessarily live up to my (or yours) expectations, but I am under the impression that this eatery has that little something that sets itself apart. I went to find out  for myself.

Chef Ségué Lepage of  Le comptoir charcuteries et vins is a charismatic young talented Chef who was once  trained at 3 star Michelin Bernard Loiseau in France.He is now back in Montreal (after couple of years in Vancouver as well) with a Bistro/Charcuterie/Wine bar formula that is quite common in town lately, but appearently,  from what is buzzed around, his formula is ‘beating the formula’: since its opening, this eatery attracts hordes of gourmands, the success being instantaneous (Chef Ségué Lepage, within one year of opening his venture, has already many accolades to his credit: Gold Medal Plate’s top 10 best Chefs in Montreal, Air Canada’s En Route’s Mag top Montreal tables for this year, etc).

Although Chef Lepage is not trying to re-invent the wheel with his latest offerings (his cuisine is clearly playing in the same field as the casual modern bistro-centric trends), my   interest here is really to see how far he can push  the bar in leaving his imprint (read: how flavorful his food shines through or stands out in a way I could walk out from his eatery with the feel that his work has that little ‘je ne sais quoi”). You don’t need culinaric wowness  for this (for ie: when 3 star Michelin Chef  Jean-Francois Piège decided that he would be behind the stoves of his   bistro Thoumieux in Paris…naturally such Bistro benefitted  from  the very best standards / I did that Bistro btw, and however dissenting our opinions would be, Piège will always get away with what will always stand among the very best bistro formulas you”ll  ever find around the globe – I am always opened to be proven wrong, but I’d seriously be surprised of the contrary); some great Chefs  did just that within the same casual bistro standards that Chef Lepage is facing and they did it right here in Montreal: Chefs Axel and Bourdages at Kitchen Galerie (on Jean-Talon), Chef Alexandre Loiseau at Bistro Cocagne, Chef Lenglet at au  5e Péché. Could  Chef Lepage compete with those Chefs or even surpass them? Based on the raves, I naturally hoped so (or at least competing with that level) ! As a reminder, the food of Lenglet, Axel, Bourdages and Loiseau can’t be accused of being super complex, but in their apparent simplicity they’ve managed to outstand the most with bistro dishes that  simply taste better.  I  went to CCV expecting a bit of that from Chef Lepage.

The room was packed when we were eating there and I’d be surprised that you can get a table just by showing up at the door on a Friday/Satur evening. So book in advance. The interior did remind me of a  small wooden neo-rustic loft with omnipresence of wood. Le  ‘comptoir’ translates into ‘counter’, therefore you need to expect the minimal  setting that is in line with this designation. It’s busy,  and informal. Open kitchen, the menu  on a chalkboard and offerings follow what’s in season. The wine list will appeal to most Mtlers: mostly, bio wines with prices that reach out to a wide range of patrons (for ie wines as low as $33 Ribera del Duero Miros 2006, Penafiel up to a Corton Rognet grand cru 2008, B Clavelier @ $200 with plenty of affordable great findings in between). They do also offer some wines by the glass (this is one of their strengths: the wine by the glass that were offered to me on this evening being truely inspired with many wines rarely found in town).

FOOD:
I’ve skipped everything that’s marinated or that needs few manipulation (for ie, their beet salad) and went right into the cooked dishes so that I can more accurately get a good idea of this cuisine (this is my very first time here):

  Tarte de homard, oignons blonds, tomates confites, crème fraiche, huile d’estragon $19 – A lobster tart. My wife and I exchanged divergent opinions over this one. She thought this was the best dish of this evening. She gave it a 8 over 10. For her, every thing was right on point: the lobster meat being succulent, cooked right. To me, coming from a fishermen’s village, I prefer lobster with more upfront marine freshness, yep..even at this time of the year (it happened before) . Make no mistake though: the lobster was meaty and tasted good. Onions, tomatoes logically complemented this dish. A 7.5 over 10 for me (the sablé pastry tart that was beneath the crab was average in conception and  taste; it was not bad, but lacked the refinement and excellent execution I usually expect from a standout kitchen – I have no problem being challenged with my choices, that’s a subjective matter anyways, but before I rave over a meal it needs to be refined even in the little details. With that fullfilled, I can live in peace with my enthusiastic appreciation. Given the raves – Top 10 new table in Canada in 2011, etc — I believe it’s normal to have such basic expectations) which is very good –mostly for its price/value ratio  and especially because it tasted good —- but not a 9 (excellent) nor a 10 (exceptional), the latter being actually marks that I don’t necessarily hold only for fancy tables: the proof, some  of the $3 tapas I ate  in SSB were rated with 10/10. Same applied to some fares I’ve sampled at simple bistrots like Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon, Bistro Cocagne, Au 5e Péché ..regardless of the $$$. With that said, I insist and re-iterate: this $19 lobster tart remains far superior to many 25$-$30 food items you’ll get at many highly regarded bistrots in town. 

