The end of my discoveries of Montreal finest Bistrots & Gourmets destinations

This is the end  of my discoveries of Montreal finest Bistrots & Gourmets destinations. Current post  is my last post on this site.

In 2009, frustrated to never be able to rely on online restaurant reviews /opinions whenever I needed advices on where to go dining out with my wife/friends/family, I decided to  take the bull by its horns and went trying  Montreal finest Bistrots & Gourmets destinations.  In the process, I decided to share with whoever the findings might be helpful. Hence, this web blog. It was important for me to live the experience as a normal diner, which means anonymously, since the point was to experience things the way my friends, family, any normal diner would experience it in their turn.

I have nothing against those who have interest in the industry. If you want to be recognized, get favors, capitalize on the benefits of your visibility, then good for you. It is your choice and I respect that. I just have no interest in this industry (like any Business, it is generally more about making money rather than focusing on true skills, which again is  understandable, but   is simply not something that excites/appeals to me ), so having now my list of restaurants I deem worthy of revisiting, I decided that it was the end of the round as far as Montreal restaurants go (except, of course, if a particularly great Chef opens a new restaurant or I hear about a new restaurant that is shaking the restaurant actuality in town, Rfaol, in which case I’ll add that review to http://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com/.

All reviews of my Michelin star meals will be listed  on the left, side of http://michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com  from the higher to lower rated meals. But that blog, despite its name,  won’t focus anymore solely on my  restaurant reviews. It will, from now on, be the full expression of my own self with posts — in both my mother tongue (French) as well as in English – covering everything from my vision of the world, arts, cooking, literature, travel, etc. A  blog in its conventional definition, which means the expression of whatever I have on my mind and that I deem interesting to share.

Please also find here my sparse dining reviews at Montreal’s ethnic eateries, my humble reviews on bars/pubs in Montreal, and my reviews of couple of Parisian restaurants.

In fine, I love Montreal but came to the conclusion that its dining scene is over-rated. When, in 10 years, you have been able to spot only less than 30 really capable dining destinations over 6000 and more…the only conclusion that strikes is that it is an over-rated food scene. But is it is pretty cosmopolitan city, with anything…but food…as its qualities.You now have the  reason why I prefer saving my hard earned money and splurge on dining elsewhere!

