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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Kitchen Galerie, Montreal – An unforgettable gustatory feast!

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

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

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

(English review to follow) – Alors, j’imagine qu’il y’a deux camps, rires: ceux qui adorent leur version ‘Poisson’ (Kitchen Galerie Poisson) au Vieux Port (hop là, ne comptez pas sur moi pour célébrer celle là) et ceux qui préferrent l’autre: le Kitchen Galerie sur Jean-Talon (alors là, j’en suis un fan!). Au Kitchen Galerie sur Jean-Talon, deux Chefs (Axel et Bourdages), ainsi que leur petite équipe m’ont cuisiné un repas qui redéfinirait le mot ‘délicieux’ en des termes bien plus élogieux que ceux qu’on retrouve présentement dans le petit larousse . Ils sont jeunes, inspirés et talentueux comme très peu peuvent s’en vanter, mais c’est leur sens du gout qui m’ a tout simplement renversé. Un restaurant demeure un restaurant, Un chef demeure un etre humain, donc ce meme émerveillement, je ne pourrai vous le garantir mais je vous le souhaite car lorsqu’il laisse sa marque comme sur ce repas, il est épique. Entretemps, pour moi, et ce jusqu’ à preuve du contraire, Chef Axel et Chef Bourdages font parti des plus GRANDS car en fait, il est là ma définition d’un GRAND Chef:  celui qui de très peu (ici, pas de moléculaire ou des techniques de fou, mais une cuisine qui, dans sa simplicité et ses riches saveurs, sort du lot) , batit des montagnes tout en ayant cet atout hyper précieux: un excellent sens du gout (il ne suffit pas de se contenter de saveurs riches. Encore faut-il qu’elles épatent en bouche, et ca, ils le font comme très peu parviennent à le faire). Présentement, dans mon top  des meilleurs bistrots Montréalais  en compagnie d’Au 5e Péché, Bouillon Bilk et le Bistro Cocagne. 

Simple rustic copious upscale comforting food is Trendy
For this report, I needed a restaurant that portrays well the “simple, rustic, homey, upscale comforting food” — name it the way you want — that  rose as the big  trend in this city’s restaurant scene, for a while now. I wanted to go to Joe Beef but Jannice preffered a spot that’s closer to home, hence the choice of Kitchen Galerie.

To quote Chef Jean-Philippe St-Denis of Kitchen Galerie (Ref: this article of the WSJ): “Simple food is the new food of Montreal.”. In fact, the simple comforting food trend  is now largely in operation in Mtl and  it’s list of ambassadors keep growing: Joe Beef, Greasy Spoon, Le Chien Fumant, McKiernan Luncheonette, Restaurant Garde-Manger, and the list can go on and on. Appearently, that is what the most, in this city, seem to want these days. I have no reserve before such: simple or not, all I care about is how tasty my food stands. Make it devilishly delicious and I’ll dance samba with you!

Kitchen Galerie is a tiny (less than 30 seats) popular Bistro that  has attracted lots of enthusiastic followers, raving reviews and critics since it’s debuts.

It’s chefs, Chefs Mathieu Cloutier and Jean-Philippe, are stars of the Montreal gastronomic scene and recently won the prestigious pan-Canadian culinary 2009 Gold Plates contest. I like KG, but it’s important to know what it is and what it is not: It is a simple small bistro with just the Chefs doing both the serving/cooking/dish_washing/yari_yaring (a unique concept for now, in Montreal) with straightforward comforting bistro fares. KG’s backed by highly talented Chefs like Mathieu Cloutier (Who once worked under the sky of 2 Michelin Stars Rouen’s restaurant Gill + many other big restaurants) and Jean-Phillipe (Trainning at 3 Michelin Star George Blanc restaurant + Chef at Lemeac, Holder) is a reminder that in Montreal, there is a dormant base of stunning talent to be revealed one day: there is no doubt that those Chefs can throw any of the stunning food items you see at the top hottest Michelin Star restaurants around this globe. With that in mind, one would naturally ask: BUT why..for god sake..those comforting simple bistro fares (Creme Brulee, Cote de boeuf)??…The  big question is unarguably this one: is there, here in Montreal, a strong clientele for the 6th dimension luxurious fine dining experience?  When one of World’s top skilled Chefs, Chef Corey Lee, who was at  the head of one of World’s best luxurious fine dining restaurants, the French Laundry, reminds us that “ — These days, people are looking for options —” you quickly realize the hulky challenge behind selling upscale luxurious stunning dinings like those at World’s top tables. For now, both KG’s chefs are muting that potential of luxurious fine dining and do offer an amazingly affordable skillfully concocted local maket-driven straightforward/simple/casual bistro fare.

Now OFF with the existential yari-yaring, ..and ON with the food I had there: 

Jannice and I started off with two gazpacho shooters:

NOT your next door simple gazpacho. Think of an elaborate superior delicious type of light gazpacho with a work of taste that’s remarkable (tasted fresh, with an enjoyable playful acidity that was mastered so well). Great work on avoiding the usual too thicky consistency that I can’t stand with most gazpachos I had. This one paved the way to deep explosive fresh flavors. The way I wish all gazpachos should be.  By far the best gazpacho I ever enjoyed on any of Mtl’s top tables. Excellent! 10/10

  Foie Gras Poélé, Tarte tatin aux pommes, Sauce Caramel – The picky lover of pan seared foie gras that I am … is extremely picky about  what complements the pan seared foie, too. This is what Jannice picked. She naturally shared some bites with me: we both agreed that the perfectly well cooked and deeply flavored fresh livery foie was not the only star of this dish. Reminder to all Chefs: if you are seeking for the best companion to a pan seared foie gras, give a call to KG! That apple tarte tatin at the bottom of the foie was not only unbelievably delicious (I was afraid that the caramel would overwhelm it with an overdose of  sugar, but I was wrong), but it stood as the best pan seared foie gras companion I ever tasted since a long time! Needless to brag about it over and over, I just can’t find words. Only some kind of deep endless pleasant emotions, a feeling of having flirted with the 8th marvel of the world, hi hi 10/10

I opted for their iconic signature foie gras offering: Pot de foie gras cuit au lave vaisselle, gelée de muscat au poivre long – A creamy foie gras au torchon alike concoction. Basically, it is seared in a jar + poached in a dishwasher. Of course, there are other techniques to achieve the same resulting foie gras concoction but this technique of theirs adds to the fun and legend of this tasty foie gras.  This is the only item that impressed slightly less compared to the rest of this entire superb meal (a 10 for the delicious taste, but less impressive than the rest) , and yet it tasted great. 7/10

Jannice’s pairing wine to her foie gras was a glass of Château La Croix Poulvère 2006 (Interesting blend of muscadelle, sauvignon and sémillon that was dense, sweet and yet balanced +  marked by an enjoyable freshness. Recommendable AOC wine). Mine was a glass of 2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine Cazes (Entirely made of muscat and marked by fresh grapefruit aromas. Sweet and well rounded.) 