Cannelloni de poulet confit, compote de tomate, crème sure à l’ail – Chicken Cannelloni. My wife thought this was less impressive than the previous dish, although she had no particular reproach. To me, this was the best dish of this evening: rich, with various dazzling flavors shining even into the little details such as in the black olive cream and delicious fresh tomatoes. Close to Excellent (8.5/10) for me, Just good (7/10) for my wife. In my view, had all the dishes performed at this level, then Yep…I’d tell you that I get the buzz. A friendly advice though: two dishes with same garnishes (the topping of greens that you’ve just seen on both the Cannelloni and Lobster tart) ..that’s to be avoided (this tends to take some appeal out of the dishes, I found). Also: always serve pastas warmer if you don’t want your dish to suffer from lackluster texture (which I still forgave since this dish was so tasty, but this is one of those slips that kept me a bit conservative about going enthusiastic over this table. Many would have under-rate this dish because of the textural slip…I won’t, but let’s keep in mind that my 8.5/10 is justified by the stunning taste of this dish only). At $11, this was  great value.

Short ribs de boeuf, agnoletti p.d.t, purée de céléri-rave, oignon braisé au vin rouge.  $15 (could have been a bargain, but…read the description of my review of this dish) – Braised beef short ribs – As much as both previous dishes had  many rich flavors, contrasting textures and a smart display of balanced acidity (without being necessarily exceptional), this was surprisingly average (no savory dimension, no upfront delicious beefy taste). Short ribs are condemned to be very flavorful, but flavors were muted on this one. The purée was fine, the braised onions without reproach but the main element was short of  sparks. 6.5/10

Poélé de chanterelles, langue de porc braisée, mini raviolis à purée de racine de persil – Smiles were back on track with this one. A dish like this has that kind of succulent  mouthfeel (without being exceptional) that made me insisting on the fact that although I didn’t think that it shone at heights of the buzz  it is enjoying (again, not the fault of this restaurant), this table still has an edge over many other top bistrots in town. The braised pork tongue was well cooked, it was packed with enticing flavor, the mushrooms perfectly seared and the raviolis had the right al dente consistency. It’s not a revolutionary dish (which I actually largely prefer over fancy challenging culinary constructions) , but the palatable impact is high. Again and again: why that topping of the same greens that appeared on both previous plates?????????? In the diner’s psyche, seeing the same garnishes over and over simply kills the mooooood!!  BUT what a bargain at $11! (many bistro fares charged at  double  the price of this course  never came as close to half of the amazing taste of this dish!!)  8.5 /10

Panna cotta à la vanille, compote de pomme à la fève tonka, purée de dattes, sablée breton aux pacanes – Vanilla Panna cotta, apple compote was average. No reproach with regard to the execution here (the panna cotta being technically conceived as expected, the compote flawless)..but the overall palatable impact was weak without being bad. 7/10    

