Restaurant Hotel Herman, Montreal – Pleasant enough

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
Type of cuisine: North American Bistrot
Addr: 5171, rue Saint-Laurent, Montréal, QC
Phone: 514 278-7000

Facebook
.

Dish per dish Ratings: 10/10-Benchmark 9-Excellent 8-Very Good 7-Good 6-Ok, pleasant 
My recent  visits covered restaurants that have been a ‘coup de coeur'” to some of Yul’s well regarded food journalists. I do that once in a while because they are the best specialists of our restaurant scene, therefore it is logical to give a try to what have impressed them the most. Last week, I tried Mezcla, a ‘coup de coeur'” of Thierry Daraize. In my view, not bad, certainly  more exciting  than other better rated places in town (their course of blood pudding that I had on that evening being so remarkably exciting ),  but a lacklustre braised beef and a ceviche lacking ultimate refinement kept that meal away for strong overall ratings. Two yrs ago, I tried Marie Claude Lortie’s coup de coeur: Bouillon Bilk. That was an instant  coup de coeur for me as well. Today, it’s the turn of the ‘coup de coeur'”  of one of Voir magazine’s star food journalists, Gildas Meneu. The name of the restaurant: Hotel Herman. Important: this is by no means a judgement over the amazing work of those wonderful journalists. Food, as you know, is subjective. Therefore, please do understand that my appreciation of a given meal is just that: at X time, I was impressed by X meal. At Y time, Mr Meneu, Mr Darraize, Madame Lortie had the superb meals they had. Point blank.

This is a romantic meal with my wife, so no picture taken. But for those who love pics, you’ll still have one picture in this review: the one of my bill.  I consider prices on a bill to be  part of my privacy, therefore you won’t see the numbers ;p
 
Dined here on Saturday Sept 8th, 2012. 19:00. Hotel Herman is a … restaurant, not a …hotel. An easy joke, but aside from that, the restaurant is located on Saint Laurent in place of what used to be the late La Montée. They have renovated the place and it now looks more airy, with a beautiful bar in the middle, grey-toned chairs and tables all around. The decor pertaining to what is widely known nowadays as ‘post industrial’ design . A really pretty place, way way way more appealing than  its predecessor.

First thing I noticed: this place is hard to book on a last minute attempt. I managed to get a seat for 7:15pm, only available till 21:00 for a saturday evening. But we never felt rushed at all, and the service was so efficient that we actually were done by 20:00 and could have stayed there without any problem.

SERVICE: We had two Gentlemen as our main waiters: one, I’ll nickname the ” moustache man” as well as a blond gentleman with hair in a tight ponytail who I’ll nickname ‘the surfer’ since he made me somehow  think of a surfer.  Both Gentlemen offered a stunning service on this evening,  the type of service that I would expect only at a world class dining venture. Many places I like still have little flaws in the service, but here that aspect was in superb hands from what I have experienced all along this meal: both Gents were simply evolving in perfect mode this evening, never leaving glasses empty, never forgetting about one single detail, excelling in all aspects of top hospitality standards. The ‘Surfer’ even showing an extraordinary  fun personality.  Not one single mistep in both Gentlemen work, but world class presence all the way. They also had the 2 owners in house on this evening: one of them is a Gentleman both Jannice and I nicknamed ‘El barbudo de granma’ since  he made us think a bit of a young Fidel Castro at the time of the Cuban revolution (the team of revolutionaries who went on chasing away Batista were nicknamed ‘Barbudos de grandma’ after the boat that they used ),  because of his hat and shirt, and of course beard. He was a superb company to all diners, expressing very humble, fun, and sociable traits. The other owner came to our table, at some point, to serve the desserts we’ve ordered: a woman of little words  (if no words at all )  from what  transpired at that moment.

WINE:  On this evening, the wine list consisted of 4 pages (size of  1/6 page wide club flyers) and an extra two-sided page of cocktails and various liquors  (for eg, bourbon limonade $9, rhum, cognac, poire williams,grappa, scotch, etc). Sparkling wines (10 of them featuring on that list)  went from a $47 La peur du rouge, Axel Prufer to a $110 Champagne extra brut, Fidèle, Vouette et Sorbée; Examples of other sparkling wines: a personal  favourite Phil en Bulles, 2010 Phillipe Tessier ($46 the bottle, $8.5 the glass), Baden Sekt, Pinot extra brut, 2003, Ziereisen ($48)Ca va bien, Phillipe Bornard ($54). White wines varied in between $40 (for eg, a  2011 Garganega del veneto, I Masieri, Angiolino Maule ($40) up to a $69 Venezia-Giulia, ponka 2009 Paraschos ; 17 white wines featuring on that list with another favourite of mine, the Arbois-Pupillin 2008 Domaine de la Pinte ($52, I did not have it this time since it was not served by the glass at that moment; I always go by the glass to taste varied wines), Serbie orientale poema 2009 Cyrille Bongiraud ($45 the bottle, $8 the glass), another favourite of mine Santorini Assyrtiko sélectionné 2011 Hatzidakis  ($54 the bottle, $10 the glass), a Willow creek riesling 2010 Chad Hardesty ($63), etc. Then thirty choices featured among the red wines, from a Vin du Québec, Solinou, 2011, Mike et Véro ($30), up to a $84 Bourgogne, Bedeau, 2010 Frédéric Cossard. Other examples of red wines:  Aglianico del taburno Apollo 2006 Domenico Ocone ($43 the bottle, $8 the glass), a 1999 Pessac-Léognan Chateau Mirebeau ($65), Barolo, La Morra, 2006, Renato Buganza ($75), VDT, chemin noir, 2011 Chateau tour grise ($40);  Bourgogne, Pommard 2008 Thierry Vilot-Guillemard ($90), etc. Their choice of  biodynamic wines is interesting.

