Best restaurants of Montreal: La Porte

Restaurant La Porte
Addr: 3627 Boulevard St-Laurent, Montreal
Phone: 514-282-4996
Url: http://www.restaurantlaporte.com
Type of food: High end French fine dining

 

*****UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2014  Chef Rouyé did close La Porte and has now opened a more humble restaurant in Val David, called La Table des Gourmets (https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-table-des-gourmets/1463806720537762). It’s, apparently, already a big hit overthere,which, knowing Chef Rouyé’s talent, came as no surprise. Check that out: La Table des Gourmets 2353 rue de l’église, Val-David, Quebec (819) 322-2353



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

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

UPDATE:  DINNER AT LA PORTE, SATURDAY OCT 26TH 2012, 20:00 – Romantic dinner with Jannice, therefore  no pictures taken, but you can find plenty of photos of the interior of the restaurant in the review of my last meal here (see below, in this same post). This is only my second visit at La Porte, and last time I was here it was over two years ago.That first meal shone, once the sum of all its parts assembled,  as a solid 3 star Michelin meal by European standards (which was no surprise: Brittany’s Chef Rouyé was already a Michelin star Chef back home) . On that first dinner there, even the petits fours were perfected to world class standards. They won Open Table’s 2012 diner’s choice for Montreal, which is in itself quite remarkable given that Open Table is about very serious diners of  this city’s elite high end  dining destinations like Toque!, XO Le restaurant, L’Europea, Club Chasse et Peche, La Chronique.

La Porte’s decor remains as beautifully exotic as I remember it from last time, the decor pretty much similar to the one you see on the photos below, with a major change since my last visit here: the color theme switching from some kind of orange  to the nowadays  omnipresent glamourous tone of  grey. La Porte’s decor is indeed very pretty in its genre.

On the food aspect, they still have nice deals on lunch (lunch prices: $30 for 3 services, starters at $10, mains in between $15-$23, desserts at $10 ), but I’d guess — like it is the case with most restaurants — that  the best way to discover the full potential of this kitchen (the cooking here is French from France but ‘updated’ with modern twists, the Chef calling his cuisine ‘franco-urban’ ) is to splurge on a dinner. Still, I heard that their lunch deals are among the best value in town. Dinner is more pricier (you have all their prices on their web site), with à La carte items as well as a $80 and a $100 multiple-course menu.

I went with one of the tasting menu, in order to fully enjoy the huge potential of this kitchen.

Carpaccio de pétoncle, radis, tapenade d’olives: Before going any further, let us be clear about this -> the ratings you will see concern only the category within  which La Porte is competing, which is haute French dining. For those familiar with Michelin star standards in Europe, this evening’s meal largely pertaining  to a strong 1 star Michelin in France, for example. With many items in strong 2 star Michelin category as well (those with the 9/10 and 10/10 ratings).  Regarding the carpaccio, this was a beautiful generous slice of top grade New Brunswick’s scallop, left in a sea shell, with remarkable marine freshness. When I hear chefs using the phrase “letting the produce expressing itself”, I am always disappointed, but here, they obviously have no time to lose with words, only the real action matters: this scallop carpaccio being better described as a  mouthful of bliss  9/10

Macaron de crème de sésame, chutney de courge, terrine de foie gras : I wish I had a top quality  camera or a HD video cam on me, this plate being so beautiful to espy, its colors so appealing. But the kitchen had obviously decided that beauty was not going to be its sole feature as  it comprised of a benchmark terrine of foie gras (competing comfortably with the finest in France), sandwiched in an equally flawless macaron of sesame seeds. In typical Chef Thierry Rouyé’s style: creativity, palatable excitement, beautiful presentation and superb technique intermingled. A world class dish  10/10

Langoustine, crèpe au sarrasin, crème de pomme, andouille – A  delicious langoustine, cooked and timed to perfection, sized to appropriate tasting menu’s proportions was wrapped in a crèpe au sarrasin, accompanied by two items that are true benchmarks  in their own categories: an impressive andouille as well as a superior apple cream. Top stuff.  8.5/10