STILL, where will Aromes go back then?
Bistro Cocagne, Toque!, Brasserie T, Au Pied de Cochon: No one is perfect in life, you know that.
So even for someone like me who fought hard for justice, impartiality, etc..well, I happen to be sometimes
very partial. And partial I am when it comes to most things taht come from Toque!, Montreal’s most revered
temple of haute dining. Bistro Cocagne, Brasserie T have Chefs who are  Toque’s alumnis and the standard
is usually consistently good, by Montreal standards, at those places. Au Pied de Cochon’s is owned by an ex Toque’s alumni,
Chef Martin Picard and his personal take on rustic quebecois cooking is one that seems to have found no competition in town years after he opened his restaurant. Delicious rustic bistrot food. Just make sure that is the type of food you like, as
you are supposed to do with all types of food.
Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon. I have been cooking for years, so I do not expect miracles. Just do something simple,  but better than most of your peers and I’ll be happy. KG on Jean Talon is making that happen: simple bistrot food  that is delicious and well made. If you think it is no big deal, arm yourself with a good sense for details and go ask  most bistrots how come they are not doing  it that well.
Au 5e Péché: Still in my top 5 of Montreal’s best bistrots. Had of course some great and lesser impressive meals there, as it is the case with all restaurants, but Chef Lenglet  is  talented, so the best dishes here will always pertain to Montreal bistrot finest.  He is always present in his kitchen, a miracle in nowadays world.
Bouillon Bilk: Chef Nadon, another great talent. The first time I ate here, he was at the helm and the food was superb.  Second visit was disappointing (he was away on that evening). Still, a good  restaurant with serious/reliable staff and owners.
Remains  a favourite of mine, but my second visit suggests that they need to find a way, when Chef Nadon is away, to keep  the bar high.
Raza: Chef Navarrette Jr, the Latino Genius. I had some of my most memorable lifetime meals at Raza and it is a restaurant that  has a special place in my heart (my type: simple, elegant, Chef Navarrette Jr deserving his place among my personal
best Chefs of all times). I just have one wish: his assistants need to live up to the challenge of having to work alongside such
a Giant Chef. It is a gift from the above to work with such a Genius like Chef Navarrette Jr…live up to that!
-La Porte: Chef Thierry Rouyé is something. I’ll never forget that one: Ppl in town kept raving about L’Européa, Toque!, Club Chasse et Peche,  etc.  Which are top tables I dearly respect. Then Boom..I discovered Chef Rouyé’s work and he impressed me even more.  La Porte is my personal favourite of all the high end dining ventures in Montreal. Even the decor moves me (beautifully exotic).
Bottega on St Zotique!. Read this review. I have nothing more to say, Lol
Queue de Cheval. Because it’s pricey, most (??) or some (??) will frown (??) . Listen, I do not have the means to go there on a regular  basis.  I went there just twice in 5 years. But like to hear this or not, I can deal just in facts and my recent visits of Montreal  top steakhouses confirmed that the Q! is still  the King! Just remember: it is pricey!  In town, there’s one steak that’s currently beating it though and you have to go and buy it and cook it yourself: Le Marchand du Bourg’s
aged steak.
Park: I am a fan of Chef Park for various reasons. He is one of the rare Chefs in town who is capable to surprise with flavors
and a creativity that is not that common in Montreal. True, the level of dining in Montreal is not high, but he is one who can set the bar. He  also  has a fresh open mind that lets him stroll the world for exotic flavors. When the focus is on that discovery of exotic flavors, his cooking is really top by Mtl standards. His kitchen just need to avoid
roaming away from that focal point.  It is seafood, so expect it to be pricey.
Kyo: My new coup de coeur in 2013. I know, it is new, so perhaps the imperfections will come with success/popularity.
But for now, I can only talk for what I know and the present is bright.
Lawrence: Sort of UK’s pub food and more. In that genre, Lawrence sets the bar in town. I was less happy with the service though

Jun I : Still the best of the sushiyas in Montreal, I was tough in my review, though  NOT  unfair…the proof is that I do  recognize that Jun I is the most authentically Japanese of all sushiyas in town. The master of them all, in Montreal.  Real Japanese sushi masters spend at least 7 years of training and Jun I has a REAL master at the helm, always present and hard at work.
That’s all.
Thanks for reading

Enjoy!

Aromes

Advertisements
Standard

Restaurant Le Newtown, Montreal – Where is Chef Juneau’s magic?

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).

Dinner at Restaurant Le Newtown Type of cuisine: North American /Market cuisine
When: Sat May 21st, 2011 19:00
Addr: 1476 Rue Crescent

Montreal, QC (Downtown)
Phone: (514) 284-6555  

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


UPDATE July 2012: Chef Juneau has now opened Pastaga (6389 Boul St Laurent). I went to Pastaga and it’s certainly one of the most interesting eateries (its a wine/Modern North American bistrot/brunch destination )  in Yul at this moment, although those who have been impressed by Chef Juneau’s culinaric magic  when he was on Bishop Street will most likely tell you that this is a tad less impressive to what was offered  on Bishop Str (who knows, perhaps different producers? Different team in the kitchen? etc). Regardless, this remains one of the most interesting eateries in town, only it is not in my top 5, an accomplishment that Chef Juneau is largely capable of (When he was at La Montée on Bishop, that place was my #1 bistrot in YUL for a long time). 

Non, ce ne fut point la castatrophe cette soirée là, mais j’en suis ressorti décu et je n’y retournerai plus: Un Chef…Un resto! C’est comme ca la vie. On a beau dire que suivre un Chef c’est un peu de l’adulation exagérée, mais au delà des inutilités moralisantes (qu’on appelle ‘platitudes’ au Québec) ne soyons pas naifs: un resto est égal au Chef qui est aux fourneaux. On va au Newtown pour apprécier le talent du Chef Juneau, un point, un trait. Et si il n’y est pas, ca se ressent dans l’assiette! Et là, ce fut une soirée OFF, couteuse. Bref, une soirée qui m’a laissé perplexe.

