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

Click here for a recap of  my picks of all Montreal’s top fine dining & best Montreal’s bistrots.
Also: My  3 and 2 Star Michelin restaurant review web site
Most recent reviews: Maison Boulud, Café Sardine, Restaurant Helena, Brasserie Central, Restaurant Mezcla, Hotel Herman, Lawrence,
Park, Kazu, Hambar, La Porte, Au pied de cochon , Le Margaux.

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Le FILET restaurant, Montreal – The new excitement in town

Event: dinner at restaurant Le Filet
When: Tuesday April 19th 2011, 18:00
Type of food: Modern French-based Cosmopolitan Bistronomy (with focus on seafood***)
Addr: 219 Mont-Royal O, Montreal, QC
Phone: 514-360-6060

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

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

For the record, I have gathered a recap of all my reviews
here (this is an easier way to get  to them rather than scrolling the entire xanga web page).

Avec le Bouillon Bilk, voici le vent de fraicheur tant attendu en Ville. Les entrées et plats principaux furent créatifs, et gouteux. Peut etre pas mon dans mon top 10, mais pas loin….et j’y reviendrai!
 
  I am finally resuming with restaurant reviews at  home, following the launching of my Michelin star dinings web site and the memorable trip to San Sebastian in Spain.

I have not abandoned the main mission of this blog: reviewing Montreal’s finest bistrots and fine dining ventures. But as I have already mentioned, I will not lose my time with reviewing generic dinings just for the sake of entertaining my readers. My benchmark in Montreal lies in my Mtl’s & surroundings top 15 best dinners listing. Only a restaurant that can bring something refreshingly different or better will catch my attention, or else why bother?  Which brings me to Le Filet, a seafood-oriented Bistro which opened its doors three months ago, in February. In three months, Le Filet has received a media  attention (web blogs, restaurant review sites, mags, etc) that most restaurants would never enjoy in their entire existence: just do a search for it on the web and you will get what I mean. The latest is not the reason that motivated me  to step foot in this restaurant, though. I had gathered enough reliable informations to believe that Le Filet, at this moment, is bringing what I am seeking for: creative bistro  creations that either stand out or do at least bring some fresh appeal to the Montreal’s bistro scene. A warning: book way in advance if you want to dine there, especially for thurs, fridays, saturdays (this place is already popular).

FOOD:
They do offer tapas-sized courses, too, (very practical, in line with their main purpose: making their food more accessible, affordable)  but I  went for  3   “full” courses :

Marinated sardines, Miso, Radish, leek: a layer of meaty portuguese sardines that were marinated in miso and ginger (very tasty) covered with another layer of some sort of rice-krispies (brings the necessary ‘crunch’ to make the dish ‘multi-dimensional’ with regard to consistency) and radishes (expertly marinated with a sourness that was well controlled and remarkable flavor) . A 7.5 over 10

Crab risotto, asparagus, crustacean jus: My current benchmark for risotto, out of all Michelin-starred and Non Michelin-starred tables that I went dining at, is the one I sampled at Bistro Cocagne on Sept 4th 2009 (a showcase of perfect cooking paired with sublime taste, the only 10/10 that I ever gave to a risotto up to lately, it is the one that was served with the lamb shank dish that I ate and reviewed on that dinner). Recently, during my trip to San Sebastian, another risotto has joined the one of Bistro Cocagne as my personal benchmark for risottos: the one I had at la Cuchara de San Telmo (click here and scroll to the middle of the text), the second only 10/10 I ever assigned to this dish (completely different from the one of Bistro Cocagne but stunning in all aspects: taste, cooking, texture / keep in mind that outside of North America, especially in Italy, Spain..etc, they do not really use the common ‘arborio’ rice that we do use here for cooking risottos, and that leads to a totally different appreciation in textures and taste. The risotto at la Cuchara, for ie, had terrific flavour and vibrant texture ). I have enjoyed many stellar risottos in Italy (If you go there and love risottos, lurk around regions like Veneto and Lombardia just to get some kind of new gustatory reference as far as risottos go ) and all around the globe, but those two have stole the show as far as I am concerned.  Their risotto at Le Filet was nowhere close to the mind-blowing ‘perfection’ (in execution and divine taste) of the above mentioned risottos at Bistro Cocagne or La Cuchara de San telmo, but it was so delicious, well seasoned and enjoyable that I emptied the entire plate. An 8 over 10

Fluke, Japanese plum, wasabi, cucumber: here is a refreshing unusual dish. I picked this dish simply because it piqued my curiosity as I was wondering how the subtle fluke and cucumber would combine with the latent heat / spicy sensation of the wasabi in this version of their own creativity. It turned out that the wasabi was not dominant (good news), that the brown sauce that you see around the fluke’s flesh (this white fish was of impeccable quality) was successful (right consistency, exciting sweet-sour depth of taste). What is in fact a delicious plum-based sauce (the brown sauce) reminded me of my childhood’s beloved tamarind-based concoctions as well. That plum sauce taught me a lot about Chef Yasu Okazaki great talent: I measure the talent of a great Chef by his sense of taste. Nothing less. And my  definition of a great ‘sense of taste” has to go through the taste of your sauces. Some may overlook sauces as ‘simple pools of fatty liquids’, but in reality, sauces reveal a lot about the ability (or inability) of a cook to bring forward brilliant flavors. Recently, when I was at 3-star Michelin Ledoyen in Paris, I knew right from the first sauces that I was sampling that the meal was going nowhere (I kept my cool and was not disgracious in my review of that meal since there is no point to put down people, the purpose here is to constructively share our dining experiences, not to bash for nothing…but what had to be underlined with honesty, was!), and I was right. Creatively well conceived tiny potato chips (they tasted great and were amusing in their mild-sweet kind of mouth feel / that alone was a showcase of unusual brilliant technique and originality in flavors) were topping Chef Yasu Okazaki’s creation. 8 over 10

Dessert was Tres leches, mango, pineapple, coconut – A sponge cake soaked in three different type of milk, topped by tiny cubes of pineapple/mango  and ‘chips’ of coconut. This was ok, a 6 over 10. I am forgiving the low rating of that dessert; Honestly, who really cares about top of the line desserts at a bistro? Sure, bistros like Bistro Cocagne, Au 5e Péché and M Sur Masson have amazed me with some of their desserts, but it would be a mistake to judge an amazing bistro like Le Filet over a simple dessert. Le Filet has way more than that to offer: an inventive cuisine that brings enough refreshing novelty and excitement to the Montreal restaurant scene that it worth great consideration. Loved this place and I shall  go  back.