Lotte, purée de pomme de terre, jus de daube  A piece of Burbot, oozing of memorable marine freshness, its flesh perfectly moist and its texture flawless, was paired with an equally faultless and delicious potato purée and a jus de daube masterfully executed. 8.5/10

Pigeonneau, Merguez, mille-feuille choux et beacon, foie gras poélé – Perhaps the only dish of this evening   that was the least impressive, and yet I’ll keep the overall score high because this was by no means an ordinary dish, and it certainly deserve its ‘very good’ tag even on a 1 star Michelin table. What made it pass as ‘less impressive’ is actually not a fault, but a touch of  familiar cuisine  that many may like: the addition of the Merguez and beacon/cabbage mille-feuille. They were of course tasty, but they took me by surprise since I do not have them in mind while attending such dinner. But again, they were done with refinement, and there is no strict rule about what ingredient should make it to a fine dining event. Thus, consider this as nitpicking. The other qualm I had was regarding the pan-sear foie gras: its texture and consistency could not be faulted, but I wish it had a deep livery sensuous punch I do expect from my favourite pan-sear foie. And yet, with a piece of squab as expertly cooked as this, its taste divine, consider this as a very strong 7.5/10

Then a platter of local cheeses, with one of my favourite being the 14 arpents. It is hard for any high end restaurant in North America to compete  with its France’s  counterparts when it comes to cheeses, but those were as good as you will get this side of the border. They were served with a nicely made home made prune marmelade.

Up to the desserts and petits fours. I was a bit saddened to learn that Valentin, their great pastry Chef had left for Maison Boulud earlier on (see this review). But I was in for a good surprise on this evening: he is back, for a short time though (he will go to work at Chez Rémi?? ..from what I gathered). On this evening, as I am now accustomed to, with Chef Valentin Rouyé’s pastry creations, the level of the desserts pertained easily to a comfortable 2 star Michelin level:  coeur fondant à l’anis étoilé (10/10), butternut squash sorbet (benchmark sorbet), visitandine, an old fashion financier which he updated brilliantly, not hard to do but hard to make a stellar one, which he did (10/10),  caramel macaron (Valentin’s macarons have always been my favourite outside of France, no exception here 9/10), fruit paste (Valentin obviously knows how to make world class versions of those).

My  ‘coup de coeur’ wine of the evening: CHATEAU HAUT MONPLAISIR 2007 CAHORS (MALBEC)

Service: Dominique, my main waiter on this evening, is the quebecois  version of the cool young fun classy Italian wait staff I have encountered this summer at 3 star Michelin Le Calandre in Sarmeola di Rubano as well as 3 star Michelin Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio. Top class gentleman and easily among the very best waiters I ever met in Montreal. Fantastic service on this evening from Dominique. There was also another young waiter from France, a bit shy, but doing a pretty great job. As for Madame Rouyé, well, I guess that even with the best intent … I’ll just never be her  fan (on this evening, her exploit was to simply pour the wine in the glass with no offering of tasting a sampling of the wine first. At many lesser eateries they do not skip that one anymore) . Yep,  who cares since the rest, under this house, truely shines.

PROS (of this Saturday Oct 26th 2012):  Exactly the kind of excellent meal  I do expect at this level of dining. I am not the kind to naively expect miracles or anything special from food; I go to Walt Disney for the latter, or sip some booze. But to me, what needs to be done at this level needs to be fulfilled brilliantly..or else, what’s the point of leaving the comfort of home? And that is what they did: a brilliant food performance from what one should expect from a top tier dining destination in Montreal. Second visit and still a huge fan!
CONS (of this Saturday Oct 26th 2012): When a heart is happy, there’s no room to imagine trouble where there ain’t.