Jannice and I went on with another signature dish of theirs:

Cote de boeuf rotie, Jus à l’estragon, légumes racines, foie gras, truffes noires – This dish (for 2 persons) costs $80 without the extras of foie and black truffles, $120 with those extras. It is a generous portion, but as Jannice pointed out: it is fine for two. Jannice and I are average eaters (we do not eat that much), and yet we completed this dish. We were completely full by then, naturally! As much as I have hard time believing in total perfection, as much as I could not find anything but superlatives to describe this dish: the gravy was delicious, evenly seasoned, with a remarkable upfront enjoyable beefy flavor. The meat was of high quality, perfectly cooked at   ideal medium rare (the best cooking for such, I believe) and  packed with exceptional rich depth of meaty exquisite flavors. The kind of beefy marvel that most are confident to cook but only very few manage to make it memorable. KG are kings at working their meats and this dish was of unfogettable material. Superlatives have to be used for the accompaniments, too: amazingly well cooked and tasty veggies, remarquable top quality earthy fresh black truffles, succulent mashed potatoes (virtually no respectable restaurant should miss that one, and yet KG pushed the enjoyment to higher levels of creamy explosive richness) . Those Gentlemen are having fun in that kitchen and it shows in how they make those veggies shining in that plate. A good example would be the caramelized carrots: a tastebud wonder, like the rest of this dish actually ! Fyi: you can have this same dish with fish or other meats replacing your beef.

It is common to see more and more Chefs offering   ‘foie gras / cote de boeuf‘ as  the defacto meal for a joyous moment, but  I have yet to sample one as dazzling  as this cote de boeuf  that  Chef Axel has cooked at Kitchen Galerie on this meal.  10/10

The Cote de Boeuf  for two was paired with two glasses of red:
A glass of Walden Cotes du Roussillon, 2007 ( An agreeable fruity syrah, with subtle acidity, surprisingly balanced, that’s actually affordable, fyi) for me + a glass of Domaine de la Roche Buissière – Petit Jo ( a ‘vin de table’ that is quite surprisingly a nice bio wine, made of grenache — a grape I used to not like, but some few recent wines made me reconsider my initial opinions and reconciled me with grenache). 

The desserts:

Crème brulée, KG’s version of the Jos.Louis cake + Cerise en blanc – I did not expect KG to shine with desserts. But they did on this dinner and they took me by surprise: the 3 cakes were flawless (The crème brulée had a rich custard base that managed to avoid the way too often annoying thick consistency that made me favoring Flan caramel over Crème brulée. In this case, the consistency was of a remarquable softness that you will rarely find in most Crème brulée + the hard crust had also the ideal slim layer I like with my ideal crème brulée, avoiding the annoying brutal shock of the spoon  hitting against a rough layer of caramel). Their Jos Louis version is an airy  chocolate wonder, a flashback to what I wish the initial JL should have been! The Cerise en Blanc was so well executed. 8.5/10

Pairing wine to the dessert:

Moscatel de Setubal, 2004, Joseé Maria da Fonseca – I am not a  fan of this dessert wine. Although it’s quite a good wine that the most will surely enjoy (nicely aromatic), I found it’s depth of sweetness not to be to my liking.

Service is friendly, cool, relax and yet professional.

Decor:
Omnipresence of black and red tones

 

Wooden tables and chairs:

 

Loved the little rutic touches they have here and there:

Their bar/Open kitchen:

 

Location:

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

 

This place offers a standard affordable table d’hote (1 starter, 1 main course, 1 dessert) that  is priced around 30$$ something. But both Jannice and I opted for a bit of extravaganza (there’s just 1 life to live ;p) which in this case included wine pairings to all our meals, 2 bottles of sparkling water, the $120 cote de boeuf for 2 with foie gras + truffles ($80 without the foie gras + black truffles), the $12 extra for my foie gras, the $22 extra for Jannice’s pan seared foie. Total cost  of $230 for two for that.

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

When food is as delicious as on this reviewed dinner, all the non 10/10 ratings you see (for ie 9 for the cote de boeuf)  are in fact firm10s at most other restaurants.  A food item deserving a 10 over 10 of my standards needs to reach spectacular refinement, taste, execution and conception such as those dishes that made my top 10 of finest food items in Montreal, but KG’s cote de boeuf  revealed a spectacular sense of savourishness on this meal that unofficially earned it a true 10.  It sounds easy to tag a cote de boeuf or a gazpacho as a defacto delicious food that is hard to miss, but in facts few cooks have delivered them with such amazing flavours as found on this reviewed meal. It is dinners like this one that re-defined my culinary vocab with new entries such as  “architect of stunning tastes” or  “sense of savourishness“.

Bottom line: This is the beauty of having your own food blog, not dealing with a payroll  hanging over your head, and the freedom of talking with your own heart. You do not care about what people think. You just care about what comes from your heart. My heart was deeply seduced by this dinner @ KG. And that shines throughout my entire review. Simply a blissful feast (what I had on this one dinner was of extraordinary precision in cooking, seasonings, temperatures)! I see KG as a  table delivering excellent food in a straightforward way, with remarquable creativity to turn top quality ingredients into  exceptional delightful rich hearty meals.  As far as I am concerned, this one dinner worth my money. I am looking forward to more feasts at KG. 