During my recent visit in Paris (which gave birth to my 3-star Michelin dining web site), I realized that the gap that once existed between Montreal and Paris (with regard to restaurants and food) is not that big anymore. Facts: most of their top bistrots are not that superior to Montreal’s equivalents anymore. Same could be said of the  average restaurants. On the fine dining level, I do not see …..what Chefs at Chateaubriand (in top 15 of S Pellegrino’s world best restaurants), L’Astrance (same), Passage 53, La Regalade…to name a few… could do and that our most talented Chefs like Laprise (Toque!), Navarrette Jr (Raza), Loiseau (Bistro Cocagne), Rouyé (La Porte), Pelletier (LCCP), Juneau (Now at Newtown), Mercuri (XO Le Restaurant), Lenglet (Au 5e Péché)…could not do?? Paris has a big advantage, though,  at the 3-star  Michelin level (especially with restaurants like 3-star Michelin L’Ambroisie that I did review during this trip, in March, to Paris), but Montreal has already a potential 3-star Michelin restaurant, too if Michelle Mercuri”s XO Le Restaurant excels, all the time, at the level of what I found on my last dinner there (click here for that review). With that said, draw no comparison between L’Ambroisie and XO Le restaurant: both are different,  but stellar on their own unique ways.  I know some may not agree with me, perhaps — in part — because of ‘perceptions’, but in facts, and in-the-mouth, what I have just raised is happening. Now, do not get me wrong: I love Paris. It is the City where I grew up, the city that taught me the love of great food and the importance of developing the palate. But times are changing, and places that were not used to be known for their gastronomy are now dominant (for ie, I initially thought that San Sebastian’s cocina miniatura was a product of buzz syndrom but reality was totally different once I got a taste of it), let alone the ‘cosmopolitanisation’ of Parisian cuisine in general (the new generation of their Chefs have a more International (oriental influence in Asian food, for ie) approach that you now see everywhere in North America, Europe and elsewhere). With that said, along with their far dominant 3 star Michelin fine dining ventures, Paris (and France in general) are simply unbeatable when it comes to bakeries, desserts (In Montreal, the local Chefs like Loiseau at Bistro Cocagne or Vachon at M Sur Masson are doing an amazing job with regard to  desserts, but the big majority of the best desserts came oftently from France ‘s Chefs as it was the case with creations from Chefs like Lenglet @ Au 5e Péché, Rouyé @ La Porte, Jerome Ferrer @ L’Europea and other French Chefs as well).

SERVICE:  Superb hosts greeting customers with care. They were all friendly and yet professional and you can see the willingness of doing things properly. At 6PM, when I stepped in, it was half packed (started to be extremely busy about one hour later), so I had time to chat a bit with the waiter about the logo of their restaurant: so, the F for Filet (which means a ‘net” in English) is a clin d’oeil to the net that is on the tennis court facing the restaurant.  Of course, it is also referring to the net of the fisherman (it is a seafood restaurant). Second part of the logo represents a fish, and the dot refers to a tennis ball (again a clin d’oeil to the neighbouring tennis court). And the red/orange tablecloths refers to the “clay” of a tennis court. Amusing!

DECOR:
Urban contemporary interior decoration,  with  marine life’s representations (at the back of the bar and on one of the walls), walls made of steel, some old school wooden chairs (tavern chairs alike / but the overall decor is not old school at all), with black and  clay ‘orange/red. (tablecloths) tones color schemes.

CONCLUSION:
Some original and creative (to Montreal standards) well mastered  flavor combinations and textures were found all along this meal. Chef Yasu Okazaki manages to combine enticing oriental flavors to French cuisine in a brilliant manner. 

*** For those who like meat, you won’t be left aside: they have beef tataki, sweetbreads, duck and other red meats (you can have a look at their online menu).

PROS: Sometimes, when it is different (as usual, relatively to what we have here in Yul), well, it is exciting. And this was the case with the fluke/Japanese plum dish. The risotto was another delicious dish.
CONS: I want the sweets to shine at the level of some of those savouries.
Overall food rating: 7/10 Well, good of course given what we already know about the cooking team at LCCP (their Chef was part of that team). Some might even rate a meal like this higher, since it is refreshingly different (again, to Montreal standadrs), the technique hard to fault on this repast, and the taste not under-looked. This can certainly not be accused of being a boring replica of what we see in town: that dish of  fluke, for eg,  being an exciting dish we do not see in Yul.
Service: 10/10 Lovely service on this dinner

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A visit to revered Chef Junichi Ikematsu, JUN I – Montreal

As I lately pride myself to orientate this food blog towards Montreal’s tables standing out of the pack, I naturally had to pay a a visit to a table that is highly regarded by most connaisseurs of the Montreal Sushi / Japanese food scene to fly ahead of it’s peers: Jun I, establishment of Kyoto’s born Star Chef Junichi Ikematsu.

Restaurant: Jun I
Addr: 156, avenue Laurier Ouest, Montréal
Cuisine: Japanese/Fusion
Event: Thursday May 27th Dinner, 18:00PM
Phone: 514 276-5864
Url:  http://www.juni.ca
Pros: A humble Chef. A table that’s among the very best (top 10 easily) in this City.
Cons: The sushis did not blow me away (but they are famous for their Asian-Fusion food. So, I have got to try this next time). I found Mikado’s sushis far superior to my taste. Here’s a rundown I did on major Mtl’s Sushi-yas.

I’ve always reproached Sushis in Montreal to roam a bit in the boring lanes, always within the same uni-dimensional styles…and this reproach is going to the upscale sushi spots…let alone the myriad of soporific average sushi offerings of this city, with their laughable myriad versions of makis. C’mon folks: Sushis, YES..no problem, but with extra miles into the Japanese food repertoire please…use a bit of ambition: I do not know..find out..go travel throughout Japan once a year..see how it evolves there…Out of Japan, go pay a visit to Nobu, Masa, Urasawa and come back… do something….the Oshizushi style of Sushi once in a while ?  or any other style / create, revolutionize…stop using the same ingredients from the same suppliers…stop thinking just about the western style rolls, vary, surprise, do something for god sake!!

Luckily, Chef Junichi Ikematsu is known to be “hard to beat”, in Montreal,  when it comes to  innovation, creativity and superb cooking technique. But what really interests me with Chef Ikematsu remains in the fact that he is famous to outshine it’s peers on two keys of the sushi equation: the quality of it’s ingredients + the efficiency of his cooking techniques (which reminds me that I should expect perfectionism from his part in the cooking of the rice, an aspect where I stand firmly and deeply picky since rice is the perfect ingredient to measure  ambitious cooking talent  in it’s full purity, versatility and creativity).

This evening, I purposely focused solely on Sushis and went with some classics + some few items to be widly known for being among some of their best sushis.