Bottom line, I found CCV to be a fine and fun (it’s popular and the atmosphere is festive here) small laidback spot to have some nice wines (they  indeed have little gems you won’t see oftently at other tables in Montreal), food that’s mostly tasty (honestly, for a web site like mine that focuses on what stands out in town — No, this is not done in a snobbish way but just with the humble intent to find tables that push the bar — you’ll catch some top tables that haven’t offered as many 8/10 or 8.5/10 dishes as on this dinner). The problem here has nothing to do with CCV (although this meal at CCV is not a revelation neither): it’s the lousy buzz. If at least one single item (out of the 5 that we’ve sampled) was outstanding (the cannelloni and poélé de chanterelles were great, but I had better poélés de chanterelles and cannellonis alike-dishes in Montreal), I’d at least understand a bit of the buzz.  When you see  some tables that are far superior (for accuracy purpose, remember that those don’t match CCV’s cost Vs value advantage neither) not benefitting from such buzz, you naturally don’t get the buzz! CCV should not be criticized for that. But on the other hand, if buzz needs to predominate here in Mtl, then it has to start with far superior tables like Au 5e Péché, Raza, Le Marly, Bouillon Bilk, XO Le restaurant, La Porte..etc. Then I’ll get the buzzy buzz………………!      YES..for the $$$, CCV outstands, but is buzz about $$$  or food performance???  It’s a restaurant review site, so I insist in believing that food performance needs to be considered first (again, some food items here were absolutely delicious, for ie the chicken cannelloni and poélé de chanterelles…but not to a buzz-worthy level in my view).

A reality check directed to some chefs in Montreal:  I am not targeting any specific chef (they will recognize themselves wherever this applies): the intent here is not to be mean nor to patronize but to raise a constructive point that would benefit not only to yourself but also to your diners in their appreciation of your work -> when I went eating at 3 Star Michelin victor Gourmet Schloss Berg, Chef Bau was working hard behind his stoves till 2:00AM. This Chef  is one of world’s very best Chefs around the globe. When I went at 3 star Michelin L’Ambroisie, one of the greatest Chefs of all times, Bernard Pacaud, was working behind his stoves. 3 star Michelin Chef Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance…closes his restaurant when he is away! Many other Chefs who are among world’s very best are working hard behind their stoves (another great ie would be 3 star Michelin Chef Valazza)…HERE, in Montreal, Top Chefs like Alexandre Loiseau, Navarrette Jr, Axel, Rouyé are  working hard behind their stoves ..Now, what do you think..some  may think of YOU….when they see you absent behind YOUR stoves! ……………..GET IT??……………………

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Aromes picks for 2010 Best Chefs in Montreal

At the end of each year, Aromes publishes the names of his choice of the #1 Chef  in Montreal.

The Chef  (or Chefs — for the 2nd year in a row, it is not one but couple of Chefs who are chosen) needs to be an artisan Chef  (Chefs who spend more time on TV shows rather than behind their stoves are not considered here) of exceptional talent, with a commitment to outstanding food. 

Last year’s winners:  Raza’s Chef Mario Navarrette Jr  and Bistro Cocagne’s Chef Alexandre Loiseau

This year’s winners are three Chefs:

Michele Mercuri – XO Le Restaurant ; A Chef who flirts with the 3 star Michelin perfection >>>
Chef Axel           – Kitchen Galerie     ; This young  Chef cooks the most orgasmic Bistro food in town >>>
Chef Rouyé        – La Porte               ;  A Chef of 2 Michelin star potential. Amazing talent. >>>

This year, in Quebec’s province, outside of Montreal, I have been impressed by the amazing talent of Chef José Pierre Durand at Poivre Noir, in Trois-Rivières: here, no  absent chef syndrome bullshit, but a Chef right where he needs to shine: behind his stoves! And what a talent! On the shore of the Saint Laurent river, at Trois Rivieres, they truly have got a real gem of international caliber. This is for you if you like Chefs who dare avoiding the safe side of things and indulge in exciting modern fusion of flavors. Click here for my latest review of Poivre Noir.

In conclusion, Congrats to L’Européa for its inclusion as a new member of Relais & Chateaux . Well deserved. 

Happy holidays to all,
Aromes

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@ the new restaurant of Chef Mario Navarrete Jr: A TABLE , Montreal


Dinner @ Restaurant À Table
Friday July 16th 2010 17:30PM
Addr: 124 Fleury West, Montreal, QC
Phone: 514-439-1966
Web site:
http://www.groupemnjr.com/

Arome’s the food blog: Q&A’s, Guidelines, Ethics, Vision

This week is marked by two restaurant openings in Montreal: Bistro Lustucru opened this Wednesday on Avenue du Parc, in Mile-End (on their Facebook page, I see Guilllaume Vignola as part of  their culinary team. If this is the same Guillaume Vignola who was at ITHQ around 2006, then they have a potential world class Chef who could push QC’s gastronomy to newer heights — IF he wants to, of course)  followed by the opening of Restaurant  A Table  in Ahuntsic neighborhood this Friday July 16th. 

