Montreal Restaurants with the most BUZZ: Au Pied De Cochon!

Event: Dinner at Restaurant Au pied de Cochon , 536 East Duluth
Montréal
, QC H2L 1A9
(514) 281-1114
http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca

Type of cuisine: Rework of some Quebec’s classics + some very unique fares proper to APDC

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

(English review will follow) – Des milliers de restos et plusieurs années après leur ouverture, APDC continue à faire cavalier seul: unique avec sa cuisine rustique réiventée, inspirée des traditions locales, l’endroit n’a pas perdu de son lustre si je le compare à ma dernière visite ici,  il y’a plus de deux ans. Mon repas de ce 28/11/2012 fut composé d’une excellente vichyssoise aux oursins, excitant en bouche. Suivi d’un maki d’anguille exécuté tel qu’il se doit (bonne qualité de la feuille d’algue, le riz balancant parfaitement entre fermeté et moelleux requis, l’anguille de bonne qualité). Pour enfin conclure sur un péché gourmand, tellement riche en gout qu’il vous faut presque un appétit d’ogre pour parvenir à le finir: le pied de cochon fourré au foie gras, succulent comme ce fut l cas la dernière fois que je l’avais essayé ici, quoique moins excitant que sa version précécédente surtout à cause du manque de ‘punch’ acide dont bénéficiait celui de mon repas du  15 Decembre 2009.    

UPDATE Dinner @ APDC on 28/11/2012 18:30 –  I can’t believe I haven’t gone back  for that long. But I have been so disappointed by the latest new eateries in town that I find consolation in the old time favourites. APDC is Montreal’s most celebrated restaurant and foodies from all around the world flock here after all the rage generated by Anthony Bourdain’s no reservation show on APDC, naturally leading to leagues of anti and pro APDC foodies, Rfaol! Rule of thumb: go to a restaurant because it is your style of food, do not go because someone raved about it! And between you and me: you seek for gourmet suggestions from the greatest ones (JacquesMaximin, Eric Briffard, Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon )…not from Tony B,Rfaol! Although a pleasant gentleman and certainly very interesting character, I certainly have no plan to rely on Tony to know where I shall go to eat. With that said, I think that for food as characteristic to its land as the one found at APDC, you should, before opting to travel all the way to Montreal, ensure that this is food that caters to your taste. I am insisting on this because I know many ppl who travel to Montreal and expect surreal things from Apdc whereas they do not enjoy rustic rich French food in the first place. Some ordering APDC’s foie gras poutine and they do not even like poutines. Others go there with the idea of finding some type of upscale food. Hey, c’mon folks…it is APDC’s take on RUSTIC RICH cuisine.

On this evening, I picked 2 items from the daily menu as well as their signature pig trotter au foie gras that was already reviewed on my last meal here (see below).

The 1st item off the daily menu was a Vichyssoise  (I ate it all way before thinking about picturing it, lol) mixed with sea urchin, one of the merely examples that reminds  of  why APDC appeals to many: there is always, somewhere on its menu, little creative gems that few in town dare trying because not many can turn them into the exciting creations that can sometimes comes from this kitchen. A triumph of texture and moutful bliss 8/10

Another item from their daily menu I picked was a maki of eel. It would be absurd to compare Adpc’s version to what a sushiya would do, apdc is not a sushi place, but here again Apdc shows the little fun and out of the ordinary things (to Montreal’s bistrt standards) that few other bistrots manage to achieve this well in town. Or when they do, it is not as interesting as at Apdc. It would be foolish  to compare it to sushis at sushi places, you certainly are not gojng to start evaluating the quality of the meshi, the number of rice grains here, rfaol,  but it  was certainly  tasty and refreshing to be found on a bistrot table in Yul. 6/10

Ended witthe pig trotter stuffed with foie gras, almost as deliciously rich as I remembered it from last time, only the dazzling tang of acidity of the last version was more subtle this time, making it a bit less memorable. Still, good and in its genre, a successful delicious rustic creation A 7/10

I like APDC because all that counts for me is how far a meal can be delicious. Yup, I know…people say that rich food is alwaysdelicious and things like that, but   you have to make it happen. And this is where theory and practice do clash. Listen, if you have that idea of spectacular food being what Ferran Adria was delivering, do not go to Apdc. If you will start complaining about greasy food, do not! Rustic rich delicious food takes butter, it takes fat.  Point blank. In its genre (a take on rustic rich cuisine), apdc is a treat. It is a well oiled eatery with classy service, fun ambience. Their wine choices are among the most exciting in town,  especially the little gems that are off the wine menu After all these years, thousands of restaurants later, it remains Montreal most unique and delicious table.