FOOD: They have a short menu, which seemed well varied when it comes to starters, but both Jannice and I found the ‘main courses’ section shorter of perhaps 1 extra item. Make no mistake: I perfectly understand the need of a short menu and it’s the way to go, indeed. But Perhaps adding another meat course should do the trick, here. Prices already feature on their facebook site, so no need to repeat those here.

We ate:

Crabe de roche de Gaspésie, radis, cresson fontaine ($18) – The crab meat was fresh,  and there was plenty of them (I am insisting on this because many complain about the $$$ in restaurants compared to what you get: well, here there was the quantity justifying this cost)  and of course, there is nothing to not like with fresh crab meat. But there is also little in excitement to be experienced from fresh crab meat morsels and  marinated radish that are basically just that: fresh crab meat and marinated radish. When you offer simple dishes like this one, you have just one way out for the dish to be appreciated: it needs to outstand, a good example being the remarkable “crab tourteau” dish that Chef Jean-Paul Giroux has once served me at Cuisine & Dependance, now unfortunately closed: a dish of sheer simplicity that I have never hesitated to score with a well deserved perfect 10/10 since the mouthfeel was simply of  epic dimension. As for this one dish I was sampling on this evening at Hotel Herman, it is just an Ok dish, simple and fresh.  6/10 as far as I am concerned. But my hats off to the exemplary sourced radish and watercress, a remainder of how this is a restaurant who takes all little details into account.

Plateau de charcuterie maison (Saucisse, rillette, terrine de foie) $15 – One small block of the terrine de foie, another small block of the rillette, and 3 tiny slices of sausage.  All  Certainly pleasant, well done cold cuts.  Both the rillette and terrine de foie packed with fresh good flavor, although not at the level of the cold cuts that knocked my socks off.  6.5/10

Magret de canard, chou fleur, trompette des maures, sauce hollandaise $19 – While sampling that sauce hollandaise, I had this vision in mind: me, knocking at the door of all the Chefs who failed to deliver an exciting sauce hollandaise, and showing them this version. The Chef here is a young gentleman who used to work at  La salle à Manger, Marc-Alexandre Mercier. Based on just this meal, it is hard for me to tell you what I think about him but there are certainly — eventhough it’s obvious that this evening’s meal won’t join my favourite bistrot meals in YUL —  some signs of brilliance: such beautifully-textured sauce hollandaise with taste to match, that beautiful sensuous pan-seared foie of the next course. Alas I am not a big fan yet, for reasons like this: we all know that duck is a meat that’s tough by nature. But Yep, indeed, you can make it tender. That is actually why we all want  our duck to be rosy, cooked no long. Now, when you see that your duck is cooked as it should (rosy, as it was the case with this duck) …but it is tougher than expected from any successful duck magret ….there’s a reason for that, no? I mean I am sorry to sound mean here, I actually hate lecturing ppl, but it’s a restaurant and ppl are paying, and in total honesty: this is a place with plenty of potential, so why not encouraging them in the right direction? Anyways, this was a big ‘block’ of  duck magret, which is generous and I appreciate, but inevitably harder to get right if you want to cook it in controlled fashion . Slice that ‘block’  in 3 and you’ll get  better accomplished cooking of the duck. I am also not a big fan of serving ‘sauce hollandaise’ with duck magret. I know it is doable and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just can’t appreciate the match of both. Anyways, the reason I am not rating this higher  has nothing to do with my personal aversion to duck magret / sauce hollandaise. I could take that anytime, especially with that superb sauce hollandaise. It has to do with the fact that the cooking of the duck magret  was hard to master because  the piece of duck was cooked as a whole as opposed to 3 slices.  Jannice was even meaner than me on this one. Coming from the countryside, therefore a huge admirer of ducks, among other things, she knew exactly what to expect from an ideal  duck magret, either in the old fashion or innovative contemporary way. This, to both Jannice and I,  was pleasant ..largely because of the superb sauce hollandaise…but two notches behind the best duck magrets we had. Again, nothing catastrophic, far from that (which is why I still rate it with a 6 over 10), but I had more memorable renditions of the duck magrets. Still, at $19, this is a steal!       6/10

Foie gras, crème de mais, pain brioche $23 – Beautiful sear of the foie gras, and I’ll repeat beautiful! I insist on this because to me, this is what makes the difference between a benchmark  piece of pan sear foie Vs the average decent piece of pan-sear foie gras that anyways no one can’t miss. But this piece, oh my ..my! This is the piece I needed when I was talking about what was missing on this Mezcla‘s pan-seared foie dish to be a benchmark one: a texture of the gods, the necessary amount of sensuous heat, deep joyous lively livery flavor.  I was starting to play the “Ah la la la la long” in my mind at that moment. And YET… I am heartbroken here, because usually a benchmark pan-seared foie gras triggers a fountain of hysteria from my part, Jannice — when around — even usually insisting that I calm down asap, Rfaol! Two  problems, as far as I am concerned: that  pain brioche hidden under the corn cream. Why is it under that corn cream? Don’t we know that a pain brioche under corn cream is not a pain brioche anymore?? I want to taste the pain brioche, a classic ideal companion to foie gras, but not its liquid-immersed version, Lol! Also: Yes, quality corn cream (this place use prime produce and I am very appreciative of this aspect, hence the repeated reference to the quality of their ingredients) is inevitably tasty and I do appreciate this, but honestly: wasn’t this a bit too straightforward?  Good 7/10, but this could have been a 10/10 had the overall conception blown me away.  