Jannice was also deeply seduced: her words being that for her, KG is a star shining vibrantly in the sky of Montreal: Indeed, this –as long as they keep such standard found on this meal — is food that the most will find outstanding in terms of vibrant tastes and the cooks of this evening, Axel and Mathieu Bourdages, are largely among the very best Chefs this city has. Their commitment to delicious food is rarely matched.

Thanks for reading, Aromes

PROS:  Chefs Axel, Mathieu Bourdages and their team have blown my taste buds away. The D in D – E – L – I – C – I – O – U – S!

CONS:  Nothing to complain about

THE FOLLOWING IS THE REVIEW OF MY MEAL @ KITCHEN GALERIE, JEAN-TALON, ON DEC 10TH 2011:

Event: Dinner @ Kitchen Galerie (on Jean-Talon)
Type of cooking: French/North American Bistro
Addr: 60 Rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal, QC
(514) 315-8994
When: Saturday Dec 10th 2011, 20:00

I have always expressed doubts when a cook uses the word ‘simple” as in ‘simple food’. It’s a trend to democratize food: ‘hey…come to my restaurant, I am cooking some very simple fares“.  Most of the time, it’s a catastrophe for sure. The reason is simple: cooking has nothing to do with complex nor simple food. It has to do with raw impulsive talent.When one of world’s most talented Chefs, Jacques Maximin cooks a simple piece of fish with olive oil and lemon juice….don’t think that you’ll reach the same results based on the simple appearance of  his recipe! Don’t think that most great cooks will achieve the same results.  It might seldomly happen!  Simplicity is a marketting slogan…deep raw talent (the touch of the cook) makes all the difference.

Raw talent is what comes to mind when I think about the work of Chefs Axel Mevel and Bourdages at Kitchen Galerie (the one on Jean-Talon). On each of my previous visits here,  both Chefs have cooked some of the most delicious bistro food I ever sampled in Montreal. Their work of flavors being remarkable and rightly earned them a position in  my personal top3 of best bistrots in town. Both Chefs have that rare ability of elevating simple fares to gustatory highlights.

This evening, it’s Chef Mathieu Cloutier who’s at the helm. Chef Cloutier is one of the the owners of  Kitchen Galerie.  Aside of this change from my past visits, I also notice that they have renovated the room: dark wood floors and walls:

Furthermore, you can now sit at the bar.

On to the food, we’ve sampled on this evening ->

All meals at Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon start with an amuse-bouche. This (their miniature take on mussel salad)  is the least impressive of the amuses that I have sampled here. Perhaps a 7/10, only because past amuses I had at Kitchen Galerie on JT raised the bar so high: for ie, the  gazpacho on my very 1st meal here and an equally impressive vichyssoise on my 2nd visit (both under Chef Axel’s supervision). Reviewing food of a table that are among those setting the bar in a given city (KG on JT and Montreal in this case) gives interesting outcomes: such amuse would have surprised me at most bistrots in town. But KG on JT is no ordinary kitchen: those folks have a sense of taste and work of flavor that  has an edge over the rest of the pack. Therefore, this is one of the rare cases where I am forced to compare a dish to the very own standards of its own creators . In the KG’s standards that I am accustomed to , this was good (it’s easy to see why I praise KG on JT: they are never short of imagination when it comes to provoke pleasure on the palate: the salad of mussel was   flavorful, enhanced by rich elements: for ie, the way the crème fraiche and chives paired together added lots of palatable impact to the mussels, a thoughtful touch as KG on JT delivers so oftently ), not great (Yeah…there’s a flaw that has nothing to do with the kitchen. It’s in the nature of seafood salad in general: when you make such salad, guess what -> there’s always the ‘solid’ part sitting atop…and naturally, its ‘soft’ liquid counterpart that lies beneath. When it’ s in a big bowl, you can easily mix them up, but in a shell…..you can’t do that since it’s too small. Which gave this: first sampling of the salad..superb…then followed by the insipid liquid counterpart)! Of course, no need to dive into uncessary drama here. An amuse does not make an entire meal! 

Tarte tatin, pan-seared foie gras   7.5/10 is this time two  notches behind the one I had sampled at KG on JT in July 2010 (that review can be found here) -> first, portion is smaller. Which I can understand: in that lapse of time, the price of ingredients have reached new heights. So, I won’t penalize this aspect, although this remains a case where portion matters. But the upside-down tart, on its own, is not as stunning as the one I had in July 2010 (its apples would benefit from better caramelised texture and more importantly, the rich and delicious taste — of the previous version — is not as transcendent here. This one still tasted good, but not as great as the previous).  