Second dinner at restaurant Le Newtown, last evening. My first meal there was under Chef Jette’s supervision (click here for that review). This time, it is Chef Martin Juneau who’s at the helm; a clear sign that the folks at Le Newtown are serious about the restaurant’s offering of their ‘resto-bar’.

Chef Juneau: When he was awarded Canada’s gold Medal Plates champion Chef in February 2011,  I was not surprised. I wrote it and I will repeat this: when he is at his very best,  it is not exaggerated to state that Chef Juneau  is of 3-star Michelin caliber. He proved it already on this reviewed lunch (March 2010) when he was at La Montée. Now, there are many reasons that can explain variation of opinions on the work of a top tier skilled Chef like Juneau: (1) the demand of his customers. You remember how I was slighlty less impressed with my dinner at his last location on Saint Laurent (click here for that review)? It is not that Chef Juneau was suddenly less impressive than he used to be, but because most of his clientele wants him to cook that kind of simple but reliable food that I was enjoying on that evening. (2) it depends on how far he can impose his own creations on their menu. I do not know about Juneau and his relationship with Newtown management’s team, but I saw elsewhere many talented Chefs suffocating under the pressure of their superiors. Something is certain: when his full potential is unleashed, Juneau is simply an outstanding world class Chef. If  on  that lunch of March 2010, he was paired with an outstanding pastry Chef, I’d consider that entire short meal as outstanding as any of the best 3-star Michelin  meals I enjoyed. Sounds exaggerated? Certainly not when he is in his prime.

The bar section’s food Vs the restaurant’s offering:  While reading web reviews/opinions on Le Newtown, I noticed a common mistake that some do -> they confuse the food served in the downstair’s bar section  with food served upstairs at the main restaurant. It is not the same type of food that is served at both places (the bar serves more casual fares, whereas it is more refined upstairs). There’s also some confusion between the level of food on lunch time Vs in the evening: we all should know better that Lunch is mostly a more casual affair, whereas dinner is usually more refined at most high end Montreal tables.  With that said, it is also important to note that although his food at the main restaurant remains of top caliber, it is not of the gastronomic type that was served previously by Chef Jetté (Refer to my 1st review of Newtown).  Also worth of notice: they do have an event called ‘wine flight‘ (where the theme is about food and wine of a given country) that seems very popular and consequently widly documented on the web by numerous food bloggers. I haven’t tried those wine flight events, but I presume that they might differ from the standard dinner menu, which is another thing to take in consideration when you read opinions on their food, for the sake of accuracy. PS: my review is about my  dinner at the restaurant, not the bar section.

The food that is served: A North American variation of  the now widly popular modern type of bistro gastronomy that made top cooking here as great as what is offered at this moment in most of  its European’s popular equivalents. For ie, there’s a lot of buzz in Paris around L’Astrance, Chateaubriand, Passage 53, but a Chef like Juneau  can cook as good if not better than what those gentlemen are doing overthere. He is just cooking food that is  different in their composition and conception  (as I wrote, a North American version of that type of new era gastronomy) .

=>The A la carte menu, on this dinner,  is short: approx 5 appetizers (ranging from $13 to $18)  + 5 main courses (ranging from 23$ up to the 30ish). But it was varied enough: for ie, salmon, tuna, halibut, lobster from Gaspésie (for seafood), beef, quails, pork. It is a market driven cuisine, so the menu varies from day to day, season to season.
=>They also have a multiple course tasting menu (look at the little notice at the bottom of the  A la Carte menu). We were interested by this offer. Our waitress asked us if we would like the 5 or 6 multiple course, but since the night was busy, she recommended a 5 course tasting menu, which we opted for. The 5 course tasting menu was priced at  $75 on this dinner. The other reason I chose the tasting menu is because I remember how  Chef Juneau was brilliant with his tasting menu offerings back to his days at  La Montée (that one that was located on rue de la Montagne, now moved to St-Laurent Street).