Crème prise de lait de chèvre, fraises au sucre, crumble $8 – Served in a jar, this was Ok. Again, they use beautiful produce here, so the strawberries were indeed really nice. The quality of the goat milk, impeccable. But in mouth, the overall was more of a pleasant dessert rather than a remarkable one. Again, nothing bad here. Just nothing particularly great, neither.  A 6 over 10 for the combo goat milk/strawberry, Jannice even rating this lower (and she is a countryside woman with goat cheese milk-based dessert being usually her favourite), but the crumble on its own was in a totally different league: I have to think back to the best pastries of my childhood in France to find a pastry of such amazement!

Conclusion: Not really a coup de coeur as far as I am concerned (nothing, on this meal, went above an beyond what I came to  expect at comparable top bistrot eateries, nothing surprised, nothing particularly knocked my socks off), but certainly one place  delivering the charming little things that will inevitably appeal to the most such as the beautiful plating, a cool ambience, interesting choices of  biodynamic wines, contemporary bistrot food executed with  logical ingredient combinations. In a nutshell: the usual stuff I do expect  from a good bistrot that does at least enough extra efforts (especially in the attention to details when it comes to showcase beautiful contrasting textures on a plate)  to make things  interesting. Nonetheless,  the food here is delicious and comes with a sense of excitement (even when it’s expected: for eg, the corn cream with pan-seared foie gras). And the concrete reality that many Chefs are not  capable of such beautiful sensuous pan-sear foie and exciting sauce hollandaise…that remains a mistery in my books! This meal tonight is no benchmark, but it was a revelation in that aspect. The prices are relatively decent, here, especially given the beautiful produce on display. Marc-Alexandre, scrap the little flaws and make it happen, buddy!
PROS: Not many Chefs could get their pan-sear foie gras the way they delivered it on this evening. Tasty food.
CONS: Most dishes I had would have been stunning by avoiding the ‘avoidable’, for eg: there’s nothing appealing with a  a brioche under some cream, there’s hardly any control if you cook a big piece of duck magret, etc
Overall food rating: 6/10 Jannice would have give it a 5 from what she told me. Anyways, I thought that we must remain realisitic when it comes to restaurants. Quebec is, at this moment, not a world gourmet  destination,and yet many big cities around the world do enjoy gourmet fame for generally far lesser Chefs. I mean, I am not here to distribute unecessary flowers, but seriously that sauce hollandaise, that fab pan-seared foie, not many Chefs around the globe do this in such spectacular manner found on this evening’s meal. On the other hand, I’d fool this beautiful and promising restaurant if I’d suggest that everything was perfect on this evening. Re-read my review, 3 times if that is required,  and  you’ll see that there’s some homework to be done. It is not a drama to improve upon misteps. Some of todays’  best Chefs are among the best..because they accepted critics and improved upon!
Service: a 10/10 for the ‘moustache man’ and ‘Surfer man’ performance on this evening. But I have a question: is  Madame, the owner, happy to host guests? She was not mean at all, really not, but  ppl pay to visit your restaurant,  thus I’d expect a minimal sense of welcoming..no????  Anyways, nothing drastic here.
Decor: what’s not to like in such a beautiful urban, post industrial decor? Lively and fun as far as I am concerned

WHAT  I THINK MONTHS LATER – The  local food journalists seem to have been impressed with this place. Great for Hotel Herman, and the generous portion Vs sweet prices will inevitably
translate into raves (good value is what people are looking for, after all), but a dish like that revised version of the  magret de canard was simply about bad understanding of the basics of  cooking duck meat -hopefully, they are doing  better ones by now–, the foie gras dish showcased bad conception (pain brioche under corn cream..so what am I supposed to appreciate here: the corn cream? Ok. The pain brioche? How?? It is covered with corn cream…The concept of the pain brioche soaked in corn milk: No, thanks…it was a waste of pain brioche, then!). If the idea is to bring new concepts, fine. But they need to make sense. Judging by the excitement of the food journalists and loads of raves on the foodosphere, my meal is perhaps just a bad day.  So, I’ll drop by one of those days –way, after having tried world’s most serious food cities, to be honest with u — and see if things are indeed better.

Advertisements
Standard

Restaurant L’eau à la bouche, Sainte-Adele: Take Two

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

Dinner at L’Eau à La Bouche, Sat Febr 27th 2010, 18:00PM
3003 Boulevard Sainte-Adèle
Sainte-Adèle  (Québec)
Phone: 450 229 2991
URL: http://www.leaualabouche.com/
Particularity: A Relais & Chateaux restaurant
Type of dining: Upscale market cuisine / French Fine dining
READ: My report about the 1st dinner here (Febr 13th 2009).

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(2) Second visit at Restaurant L’eau à la bouche, Sainte-Adele in the Laurentides (in between Montreal and Tremblant). As most already know, this is the restaurant of star chef Anne Desjardins and one of the very few  Relais & Chateaux tables of Eastern Canada/Quebec. L’Eau à la Bouche is one of QC’s very top best fine dining tables along with Hotel Saint-James XO Le Restaurant, Toque! / Nuances in Montréal, Initiale in Quebec City, Quintessence in Tremblant. Last time we dined there, that was on February 13th 2009 (ref: click here for my review of that dinner) and that tasting menu we had back then was simply stunning. We were excited to see if this magic would perpertuate and went this time again with their tasting menu.