Kicked off with:
Unagi Dynamite – You can’t go wrong with those caramelized-looking smoky textured eels. They just have a natural tempting taste. I wish their taste was more upfront/daring here, but they were still good though. 
The mix of rice (loved the semi creamy texture of this rice and it’s mastered subtle sweetness) mixed with the rice crispies brought a welcoming playful touch that was very pleasant in mouth. Very good.  8/10

Spicy Kani Age – Enjoyable crunchyness of the soft shell crab. The shell crab on it’s own was tasty, with a loveable fried texture. Soya and cajun spice gave a nice exotic touch to the overall. Technically well concocted, but it lacked the extra punch I am used with it’s equivalent I had elsewhere. Good. 7/10

Then the multiple sushis plate that I had ordered: 
On that plate: Maguro sashimi, Sake sushi, Tai sushi, Hamachi in sashimi, unagi as sushi, bonatebi as sushi, Tobiko + Kani + Rising sun (as Gun Kan Sushi), Arc-en-ciel futomaki + Dancing unagi temaki:

-Hamashi Sashimi: It was fresh, sported a perfect texture. Tasty. Excellent. 10/10

-Maguro: I love my red tuna in Sashimi shape.My personal favourite sashimi btw. This piece was fresh, had the perfect texture I expect in my top notch maguro sashimi. Without reproach. Very good. PS: Sorry, I forgot to clean my plate from the soya left over. I was way too busy devouring that maguro and completely forgot about picture-friendly presentation. Ironically, it’s the piece that I wanted to shoot in the best condition.  8/10

-Sake sushi: Another common sushi. Good salmon (Fresh, nice texture) + the rice ideally cooked (not too creamy, not too grainy). Good 7/10

-Unagi Sushi: My personal glaze-grilled favourite. As already written about the previous Unagi dynamite, that meat has it all: enjoyable sweetness thanks to the kabayaki sauced meat , smokyness, great flavors + enjoyable taste. Very good. 9/10

-Rising sun sushi: my other favourite of this dinner, along with the Unagi + Dancing Unagi temaki. I found the topped small quail egg (fresh and delicious!)  to mix so well with the tasty fresh fish roe. The scallops added depth to the overall. It’s also an amazing work of harmonious complimentary ingredients that never fault together. Excellent! 10/10

-Kani. Preferred it in it’s Gun Kan sushi shape. Tasty and fresh crab (snow crab). Ok 5/10

-Dancing Unagi in it’s temaki shape: A medley of what I like the most: red tuna + eel, filled with amazing flying fish roe (tobiko), complemented by avocado and cucumber. Rich and tasty. Excellent 10/10

The rest was good enough: Arc-en-ciel futomaki (6/10)  did not seduce me but was filling and enjoyable with it’s meaty richness (crab meat mostly). Botanebi sushi was ok 6.5/10  (similar to it’s equivalent at most sushi places in this city).

This overall sushi dinner lacked sparkles. I had sushi dinners, in Montreal, with mas o menos most of the same similar classic sushi choices and they reached higher notes.
Next time I go there, I will opt for his omakase so that the Chef can freely unleash his creativity.

Service was impeccable + I like the Chef humble and very welcoming attitude.

Decor:
It’s not a huge restaurant, and yet the layout is enoughly airy, well exploited:

Nice fusion between elegance, simplicity and a bit of the upscale bistroesque feel:

The bar, sports the perfect Zen deco, with blond wood and great lighting:

Pascale Girardin Ceramics
I found that cool that they encourage the work of a local ceramic artist, Pascale Girardin.
Here are some of her works, translated in cute ceramic plates that they use at the restaurant:

SO,  were those the BEST Sushis in Montreal?
Some of those sushis definitely pertained to the best that my tastebuds have sampled in Montreal (the Unagis ones + Rising sun), Indeed. 
The BEST? Hard to say. Since some sushis kinda matched those I had at Mikado and Sho Dan in terms of quality and freshness of ingredients +  technique of execution. Some few others were even surpassed.
With that said,
let’s remain rational: with such prices (they are relatively not that $$$ for such quality Sushis), NO one should expect Jun I to be the Masa or Ryugin of Montreal. Most would not accept paying for Masa or Ryugin material in this city. Not too sure if  a restaurant would dare offering such $$$ in Montreal anyways. But the point here is that those upscale top Japanese/Sushi spots of Montreal would gain from inspiring themselves from giants like Ryugin. Jun I is very good, in many ways truely at the top of the Montreal Sushi spectrum, BUT it needs to bring more in my personal opinion: perhaps going beyond the usual sushi fares + it’s fusion fares, and bring some traditional tastes of Kaiseki, Wa shoku too. And above all, truely outshining the Montreal top Sushi / Japanese fare scene by stepping up to newer unseen (not yet  covered in Montreal) levels. It’s not a reproach, but a constructive suggestion because if Montreal wants to surpass itself in terms of Japanese fares, it’s not the average joe blow Chef that will make that happen but hugely talented Chefs like Chef Ikematsu!
Back to the strict sushi fares, there are also ingredients I would like to see them serving:
this summer I’ll call them to see if there’s any chance they serve  Katsuo for example (I know it’s a tuna that’s a bit $$$ and rare, but absolutely worthy. A must on a good sushi table). I’ll check for Anago too (I personally prefer the sea water eel over Unagi). Also: amuse with say, a grilled shitake sushi for example. And when I talk of “Sushi Yes…and go beyond sushis too”,  I mean offering little treats like a favourite broth: the matsutake tobimushi? Serve a Yuba Chawamusha? Try Dried/Grilled fish (sakana-no-hoshimono/yakizakana), grilled Shishamo fish (it’s mostly shipped from Canada!), Inarizushi? Anyways, the idea is NOT to do an inventory of what could be added on this table…nor suggesting to bring Nantaimori/Nyotaimori to Montreal, that is not the point and by no means realistic, but to expand the experience to the larger Japanese food repertoire.
What about his French fares with oriental touches: I know, Jun I is also about fusion but it is for it’s Japanese touch that I went . SO, Let me know how your experiences with Jun I’s fusion fares turned out to be?
Looking forward to discover a lot more from Jun I’s: It’s rare that I left a restaurant with the need to go back and discover more from it. It’s the case of Jun I. I want to go back soon and try an Omakase there. This time, I would like to seat at the bar, contemplating the Chef at work. And why not: perhaps an another visit for it’s French/Oriental fusion. 
Food for thoughts to ALL the top Sushi Chefs of Montreal: Give a bit of break to the endless western re-interpretation of Sushis and Japanese fares. I do understand that the huge majority of your customers are fond of the latest cutie maki, which is fine and I encourage you to keep up with that too, but you can’t rely on just such: If I was a top Sushi Chef of Montreal, I would go right to NY and dine at Masa. I would then –no need to go way over to Japan — stay on this continent and pay a visit to  Urasawa, California. And next thing you know is that I would fall in full embarassment! Again, I know I would not be able to charge what Urasawa commands in Montreal…but the huge tri-decade apart gap between what is going on abroad Vs what we have here makes no sense!

ありがとう (Arigatō)!