Overall food rating: For this Sat Oct 26th meal, easily a 8.5/10    – On the food aspect, by  the 1 star Michelin category I am accustomed to, in Europe, I am referring to the stronger ones, this was a superb meal, with perfect technique, superb flavors, beautiful creativity. Make no mistake: even by 2 star Michelin standards, this meal was perfectly in its element. And yet, Montreal has no Michelin stars. So imagine..I could easily give a 10 to this meal and  feel very comfortable about it, based on just the observation that far lesser kitchens are enjoying the beautiful parade under the stars . What also impresses me is that Chef Thierry Rouyé is not seeking stardorm BS: on my two meals here, I never saw him nor his sons touring the room. If you see him in the room, I’d bet that you are a VIP, a journalist, or have specially requested to meet with him. Which I do not need. I need to be a normal diner, in communion with the best of what a Chef has to offer. All my life, I have never understood why fans (or what some illiterate cooks have called ‘fanatics’) would need  to shake the hands of the creator of what they would have liked? The creation should be the star, no? Anyways,  when Chef Thierry Rouyé is paired with his son Valentin, the roof..the roof..the roof is truely on fire! In the “big guns league”  of fine dining in town (Toque!, Club Chasse & Peche, Nuances, La Chronique, L’Europea), this is my favourite along with XO Le Restaurant. This was a superb meal, and I hope you compare the ratings of each of its dish to the scores of the savoury courses of my latest meals at 3 star Michelin Le Calandre and Ledoyen in Paris. I compare meals to meals, never restaurants to restaurants, but this will, hopefully,  help you better understand how superb  this meal at La Porte was.  In case you are afraid of comparing apples to carrots: do not. This is comparison that makes utter sense.

WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE REPORT OF THE JANUARY 15TH 2010, 18:00 MEAL AT  LA PORTE:

(English version to follow) – Oh là là! Ce repas du 15 Janvier 2010, 18:00 fut marqué par des merveilles qui feraient palir d’envie les meilleurs 3 étoiles Michelin de ce bas monde: le tartare d’huitre, la raviole de la meme bete, et bien d’autres. Aux oubliettes les 2 plats qui ne m’ont pas emballé: ce repas du 15 Janvier 2010 fut 1 reve, meme pour les meilleures tables 3 étoiles Michelins! Celle ci fut une surprise car la pluspart des opinions semblaient situer cette table autour des 5 à 10 meilleures tables de la ville. Ce repas, en tout cas, avalerait tout cru ce qui semble etre généralement passer pour le top 3! Et vu que je ne me base que sur ce que j’ai vécu, je ne saurai vous dire autre chose que ceci: basé sur ce repas, La Porte est dans le top 3 des meilleures tables ‘gourmet’ de Montréal. J’ai d’ailleurs été personellement plus impressioné par ce repas que par celui au Toque, chez Nuances  et au Club Chasse et Peche.

After my Thursday Jan 14th stunning dinner at Cavalli (Yep..you read this very well: stunning, I wrote! And I am talking about the food!) with Jannice and folks of her work, here comes Friday Jan 15th in a completely opposite trend. For this Friday, I booked a table at  La Porte. I have always been curious as to where La Porte stands on the Montreal restaurant scene. We all know where Toque!, Club Chasse et Peche, Raza, Jun I, Nuances stand…but what about la Porte? Well, this fully detailed photo and text reportage will hopefully bring more light to that question. In the meantime, La Porte is highly regarded by many observers  as among the top 10 of Montreal’s tables. I will give you my opinion on that at the very end of the reportage after decrypting with you all the aspects of this latest dinner there. La Porte is a bit different from the latest restaurants I lately reviewed to you: it does not fully pertain to the bistro (Bistro Cocagne, M sur Masson) nor the latest North American Nouvelle Cuisine trend (La Chronique, Le Club Chasse et Peche, etc). It is  modern  French cuisine with Quebec’s local ingredients. His chef is from France’s region of Bretagne (note to myself: the second chef ever from that region, after Chef Sylvain Guillemot, whose food I sampled and highly enjoyed). Also different from what I reviewed here before: it has a familial touch with dad and son behind the kitchen + mum as the Maitre D’ in the dining room.