Whenever we have visited KG on JT, we’ve always opted for the cote de boeuf pour deux (in its super-size me version: truffles, foie gras, etc). The best cooking for this plate is definitely medium-rare. You need to have a huge appetite for this. It’s generous! When Chef Axel Maeve and Bourdages cooked it in July 2010 (reviewed here), I raved over their dish and received several emails reminding me that such meal can’t fail to be savourish anyways. The kind comments recommended many places where the cote de boeuf was  just as great. I have tried the recommended places and in total fairness, I came to the conclusion that it is just erroneous to think that all steaks taste the same, all seafood taste the same, all veggies taste the same. The thing to always keep in mind is this:  the touch of a talented cook makes all the difference!  KG on JT’s cote de boeuf is simply tastier, done way better: on this evening, for ie, the sauce was outstanding, the purée of potatoes far superior to what I found on  many michelin-starred tables that I’ve tried (for those like me who grew up in France and were familiar with Joel Robuchon’s famous potato purée — I started being a fine dining gourmand within the 3 yrs leading to Chef Robuchon’s retirement — this purée was as perfect as the one of Chef Robuchon. I know this may sound exxagerated — I myself would be the very first to find this surreal, especially when no one is virtually missing a purée nowadays—, but this stood as smooth, succulent and flawless at the one that Robuchon was cooking at the Hotel du Parc, for ie, before he retired. I wish I could cut a bit with the superlatives of this cote de boeuf, but I can’t . I can’t because the meat was outstanding in all aspects (precisely seasoned, and an impact of the palate that went far beyond what a standard delicious piece of meat delivers), the cooking of the veggies mastered in a way that would make 3 star Michelin Chefs Alain Passard (L’Arpège) and Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance) ..jealous! Especially Chef Barbot who works really hard on perfecting textures with veggies. A 10/10 (This dish is a perfect 10, there’s no doubt about this, but the kitchen should be careful with the over-cooking of  this dish’s  chunks of foie gras:  a very minor technical slip that I am forgiving this time around since this should not distract from this  overall stunning dish…. .but  keep  the timing of foie gras pan-searing  in check). As usual, there’s no need to  build unecessary expectations: will you stumble upon the exact same stunning purée? Veggies? Cote de Boeuf? I am not God and can’t guarantee anything, Rfaol! I myself had enjoyed this cote de boeuf at KG on JT for the 3rd time in 2 years, and it was a perfect 10/10 the 1st time (not one single flaw and the palatable impact stood really high), an 8 over 10 the 2nd   time     (it was tasty for sure, but the overall impact was less impressive than on the 1st try)  and a 10/10 again on this occasion. What I can tell you though is that in Montreal standards, this bistro raises the bar really high (for its inspired and skilled cooking, for delivering flavors that are mostly eventful)  and a dish like this one keeps KG on JT firmly planted in my top 3 best bistrots in Montreal. When I go to a restaurant, I don’t expect all my dishes to be a perfect 10 (It happened to me once or twice in a  lifetime, but come to think about it: how could you do this anyways…unless you manage to read in the mind of each of your diners??? …Lol)… I expect a depth of inspiration in your cooking that somehow sets you apart. That is what I sense in KG on JT’s cooking. 

Chef Axel Maeve was serving in the dining room, on this evening. For those who are not aware of this, Chefs are cooking and doing the service here. It’s a cool concept that made the reputation of this amazing table. Chef Cloutier is cooking tonight, and one of my favourite bistrot Chefs in Mtl, Chef Axel is serving. Chef Axel Maeve is not only one of my favourite Bistrot Chefs around the world (YES…you read this correctly), but he also can beat many sommeliers at the art and passion of chosing wines. Being very pragmatic, he suggested  a wine that does a great job whilst not being too $$$ (hey..if I was Bill Gates, I wouldn’t mind picking the pricier bottles, but I am not!!!! ):  a 2007 Norfolk Rise Cabernet Sauvignon (cold soaked then fermented in tank, fruity aromas of dark berry;  I enjoyed the nice tannins, fine bouquet, good balance and appealing intensity of this wine) – an affordable and throughtful match to the cote de boeuf (being medium-bodied, this red wine harmoniously complemented the red meat) .

The desserts are assembled by their brigade. And here again, I am impressed: I saw new faces on this brigade tonight, and yet they never ran away from the standards of KG on JT:

for ie:
The carrot cake –  I found that  most opinions about KG on JT’s desserts have hard time being accurate, perhaps because of  the simple nature  of the desserts at KG  (it’s a bistro, so no fancy dessert)  or perhaps because most  ‘crèmes brulées’ or ‘brownies”  tend to taste and look the same after a while. When a dessert is average (5/10, 6/10) , or simply well done but not deserving of  any particular interest (7/10 but no more), I don’t hesitate to mention it and my ratings always reflect that aspect. On 3 visits here, the desserts have always stood among what’s best done in Montreal bistrots (usually in between 8 to 10/10, and since we are talking here about classic desserts like crème brulée, brownies, carrot cakes, this speaks volume about how their desserts are inspired treats).  Take this carrot cake, for ie: they could have baked  a simple straightforward carrot cake and knowing how they always manage to make things taste good, I would have been very happy. But they came up with their own take of the carrot cake (a baked square, which consistency was firmer than the one of classic carrot cakes), used the unusual yellow carrots, paired the cake with a finely-cut fresh pineapple salad that was in its turn aromatically enhanced by basil. I’ve seen some brilliant cooks trying those kind of combinations, but rarely with similar exciting palatable impact. And imagine, I rated this a 8.5/10  (I think that a 10/10 would have been possible, in this case, had the cake been lighter, read: a slightly more airy / puffier consistency) – Certainly a 10 at most bistrots in town.  Talking about depth!

Then the choco brownie – I’d be on my 1st visit here, and I’d hastily jump to the following pre-sampling comment : “bah…just another brownie..”. But NO…once in mouth, it was packed with exciting flavors, a feature  that I sadly rarely find in brownies anymore. The choco flavor being deep and unusually enticing. I didn’t think that I could one day assign a 10 to a brownie and rave over it with such satisfaction, but if a brownie worths a 10, then this is a  10/10

That crème brulée you saw at the back of the choco brownie….is also a 10/10. How come?? How could a crème brulée be a 10? Come on…we all can cook a flawless crème brulée!  I agree with you. I too can cook a flawless crème brulée effortlessly. But KG on JT’s version on this dinner has an edge. It’ s just superbly done.Food is food, it is  elementary  and there’s no need to elevate it to theatre. And yet, KG on JT made it again, on this dinner: they found a way to assign a pleasant task  to food: transferring  some excitement on a palate.  

I know it may sound over the top to rave over a crème brulée and a brownie. But when it’s executed flawlessly, I don’t see any reason to not assign a perfect rating to a food item.With that said, it is  a bistrot, so if you are expecting sophisticated desserts, then a fine dining table would be more appropriate.  

KG on JT (Jean-Talon) does really have  an edge over its bistrot peers. While reviewing this dinner, I had to stick to KG on JT’s own standards, Rfaol!  If I had to compare it to other bistrots in town, there would have been an insane  profusion of 10 / 10 s!  Many tables with 7/10, 7.5/10 items would have triggered frustration from my part. Not Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon, because the standard here is simply higher as proven by the rest of the meal high scores. And I am surprised to see new cooks on their brigades who manage to follow that tradition of higher standards. Either they know how to transfer their knowledge, or they are lucky to stumble upon new cooks who learn fast. KG on JT stands among my top  bistrots in town along with Au 5e Péché, Bistro Cocagne and Bouillon Bilk.

Standard

Kitchen Galerie, Montreal – An unforgettable gustatory feast!