PROS: Among the few most authentic and better sourced sushis you may in town
CONS: Re-read the entire article! Where I was less impressed, I clearly stated it. With that said. this is easily a top-tier sushi place in Montreal. In October 2011, after less impressive sushi meals at my past favourite sushi-yas in town, I came to the conclusion that Jun I was indeed in the top 3. In 2012, it became clear in my mind that Jun I is the best of all Montreal sushiyas.

Thanks for reading, Aromes.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER: Upon publishing my review on Jun I, many fans of this restaurant wrote to me expressing their admiration for this well known place and also their disagreement with some of my views. I get it: Jun I is very popular and as such, I too do expect it to shine at the heights of his popularity. I was personally impressed by the humility and genuine personality of their Chef. A Great man that many would like to have as a friend, for sure. I was also impressed by the amazing courteous, polite, friendly and yet professional service. But I also went there for the amazing food they are well known for, and that this entire city is raving about. The best sushis, was I reminded, the most talented Japanese Chef, etc. I have no doubt about Chef Junichi Ikematsu talent. I am actually a big fan of him and I do consider him, indeed, as one of this city’s best Chefs. I have no doubt that he can cook among the best food in town. But my current report is neither on Chef Ikematsu’s talent nor his cooking in general. It is about this one specifically reported dinner and what had to be reported was: it was good, but not great! With that said, they have way more than just sushis and next time I visit Jun I, I’ll sample the French-Japanese fused fares + their tasting menu served at the bar.

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SEAFOOD HOTSPOT: Lucille Oyster Dive, Montreal

Folks,
Summer is at the Gates (ironically, it’s not warm at all here in Mtl, despite being in the middle of May..anyways..). Time for some seafood feast!

When it comes to seafood, I skip lots of  requirements I would usually look for in most dining situations such as  the best value for my money or the layout at my eatery: I just fly deep into my gustatory involvement of the quality of the seafood that is put before me. What brought me to food has always been my  lifetime sacred veneration for Seafood. The problem: being born and raised on the banks of the Indian Ocean with Dad, on his spare times,  fishing the freshest seafood one tastebud can imagine raving over from the warmest sea waters, and I devouring them right there on the beach with barely any long delays between fishing to eating…you just grow up with very high expectations about seafood. Moving far from my  memorable seafood pals, being in so many places where  seafood rose as pure jokes, I litterally hoped that I turned allergic to them. But for some reasons, I just could not stop myself to try seafood everywhere I went with some places truely giving the seafood of my childhood an almost close “run for their money”.  

Everywhere I go I knock at all possible doors that has seafood on their menu. Montreal is no exception.
Montreal is  a city that many regard as a great city for French/North American Bistro fares BUT only decent on the Seafood department. The reality is actually brigther than just “decent”: Lots of seafood tables  like Milos and La Mer offer seafood shipped from abroad (Mediterranea in the case of both previous mentionned restaurants) on top of some North American seafood products as well. In my humble opinion, there’s  in Montreal, a nice selection of restaurants who are truely serious about providing some solid quality seafood. It is just a matter of rigourously stepping into the field and finding them.

With time some few seafood tables in this city made their way among those I adopted  as personal frequent reliable seafood favourite tables, based solely on the remarquable high quality of their seafood  (Le Nantua when I want to be alone or with my sweat half in a quiet atmosphere of Classic French elegance, Milos — their lunch and late night dinner specials are un-matched bargains for such high quality seafood in this City –, Joe Beef when I am with a bunch of folks and feel like partying over high quality fresh seafood in a cool warm bistro-esque setting, Trinity when I feel the need of a touch of the stunning beauty of Mediterranea, La Mer once in a while, and — although I found myself at both places on very very few occasions — La Queue de Cheval, Rib N’ Reef. The latest are primarily Steakhouses BUT they do offer stunning Quality fresh Seafood.). And you have many more (Restaurant Les Crustacés is another one great seafood place that had served me top quality seafood too, Oyster Shack did a good job last time I was there about couple of weeks ago, and virtually the big majority of tables do offer seafood..so drop me a word about those that have emerged as your favourite seafood restaurants in Montreal) , but those I mentionned previously stand out of the pack as far as top quality seafood goes in this city

Naturally, one smart reminder would be this: you can’t buy top Caviar with Loonies!  As most will guess, for Seafood, you truely get what you pay for: do not expect stunning seafood in a $8 Lunch, or a $12 lobster please…I am not here to launch a debate over how much a lobster should cost. I am not here to debate over the best value for your $$$. I am here to talk about the best freshest quality seafood and to remind you that there’s a cost to it! And that cost, If one is well placed to have challenged it, it is your humble who used to pick the freshest top quality seafood right from the sea, for free! But I won’t. I wont because there’s no point for this: we are not at a stone throw from the Ocean, we are not fishermen and we need to be conscient that we have to pay for the cost behind a top quality seafood. Basta!

Event: Dinner @ Lucille’s Oyster Dive
Friday May 14th 2010, 18PM
Type of cuisine: Seafood
5626, avenue de Monkland (Montreal, QC)
URL: http://www.lucillesoyster.com/
Phone: 514 482-1471
 

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

Lately, I was curious about  this seafood eatery

that is attracting hordes of eaters in the Western side of Montreal  and where I never went to:  Lucille Oyster Dive.

I went paying a visit to Lucille Oyster Dive this Friday evening and I was warned by friends who went there: this is a small and very busy table, as busy  as Au Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef,  Le St-Urbain. Exactly what I was seeking for: feasting as in seafood, feasting as in crowded! I went earlier than the 6PM opening to maximize my  chances of shooting photos before the rush hits the place.


I came at Lucille’s Oyster Dive

with pre-defined orders in mind (Rfaol): I was in for some oysters (I came close to ask if they could grill it like at Etxebarri in Spain…I am telling you, I just can’t take that place out of my mind. I need to go there, in this life or the next!) , Lobster roll (Heard that Lucille has the best ones in town: what do you think? Let me know. Not that I am a huge fan of lobster rolls — I prefer raw seafood usually and if cooked, I like them served on their own, with nothing surrounding them so that I sense them in their pristine purity or close to that  —but this place is known for it’s lobster rolls so I had to pick this item) and a Grilled Lobster (If you ask me what have been my most memorable lifetime meals, the answer my friend  are those tremendously fresh Grilled lobsters “‘with a bit of garlic butter aside” from my tender Childhood …Ah the beauty of the simple things, so delicious, so pure, that just make you so happy! ). And If I could humanly eat more without getting full, I would have surely asked for crabs, fish, and the sea too!