Restaurant La Porte is located in one of Mtl’s most busiest areas (restaurants, bars, cafes):
On saint Laurent Street (The Main):

Corner Saint Arthur:

From the outside, have a look at the classy elegant glass-fronted restaurant:

The overall decor of La Porte reminds me a bit of The “Thousand and One Nights” exotical decor.
Really pretty and to me, one of my personal  prettiest restaurants in Montreal.
You will notice in the pics below, the little touches of the same designer who also re-designed LCCP (chairs
are in the same trend of colors as in LCCP and there are here and there little traits of LCCP
decor, albeit, in my humble opinion — with all due admiration that I have for LCCP —, La Porte is far more
attractive).

So, the inside is very elegant, cozy, with a predominence of warm dark colors,

Elegant with candles on the tables, white table clothes:

Banquettes and alcoves:

Ideal dim-lit setting for romance:

Great presence of wood and glass:

Charming  decor touches like those long vases of flowers on the wall:

On the left of the picture, their famous door from Morocco:

View on the bar, leading to the kitchen:

Ok Enough with the pics. You can find more pics of this reportage on my online Google’s Picasa web Gallery.
Keep in mind that it is in Montreal, as far as ambiance + decor goes, one of the most romantic dinning rooms
of this city.

Now, down to the food. I picked the 8 course tasting menu with wine pairing

First, a mise en bouche:
Course #1: Oyster tartare, truffled scallops, Parsnip Velouté  – Finally a mise en bouche that’s daring/moving on a Montreal fine dining table. I have always reproached the big majority of Mtl’s finest tables to not be enoughly daring when it comes to mise en bouche. That is not the case of this one mise en bouche: The creamy parnsip velouté was of perfect creaminess, sporting an enjoyable subtly sweet taste . It was topping a meaty flavorful tartare of impeccably fresh oyster. Even the chip you see on that velouté was remarquable: very tasty, enjoyably crunchy.A mise en bouche that is not only stunning to Montreal restaurants but also to world’s best tables. A mise en bouche of a strong 3 star Michelin level! 10/10

Course #2: Oyster ravioli, borecole, serrano ham, duck foie emulsion  – The ravioli had perfect al dente mouthsome. The emulsion was light, and very well concocted. The fresh crunchy tasty cabbage was pure delish and the crunchy piece of samphire that was topping the overall was oozing of freshness. Another 5 star course with moving/daring/spectacular tastebud pleasing well balanced savors and definitely one that the majority of world’s best tables would steal from La Porte. It was that amazing! Another dish pertaining to a solid 3 star Michelin caliber. 10/10
Pairing wine: Vouvray 2008, domaine des aubussières cuvée silex
A medium-bodied wine marked by an enjoyable mineral note, light and dry that is a natural pairing partner to the seafood found in that dish. My tastebuds also captured the light citrus flavors shining through this overall well balanced fruity wine. I found it’s minerality to reach out so well with the the earthiness of the cabbage too.Good wine.

Course #3: Scallops, tapenade of blood pudding, apple cider, buckwheat sarrasin – The scallop was fresh, tender and tasty but the star ingredient there was definitely the blood pudding: I never had, in Montreal, all finest tables of this city included, a blood pudding that is as stunningly succulent and expertly concoted as this one. Kudos too for the apple cider reduction (on your right) which was heavenly delicious. On your right, a pink apple purée. Anywhere between a 2 to 3 star Michelin level. 9/10
Pairing wine:  Entre deux mer 2008 château les arromans
It’s the first time I was trying this affordable white bordeaux  wine. Nice blend of white sauvignon and semillon. Perfectly sensed the expected enjoyable grapefruit  notes from it, it is definitely of solid value: well balanced, pleasantly mineral. Great value and nice pairing especially to the scallop.

Course #4: Roasted pickerel, Black rice, Kari Goss lobster reduction, almonds – Another world class food item: the organic black rice was cooked with surgical precision and tasted really good. The chunk of fish had perfect moist inside consistency and was oozing of impeccable fresh seafood flavor. The touch of almonds on top of the fish is a welcoming nice touch in there. Lovely ane memorable inspired dish! 9/10
Pairing wine: Sancerre terre de Mainbray 2008 Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy
I barely focused on this wine but it was a decent wine. Found nothing wrong nor strong points from it.
Just good.