I have now a great reason to enjoy Ahuntsic: the latest restaurant of  Mario Navarrete Jr., a Chef I already described as “a genius of creativity, an architect of stunning refined and researched tastes”. Quite simply in my personal  top 10 Canadian Chefs, top 5 Chefs in Montreal. I remember being blown away by a dinner on  December 4th 2009 at his upscale Latin/French fusion table, Raza. A souvenir that is still ranked high in my  2009-2010 top 15 best dinners in Montreal. 


Raza, Navarrete Jr’s  flagship restaurant, offers a cuisine known as Nuevo Latino, a modern blend of Latin American cuisine that’s inventive and exciting. I’d define it as a superbly well done take on upscale French/Latin fine dining (lots of the cooking techniques are French,  some of the ingredients are tropical, most are locally sourced). The thing to keep in mind is that this is food that appeals to our occidental palate: no shocking tastes. This evening, for this opening, the essential of the team behind Raza  was working at A Table:  the mastermind in person, Chef Navarrette Jr, was cooking alongside Chef de cuisine Rodrigo (Chef Rodrigo will be the main Chef at A Table / Find more about Chef Rodrigo at the end of this post). The food this evening, as you will see in the upcoming descriptions, were in pure Navarrete/Raza style: inventive, exciting, varied, tasty and backed by top quality ingredients .

First, some photos of the overall decor (as I usually do, whenever possible, I went there a bit earlier right before people start arriving, in order  to take those pictures). :

As opposed to Raza, the restaurant A Table, a charming 24 to 28 seats eatery, opts for the Bistro trend with no tablecloths

 

And a menu written on a chalkboard:

 

The overall design includes warm neutrals (brown leather chairs), and  bright accent colors as with the blonde wood tables:

light colored hardwood flooring,  elegant touches of a few dark wood furniture

 

great penetration of natural light, thanks to the front glass window:

 

At the back, a tiny corridor with couple of tables for two:

 

As with most market cuisine restaurants, the menu will naturally vary. Today’s menu  (as you can see on the picture of the chalkboard below) can still give you an idea of what could be on offer:

 

This evening, appetizers (Ceviche of tuna, corn soup, duck carpaccio, etc)  were priced in between $10 to $15, main courses (filet mignon, artic char, scallops, shrimp risotto) in between $24 to $28 and desserts (chocolate cake with Dulce de Leche Ice cream $7, caramelized peaches/orange mousse/fennel for $6). I found the prices to be reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients + what accompanies each dish (carefully look at what is on that chalkboard and you will notice that each food item comes with a variety of accompaniments).

I went for the tasting menu, a bargain at $50 for 6 courses (wine not included):   

Salad of spinach, tomatoes,jicama – Fresh veggies of remarquable quality. Loved the playful interraction between the gentle sweet / subtly sour / delicate acidic flavors. The overall was dressed in  a pear balsamic vinegar. The jicama was a well thought addition to the salad: tasty and enjoyably crunchy, the jicama is actually an ideal alternative to green apples in salads.  For those who have not tasted jicama yet, it is a bit reminiscent of a green apple but without the upfront sour taste.  Simple at first glance, but a lot of work and punch in there. Well done. 8/10
Pairing wine: 2008 Pircas Negras Torrontés. Excellent light and sweet refreshing white wine, with discrete floral consistency +  aromas of green apple that reached out so well  to the jicama. Nice match to the overall salad. 

Tuna ceviche, Mango purée – This dish is a showcase of precision and exceptional skills. Why? Because in the hands of an average cook, a mango purée is the ticket to overwhelm anything that it is mixed with. In the hands of a genius cook like Chef Navarrete, it is a revelation. The purée, of outstanding light consistency and delicious taste, was of ideal combination with that fresh morsel of tuna (here again, a lot of brilliant work in balancing well the peppery/spicy/acidic marinated  taste of the tuna ceviche). Genius work to let each ingredient oozing in their pristine purity  and yet complementing themselves. This is of Michelin star caliber. 10/10
Pairing wine: 2006  Medalla Real  Sauvignon blanc – Nicely balanced, great acidity, refreshing white wine with tropical aromas that reach out to the mango purée and the ceviche.