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

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

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

(English review to follow) – Alors, j’imagine qu’il y’a deux camps, rires: ceux qui adorent leur version ‘Poisson’ (Kitchen Galerie Poisson) au Vieux Port (hop là, ne comptez pas sur moi pour célébrer celle là) et ceux qui préferrent l’autre: le Kitchen Galerie sur Jean-Talon (alors là, j’en suis un fan!). Au Kitchen Galerie sur Jean-Talon, deux Chefs (Axel et Bourdages), ainsi que leur petite équipe m’ont cuisiné un repas qui redéfinirait le mot ‘délicieux’ en des termes bien plus élogieux que ceux qu’on retrouve présentement dans le petit larousse . Ils sont jeunes, inspirés et talentueux comme très peu peuvent s’en vanter, mais c’est leur sens du gout qui m’ a tout simplement renversé. Un restaurant demeure un restaurant, Un chef demeure un etre humain, donc ce meme émerveillement, je ne pourrai vous le garantir mais je vous le souhaite car lorsqu’il laisse sa marque comme sur ce repas, il est épique. Entretemps, pour moi, et ce jusqu’ à preuve du contraire, Chef Axel et Chef Bourdages font parti des plus GRANDS car en fait, il est là ma définition d’un GRAND Chef:  celui qui de très peu (ici, pas de moléculaire ou des techniques de fou, mais une cuisine qui, dans sa simplicité et ses riches saveurs, sort du lot) , batit des montagnes tout en ayant cet atout hyper précieux: un excellent sens du gout (il ne suffit pas de se contenter de saveurs riches. Encore faut-il qu’elles épatent en bouche, et ca, ils le font comme très peu parviennent à le faire). Présentement, dans mon top  des meilleurs bistrots Montréalais  en compagnie d’Au 5e Péché, Bouillon Bilk et le Bistro Cocagne. 

Simple rustic copious upscale comforting food is Trendy
For this report, I needed a restaurant that portrays well the “simple, rustic, homey, upscale comforting food” — name it the way you want — that  rose as the big  trend in this city’s restaurant scene, for a while now. I wanted to go to Joe Beef but Jannice preffered a spot that’s closer to home, hence the choice of Kitchen Galerie.

To quote Chef Jean-Philippe St-Denis of Kitchen Galerie (Ref: this article of the WSJ): “Simple food is the new food of Montreal.”. In fact, the simple comforting food trend  is now largely in operation in Mtl and  it’s list of ambassadors keep growing: Joe Beef, Greasy Spoon, Le Chien Fumant, McKiernan Luncheonette, Restaurant Garde-Manger, and the list can go on and on. Appearently, that is what the most, in this city, seem to want these days. I have no reserve before such: simple or not, all I care about is how tasty my food stands. Make it devilishly delicious and I’ll dance samba with you!

Kitchen Galerie is a tiny (less than 30 seats) popular Bistro that  has attracted lots of enthusiastic followers, raving reviews and critics since it’s debuts.

It’s chefs, Chefs Mathieu Cloutier and Jean-Philippe, are stars of the Montreal gastronomic scene and recently won the prestigious pan-Canadian culinary 2009 Gold Plates contest. I like KG, but it’s important to know what it is and what it is not: It is a simple small bistro with just the Chefs doing both the serving/cooking/dish_washing/yari_yaring (a unique concept for now, in Montreal) with straightforward comforting bistro fares. KG’s backed by highly talented Chefs like Mathieu Cloutier (Who once worked under the sky of 2 Michelin Stars Rouen’s restaurant Gill + many other big restaurants) and Jean-Phillipe (Trainning at 3 Michelin Star George Blanc restaurant + Chef at Lemeac, Holder) is a reminder that in Montreal, there is a dormant base of stunning talent to be revealed one day: there is no doubt that those Chefs can throw any of the stunning food items you see at the top hottest Michelin Star restaurants around this globe. With that in mind, one would naturally ask: BUT why..for god sake..those comforting simple bistro fares (Creme Brulee, Cote de boeuf)??…The  big question is unarguably this one: is there, here in Montreal, a strong clientele for the 6th dimension luxurious fine dining experience?  When one of World’s top skilled Chefs, Chef Corey Lee, who was at  the head of one of World’s best luxurious fine dining restaurants, the French Laundry, reminds us that “ — These days, people are looking for options —” you quickly realize the hulky challenge behind selling upscale luxurious stunning dinings like those at World’s top tables. For now, both KG’s chefs are muting that potential of luxurious fine dining and do offer an amazingly affordable skillfully concocted local maket-driven straightforward/simple/casual bistro fare.

Now OFF with the existential yari-yaring, ..and ON with the food I had there: 

Jannice and I started off with two gazpacho shooters:

NOT your next door simple gazpacho. Think of an elaborate superior delicious type of light gazpacho with a work of taste that’s remarkable (tasted fresh, with an enjoyable playful acidity that was mastered so well). Great work on avoiding the usual too thicky consistency that I can’t stand with most gazpachos I had. This one paved the way to deep explosive fresh flavors. The way I wish all gazpachos should be.  By far the best gazpacho I ever enjoyed on any of Mtl’s top tables. Excellent! 10/10

  Foie Gras Poélé, Tarte tatin aux pommes, Sauce Caramel – The picky lover of pan seared foie gras that I am … is extremely picky about  what complements the pan seared foie, too. This is what Jannice picked. She naturally shared some bites with me: we both agreed that the perfectly well cooked and deeply flavored fresh livery foie was not the only star of this dish. Reminder to all Chefs: if you are seeking for the best companion to a pan seared foie gras, give a call to KG! That apple tarte tatin at the bottom of the foie was not only unbelievably delicious (I was afraid that the caramel would overwhelm it with an overdose of  sugar, but I was wrong), but it stood as the best pan seared foie gras companion I ever tasted since a long time! Needless to brag about it over and over, I just can’t find words. Only some kind of deep endless pleasant emotions, a feeling of having flirted with the 8th marvel of the world, hi hi 10/10

I opted for their iconic signature foie gras offering: Pot de foie gras cuit au lave vaisselle, gelée de muscat au poivre long – A creamy foie gras au torchon alike concoction. Basically, it is seared in a jar + poached in a dishwasher. Of course, there are other techniques to achieve the same resulting foie gras concoction but this technique of theirs adds to the fun and legend of this tasty foie gras.  This is the only item that impressed slightly less compared to the rest of this entire superb meal (a 10 for the delicious taste, but less impressive than the rest) , and yet it tasted great. 7/10

Jannice’s pairing wine to her foie gras was a glass of Château La Croix Poulvère 2006 (Interesting blend of muscadelle, sauvignon and sémillon that was dense, sweet and yet balanced +  marked by an enjoyable freshness. Recommendable AOC wine). Mine was a glass of 2006 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine Cazes (Entirely made of muscat and marked by fresh grapefruit aromas. Sweet and well rounded.) 