Tataki of tuna, anchoiade, oysters, green beans, olives – Technically faultless: the tuna tataki is fresh and well executed.  I saw no issue neither with the anchoiade sauce (all its ingredients blended well with the right proportions of garlic, anchovies, olive oil etc). The oysters on the Tatakis were pleasant and the small little boiled eggs added to an appealing contrast of textures and colors. All good, but certainly not of Juneau’s prime level. As we say in French “”c’était sage “”. Good but uninteresting.  6/10

Salmon, yoghurt mousse, cucumber, dill – (I forgot to take a photo of this dish) Basically a carpaccio of salmon (excellent quality, oozing of freshness), dressed with a yoghurt mousse, fresh pieces of cucumber (the quality of their ingredients on this meal were really impressive as with this cucumber) and the dill demonstrated a nice technical mastery in pairing well all ingredients. Although not bad, this is a simple recipe you can do at home and you won’t miss it. Certainly NOT  of the level that Chef Juneau is capable of.  6/10

At this point, I got annoyed by the ‘just good enough‘  but not great cooking performance. The staff kept telling me that it is Juneau who was cooking, but what they did not know is that I know very well what Juneau’s cooking tastes like. A technique that many of my friends used to do, in order to force the main Chef to cook for them, is to return their plates to the kitchen on numerous occasions. That worked on many occasions: I remember, in Paris, that trick worked so well at the Georges V: Chef Briffard, as most connoisseurs of Paris dinings already know, is in a class apart  when he is himself cooking for you. But he has a staff of a hundred people under his supervision, so the only way to catch his attention is to use that trick. I was tempted to serve this same trick to Chef Juneau because there was no way this food I was served was cooked by him.  To force his attention, I went instead with a surprise ordering from the A la carte menu. Perhaps, it is the A la Carte (ALC) menu that suits him better, this time.

The ALC item I picked was :
Halibut, bisque, yukon gold mousse – The halibut, on its own, showed Juneau’s level of cooking: cooked to perfection, had perfect bite and amazing fresh marine flavor. I could kiss that halibut…tellement c’était bon! As for the bisque, I’d say that where the velouté de crustacés (it is a bisque, btw) that I enjoyed on this recent meal in Paris at L’Ambroisie would be a 10/10 (exceptional), my favourite one in Montreal at Le Bonaparte being a 9/10 (excellent), this reviewed one would be an 8/10. It lacked a depth of richness, but was certainly very good.  But then a technical mistake that could not have come from a Chef like Juneau: cherry tomatoes, dropped in the bisque, which could pass as a tempting  idea for appealing texture and color contrasts on that dish…but in mouth, any decent palate would have noticed the incompatible pairing to the bisque. This should have been tasted before served! I will still rate this dish with an 8 over 10 (very good) for the amazing halibut and good bisque, but an 8 over 10  is still not remarkable enough for such a talented Chef (Juneau’s prime level is usually of 9 to 10 over 10 in my evaluation scale). The bisque definitely reinforced my deep belief that Juneau had perhaps not cooked it  since his real imprint on this type of dish (creams, veloutés, bisques, etc) pertains more accurately to the level of amazement found on  this reviewed meal.  Let alone the structural mistep  of the cherry tomato’s incompatible taste against the bisque. Still accurately an 8/10  

Braised quails, beacon –  This was really tasty, with the bird’s meaty, moist and nicely cooked legs and breast shining with impeccable flavors. The layer of beacon underneath brought nothing, but I’ll take it more as a textural complement to the overall.  Although fine, this is still  a one-dimensional dish (it’s about the braised quails and nothing else), therefore a  fair   7 / 10