Overall rating of this meal of Nov 28th 2012: As always, divine delicious rich and rustic  food , although..hey mon petit cochon….you were a tad more exciting at the time of Chef Hughe Dufour (now in the US).   Now the scores: scoring individual dishes, I have no problem with that, even in the case of ADPC. I did it, actually and found it as fair as I could go. But  assigning an overall score to this meal, or even the previous meal at APDC would be a non sense. To what overall food rating … would that overall food rating at APDC be compared to? It’s just not, as an overall,  a dining experience you can compare to something else.You can’t compare APDC to anything else since it has its very own style of re-visiting classic québécois cuisine. It is unique even on its own land, so no comparison to make with what is done anywhere else. After all these years, APDC remains a huge personal favourite for  festive rustic rich food and I could assign it a 10/10, a 20/10, a 30/10 overall food rating…it just won’t mean anything and will serve nothing! So does it worth travelling all the way to Montreal to eat at APDC because it is unique? In my view, No. But if you happen to be in Montreal, and you are fond of rustic rich food, Yes, put APDC at the top of the list!

THE FOLLOWING IS THE REVIEW OF MY DINNER THERE ON  Tuesday December 15th 2009, 21:30PM

APDC!
As anyone knows by now, it is the Montreal restaurant with the most buzz. Zillions of restaurants would drool over the never-ending legendary popularity of APDC. Some few hate it, a LOT love it! 
Naturally, knowing my preferrence for classic fine french fares, most of my friends think I do sn0b APDC. Most actually never even mind asking, anticipating horrific responses from my part!
And some few, anticipating my rejection of APDC, plays the “anticipated accomodation” with statements like “It is way overhyped, way over this, way over that…”. 
Although it is a fact that I am more into fine dining classic French fares, and that APDC is indeed not a restaurant that I dream about at night,  I would like to seize this opportunity and set couple of records straight:
-To those who complain about APDC being overhyped, keep in mind that when you are fond of something, you will sound naturally overhyped. So, APDC appears overhyped just because a lot of people are madly in love with APDC. Or…is it overhyped to some, just because APDC doesn’t serve food that looks like at any other classic restaurant? If that is the case, recall that APDC was not meant to serve the classic white-glove presented dishes (everyone knows that this is wild and rustic food)!
-Some said that all of this hype has started because of Anthony Bourdain’s No reservations reportage about APDC. C’mon…Bourdain or Not…I do not know anyone enoughly stupid to fall in love with a restaurant just because someone else did like it. Bourdain helped with the visibility of APDC, but had APDC not pleased the tastebuds of the most, there would have been no buzz at all!
-Now, APDC … I cannot compare it to any other restaurant since it’s unique, on it’s own genre. It’s also a restaurant that I do admire a lot for it’s originality, daring approach to gastronomy and most importantly, for the enjoyment it is bringing to the most.

HOW IT ALL STARTED!
My love story with APDC  started years  back, by a hot summer evening, while sipping an enjoyable martini on a terrace of the Vieux Port with a bunch of friends. The name popped out from the mouth of one of the attendees. I had heard about it before, but this time it was making it’s way deep into my conscience: out of the 9 folks, 6 were raving about it as if it was the biggest thang of all times, with .. I am not kidding….multimedia presentations of their favourite restaurant live from their handheld devices. At some point, I thought it was fixed up! Then things went fast: a first dinner there at the invitation of one of the 6 devoted fans + an another one with his best friends (like a clan of APDC fans ). Those two first dinners did unfortunately not impressed me at all: the famous “duck in a can” I had on 1st dinner has not done the trick for me. Same for the baked apple + other items I preffered erasing from my souvenirs on the subsequent dinner there.

Then time passed. And I found myself playing the tape about one side of those 2 dinners that I kinda neglected a bit: the amazing collective happyness all patrons seemed to be bathed in. I have rarely seen that in a restaurant. On both dinners, it was packed…jam packed…of people who looked so happy to be there. So blessed to enjoy their food. There had to be something that I was missing! Then I kept asking myself “in the end, shouldn’t food be just that: putting a huge sunshine of happyness of people’s heart!”. So, I opted for a new approach: the curiosity level (strange hein? Usually you are curious then you try. BUT this time, it was the other way around: I tried it already, thought I would forget about it forever, and here I am offering a new eye on it). I started reading a lot about APDC, the philisophy of it’s Chef Martin Picard, the reasons behind the impressive success and buzz around this fairytale. In th end, I found myself  embracing the cult (lol): this food is making a lot of people happy and that is what counts the most! So, I decided to go to APDC for a 3rd time with a totally new angle, this time: just go and enjoy! Of course, it won’t stop me from describing things the way they are (I can’t do otherwise: if the fries are burnt, why would I say that they aren’t? If the meat is bland, well I will have to describe it as is: bland!) — but there was a new attitude this time: heading there with a relaxed approach. A festive one!