Kicked off with Blackberries Mojitos:

Sorry, but this was not a successful cocktail: more watery than memorable (rhum was muted and prdominance of lime would be better than those berries). Anyways, berries do not seem to be a friendly mojito ingredient. Just keep it classic (white rum, sugar lime, sparkling water and mint) and it will sing! 2/10

Jannice picked the Salmon tartare:

I stole some bites from hers: perfect fresh salmon, meaty, fully flavored, masterly spiced (kudos to the nice balance in spicings here). Very good 8/10

The wine I chose to accompany our diner:

2008 Simi Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County – Perhaps the most memorable white wine I ever enjoyed since a while: Oozing of unparralel freshness, it’s concerto of amazing fruity notes (guava, apricot. melon, apple) makes of this wine one that can be a crowd teaser particularly in summer with high quality fresh seafood. I now understand why this wine is highly rated among wine experts (it was the first time I was trying it). Lucille has identity, Lucille has personality as in hosting that heavenly wine in a an unexpected cute recycled Heinz Ketchup tin can:

Started off with my first order:

The Oysters:  
Although I have rarely came across bivalve molluscs of stunning quality as those the Indian Ocean pampered me with, I still enjoy my bivalve molluscs friends everywhere I go: Sometimes, I was amazingly satisfied  On  some rare occasions, they were the opportunity for me to crack some smart jokes at the wait staff like “It’s from the Sea and not the fridge that you should have picked it up!”’.
SO at Lucille Oyster Dive, I started my seafood journey with an order of 12 bivalve molluscs and while sampling them with the hightest respect I always pay  to anything coming from the sea, I scribbled some notes:
-Marine robustness: HIGH
-Quality of the oyster: TOP
-Work of the shacker: 10/10
-Level of deliciousness: SUBLIME!
Their oysters come from various locations: New Brunswick, The Main, British Columbia.They offer some from the West (British Columbia), some from the East (Main, etc). Western ones were bigger in size, did I notice. Briny, with a remarquable depth of marine robustness, those oysters were among the best I ever had on any Montreal seafood tables and I am including the big names here! EXCELLENT oysters!  They were served with the classic mignonette sauce (expertly executed with perfect balanced acidity from the vinegar and an amazing freshness oozing out of the shallots), a Tabasco Green Pepper sauce (nice idea, try it! I prefer my oysters in their natural state but pick just one oyster, match it with that sauce and see if you like), and their in house tomatoey sauce:

You will never ever see me mixing oysters with sauces (I am a purist), but I had their in house hot sauce sampled separately from the oysters and that sauce rocks: it’s a delicious spicy tomatoey sauce, dense and instense, made of scotch bonnet peppers and vinegar. Delish! I know some friends who would love mixing up that sauce with anything, oysters to start with. 10/10 (the oysters, on this specific visit, were simply stunning!)

The Lobster Roll: I am not a huge fan of lobster roll. As you would expect  from someone who favors high quality seafood in it’s full pristine greatness, a lobster roll is just a comfort food item that can be undoubtly tasty when done well, so this is an exercice that I find pretty straightforward: I will judge my lobster roll not based on pre-defined expectations (just make it tasty and I’ll be a happy camper!) but solely based on how tasty it turns out to be.   
-Quality of the lobster meat: Top
-Cooking of the lobster meat: Top
-Quality of the Mayo: Top (not overhelming. gently spiced, still flavorfully enjoyable)
-Quality of the roll: (Fresh bun, nicely cooked hot dog looking bun)
-Type of roll:  it’s hot dog bun roll as you can see on the pic
-Level of deliciousness: High. I have no complaint here. Realy well done, but I am just not into lobster rolls in general being a purist in anything seafood.  7/10

@ALL– So where could your favourite lobster roll be found (New England, I guess)? Let me know! To me, my lobster roll should be an equation of: great quality lobster meat + mastered seasoning/taste + an appropriately thought bun (I am not a baker, but there is surely some fun evolutive work to do on this department) + a well balanced mayo mix (way too much requirrements for comfort food, hein?)  

The Lobster:
Poached? Grilled? After a slight hesitation I went with my lifetime favourite cooking of the lobster: grilled! Just put a bit of garlic butter aside, keep that lobster fresh, simple and I’ll walk away with a huge smile on my face.
In Montreal, you can get lobster virtually anywhere. The thing is to get it cooked the way I like it (yeah..yeah..ya..they all say it is easy to cook a lobster..sure..sure..sure…but very few have delivered the proper balance of nice cooking/great quality lobster/resulting memorable taste I search for. To me, a meal of Lobster is the epitome of the equation “talent behind a kitchen” + “top quality ingredient”).
So, here again, the notes that I scribbled on this one: 
-Marine robustness: HIGH
-Quality of the lobster meat: HIGH
-Cooking of the lobster meat: SUPERB
-Level of deliciousness: PERFECT
-Work of the Fishermen: Lol..just kidding on this one ;p I highly respect fishermen, especially them!

Before heading to a location, especially for seafood, I always phone and enquire about where the seafood comes from: the Gentleman over the phone explained that the lobster currently served (at this moment) at the restaurant comes from Nova Scotia. Their lobster weight around  1.5lbs/Maximum 2lbs and cost between $can28 – $can 32 (In Montreal, you can pay in between $52 to $80++ for some top of the top lobsters of that size..but again, that pricing probably reflects the fact that those tables  are not seafood distributors/providers). Quite a bargain for  top quality lobster, imho, but they explained to me that they are also distributor/providers of their own seafood, which explains the low cost. Their lobster is of exact same high end equality as those I had at $80 elsewhere …! At barely $30, half the $$$ I would pay at some highly regarded seafood spots, this lobster was remarquable: perfect depth of flavor, tasty, well cooked and of top quality.  The classic garlicky aside sauce was superb too. Excellent! 10/10 (This one lobster, on this specific visit, soared so high in terms of exceptional quality ).

Seafood soup – This place has idendity/personality. And this soup is just one example of just that: done differently from your usual seafood soups -> instead of a bowl full of seafood broth, you have here the seafood morsels shining atop (crab, clams) and a bit of the broth seating beneath. The freshness of the seafood continues to impress here: delish, tatsy and oozing of enjoyable saline flavors. The bit of broth beneath was delicious and harmoniously flavored. 9/10

Even when the boat could have sunk, Lucille fought back and shone:
Impressed, I should concede: even when the boat could have sunk, Lucille fought back and shone as in very little details like  those that will follow — very little details, barely noticeable to the most, but that I am taking time to write about because they mean a lot in my own  appreciation of this seafood spot: 

Detail #1: At some point, while Jannice was talking to our main waitress, a young very tall charming lady, she ..the waitress…out of nowhere .. cut short to the discussion, dived in distraction, and hop la ..reappeared! I then said to myself  “Oh NO, I think Jannice will hate this move”…Jannice was a long time waitress, and such little details are noticeable to her. And she did notice it. BUT, the waitress came back, charming and focused as ever! From there on, she was shining on par with all best wait staff  I ever encountered in this province. When you come back strong like that, how to not fall under the charm of it all? Great come back ;p 

Detail #2: Before going there, the Gentleman over the phone told me they usually have lobster in the kitchen and that I could just request that one is grilled. The same main waitress, instead of verifying with the kitchen, told me straight that there was no grilled lobster available. I told her that I was informed they would have lobsters in the kitchen but that it’s fine, we could forget about it. BUT she smartly thought about the most important principle in a restaurant: pleasing your guests as she managed to find a lobster for me. Another GREAT come back!