Course #5: Gaspor’s piglet cooked slowly, lightly seared red tuna and duck liver, squash, vanilla reduced jus
Heuh…what to think of this course? Let us decrypt this one: YES…each ingredient there was of high quality (the piglet from Gaspor is reknown for being a great meat and it is indeed a great piece of well cooked meat in there. That piece of foie gras was of perfect quality too. The tuna, cooked on one side was fresh and tasty. The squash really good and the vanilla reduced jus, a blast. The problem is that they simply did not add up as a whole. Basically, it came out more as an assembling of food items (a pile of ingredients if you prefer) that did not complement each other. Instead, make something elaborately more porky (since the Gaspor piglet seemed to be the central theme of this course). But I’ll forgive this one, since it is the only mis-step among so many other stunning courses! 5/10
Pairing wine: Bourgogne rouge En Bully domaine Rapet 2007
Great wine. Enjoyably aromatic, balanced and elegant with a nice finish.

Course #6: Curcuma melted sauvagine cheese on potatoes and chitterling sausage – This is the cheese course. This course, despite high quality ingredients, remains — whether they like it or not — a homey simple food item. Simply put, if I take camembert and let it melt on  a piece of oven baked potato, I am getting the same effect. So, Yes it was good but I know they have a huge talent in that kitchen and can surprise us with more daring cheese courses.  6/10
It was paired with a great 20 yrs Optima Porto.

Course #7: Citrus salad, hazelnut ice cream, Vanilla/Ginger/Coconut cream
The French from France are simply unbeatable when it comes to desserts! The title and the picture do not do justice to what stands by far as the best dessert I ever devoured on any high end fine dining table in Montreal & surroundings. Freshness of the ingredients, spectacular juxtaposition of tastes, vibrant and moving are among the superlative that come to mind and my tastebuds will drool over this one for years. PS: You do not see it well on this picture, but there was a greenie citrus jelly roll  in there that was simply heavenly as far as tastes go. Wowed! 10/10
Naturally, the light grapefruit tone of the pairing Sauvignon blanc Monkey Bay 2008 was perfect match to that dessert.
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Course #8: Mignardises
La Porte managed to keep me stunned till the very last. YES…that’s the type of mignardises I do expect on a fine dining table -> The macaron you see there was stunningly good (airy, fresh,decadent). The chocolate sausage is a nice touch and was delicious. That Pina colada fruity jelly-paste: I am simply in love with it. Simply superb!

This dinner at La Porte, despite my reserve towards the cheese + piglet course (they were not bad, just not daring enough), was simply stunning. I have never been to La Porte before and I can’t give a definitive opinion based on just one visit, but this reviewed dinner is the type of performance expected at a solid European 2 star Michelin establishment, with items like the dessert, courses 1,2 3 and even the mignardises flirting with a perfect 3 star Michelin caliber.

This dinner at La Porte is also a reminder that some need to do their homework properly: this dinner was of strong 2* Michelin caliber whilst many other tables supposedly superior to this one had offered food in between a no star to at best a 1 star potential.

Ambiance: What a cozy ambiance! It was half full of patrons at about 7pm, 1 hr upon my arrival.
Service: Madame Rouyé, the Chef’s wife, was paired with another woman for service in the dining room. All was ok (professional, attentive,helpful ), although Madame Rouyé could smile a bit more / be more relaxed…..

PROS: This was a dinner of solid 2 star Michelin level. Forget the little misses I wrote about, they were largely overwhelmed by excellence.

CONS: The wife of the Chef should smile a bit more. A restaurant is a place of enjoyment, after all! Allez, un petit sourrire svp! 