Kicked off with an Ok Rhum coco/blood orange/grapefruit:
RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - RHUM COCO, ORANGE SANGUINE, PAMPLEMOUSSE Rhum coco/blood orange/grapefruit: Ok, satisfying cocktail (7/10). A second cocktail of gin/tonic (10/10) was more memorable.

Next came a mise en bouche of:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - WILD MUSHROOMS, CHIVES, CREME FRAICHE Wild mushroom/chives/creme fraiche potage: evenly seasoned, not too creamy not too light, enjoyably slightly peppery with the chives adding a nice touch to the earthiness of the whole potage. Welcoming refreshing touch from the crème fraiche. Good. 8/10

Followed by:
RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - SMOKED TROUT, CREME FRAICHE, HORSE RADISH Smoked trout from Sainte-Agathe crème fraiche, horseradish, wakamé, roasted sesame seeds – The cold smoked fish’s flesh sported an ideal pink texture. The trout was oozing with it’s enjoyable natural strong flavour. The sweet, smoky flavor of the fish was delightfully enhanced by the mix of the creme fraiche and horseradish that provided an excellent kick to the smoked trout (although common — horseradish/creme fraiche acompanying smoked fish is common affair— this was more importantlyl very tasty). 10/10 for the match Smoked Trout/Horseradish/Creme Fraiche.
Wakame: Crunchy, fresh  and tasty. Drizzling it with the sesame seeds was a great touch and turned out to be a convincing great work of taste. On it’s own, it was excellent, but not a convincing accompaniment to the smoky trout.
Precision of the cooking: 5/5 (The trout ont it’s own was nicely smoked)
Tastyness: 5/5  for the taste of the trout, same for each other element on their own
Complexity: Medium
Overall Value: 4/5 
wine Pairing wine: Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Reserva Selection Limitée , Montes – Vallée de Leyda, Chile
It is a wine unknown to me, which is exactly what I seek for since I love discovering wines. And it turned out as a welcoming surprise to my tastebuds: nice medium-bodied mineral wine, aromatic with a nose of grass and enjoyably fruity aromas too (my tastebuds sensed aromas of litchi and cantaloup). I love this white wine: it’s aromatic, intense. To my tastebuds, this balanced so well with the smoky aspect of the trout. Great wine pairing.  

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - DUCK FOIE GRAS AU TORCHON, CELERY, HONEY CARAMEL Fresh duck foie gras from “la Canardière” “au torchon”, celery, honey caramel  – To be honest, although “au torchon” preparations keep most part of the taste/flavors of the foie, I am more a fan of pan-seared foie (especially the ones concocted by Toque!, Bistro Cocagne and APDC. I have always said that Laprise-Loiseau-Picard have among the best techniques of pan-seared foie gras concoctions. L’Eau à la Bouche’s pan-seared foie on my 1st dinner there in Febr 2009 was also a blast, sharing actually the position of best pan-seared I ever had on a fine dining table — here & abroad’s included — with the item #3 of the last dinner at Toque!). It just blows my tastebuds way more than the “au torchon” version. To make matter worst, I really had average experiences in Mtl & surroundings with most preparations of the “au torchon” version (even at upscale restaurants, with only the one I had last summer at M Sur Masson being a highlight  (it was tiny in portion, but oh so intense and of high quality) along with the one at Toque!, too.
As to this one, the pate consistency was ideal: beautifully velvety, not too firm, not mushy  and enjoyably meaty, like I expect my au torchon foie gras to be. The La Canardière foie gras is a truely top quality foie produced in QC’s region of L’Estrie.
Tastyness: Excellent freshness + superior quality of the foie  reflected in this lovable tasty au torchon foie gras in it’s simplest splendour. The honey caramel was delicious and complemented so well the foie.
Overall Value: for the top quality foie gras, this is definitely of nice value. As for the accompaniment, I’d skip only the celery (not to be seen as a reproach here: the celery –you can see it at the bottom of the picture— adds actually a cute textural visual balance to the overall dish, was good and fresh on it’s own but not quite complementing the foie, to my tastebuds opinion) but the honey caramel was simply divine!
My only suggestion: put more complexity into the 3 pieces of toasts, for ie offer 1 honey-flavored baked toast, another one could be spice bread..etc. 8/10

See how they cook one stands to me as the best pan-seared foie I ever tasted on any upscale fine dining table, here and abroad included. 

 2670-0w0h0_Domaine_Croix_Saint_Salvy_Gaillac_Doux_Croix_Saint_Salvy Pairing wine: Gaillac Doux 2006, Grain de Folie Douce, Causses Marines – although I know so well this wine (one favourite of mine), I do also appreciate seeing it served on a restaurant table. It’s a great wine full of intensity, dense, with  aromatic nose of   prune, honey, currant, and an enjoyable long finish. Solid value. As for the pairing, it tuned out, in mouth, as  nice match to the foie (Undoubtly even better with some pan-seared foie gras). 