Jannice and I went on with another signature dish of theirs:

Cote de boeuf rotie, Jus à l’estragon, légumes racines, foie gras, truffes noires – This dish (for 2 persons) costs $80 without the extras of foie and black truffles, $120 with those extras. It is a generous portion, but as Jannice pointed out: it is fine for two. Jannice and I are average eaters (we do not eat that much), and yet we completed this dish. We were completely full by then, naturally! As much as I have hard time believing in total perfection, as much as I could not find anything but superlatives to describe this dish: the gravy was delicious, evenly seasoned, with a remarkable upfront enjoyable beefy flavor. The meat was of high quality, perfectly cooked at   ideal medium rare (the best cooking for such, I believe) and  packed with exceptional rich depth of meaty exquisite flavors. The kind of beefy marvel that most are confident to cook but only very few manage to make it memorable. KG are kings at working their meats and this dish was of unfogettable material. Superlatives have to be used for the accompaniments, too: amazingly well cooked and tasty veggies, remarquable top quality earthy fresh black truffles, succulent mashed potatoes (virtually no respectable restaurant should miss that one, and yet KG pushed the enjoyment to higher levels of creamy explosive richness) . Those Gentlemen are having fun in that kitchen and it shows in how they make those veggies shining in that plate. A good example would be the caramelized carrots: a tastebud wonder, like the rest of this dish actually ! Fyi: you can have this same dish with fish or other meats replacing your beef.

It is common to see more and more Chefs offering   ‘foie gras / cote de boeuf‘ as  the defacto meal for a joyous moment, but  I have yet to sample one as dazzling  as this cote de boeuf  that  Chef Axel has cooked at Kitchen Galerie on this meal.  10/10

The Cote de Boeuf  for two was paired with two glasses of red:
A glass of Walden Cotes du Roussillon, 2007 ( An agreeable fruity syrah, with subtle acidity, surprisingly balanced, that’s actually affordable, fyi) for me + a glass of Domaine de la Roche Buissière – Petit Jo ( a ‘vin de table’ that is quite surprisingly a nice bio wine, made of grenache — a grape I used to not like, but some few recent wines made me reconsider my initial opinions and reconciled me with grenache). 

The desserts:

Crème brulée, KG’s version of the Jos.Louis cake + Cerise en blanc – I did not expect KG to shine with desserts. But they did on this dinner and they took me by surprise: the 3 cakes were flawless (The crème brulée had a rich custard base that managed to avoid the way too often annoying thick consistency that made me favoring Flan caramel over Crème brulée. In this case, the consistency was of a remarquable softness that you will rarely find in most Crème brulée + the hard crust had also the ideal slim layer I like with my ideal crème brulée, avoiding the annoying brutal shock of the spoon  hitting against a rough layer of caramel). Their Jos Louis version is an airy  chocolate wonder, a flashback to what I wish the initial JL should have been! The Cerise en Blanc was so well executed. 8.5/10

Pairing wine to the dessert:

Moscatel de Setubal, 2004, Joseé Maria da Fonseca – I am not a  fan of this dessert wine. Although it’s quite a good wine that the most will surely enjoy (nicely aromatic), I found it’s depth of sweetness not to be to my liking.

Service is friendly, cool, relax and yet professional.

Decor:
Omnipresence of black and red tones

 

Wooden tables and chairs:

 

Loved the little rutic touches they have here and there:

Their bar/Open kitchen:

 

Location:

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

 

This place offers a standard affordable table d’hote (1 starter, 1 main course, 1 dessert) that  is priced around 30$$ something. But both Jannice and I opted for a bit of extravaganza (there’s just 1 life to live ;p) which in this case included wine pairings to all our meals, 2 bottles of sparkling water, the $120 cote de boeuf for 2 with foie gras + truffles ($80 without the foie gras + black truffles), the $12 extra for my foie gras, the $22 extra for Jannice’s pan seared foie. Total cost  of $230 for two for that.

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

When food is as delicious as on this reviewed dinner, all the non 10/10 ratings you see (for ie 9 for the cote de boeuf)  are in fact firm10s at most other restaurants.  A food item deserving a 10 over 10 of my standards needs to reach spectacular refinement, taste, execution and conception such as those dishes that made my top 10 of finest food items in Montreal, but KG’s cote de boeuf  revealed a spectacular sense of savourishness on this meal that unofficially earned it a true 10.  It sounds easy to tag a cote de boeuf or a gazpacho as a defacto delicious food that is hard to miss, but in facts few cooks have delivered them with such amazing flavours as found on this reviewed meal. It is dinners like this one that re-defined my culinary vocab with new entries such as  “architect of stunning tastes” or  “sense of savourishness“.

Bottom line: This is the beauty of having your own food blog, not dealing with a payroll  hanging over your head, and the freedom of talking with your own heart. You do not care about what people think. You just care about what comes from your heart. My heart was deeply seduced by this dinner @ KG. And that shines throughout my entire review. Simply a blissful feast (what I had on this one dinner was of extraordinary precision in cooking, seasonings, temperatures)! I see KG as a  table delivering excellent food in a straightforward way, with remarquable creativity to turn top quality ingredients into  exceptional delightful rich hearty meals.  As far as I am concerned, this one dinner worth my money. I am looking forward to more feasts at KG. 