LA PORTE

Overall food rating (Jan 15th 2010’s meal): 10/10 Again,  I can talk only for what I have experienced on that solo visit. And YES, for those who feed themselves on huge spoonful of skepticism, there have been some lacklustre dishes. So why 10/10? Because the best dishes of this meal outshone by leaps the lacklustre ones that I can’t remember what was lacklustre, Rfaol!

What I keep remembering are courses, so impressive on that visit, that would make a top 3 star Michelin table in Europe melt with jealousy! As usual, I do not know if La Porte performs like that all the time, but again: I can only talk for what I have experienced! During my meals at Toque! and LCCP, I had some stunning courses, but the best dishes I had here at La Porte were easily ahead by a notch or two. I’ll go back and I want them to keep the bar this high on that next visit. I don’t know how they can do this….it was so high!

Overall service rating: 7/10 Professional. Fine, BUT their Maitre D’, Madame  Rouyé, although professional …. needs to show more warmth.

Décor: 10/10  Ah..Ah…look at the pictures. There are plenty of them in my review. Then if you like that style,you are in my club!

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 specific  meal I am sampling  only.

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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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Brasserie Central, Montreal – The Rouyé’s touch but I miss the sweets of ..Valentin


Before going ahead, here are some of the latest updated material related to current web site:
(I)A recap of all my reviews of Montreal’s finest bistrots & fine dining ventures
(II)My 3 and 2 Star Michelin web site

(III)Latest updated restaurant reviews:
ABROAD:
-Meal at 3 star Michelin Dal Pescatore  (June 14th 2012)
-Meal at 3 Star Michelin Le Calandre    (June 16th 2012)
IN MONTREAL:
-Meal at Maison Boulud (May 31st 2012)
-Meal at Café Sardine, Montreal (June 26th 2012)

Montreal’s top 3 Isakayas (Japanese Bistrots) – August 2012
Restaurant Helena, August 2012
(IV) SEE ALSO: the reports on VeniceCinque Terre, Milan & Parma. .

Food rating: Benchmark in its league (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7)

Brasserie Central, Montreal
Type of cuisine: Updated classic French  Bistrot / North American
Addr: 4858 Rue Sherbrooke West (Montreal)
Phone: 514 439-0937

Click here for the URL

This is the second eatery of Chef  Thierry Rouyé (La Porte), opened since July, a venture that he co-owns with Paolo Oliveira of Café Méliès. The place, situated in the very wealthy neighboorhood of Westmount (how come there are so few great tables in such wealthy place??? I don’t get that one),  is simply but elegantly decorated (a mirror-lined wall on one side, omnipresence of white and black tones with the contrast of brass fixtures, dark wooden chairs, a ‘glimpse’ of what could have been some partial checkered floors — the room was full, so by respect to the diners privacy, I refrained from taking pics of the dining room but browse the web and you’ll find some pics of the place) , with  emphasis clearly on the food rather than on the distraction of bling bling decor.

This is a very classy place: when I called for a solo dinner, instead of telling me right on the spot that I’d have to sit at the bar — an annoying trend nowadays (hey..I am paying like anyone else, so why are the other places instantly proposing the bar to solo diners even when the place is emply  ) —  they offered me a nice table as it should at any restaurant! I chose to sit on the terrace….With the beautiful Westmount  by a nice sunny day… Oh my..Oh my…

The Chef is Chef’s Thierry Rouyé’s son, Maxime, and I was looking forward to get a taste of his own creations, now that he is not at the side of his dad (he was working with his dad at La Porte). 

As it’s the case of most tables nowadays, they put plenty of emphasis on locally sourced produce and seems to invest lots of efforts in even the little details sometimes overlooked by  the most serious bistrots: for ie, they bake their own bread, have hired a star bartender, make their  pastries on the premises . The place has enjoyed instant success since its opening, and you certainly need to reserve especially on weekends. 

Menu & food
On this reported evening, starters ($8 – $18) comprise of items like beef carpaccio ($13), salade noicoise ($16), foie gras terrine ($18), main courses ($19 – $45) have items like Black angus short ribs $45, lobster club sandwich $19, a daily risotto $19. Desserts were all priced at $10.