Served in a tajine:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushroom Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushrooms, cooking jus, tonka bean and mint – 

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushroom Roasted squab – There are some few meats that are victims of severe judgements from my tastebuds  like Squabs and Quails, courtesy — perhaps— to the fact that I seldomly get to eat them and many cooks managed to somehow serve it either bland or try to my table. The rewarding aspect of this stands in the fact that whenever  it impresses me, the squab or quail had to be an exceptional exercice of cooking mastery and tastebud wonder (well, to my tastebuds of course!). 
This simple preparation of theirs perfectly accented the natural flavors of the fowl, the pigeon’s meat had the ideal texture, slight smoky-ness and tasty meaty juicy-ness. Delicious tender squab taht kept it’s gamey taste intact. The squab was roasted to perfection. 10/10 for the roasted squab.
I feel a bit uncomfortable when judging risottos: I have been perfectionning this at home for years, at least once a month, so needless to stress that in such circumstances you are afraid to be harsh on judging others risottos. Fortunately, I can be completely detached from that aspect and fully focus on someone else’s risotto as my tastebuds sense it. This  risotto was delicious and delicate on it’s own, not mushy but at ideal al-dente consistency, sporting a nice texture, ideal creaminess, delicious taste and enhanced by a subtle enjoyable citrus aroma. 8.5/10 for this risotto. The risotto I had last year at Restaurant Primo & Secondo in Montreal  is still KING, but the Desjardins are doing a really good job at this, too. 
The mushrooms brought the right level of earthiness to balance with the earthy-tone of the squab meat.
Complexity: Honestly, High. Think about how time-consuming and fussy a risotto can be. I know, this is a big league restaurant and surely a simple affair for them, but it is still not as simple as 1,2,3 + it takes a considerable level of focus, patience and skills to make a delicious risotto. This was definitely not our so called easy easy home made risottos. Add to this, the master cooking behind that flawless roasted pigeon + the righful balance of flavors in there.8/10
Niagara Escarpment VQA 2006, Gamay Pairing wine: Niagara Escarpment VQA 2006, Gamay, Malivoire Wine. Being profoundly attached to  France’s terroir wines, I mistakenly left canadian wine sleeping a bit under my radars, and this was a nice reminder to look also this side of the world since some solid nice wines have made their way for a while, now. Unfortunately, this very specific 2006 Malivoire made of Gamay grapes was disappointing to my tastebud: it lacked body (way too light-bodied for me) and character. Slight nose of rosemary, tannic, just not as delicate and aromatic as I wished.

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Wild Boar,  roasted contre-filet, braised shoulder, Wild Boar,  roasted contre-filet, braised shoulder, rutabaga and butternut squash, cranberry and green pepper corn sauce – The best Boar dish I ever had since a long time was the braised Boar I devoured at LCCP on Nov 13th 2009 (It’s the Braised Boar / See course #4 of that dinner): that was pure cooking genius and a stunning concerto of decadent flavors/textures/tastes. Since then, I had my share of satisfying, but not memorable, boar dishes at many restaurants this side of the border. So I was looking forward to taste  L’Eau à la Bouche’s take on the Boar: the meat came in two ways: roasted (tender and flavorful) + braised (even more enjoyable to my tastebuds since it was packed with deeper flavors and tasted great. In both versions, the meat was nicely tenderized, and they manage to skillfully avoid the easy dry-ness this meat can easily indulge into. Nice work too on keeping the natural gamey taste of the meat.  8/10
Pairing wine: Palacio de Ibor Reserva Valdepeñas 2004.  It’s a wine from the Spaniard’s region of Castilla de la Mancha. Appelation Valdepenas. This affordable tempranillo (made from a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, too) wine (off side note: if you are seeking for nice value wines, this one is a great value red wine for the $$$, btw ) is packed with a nice tannic presence, has low acidity, a nice structure and remarquable enjoyably fruity (cherry) notes + aromas of coffee. Nice complexity. Liked it, especially with the Boar meat ( found it to pair nicely with this meat).

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Heirloom beet salad, creamy goat cheese, ham salt, r Heirloom” beet salad, creamy goat cheese, ham salt, roasted nuts  – The quality of the beet is remarquable here. Nicely boiled, the various types of beets tasted great and the work of textures at display on this dish is appealing to the eyes. The creamy goat cheese was tasty. Roasted nuts adding an enjoyable nutty touch to the overall. A simple dish, with a homey feel.
ARBOIS 2005 Pairing wine: Arbois 2005, Béthanie, Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois. It’s a France’s region of Jura (Sub region of Arbois) Chardonnay that I know very well. Very affordable rich fruity wine, with fine minerality, citrus aromas. Paired naturally well with the beets salad dish.

Before I conclude with the dessert, try this  highly recommendable 1986 Château-Chalon Yellow wine if you get a chance:

1986 Château-Chalon

The dessert:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Mango and litchi, coconut  macaron, mango jelly  Mango and litchi, coconut “macaron”, mango jelly  – I have a huge weak spot for tropical fruits. Mango and litchis are among those I like the most. Last year, L’eau à la bouche won my heart with an amazing…roasted pineapple marvel (hi..hi..I told you: those tropical fruits drive me nuts! Rfaol!). This time, it sounded as interesting too with such thing like mango jelly and coconut macaron and I was looking for my tastebuds to interpret this all: although enjoyably flavorful , the macaron (6/10) was too dry and too crunchy. In the middle, a sorbet of litchi (delicious, rich and memorable 10/10) and on the far right a mango brunoise (6/10 Just ok). 

SO, Voilà! My last year’s tasting menu at L’Eau à la Bouche (ranked #1ex aequo personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise) was more on the ‘upscale fine-dining’ range whereas this year’s (ranked #15  personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise)  pertains to the ‘upscale bistro-esque’ repertoire. Either way, L’Eau à la Bouche can deliver some of the top finest dining experiences of this province (on this dinner, most patrons at neighboring tables who picked some of the à la carte menu items had experienced the full potential of the huge fine dining talent of this table, so do not rely solely on the bistro-esque trend of my latest tasting menu).

IMPECCABLE WORLD CLASS SERVICE, AWESOME SOMMELIER
What a charming wait staff: sociable, extremely accomodating and professional. Exactly what I do expect from a Relais & Chateaux (Remarquable High standard of customer service). And charming they are: At some point, our sommelier of the evening, Valerie (who does, by the way, an awesome work at patiently describing and elaborating on each wine), learned from my part that I was charmed one year earlier by the poetic presentation of wines made by Mr Pierre, who has been one star of the restaurant for almost 22 years. She made sure that Mr Pierre appeared at my table towards the end of the dinner. Awesome charming touch!