Jannice was also deeply seduced: her words being that for her, KG is a star shining vibrantly in the sky of Montreal: Indeed, this –as long as they keep such standard found on this meal — is food that the most will find outstanding in terms of vibrant tastes and the cooks of this evening, Axel and Mathieu Bourdages, are largely among the very best Chefs this city has. Their commitment to delicious food is rarely matched.

Thanks for reading, Aromes

PROS:  Chefs Axel, Mathieu Bourdages and their team have blown my taste buds away. The D in D – E – L – I – C – I – O – U – S!

CONS:  Nothing to complain about

THE FOLLOWING IS THE REVIEW OF MY MEAL @ KITCHEN GALERIE, JEAN-TALON, ON DEC 10TH 2011:

Event: Dinner @ Kitchen Galerie (on Jean-Talon)
Type of cooking: French/North American Bistro
Addr: 60 Rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal, QC
(514) 315-8994
When: Saturday Dec 10th 2011, 20:00

I have always expressed doubts when a cook uses the word ‘simple” as in ‘simple food’. It’s a trend to democratize food: ‘hey…come to my restaurant, I am cooking some very simple fares“.  Most of the time, it’s a catastrophe for sure. The reason is simple: cooking has nothing to do with complex nor simple food. It has to do with raw impulsive talent.When one of world’s most talented Chefs, Jacques Maximin cooks a simple piece of fish with olive oil and lemon juice….don’t think that you’ll reach the same results based on the simple appearance of  his recipe! Don’t think that most great cooks will achieve the same results.  It might seldomly happen!  Simplicity is a marketting slogan…deep raw talent (the touch of the cook) makes all the difference.

Raw talent is what comes to mind when I think about the work of Chefs Axel Mevel and Bourdages at Kitchen Galerie (the one on Jean-Talon). On each of my previous visits here,  both Chefs have cooked some of the most delicious bistro food I ever sampled in Montreal. Their work of flavors being remarkable and rightly earned them a position in  my personal top3 of best bistrots in town. Both Chefs have that rare ability of elevating simple fares to gustatory highlights.

This evening, it’s Chef Mathieu Cloutier who’s at the helm. Chef Cloutier is one of the the owners of  Kitchen Galerie.  Aside of this change from my past visits, I also notice that they have renovated the room: dark wood floors and walls:

Furthermore, you can now sit at the bar.

On to the food, we’ve sampled on this evening ->

All meals at Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon start with an amuse-bouche. This (their miniature take on mussel salad)  is the least impressive of the amuses that I have sampled here. Perhaps a 7/10, only because past amuses I had at Kitchen Galerie on JT raised the bar so high: for ie, the  gazpacho on my very 1st meal here and an equally impressive vichyssoise on my 2nd visit (both under Chef Axel’s supervision). Reviewing food of a table that are among those setting the bar in a given city (KG on JT and Montreal in this case) gives interesting outcomes: such amuse would have surprised me at most bistrots in town. But KG on JT is no ordinary kitchen: those folks have a sense of taste and work of flavor that  has an edge over the rest of the pack. Therefore, this is one of the rare cases where I am forced to compare a dish to the very own standards of its own creators . In the KG’s standards that I am accustomed to , this was good (it’s easy to see why I praise KG on JT: they are never short of imagination when it comes to provoke pleasure on the palate: the salad of mussel was   flavorful, enhanced by rich elements: for ie, the way the crème fraiche and chives paired together added lots of palatable impact to the mussels, a thoughtful touch as KG on JT delivers so oftently ), not great (Yeah…there’s a flaw that has nothing to do with the kitchen. It’s in the nature of seafood salad in general: when you make such salad, guess what -> there’s always the ‘solid’ part sitting atop…and naturally, its ‘soft’ liquid counterpart that lies beneath. When it’ s in a big bowl, you can easily mix them up, but in a shell…..you can’t do that since it’s too small. Which gave this: first sampling of the salad..superb…then followed by the insipid liquid counterpart)! Of course, no need to dive into uncessary drama here. An amuse does not make an entire meal! 

Tarte tatin, pan-seared foie gras   7.5/10 is this time two  notches behind the one I had sampled at KG on JT in July 2010 (that review can be found here) -> first, portion is smaller. Which I can understand: in that lapse of time, the price of ingredients have reached new heights. So, I won’t penalize this aspect, although this remains a case where portion matters. But the upside-down tart, on its own, is not as stunning as the one I had in July 2010 (its apples would benefit from better caramelised texture and more importantly, the rich and delicious taste — of the previous version — is not as transcendent here. This one still tasted good, but not as great as the previous).  

Whenever we have visited KG on JT, we’ve always opted for the cote de boeuf pour deux (in its super-size me version: truffles, foie gras, etc). The best cooking for this plate is definitely medium-rare. You need to have a huge appetite for this. It’s generous! When Chef Axel Maeve and Bourdages cooked it in July 2010 (reviewed here), I raved over their dish and received several emails reminding me that such meal can’t fail to be savourish anyways. The kind comments recommended many places where the cote de boeuf was  just as great. I have tried the recommended places and in total fairness, I came to the conclusion that it is just erroneous to think that all steaks taste the same, all seafood taste the same, all veggies taste the same. The thing to always keep in mind is this:  the touch of a talented cook makes all the difference!  KG on JT’s cote de boeuf is simply tastier, done way better: on this evening, for ie, the sauce was outstanding, the purée of potatoes far superior to what I found on  many michelin-starred tables that I’ve tried (for those like me who grew up in France and were familiar with Joel Robuchon’s famous potato purée — I started being a fine dining gourmand within the 3 yrs leading to Chef Robuchon’s retirement — this purée was as perfect as the one of Chef Robuchon. I know this may sound exxagerated — I myself would be the very first to find this surreal, especially when no one is virtually missing a purée nowadays—, but this stood as smooth, succulent and flawless at the one that Robuchon was cooking at the Hotel du Parc, for ie, before he retired. I wish I could cut a bit with the superlatives of this cote de boeuf, but I can’t . I can’t because the meat was outstanding in all aspects (precisely seasoned, and an impact of the palate that went far beyond what a standard delicious piece of meat delivers), the cooking of the veggies mastered in a way that would make 3 star Michelin Chefs Alain Passard (L’Arpège) and Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance) ..jealous! Especially Chef Barbot who works really hard on perfecting textures with veggies. A 10/10 (This dish is a perfect 10, there’s no doubt about this, but the kitchen should be careful with the over-cooking of  this dish’s  chunks of foie gras:  a very minor technical slip that I am forgiving this time around since this should not distract from this  overall stunning dish…. .but  keep  the timing of foie gras pan-searing  in check). As usual, there’s no need to  build unecessary expectations: will you stumble upon the exact same stunning purée? Veggies? Cote de Boeuf? I am not God and can’t guarantee anything, Rfaol! I myself had enjoyed this cote de boeuf at KG on JT for the 3rd time in 2 years, and it was a perfect 10/10 the 1st time (not one single flaw and the palatable impact stood really high), an 8 over 10 the 2nd   time     (it was tasty for sure, but the overall impact was less impressive than on the 1st try)  and a 10/10 again on this occasion. What I can tell you though is that in Montreal standards, this bistro raises the bar really high (for its inspired and skilled cooking, for delivering flavors that are mostly eventful)  and a dish like this one keeps KG on JT firmly planted in my top 3 best bistrots in Montreal. When I go to a restaurant, I don’t expect all my dishes to be a perfect 10 (It happened to me once or twice in a  lifetime, but come to think about it: how could you do this anyways…unless you manage to read in the mind of each of your diners??? …Lol)… I expect a depth of inspiration in your cooking that somehow sets you apart. That is what I sense in KG on JT’s cooking. 