ok, ok the damn FOOD..!
POUTINE OF FOIE GRAS
– I started with the poutine of foie (yeah, no appetizer because I knew that I had to make it for my two heavyweight choices of this dinner: the poutine of foie + the pig’s foot with foie!). Although they are famous for their poutine of foie, I never thought about ordering it on the first two visits. This time I made that choice. After years in Quebec, needless to stress that poutines I devoured! For years, I can’t count anymore the numerous times I had enjoyed poutines at my QC’s buddies grand parents homes, I can’t anymore count the numerous spots that I have eaten at as soon as they would be known for their poutine by locals, I can’t anymore count the numerous times I have spent perfectionning that poutine gravy, fries consistency or texture, it’s taste (with all kind of oil and all sorts of techniques –from the most traditional to the most modern ones — and ingredients). The ONLY thing I never tried was just that: foie with poutine. My dish of poutine had a nicely seared hunk of duck liver (that fully earthy flavored foie was delicious in taste with perfect smooth inside consistency) sitting atop the poutine. The poutine’s fries were flawless. Cheese curds were perfectly fresh, enjoyably squeaky springy and delicious +  the gravy was to die for (the touch of the foie flavor in that already delish rich unctuous gravy was pure blast to my tastebuds)! SUCCULENT!    8/10

What a pig am I! Rfaol! I courageously went for the second heavyweight of the evening:

PIG’S TROTTER WITH FOIE GRAS – This braised then breaded pork’s trotter had the expected ideal tenderness and oozed of  addictive enjoyable fatty flavors that were shinning through the rest of the delicious meat. On it’s side, a delicious earthy creamy rich foie gras sauce with tasty fresh sauteed mushrooms, nicely sauteed fiddleheads (crunchy and tasty) topped by an excellent chunk of perfectly seared (awesome browny texture on the outside, nice meaty center on the inside) duck liver that kept an impeccable earthy flavorful taste. The extra lemon acidity note found in that dish complemented very well the overall, adding punch to an alredy savourish meal. Inspired, rich and excitingly enjoyable!  8.5/10

Chosen wine:
A Beaujolais: the 2007 Brouilly La Croix des Rameaux. Still a young wine (I have 2 bottles at home, and I will open them in between 6-8 yrs from now), and yet a solid choice:  a red wine without barely any flaw -> beautiful intense ruby red color, well balanced and enjoyable fruity and sublty spicy nose. Even the finish is well balanced: not a long, nor a short finish but a very enjoyable one. Solid elegant wine and one great value imho.

I wish I could devour some of the desserts, but humm..me belly full! I was also looking forward to devour one of their signature dish, la plogue à champlain, but it is now off the menu (the wait staff explained that it would now be served at their sugar shack. Makes sense to serve such sweet dish at a sugar shack.

amazing service!
I am amazed by the professionalism (of their entire staff) on this dinner: I recall a lot of places full of sucess, with staff that just could not keep up with the buzz (heads getting bigger and bigger, puffed by success), but at APDC this is absolutely not the case -> despite legions of admirers (on our way out, close to midnight, it was as festive and busy as ever!), they keep their cool, stand very professional and attentive: while waiting in line to be seated, the Maitre D’ recognized a of regulars that was behind us. I gently proposed that they are seated before us (a trap!), but the Maitre D’ never fell into the trap: she courteously sat us first. Small detail you might think, but you will be surprised by the numerous times I saw this trap closing on many staff at big restaurants. Such tact is admirable from the Maitre D’, and was in line with the impeccable service we received from the few  waiters who came at our table: courteous, helpful, attentive and all that in a casual cool atmosphere. Bravo!  

THE OVEN OF decadent sins!
The world already know about APDC. The web is full of pictures of this temple of savourish food, but how come barely anyone thought about an hommage to their magical wood-burning oven (as most already know, it used to be a pizzeria, and nowadays that oven is behind most of the savourish food we are all raving about):  

 

a decor for feast!
I have always been a fan of the laid back all wooden narrow rustic decor of APDC: proximity of chairs and tables, mirrors on the wall, all ingredients for cooling down and enjoying a festive meal

 

And do you know that many places, as busy close to midnight:

Packed!!

THEY LOVE THEIR MAN!
They have a big portrait of Chef  Martin Picard in the Gents room.

And a techno touch amidst the rustic decor, still in the Gents room -> 

An LCD  flat monitor displaying the Wild Chef’s TV show. Why not? I rather see the face of someone who is making people’s stomach happy than the picture of mad cows like North Korean’s Kim Jong il who makes my stomach vomit!

Bottom line: I have the highest respect for Martin Picard. The guy could have easily went with a safe fancy type of high end cuisine. Instead, he rethought the matrix and came out with an amazing rework with additional creative add-ons of some of  the French Canadian classic fares and his own creations. Food that is that heavenly deliciously tasty: ANYTIME! And it’s rebellious, different, creative, daring, indigenous and you name them…just what I like!

SEE the gallery of this dinner’s pictures on my Google’s Picasa online web album:
http://picasaweb.google.com/comorosislands/AUPIEDDECOCHONRESTAURANTMONTREAL#

Check all my Mtl’s restaurant quick reviews on YELP 

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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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