Corn soup, Potato salad, chives, aioli, crab meat

This soup, served cold, had a succulent rich milky buttery taste with an  agreeable consistency  that was neither too thick nor too light but rather harmonious. In the soup, a pristinely fresh morsel of crab (tasted wonderfully of open sea)  that was incredibly tender, meaty and juicy woke up my taste buds. The warm potato salad, nicely cooked, tasty and earthy, added smartly well to the appreciated contrast of warm and cold temperatures. Again, in line with Chef Navarrete’s well known ability to cook food that beautifully stays imprinted in the mind.. Excellent 10/10
Pairing wine: Santa Julia chardonnay 2008 – This fresh and crisp white wine matched well with the earthy potato + corn soup. It’s elegant and subtle fruity aromas complement with the subtle sweetness of the corn. Smart pairing.

At this point, I moved to an another table. So the next pictures will not benefit of natural light as the previous. They are still taken in good conditions:

Artic char, caviar, quinoa, avocado, salsa verde – On top of the morsel of fish, a delicious light airy purée of fresh avocado. When mixed with the caviar, the taste and texture were simply outstanding . The tangy, zesty flavor of the salsa verde is remarquable. The fish, a morsel of superior quality and of outstanding marine freshness, was cooked with care and tasted great. Quinoa was ideally cooked and packed with flavour. The overall stood as a well structured and delicious dish. Another scrumptious meal. 9/10
Wine: Swan Bay Pinot Noir 2008 – In line with the meal, it has structure and character. It’s an interesting wine that I kept rediscovering on each sip. It’s earthy tone and firm enjoyable acidity + charry oak finish reach out so well to the seared morsel of fish. My type of wine and another clever match to the food.

Filet mignon (Angus AAA), chorizo sauce,mushrooms, butternut squash purée – Quality, quality, quality. Freshness, freshness, freshness. I kept repeating those words like prayers to myself upon savoring each bite of this lovely executed  fork tender and intensely flavorful filet mignon.  The cooking was masterful with a strong focus on optimizing the beef flavor . That is how I want my beef! The chorizo sauce was beefy and delicious. The butternut squash, nicely done. The green beans served along the filet mignon were barely cooked, paving the way to  upfront freshness of the veggie. 8/10
Pairing wine: 2007 Cousino Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon  – Excellent red (I highly recommend this one), with dark fruit aromas, great intensity and savory flavors that are perfect match to the filet mignon. 

Concluded with the dessert:

Dulce de Leche ice cream, Chocolate cake – I think I’ve scared my main waiter, Jean-Francois, when I told him — right  before the dessert was served — that my years in France is the result of me being extremely picky with desserts! Jean-Francois, no worries : although my palate was used to the mostly superb rich desserts of France, our beautiful province does great too: come to think about this, all desserts of Chef Navarrete have highly satisfied me and this one is no exception: a delicious milky rich flavorful ice cream of superior quality with a chocolate cake that was really well done. 7/10
Pairing wine: 2003 Cosecha Tardía Ocucaje – A lovely Peruvian white wine, made of Muscat grapes, marked by it’s expected  musky fresh-grape flavors,  that I was discovering for the first time. It has the typical sweet floral  aromas you expect from most Muscat based wines. The sweetness here is moderate (I can’t stand overwhelming sweetness in white wines)  and  the overall is  elegant/ well structured, characteristics that I seek for in my dessert wines. Balanced so well with  that Chocolate cake/ice cream duo. 

I’ve promised myself to cut a bit with the raves and superlatives when faced with excellent food. As we say in French “Trop, c’est comme pas assez“! But I can’t: when food is that outstanding, my heart has to express it’s full enjoyment. Mind you, unless a catastrophe occurs (of course, even the greatest  have sometimes their weaknesses —  we’ll cross that bridge whenever we’ll get there), it’s virtually impossible to find flaws when your reviews are focused on the works of Chefs like Laprise, Navarrete,Alexandre Loiseau, Pelletier, Mercuri..etc. Another saying in French goes like this: ”’prends le pendant que ca passe!”’