I know those are little details, but they mean a lot to a guest: it shows ACCOMODATION and DESIRE TO PLEASE! All of a sudden, the little futile sorrows turn into MINES OF GOLD!

The wait staff in general was great (always made sure that water was available, wine refilled, table cleaned from water drops. One young charming Gentleman even came and promptly fixed the unbalanced table we chose) and I should say .. HANDSOME.
Lucille Oyster Dive has deeply seduced me: this charming tiny spot has seriously made it’s way to the top of my favourite seafood tables in Montreal for it’s stunning quality of seafood, charming service, and cute minimalist and yet warm bistro alike decor. And this place gets crowded very fast (make no mistake: my pics were taken early, as soon as they opened the doors, a bit before people arrived, but less than half an hour later it got busy), so book in advance (albeit you still can find seats at the bar if you haven’t booked and are lucky enough).
Service on this dinner had perfect  timing: we started at 6PM, were done by 7:40PM with no feel of being rushed and enough space in between services to digest before the next food item would hit the table.Furthermore, the staff was accomodating with regards to the timeframe we wanted to follow. But anyways, this is purely a subjective matter: you should not go to a restaurant to complain about delays JUST arrange your timeframe with the wait staff (I never understood people complaining about slowness in a restaurant…what about talking to the wait staff and telling what you really want..instead of expecting them to guess for you??)

Lucille knows how to be distinct
I do not know for you, but to me , as little as they may appear, I like little details that makes a table distinct from others. I know that the wine presentation (in a Ketchup  tin can) or the unexpected rendition of the seafood soup (focused more on upfront presence of the fresh and top quality seafood items with just a little bit of soupy broth underneath as opposed to be entirely brothy) will not revolutionize the Gastro world, but they sent to me a clear message: this table is passionate about what it does.

Bottom line: Seafood is not just seafood. At least, an iodized saline soul like me  can’t  think that way. Quality in seafood is priceless, and Lucille Oyster Dive impressed me with top quality fresh seafood like I wish I could find everywhere else. I will run back at Lucille’s Oyster Dive way before running back at any of my other favourite seafood tables in Mtl, because of the overall cool, charming, unpretentious mood and above all, for the freshest seafood that this city has to offer. This report is disproportioned, purposely reflecting my sacred epic lifetime fascination for seafood.
Respect to the sea!    Thanks for reading, Aromes.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER – My initial meal at LOD was a superb one in regard of the seafood bistrot standards here and abroad. Not only the food was delicious, but it was technically well accomplished. It remains,  years later, one of the finest meals I ever had in a Montreal restaurant.  The typical kind of issue  that unfortunately awaits this type of place (quality seafood bistrot)  is this: people, when things are pricey (quality seafood can’t be cheap) .. they do not care about details  such as the cooking skills, the quality of the food. It is the price tag that dictates how good is your food. And I will  add that the nice looking wait staff at LOD may bother some with a very high level of jealousy ;p  Oh well, too bad for those. There’s also the fact that ppl tend to associate  a certain type of experience with a price tag:  for example, Bistrot La Marine in Cagnes sur Mer is one  of world’s finest seafood bistrots. Consequently,  since it is quality seafood that is served there, there’s a price that comes with it. And yet, many flock there to complain about the place being a ..bistrot and that it’s too $$$ for a bistrot.  A way of foolishly suggesting that they expect a certain price tag to be associated with fine dining only … as if bistrots are condemned to earlier century’s  clichés with you know…the bottle in the hands…the hunter’s hat…It’s being a while that I haven’t re-visited LOD (it’s  far from where I leave),  but I hope they keep up with the standards I found on that initial visit (my second and third visits here  were not complete meals. I took oysters only, but quality oysters always leave a deep hole in a pocket when you pick them  at restaurants, so I’ll need to try another proper seafood meal here). But yes, it is not cheap as expected

Standard

SEAFOOD HOTSPOT: Lucille Oyster Dive, Montreal

Folks,
Summer is at the Gates (ironically, it’s not warm at all here in Mtl, despite being in the middle of May..anyways..). Time for some seafood feast!

When it comes to seafood, I skip lots of  requirements I would usually look for in most dining situations such as  the best value for my money or the layout at my eatery: I just fly deep into my gustatory involvement of the quality of the seafood that is put before me. What brought me to food has always been my  lifetime sacred veneration for Seafood. The problem: being born and raised on the banks of the Indian Ocean with Dad, on his spare times,  fishing the freshest seafood one tastebud can imagine raving over from the warmest sea waters, and I devouring them right there on the beach with barely any long delays between fishing to eating…you just grow up with very high expectations about seafood. Moving far from my  memorable seafood pals, being in so many places where  seafood rose as pure jokes, I litterally hoped that I turned allergic to them. But for some reasons, I just could not stop myself to try seafood everywhere I went with some places truely giving the seafood of my childhood an almost close “run for their money”.  

Everywhere I go I knock at all possible doors that has seafood on their menu. Montreal is no exception.
Montreal is  a city that many regard as a great city for French/North American Bistro fares BUT only decent on the Seafood department. The reality is actually brigther than just “decent”: Lots of seafood tables  like Milos and La Mer offer seafood shipped from abroad (Mediterranea in the case of both previous mentionned restaurants) on top of some North American seafood products as well. In my humble opinion, there’s  in Montreal, a nice selection of restaurants who are truely serious about providing some solid quality seafood. It is just a matter of rigourously stepping into the field and finding them.

With time some few seafood tables in this city made their way among those I adopted  as personal frequent reliable seafood favourite tables, based solely on the remarquable high quality of their seafood  (Le Nantua when I want to be alone or with my sweat half in a quiet atmosphere of Classic French elegance, Milos — their lunch and late night dinner specials are un-matched bargains for such high quality seafood in this City –, Joe Beef when I am with a bunch of folks and feel like partying over high quality fresh seafood in a cool warm bistro-esque setting, Trinity when I feel the need of a touch of the stunning beauty of Mediterranea, La Mer once in a while, and — although I found myself at both places on very very few occasions — La Queue de Cheval, Rib N’ Reef. The latest are primarily Steakhouses BUT they do offer stunning Quality fresh Seafood.). And you have many more (Restaurant Les Crustacés is another one great seafood place that had served me top quality seafood too, Oyster Shack did a good job last time I was there about couple of weeks ago, and virtually the big majority of tables do offer seafood..so drop me a word about those that have emerged as your favourite seafood restaurants in Montreal) , but those I mentionned previously stand out of the pack as far as top quality seafood goes in this city

Naturally, one smart reminder would be this: you can’t buy top Caviar with Loonies!  As most will guess, for Seafood, you truely get what you pay for: do not expect stunning seafood in a $8 Lunch, or a $12 lobster please…I am not here to launch a debate over how much a lobster should cost. I am not here to debate over the best value for your $$$. I am here to talk about the best freshest quality seafood and to remind you that there’s a cost to it! And that cost, If one is well placed to have challenged it, it is your humble who used to pick the freshest top quality seafood right from the sea, for free! But I won’t. I wont because there’s no point for this: we are not at a stone throw from the Ocean, we are not fishermen and we need to be conscient that we have to pay for the cost behind a top quality seafood. Basta!