Piglet belly, mushroom ragout, red wine jelly –  They are proud of this dish which  earned Chef Juneau the 1st place at the 2011 Pan-Canadian Gold medal plates championship in Kelowna. The piece of piglet was indeed delicious in its juxtaposition of the enjoyable rich taste of the piglet’s fat  against the extra layer of  flavor coming from the crispy roasted meat’s coating ( I know this  pork belly  is siometimes glazed with beet juice, but this one I had was glazed with red wine). If you take a  nice piece of piglet (this piglet from  the St-Canut’s farm is indeed of nice quality) , either you braise or roast it , then nicely season it,  it rarely  fails to be delicious as the most will concede, but honestly there was enough skillful  hands behind this one creation to consider  it as a noteworthy dish. I have no reproach over the  ragout of mushrooms (well done) and the drops of red wine gelée  were just ok. Since there is a lot of buzz around this dish, I’d recommend you lower your expectations (at a culinary event with my standards , it is his butternut squash velouté that would have earned him the champion title). Good, nevertheless.  7.5/10

Pine nuts mousse, chocolate ice cream, apple crumble6/10 Good enough with a mousse that was  pleasant (6/10), a choco ice cream of good standard (6/10) and a correct crumble (6/10).  Un dessert bien sage, as I’d accurately describe this in French. Chef Juneau is in charge of the savouries only, as they have a pastry Chef.  Still, I’d expect stunning desserts especially at a restaurant where an exceptional pastry Chef has left his imprints……………PS: As the sun went down, the pictures started to lack clarity but you still can see enough visual details on them.

Wines: The wine by the glass offerings (we had)  pretty much consisted of some pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and chablis that I was already familiar with. But a quick glance at their extensive wine list shows an interesting coverage of a  variety of vintages from France (mostly), and most parts of the globe (they have several Canadian wines) with prices starting as low as $42 and as high as some top markup wines (like a Romanée Conti I saw on  their wine list) do command. But you will definitely find wines that reach out to all range of prices (unless, I presume, you arrive at the end of the evening and all the cheap wines are long sold).

Service:  Ha..Ha..Ha..Guess who was our main waitress on this evening! The same young lady I found a little  bit challenging on my previous meal there (Ref: the ‘service’ section of this  reviewed dinner). Amelie? Emilie? Julie..sorry, I can’t remember her name properly…but not to worry: she has improved a lot. This time, she was actually very attentive, helpful. Absolutely no reproach on her service (I am not picky as to whether a wait staff did refill my glass of water or not,  so those little details, although nice, are secondary in my view to, let’s say, being professional in your behaviour,  showing the bottle of wine before you fill my glass, ensuring that the table and cutlery are clean, etc…and to that respect, Amelie/Julie/Emilie did a nice job). Or who knows..perhaps the fact that I was accompanied this time, made a difference. The maitre D’ and the other waiter who served us at some point were also without reproach.

Where is Juneau’s magic?  In his prime, as I wrote earlier on, Juneau is truly an exceptional Chef. Food varying in between 6  to 8/10 is certainly weak compared to  what he is capable of (usually, Juneau’s cooking has at least a 10/10 item, and would vary between 9 and 10).  If Juneau has really cooked this food, then the Mayans are right: the end of the world is coming soon! The real Juneau is what food critic Thierry Daraize has reviewed here. ‘Pour monter au ciel‘ was the title of Mr Daraize’s review on  Juneau’s magic cooking. As French, we usually refer  to the above (monter au ciel refers to the sky) when we experience greatness / magic as with the title of my spectacular recent meal at 3-star Michelin L’Ambroisie in Paris (the title of that review being ‘A gift from the above! ‘). Juneau, the real magician, is the one who cooked  the two spectacular 2 to 3 Michelin-star level of food items that you see reviewed on this lunch. Martin Juneau’s  prime cooking pertains to the level found in the circle of what I do consider as the 11 current most talented Chefs of Montreal, the 11 Golden boys as I love to name them (Mercuri,Navarrette,Laprise,Loiseau,Lenglet,Belair,Rouyé,Axel/St-Denis,Cloutier,Pelletier). But this is unfortunately the second rendez vous  (with Juneau’s magic cooking) in a row that failed to live up to what this great Chef can deliver (the first rendez vous was this one). There won’t be a third attempt (I know it is unfair to expect a human being to constantly perform at his best, but that is a reality that the hard earned money of a diner will never get to tolerate!..200$ and ++ for two is fine when you have a spectacular meal. BUT we are from from spectacular here! Very far……………………………. ).

Standard

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.

Standard