Now, it’s your turn to play, Chef Rodrigo!
There’s lots of pride in Navarrete’s cooking and it’s impressive. So impressive that I can’t see many Chefs being able to fill his shoes.  Luckily for us, diners, Chef Rodrigo (the man who will be the permanent Chef at A Table) has an impressive background too: many years alongside Chef Navarrette Jr (he was his Chef at Madre), and strong experiences at  Daniel Boulud‘s and Spain’s Xavier Pellicer Abac restaurants. I’m excited at the idea of going  back to A Table and this time enjoying chef Rodrigo’s take on Navarrete’s Jr high standards. 
Also of high interest: a visit to Raza, Navarrete’s stronghold (I personally compare Navarrete’s creativity and talent to an open sea of discoveries…it never ends!).

Service:
Jean-Francois (he told me that he usually works at Raza), my waiter and sommelier of the evening, went with smart wine pairings. Service from his part was very attentive, knowledgeable, professional and courteous. Same could be said of the entire staff (amazingly in full control despite this one busy night).

Bottom line: This evening was of exceptional mention (the food was great, ambience was relax, service was focused and friendy). I am confident that Chef Rodrigo understands very well  the importance of perpetuating Navarrete’s high standards and look forward to indulge in Chef Rodrigo’s talented cuisine.

Thanks for reading, Aromes

ADDED    ****BRUNCH @ A TABLE***

Brunch @ A Table
Sunday July 26th 2010, 11:00AM
NOTE: This brunch was cooked by the Mastermind, Chef Navarrete himself.
So, up to now I haven’t had the opportunity to review the cuisine of A Table’s permanent Chef, Rodrigo Flores. It will take me a while before I can  review Chef Rodrigo Flores cuisine since I have couple of restaurants to visit in the short term (including a romantic dinner I want to book @ Raza with Jannice).
PAIN DORÉ, CHOCOLAT NOIR, PECHES CARAMÉLISÉES – This is the choice of my daughter. I had some bites of her french toast: I like the fact that for once, a Chef understands the importance of not cooking something his patron could have done at home. Instead of the common bread dipped in milk and egg, we have here a bread that is of outstanding quality with an eggy presence that is deep and remarquable (I need to know where he buys those fresh eggs!). In mouth, this was definitely  not my common french toast. More accurately a gourmet french toast (the delicious sweet sauce was of high marks. Same could be said of the top quality chocolate with it’s deep cocoa taste). Caramelized peaches were successful (well cooked and tasty).   

My pick:

BAVETTE AUX ÉPICES, OEUF, PATATES ROTIES ET AIOLI – Flavorful, juicy and meaty, the flank steak  was cut in several tender pieces instead of one big steak. Nicely cooked potatoes, onions, tomatoes, green beans and a delicious meaty sauce completed this excellent dish. Chef Navarrete added his own touch of chorizo foam on top of the egg: 

 

A Table brunch menu is short but smart: instead of a huge list of redundant ingredients and menus that unecessarily pertain to the book category, their menu ,on this brunch, was composed of 8 main courses covering the essential of a brunch meal: some with meats (”smoked salmon, salad of eggs, aioli, tomatoes”, ”smoked salmon with poached egg, potato crepe, caviar”, ”bavette aux épices, sunny side up egg, roasted potatoes“), some with french toast, some with crepes and one omelette accompanied by mushrooms, roasted potatoes, onions, sauteed tomatoes. You also have the usual juices and coffees + some aside offers like the soup of the day, sauteed chorizo, roasted potatoes.

I must admit that I am too picky with brunches and breaksfasts: in 5 years, very few brunches made it on my repeat list. Mtl’s long time popular brunch / breakfast tables like Cosmo’s, L’Avenue, Beauty’s have not seduced me. It took 3 visits at the Sparrow, perhaps one of the latest most famous Mtl tables for it’s amazing brunches, to get me enthusiastic about their brunch (I’m a fan of the Sparrow now. The 3rd visit there truely made a great impression). Even my all time favourite breakfast place (Le Cosmopolitain in Laval) has sometimes been challenged (bottom line, their breakfast at Le Cosmopolitan fare better on weekends, I found) by your host.  For now, only 3 brunches are getting away with favorable opinions from my part: the one at XO Le Restaurant (a luxurious take on the brunch), this one at A Table (delicious, creative and refreshingly different), and the very last brunch I had @Sparrow (varied, homey,copious).

2009-2010 AROMES     TOP 15 BEST DINNERS IN MONTREAL


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