Event: Dinner @ Lucille’s Oyster Dive
Friday May 14th 2010, 18PM
Type of cuisine: Seafood
5626, avenue de Monkland (Montreal, QC)
URL: http://www.lucillesoyster.com/
Phone: 514 482-1471
 

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

Lately, I was curious about  this seafood eatery

that is attracting hordes of eaters in the Western side of Montreal  and where I never went to:  Lucille Oyster Dive.

I went paying a visit to Lucille Oyster Dive this Friday evening and I was warned by friends who went there: this is a small and very busy table, as busy  as Au Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef,  Le St-Urbain. Exactly what I was seeking for: feasting as in seafood, feasting as in crowded! I went earlier than the 6PM opening to maximize my  chances of shooting photos before the rush hits the place.


I came at Lucille’s Oyster Dive

with pre-defined orders in mind (Rfaol): I was in for some oysters (I came close to ask if they could grill it like at Etxebarri in Spain…I am telling you, I just can’t take that place out of my mind. I need to go there, in this life or the next!) , Lobster roll (Heard that Lucille has the best ones in town: what do you think? Let me know. Not that I am a huge fan of lobster rolls — I prefer raw seafood usually and if cooked, I like them served on their own, with nothing surrounding them so that I sense them in their pristine purity or close to that  —but this place is known for it’s lobster rolls so I had to pick this item) and a Grilled Lobster (If you ask me what have been my most memorable lifetime meals, the answer my friend  are those tremendously fresh Grilled lobsters “‘with a bit of garlic butter aside” from my tender Childhood …Ah the beauty of the simple things, so delicious, so pure, that just make you so happy! ). And If I could humanly eat more without getting full, I would have surely asked for crabs, fish, and the sea too!

Kicked off with Blackberries Mojitos:

Sorry, but this was not a successful cocktail: more watery than memorable (rhum was muted and prdominance of lime would be better than those berries). Anyways, berries do not seem to be a friendly mojito ingredient. Just keep it classic (white rum, sugar lime, sparkling water and mint) and it will sing! 2/10

Jannice picked the Salmon tartare:

I stole some bites from hers: perfect fresh salmon, meaty, fully flavored, masterly spiced (kudos to the nice balance in spicings here). Very good 8/10

The wine I chose to accompany our diner:

2008 Simi Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County – Perhaps the most memorable white wine I ever enjoyed since a while: Oozing of unparralel freshness, it’s concerto of amazing fruity notes (guava, apricot. melon, apple) makes of this wine one that can be a crowd teaser particularly in summer with high quality fresh seafood. I now understand why this wine is highly rated among wine experts (it was the first time I was trying it). Lucille has identity, Lucille has personality as in hosting that heavenly wine in a an unexpected cute recycled Heinz Ketchup tin can:

Started off with my first order:

The Oysters:  
Although I have rarely came across bivalve molluscs of stunning quality as those the Indian Ocean pampered me with, I still enjoy my bivalve molluscs friends everywhere I go: Sometimes, I was amazingly satisfied  On  some rare occasions, they were the opportunity for me to crack some smart jokes at the wait staff like “It’s from the Sea and not the fridge that you should have picked it up!”’.
SO at Lucille Oyster Dive, I started my seafood journey with an order of 12 bivalve molluscs and while sampling them with the hightest respect I always pay  to anything coming from the sea, I scribbled some notes:
-Marine robustness: HIGH
-Quality of the oyster: TOP
-Work of the shacker: 10/10
-Level of deliciousness: SUBLIME!
Their oysters come from various locations: New Brunswick, The Main, British Columbia.They offer some from the West (British Columbia), some from the East (Main, etc). Western ones were bigger in size, did I notice. Briny, with a remarquable depth of marine robustness, those oysters were among the best I ever had on any Montreal seafood tables and I am including the big names here! EXCELLENT oysters!  They were served with the classic mignonette sauce (expertly executed with perfect balanced acidity from the vinegar and an amazing freshness oozing out of the shallots), a Tabasco Green Pepper sauce (nice idea, try it! I prefer my oysters in their natural state but pick just one oyster, match it with that sauce and see if you like), and their in house tomatoey sauce:

You will never ever see me mixing oysters with sauces (I am a purist), but I had their in house hot sauce sampled separately from the oysters and that sauce rocks: it’s a delicious spicy tomatoey sauce, dense and instense, made of scotch bonnet peppers and vinegar. Delish! I know some friends who would love mixing up that sauce with anything, oysters to start with. 10/10 (the oysters, on this specific visit, were simply stunning!)

The Lobster Roll: I am not a huge fan of lobster roll. As you would expect  from someone who favors high quality seafood in it’s full pristine greatness, a lobster roll is just a comfort food item that can be undoubtly tasty when done well, so this is an exercice that I find pretty straightforward: I will judge my lobster roll not based on pre-defined expectations (just make it tasty and I’ll be a happy camper!) but solely based on how tasty it turns out to be.   
-Quality of the lobster meat: Top
-Cooking of the lobster meat: Top
-Quality of the Mayo: Top (not overhelming. gently spiced, still flavorfully enjoyable)
-Quality of the roll: (Fresh bun, nicely cooked hot dog looking bun)
-Type of roll:  it’s hot dog bun roll as you can see on the pic
-Level of deliciousness: High. I have no complaint here. Realy well done, but I am just not into lobster rolls in general being a purist in anything seafood.  7/10

@ALL– So where could your favourite lobster roll be found (New England, I guess)? Let me know! To me, my lobster roll should be an equation of: great quality lobster meat + mastered seasoning/taste + an appropriately thought bun (I am not a baker, but there is surely some fun evolutive work to do on this department) + a well balanced mayo mix (way too much requirrements for comfort food, hein?)  

The Lobster:
Poached? Grilled? After a slight hesitation I went with my lifetime favourite cooking of the lobster: grilled! Just put a bit of garlic butter aside, keep that lobster fresh, simple and I’ll walk away with a huge smile on my face.
In Montreal, you can get lobster virtually anywhere. The thing is to get it cooked the way I like it (yeah..yeah..ya..they all say it is easy to cook a lobster..sure..sure..sure…but very few have delivered the proper balance of nice cooking/great quality lobster/resulting memorable taste I search for. To me, a meal of Lobster is the epitome of the equation “talent behind a kitchen” + “top quality ingredient”).
So, here again, the notes that I scribbled on this one: 
-Marine robustness: HIGH
-Quality of the lobster meat: HIGH
-Cooking of the lobster meat: SUPERB
-Level of deliciousness: PERFECT
-Work of the Fishermen: Lol..just kidding on this one ;p I highly respect fishermen, especially them!