CHARMING COUNTRYSIDE INTERIOR DINNING ROOM
As you already know from the Febr 13th 2009 report, the interior decor is simple, small, with low ceilings and above all, in perfect harmony with the basics of French countryside interiors  that it naturally has to relate to. Although simple looking, it has a charming elegance to it. Let’s go through a little visual tour of it all:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(3) As soon we got in, we faceda small little bar where a welcoming staff (smiley, sociable) welcomed us:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(4)
As I wrote earlier on, the dining room has a cute countryside interior type of decor:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(5)

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(6)

PROS: This is indeed in the top 3 finest tables of Quebec Province. All the top tables supposedly as great or greater than this one have failed to prove me otherwise. I am not talking about value for my bucks here, but the ‘gourmet’ aspect in itself. So, the 1st meal (Febr 13th 2009) there was simply stunning. We had at our neighbouring table a couple who was familiar with this globe’s finest tables and they agreed that that meal (they were having the same tasting menu we have chosen) was of top 2 star Michelin standard even right at the heart of Michelin stardom: France. But…

CONS: But…the 2nd meal was inferior to the 1st (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the 1st occurence is always more ‘magical’). Talking about the 2nd meal, I do expect such top level dining venture to not miss a simple macaron. It is a forgivable slip given what they have proven on the 1st meal, but this should not happen. And when  you opt for something slighlty less ‘gourmet’ and more ‘bistro’ ( as it was the case with the tasting menu on the 2nd meal), I become less of a fan. Lastly, The ‘smoke trout’ and the ‘foie gras au torchon’ dishes would have benefited from a more elaborate  ‘gourmet’ concept/construction (they were too straightforwardly conceived for this level of dining). What justifies an outstanding gourmet level of dining is its complexity, done superbly well. I did not get such depth of successful complexity on this 2nd meal ..which I should expect at at such high $$$!

Standard

Restaurant L’eau à la bouche, Sainte-Adele: Take Two

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

Dinner at L’Eau à La Bouche, Sat Febr 27th 2010, 18:00PM
3003 Boulevard Sainte-Adèle
Sainte-Adèle  (Québec)
Phone: 450 229 2991
URL: http://www.leaualabouche.com/
Particularity: A Relais & Chateaux restaurant
Type of dining: Upscale market cuisine / French Fine dining
READ: My report about the 1st dinner here (Febr 13th 2009).

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(2) Second visit at Restaurant L’eau à la bouche, Sainte-Adele in the Laurentides (in between Montreal and Tremblant). As most already know, this is the restaurant of star chef Anne Desjardins and one of the very few  Relais & Chateaux tables of Eastern Canada/Quebec. L’Eau à la Bouche is one of QC’s very top best fine dining tables along with Hotel Saint-James XO Le Restaurant, Toque! / Nuances in Montréal, Initiale in Quebec City, Quintessence in Tremblant. Last time we dined there, that was on February 13th 2009 (ref: click here for my review of that dinner) and that tasting menu we had back then was simply stunning. We were excited to see if this magic would perpertuate and went this time again with their tasting menu.

Kicked off with an Ok Rhum coco/blood orange/grapefruit:
RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - RHUM COCO, ORANGE SANGUINE, PAMPLEMOUSSE Rhum coco/blood orange/grapefruit: Ok, satisfying cocktail (7/10). A second cocktail of gin/tonic (10/10) was more memorable.

Next came a mise en bouche of:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - WILD MUSHROOMS, CHIVES, CREME FRAICHE Wild mushroom/chives/creme fraiche potage: evenly seasoned, not too creamy not too light, enjoyably slightly peppery with the chives adding a nice touch to the earthiness of the whole potage. Welcoming refreshing touch from the crème fraiche. Good. 8/10

Followed by:
RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - SMOKED TROUT, CREME FRAICHE, HORSE RADISH Smoked trout from Sainte-Agathe crème fraiche, horseradish, wakamé, roasted sesame seeds – The cold smoked fish’s flesh sported an ideal pink texture. The trout was oozing with it’s enjoyable natural strong flavour. The sweet, smoky flavor of the fish was delightfully enhanced by the mix of the creme fraiche and horseradish that provided an excellent kick to the smoked trout (although common — horseradish/creme fraiche acompanying smoked fish is common affair— this was more importantlyl very tasty). 10/10 for the match Smoked Trout/Horseradish/Creme Fraiche.
Wakame: Crunchy, fresh  and tasty. Drizzling it with the sesame seeds was a great touch and turned out to be a convincing great work of taste. On it’s own, it was excellent, but not a convincing accompaniment to the smoky trout.
Precision of the cooking: 5/5 (The trout ont it’s own was nicely smoked)
Tastyness: 5/5  for the taste of the trout, same for each other element on their own
Complexity: Medium
Overall Value: 4/5 
wine Pairing wine: Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Reserva Selection Limitée , Montes – Vallée de Leyda, Chile
It is a wine unknown to me, which is exactly what I seek for since I love discovering wines. And it turned out as a welcoming surprise to my tastebuds: nice medium-bodied mineral wine, aromatic with a nose of grass and enjoyably fruity aromas too (my tastebuds sensed aromas of litchi and cantaloup). I love this white wine: it’s aromatic, intense. To my tastebuds, this balanced so well with the smoky aspect of the trout. Great wine pairing.  