Chef Axel Maeve was serving in the dining room, on this evening. For those who are not aware of this, Chefs are cooking and doing the service here. It’s a cool concept that made the reputation of this amazing table. Chef Cloutier is cooking tonight, and one of my favourite bistrot Chefs in Mtl, Chef Axel is serving. Chef Axel Maeve is not only one of my favourite Bistrot Chefs around the world (YES…you read this correctly), but he also can beat many sommeliers at the art and passion of chosing wines. Being very pragmatic, he suggested  a wine that does a great job whilst not being too $$$ (hey..if I was Bill Gates, I wouldn’t mind picking the pricier bottles, but I am not!!!! ):  a 2007 Norfolk Rise Cabernet Sauvignon (cold soaked then fermented in tank, fruity aromas of dark berry;  I enjoyed the nice tannins, fine bouquet, good balance and appealing intensity of this wine) – an affordable and throughtful match to the cote de boeuf (being medium-bodied, this red wine harmoniously complemented the red meat) .

The desserts are assembled by their brigade. And here again, I am impressed: I saw new faces on this brigade tonight, and yet they never ran away from the standards of KG on JT:

for ie:
The carrot cake –  I found that  most opinions about KG on JT’s desserts have hard time being accurate, perhaps because of  the simple nature  of the desserts at KG  (it’s a bistro, so no fancy dessert)  or perhaps because most  ‘crèmes brulées’ or ‘brownies”  tend to taste and look the same after a while. When a dessert is average (5/10, 6/10) , or simply well done but not deserving of  any particular interest (7/10 but no more), I don’t hesitate to mention it and my ratings always reflect that aspect. On 3 visits here, the desserts have always stood among what’s best done in Montreal bistrots (usually in between 8 to 10/10, and since we are talking here about classic desserts like crème brulée, brownies, carrot cakes, this speaks volume about how their desserts are inspired treats).  Take this carrot cake, for ie: they could have baked  a simple straightforward carrot cake and knowing how they always manage to make things taste good, I would have been very happy. But they came up with their own take of the carrot cake (a baked square, which consistency was firmer than the one of classic carrot cakes), used the unusual yellow carrots, paired the cake with a finely-cut fresh pineapple salad that was in its turn aromatically enhanced by basil. I’ve seen some brilliant cooks trying those kind of combinations, but rarely with similar exciting palatable impact. And imagine, I rated this a 8.5/10  (I think that a 10/10 would have been possible, in this case, had the cake been lighter, read: a slightly more airy / puffier consistency) – Certainly a 10 at most bistrots in town.  Talking about depth!

Then the choco brownie – I’d be on my 1st visit here, and I’d hastily jump to the following pre-sampling comment : “bah…just another brownie..”. But NO…once in mouth, it was packed with exciting flavors, a feature  that I sadly rarely find in brownies anymore. The choco flavor being deep and unusually enticing. I didn’t think that I could one day assign a 10 to a brownie and rave over it with such satisfaction, but if a brownie worths a 10, then this is a  10/10

That crème brulée you saw at the back of the choco brownie….is also a 10/10. How come?? How could a crème brulée be a 10? Come on…we all can cook a flawless crème brulée!  I agree with you. I too can cook a flawless crème brulée effortlessly. But KG on JT’s version on this dinner has an edge. It’ s just superbly done.Food is food, it is  elementary  and there’s no need to elevate it to theatre. And yet, KG on JT made it again, on this dinner: they found a way to assign a pleasant task  to food: transferring  some excitement on a palate.  

I know it may sound over the top to rave over a crème brulée and a brownie. But when it’s executed flawlessly, I don’t see any reason to not assign a perfect rating to a food item.With that said, it is  a bistrot, so if you are expecting sophisticated desserts, then a fine dining table would be more appropriate.  

KG on JT (Jean-Talon) does really have  an edge over its bistrot peers. While reviewing this dinner, I had to stick to KG on JT’s own standards, Rfaol!  If I had to compare it to other bistrots in town, there would have been an insane  profusion of 10 / 10 s!  Many tables with 7/10, 7.5/10 items would have triggered frustration from my part. Not Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon, because the standard here is simply higher as proven by the rest of the meal high scores. And I am surprised to see new cooks on their brigades who manage to follow that tradition of higher standards. Either they know how to transfer their knowledge, or they are lucky to stumble upon new cooks who learn fast. KG on JT stands among my top  bistrots in town along with Au 5e Péché, Bistro Cocagne and Bouillon Bilk.

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

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

FD2 FD3

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

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

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

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

Ok..Ok.. the food, now:

 

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

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

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

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

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

Aromatically yours,
Aromes

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