Before heading to a location, especially for seafood, I always phone and enquire about where the seafood comes from: the Gentleman over the phone explained that the lobster currently served (at this moment) at the restaurant comes from Nova Scotia. Their lobster weight around  1.5lbs/Maximum 2lbs and cost between $can28 – $can 32 (In Montreal, you can pay in between $52 to $80++ for some top of the top lobsters of that size..but again, that pricing probably reflects the fact that those tables  are not seafood distributors/providers). Quite a bargain for  top quality lobster, imho, but they explained to me that they are also distributor/providers of their own seafood, which explains the low cost. Their lobster is of exact same high end equality as those I had at $80 elsewhere …! At barely $30, half the $$$ I would pay at some highly regarded seafood spots, this lobster was remarquable: perfect depth of flavor, tasty, well cooked and of top quality.  The classic garlicky aside sauce was superb too. Excellent! 10/10 (This one lobster, on this specific visit, soared so high in terms of exceptional quality ).

Seafood soup – This place has idendity/personality. And this soup is just one example of just that: done differently from your usual seafood soups -> instead of a bowl full of seafood broth, you have here the seafood morsels shining atop (crab, clams) and a bit of the broth seating beneath. The freshness of the seafood continues to impress here: delish, tatsy and oozing of enjoyable saline flavors. The bit of broth beneath was delicious and harmoniously flavored. 9/10

Even when the boat could have sunk, Lucille fought back and shone:
Impressed, I should concede: even when the boat could have sunk, Lucille fought back and shone as in very little details like  those that will follow — very little details, barely noticeable to the most, but that I am taking time to write about because they mean a lot in my own  appreciation of this seafood spot: 

Detail #1: At some point, while Jannice was talking to our main waitress, a young very tall charming lady, she ..the waitress…out of nowhere .. cut short to the discussion, dived in distraction, and hop la ..reappeared! I then said to myself  “Oh NO, I think Jannice will hate this move”…Jannice was a long time waitress, and such little details are noticeable to her. And she did notice it. BUT, the waitress came back, charming and focused as ever! From there on, she was shining on par with all best wait staff  I ever encountered in this province. When you come back strong like that, how to not fall under the charm of it all? Great come back ;p 

Detail #2: Before going there, the Gentleman over the phone told me they usually have lobster in the kitchen and that I could just request that one is grilled. The same main waitress, instead of verifying with the kitchen, told me straight that there was no grilled lobster available. I told her that I was informed they would have lobsters in the kitchen but that it’s fine, we could forget about it. BUT she smartly thought about the most important principle in a restaurant: pleasing your guests as she managed to find a lobster for me. Another GREAT come back!

I know those are little details, but they mean a lot to a guest: it shows ACCOMODATION and DESIRE TO PLEASE! All of a sudden, the little futile sorrows turn into MINES OF GOLD!

The wait staff in general was great (always made sure that water was available, wine refilled, table cleaned from water drops. One young charming Gentleman even came and promptly fixed the unbalanced table we chose) and I should say .. HANDSOME.
Lucille Oyster Dive has deeply seduced me: this charming tiny spot has seriously made it’s way to the top of my favourite seafood tables in Montreal for it’s stunning quality of seafood, charming service, and cute minimalist and yet warm bistro alike decor. And this place gets crowded very fast (make no mistake: my pics were taken early, as soon as they opened the doors, a bit before people arrived, but less than half an hour later it got busy), so book in advance (albeit you still can find seats at the bar if you haven’t booked and are lucky enough).
Service on this dinner had perfect  timing: we started at 6PM, were done by 7:40PM with no feel of being rushed and enough space in between services to digest before the next food item would hit the table.Furthermore, the staff was accomodating with regards to the timeframe we wanted to follow. But anyways, this is purely a subjective matter: you should not go to a restaurant to complain about delays JUST arrange your timeframe with the wait staff (I never understood people complaining about slowness in a restaurant…what about talking to the wait staff and telling what you really want..instead of expecting them to guess for you??)

Lucille knows how to be distinct
I do not know for you, but to me , as little as they may appear, I like little details that makes a table distinct from others. I know that the wine presentation (in a Ketchup  tin can) or the unexpected rendition of the seafood soup (focused more on upfront presence of the fresh and top quality seafood items with just a little bit of soupy broth underneath as opposed to be entirely brothy) will not revolutionize the Gastro world, but they sent to me a clear message: this table is passionate about what it does.

Bottom line: Seafood is not just seafood. At least, an iodized saline soul like me  can’t  think that way. Quality in seafood is priceless, and Lucille Oyster Dive impressed me with top quality fresh seafood like I wish I could find everywhere else. I will run back at Lucille’s Oyster Dive way before running back at any of my other favourite seafood tables in Mtl, because of the overall cool, charming, unpretentious mood and above all, for the freshest seafood that this city has to offer. This report is disproportioned, purposely reflecting my sacred epic lifetime fascination for seafood.
Respect to the sea!    Thanks for reading, Aromes.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER – My initial meal at LOD was a superb one in regard of the seafood bistrot standards here and abroad. Not only the food was delicious, but it was technically well accomplished. It remains,  years later, one of the finest meals I ever had in a Montreal restaurant.  The typical kind of issue  that unfortunately awaits this type of place (quality seafood bistrot)  is this: people, when things are pricey (quality seafood can’t be cheap) .. they do not care about details  such as the cooking skills, the quality of the food. It is the price tag that dictates how good is your food. And I will  add that the nice looking wait staff at LOD may bother some with a very high level of jealousy ;p  Oh well, too bad for those. There’s also the fact that ppl tend to associate  a certain type of experience with a price tag:  for example, Bistrot La Marine in Cagnes sur Mer is one  of world’s finest seafood bistrots. Consequently,  since it is quality seafood that is served there, there’s a price that comes with it. And yet, many flock there to complain about the place being a ..bistrot and that it’s too $$$ for a bistrot.  A way of foolishly suggesting that they expect a certain price tag to be associated with fine dining only … as if bistrots are condemned to earlier century’s  clichés with you know…the bottle in the hands…the hunter’s hat…It’s being a while that I haven’t re-visited LOD (it’s  far from where I leave),  but I hope they keep up with the standards I found on that initial visit (my second and third visits here  were not complete meals. I took oysters only, but quality oysters always leave a deep hole in a pocket when you pick them  at restaurants, so I’ll need to try another proper seafood meal here). But yes, it is not cheap as expected

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