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - DUCK FOIE GRAS AU TORCHON, CELERY, HONEY CARAMEL Fresh duck foie gras from “la Canardière” “au torchon”, celery, honey caramel  – To be honest, although “au torchon” preparations keep most part of the taste/flavors of the foie, I am more a fan of pan-seared foie (especially the ones concocted by Toque!, Bistro Cocagne and APDC. I have always said that Laprise-Loiseau-Picard have among the best techniques of pan-seared foie gras concoctions. L’Eau à la Bouche’s pan-seared foie on my 1st dinner there in Febr 2009 was also a blast, sharing actually the position of best pan-seared I ever had on a fine dining table — here & abroad’s included — with the item #3 of the last dinner at Toque!). It just blows my tastebuds way more than the “au torchon” version. To make matter worst, I really had average experiences in Mtl & surroundings with most preparations of the “au torchon” version (even at upscale restaurants, with only the one I had last summer at M Sur Masson being a highlight  (it was tiny in portion, but oh so intense and of high quality) along with the one at Toque!, too.
As to this one, the pate consistency was ideal: beautifully velvety, not too firm, not mushy  and enjoyably meaty, like I expect my au torchon foie gras to be. The La Canardière foie gras is a truely top quality foie produced in QC’s region of L’Estrie.
Tastyness: Excellent freshness + superior quality of the foie  reflected in this lovable tasty au torchon foie gras in it’s simplest splendour. The honey caramel was delicious and complemented so well the foie.
Overall Value: for the top quality foie gras, this is definitely of nice value. As for the accompaniment, I’d skip only the celery (not to be seen as a reproach here: the celery –you can see it at the bottom of the picture— adds actually a cute textural visual balance to the overall dish, was good and fresh on it’s own but not quite complementing the foie, to my tastebuds opinion) but the honey caramel was simply divine!
My only suggestion: put more complexity into the 3 pieces of toasts, for ie offer 1 honey-flavored baked toast, another one could be spice bread..etc. 8/10

See how they cook one stands to me as the best pan-seared foie I ever tasted on any upscale fine dining table, here and abroad included. 

 2670-0w0h0_Domaine_Croix_Saint_Salvy_Gaillac_Doux_Croix_Saint_Salvy Pairing wine: Gaillac Doux 2006, Grain de Folie Douce, Causses Marines – although I know so well this wine (one favourite of mine), I do also appreciate seeing it served on a restaurant table. It’s a great wine full of intensity, dense, with  aromatic nose of   prune, honey, currant, and an enjoyable long finish. Solid value. As for the pairing, it tuned out, in mouth, as  nice match to the foie (Undoubtly even better with some pan-seared foie gras). 

Served in a tajine:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushroom Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushrooms, cooking jus, tonka bean and mint – 

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushroom Roasted squab – There are some few meats that are victims of severe judgements from my tastebuds  like Squabs and Quails, courtesy — perhaps— to the fact that I seldomly get to eat them and many cooks managed to somehow serve it either bland or try to my table. The rewarding aspect of this stands in the fact that whenever  it impresses me, the squab or quail had to be an exceptional exercice of cooking mastery and tastebud wonder (well, to my tastebuds of course!). 
This simple preparation of theirs perfectly accented the natural flavors of the fowl, the pigeon’s meat had the ideal texture, slight smoky-ness and tasty meaty juicy-ness. Delicious tender squab taht kept it’s gamey taste intact. The squab was roasted to perfection. 10/10 for the roasted squab.
I feel a bit uncomfortable when judging risottos: I have been perfectionning this at home for years, at least once a month, so needless to stress that in such circumstances you are afraid to be harsh on judging others risottos. Fortunately, I can be completely detached from that aspect and fully focus on someone else’s risotto as my tastebuds sense it. This  risotto was delicious and delicate on it’s own, not mushy but at ideal al-dente consistency, sporting a nice texture, ideal creaminess, delicious taste and enhanced by a subtle enjoyable citrus aroma. 8.5/10 for this risotto. The risotto I had last year at Restaurant Primo & Secondo in Montreal  is still KING, but the Desjardins are doing a really good job at this, too. 
The mushrooms brought the right level of earthiness to balance with the earthy-tone of the squab meat.
Complexity: Honestly, High. Think about how time-consuming and fussy a risotto can be. I know, this is a big league restaurant and surely a simple affair for them, but it is still not as simple as 1,2,3 + it takes a considerable level of focus, patience and skills to make a delicious risotto. This was definitely not our so called easy easy home made risottos. Add to this, the master cooking behind that flawless roasted pigeon + the righful balance of flavors in there.8/10
Niagara Escarpment VQA 2006, Gamay Pairing wine: Niagara Escarpment VQA 2006, Gamay, Malivoire Wine. Being profoundly attached to  France’s terroir wines, I mistakenly left canadian wine sleeping a bit under my radars, and this was a nice reminder to look also this side of the world since some solid nice wines have made their way for a while, now. Unfortunately, this very specific 2006 Malivoire made of Gamay grapes was disappointing to my tastebud: it lacked body (way too light-bodied for me) and character. Slight nose of rosemary, tannic, just not as delicate and aromatic as I wished.

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Wild Boar,  roasted contre-filet, braised shoulder, Wild Boar,  roasted contre-filet, braised shoulder, rutabaga and butternut squash, cranberry and green pepper corn sauce – The best Boar dish I ever had since a long time was the braised Boar I devoured at LCCP on Nov 13th 2009 (It’s the Braised Boar / See course #4 of that dinner): that was pure cooking genius and a stunning concerto of decadent flavors/textures/tastes. Since then, I had my share of satisfying, but not memorable, boar dishes at many restaurants this side of the border. So I was looking forward to taste  L’Eau à la Bouche’s take on the Boar: the meat came in two ways: roasted (tender and flavorful) + braised (even more enjoyable to my tastebuds since it was packed with deeper flavors and tasted great. In both versions, the meat was nicely tenderized, and they manage to skillfully avoid the easy dry-ness this meat can easily indulge into. Nice work too on keeping the natural gamey taste of the meat.  8/10
Pairing wine: Palacio de Ibor Reserva Valdepeñas 2004.  It’s a wine from the Spaniard’s region of Castilla de la Mancha. Appelation Valdepenas. This affordable tempranillo (made from a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, too) wine (off side note: if you are seeking for nice value wines, this one is a great value red wine for the $$$, btw ) is packed with a nice tannic presence, has low acidity, a nice structure and remarquable enjoyably fruity (cherry) notes + aromas of coffee. Nice complexity. Liked it, especially with the Boar meat ( found it to pair nicely with this meat).

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Heirloom beet salad, creamy goat cheese, ham salt, r Heirloom” beet salad, creamy goat cheese, ham salt, roasted nuts  – The quality of the beet is remarquable here. Nicely boiled, the various types of beets tasted great and the work of textures at display on this dish is appealing to the eyes. The creamy goat cheese was tasty. Roasted nuts adding an enjoyable nutty touch to the overall. A simple dish, with a homey feel.
ARBOIS 2005 Pairing wine: Arbois 2005, Béthanie, Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois. It’s a France’s region of Jura (Sub region of Arbois) Chardonnay that I know very well. Very affordable rich fruity wine, with fine minerality, citrus aromas. Paired naturally well with the beets salad dish.

Before I conclude with the dessert, try this  highly recommendable 1986 Château-Chalon Yellow wine if you get a chance:

1986 Château-Chalon

The dessert:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Mango and litchi, coconut  macaron, mango jelly  Mango and litchi, coconut “macaron”, mango jelly  – I have a huge weak spot for tropical fruits. Mango and litchis are among those I like the most. Last year, L’eau à la bouche won my heart with an amazing…roasted pineapple marvel (hi..hi..I told you: those tropical fruits drive me nuts! Rfaol!). This time, it sounded as interesting too with such thing like mango jelly and coconut macaron and I was looking for my tastebuds to interpret this all: although enjoyably flavorful , the macaron (6/10) was too dry and too crunchy. In the middle, a sorbet of litchi (delicious, rich and memorable 10/10) and on the far right a mango brunoise (6/10 Just ok). 

SO, Voilà! My last year’s tasting menu at L’Eau à la Bouche (ranked #1ex aequo personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise) was more on the ‘upscale fine-dining’ range whereas this year’s (ranked #15  personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise)  pertains to the ‘upscale bistro-esque’ repertoire. Either way, L’Eau à la Bouche can deliver some of the top finest dining experiences of this province (on this dinner, most patrons at neighboring tables who picked some of the à la carte menu items had experienced the full potential of the huge fine dining talent of this table, so do not rely solely on the bistro-esque trend of my latest tasting menu).

IMPECCABLE WORLD CLASS SERVICE, AWESOME SOMMELIER
What a charming wait staff: sociable, extremely accomodating and professional. Exactly what I do expect from a Relais & Chateaux (Remarquable High standard of customer service). And charming they are: At some point, our sommelier of the evening, Valerie (who does, by the way, an awesome work at patiently describing and elaborating on each wine), learned from my part that I was charmed one year earlier by the poetic presentation of wines made by Mr Pierre, who has been one star of the restaurant for almost 22 years. She made sure that Mr Pierre appeared at my table towards the end of the dinner. Awesome charming touch!

CHARMING COUNTRYSIDE INTERIOR DINNING ROOM
As you already know from the Febr 13th 2009 report, the interior decor is simple, small, with low ceilings and above all, in perfect harmony with the basics of French countryside interiors  that it naturally has to relate to. Although simple looking, it has a charming elegance to it. Let’s go through a little visual tour of it all:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(3) As soon we got in, we faceda small little bar where a welcoming staff (smiley, sociable) welcomed us:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(4)
As I wrote earlier on, the dining room has a cute countryside interior type of decor:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(5)

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(6)

PROS: This is indeed in the top 3 finest tables of Quebec Province. All the top tables supposedly as great or greater than this one have failed to prove me otherwise. I am not talking about value for my bucks here, but the ‘gourmet’ aspect in itself. So, the 1st meal (Febr 13th 2009) there was simply stunning. We had at our neighbouring table a couple who was familiar with this globe’s finest tables and they agreed that that meal (they were having the same tasting menu we have chosen) was of top 2 star Michelin standard even right at the heart of Michelin stardom: France. But…

CONS: But…the 2nd meal was inferior to the 1st (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the 1st occurence is always more ‘magical’). Talking about the 2nd meal, I do expect such top level dining venture to not miss a simple macaron. It is a forgivable slip given what they have proven on the 1st meal, but this should not happen. And when  you opt for something slighlty less ‘gourmet’ and more ‘bistro’ ( as it was the case with the tasting menu on the 2nd meal), I become less of a fan. Lastly, The ‘smoke trout’ and the ‘foie gras au torchon’ dishes would have benefited from a more elaborate  ‘gourmet’ concept/construction (they were too straightforwardly conceived for this level of dining). What justifies an outstanding gourmet level of dining is its complexity, done superbly well. I did not get such depth of successful complexity on this 2nd meal ..which I should expect at at such high $$$!

Standard