When you’ll read  comments about this place over the web , play particular attention at what the commentator has opted  for, because there are various type of dining offerings here: for ie, the bar menu comprises of cocktails, ham, oysters, but they also have a multiple course tasting menu which is closer to fine dining than bistrot fares, and they also have bistrot fares as well such as burgers, etc. Naturally, the person who went there sampling couple of oysters and munched on some hams at the bar might not have the same overview of this kitchen as the one who went for the tasting menu for ie. I picked the multiple course tasting menu because I went there to see how far Maxime could go now that he is on his own , therefore I can  talk only for this particular menu.

$60 for 5 courses of this dining level is definitely reasonable.

Terrine de foie gras, abricot, pate de sésame – As accustomed to, when the Rouyés are at the helm, quality of ingredient is at the forefront. The duck liver terrine was not going to be an exception to that rule: the finest duck liver terrine. Instead of offering a straightforward terrine, Maxime Rouyé worked it a bit by encasing   sparse pistachios ( not too much, just subtle enough to make it an interesting touch when you get to sample it) and the delicate sesame flavor was thoughtful. A perfect apricot ‘quenelle’ and scrumptious toasted bread complemented this excellentduck terrine.   9/10

Crème de chou-fleur, tabbouleh de chou-fleur, fromage mamirolle, chorizo, mousse de sardines – The cream of chou-fleur (cauliflower cream ), that’s as  perfect as you want your cream of cauliflower to stand like. Creamy, enticingly reach, beautiful texture. The mousse of  sardines, on its own: again, perfect texture, big great fresh sardine flavor (the remainder that fresh sardines is a world away from the fishy sardines at the super market and many top restaurants would benefit from incorporating such stunning mousse of sardines in some of their dishes). BUT Rouyé’s standards are no average standards so let me afford some ‘nitpicking’ observations here:  the cauliflower cream  mixed with the sardines mousse  seemed an uninteresting pairing to me, adding nothing particular as far as I am concerned and I could do without the mamirolle  cheese (again, not an item that elevates a cauliflower cream in my view)  a 6/10 (Overall, the bottom line effect is that this was just Ok but not great) seems fair, although the sardines mousse and cauliflower cream would score higher than that, as individual elements.

Pétoncle poélé, boudin noir, meunière de noix, rémoulade de chou, émulsion jus de pommes/cidre de pommes – Technically, there’s nothing to reproach to the Rouyés. They master their cooking, work the textures as most expect, generally balance the flavors as it is expected on any great table, and so on. Unless you set your imagination to find technical flaws where there ain’t, there is virtually nothing to say about that aspect. So, the scallop was beautifully seared, the flesh as impeccably rendered, although I must admit that I had sampled more exciting  scallops in town. Then you have the blood pudding, one of the Rouyé’s fortes: simply sublime. The emulsified apple iced/apple concoction is fine but has made its time. I’ll score it with a   7/10 for that superior  blood pudding, essentially.  And I’ll append a question to this paragraph:  why…pourquoi…bon dieu de bon sang…for god sake…using repeating elements (we’ll get to that later on …. the tip: the green apple!!!!) on the same meal?

Pintade rotie au four, morilles, pommes de terre grelots, petits légumes – Cooked like a charm (a beautiful moist consistency, exact amount of heat required, beautiful sear of its skin), this was as great as a top guinea fowl dish could be. Being not a huge fan of this bird, it just does not excite me as much as, say, a stunning piece of fish or an incredible marbled piece of beef, but it’s definitely gone as far as a guinea fowl can express itself at its best.  Morels, potatoes,  radish of exemplary quality and tasty sauce were  the complementary elements of this course. An excellent updated classic.   9/10  .

  Pop corn à l’érable, crème de mais, sablé breton, pomme verte en sorbet – Once upon a time, the Rouyés had a world class pastry Chef. His name was Valentin. Valentin Rouyé. His is one of the two sons of Grand Chef Thierry Rouyé. When I say ‘world class pastry Chef”, it’s not because I am under the influence of something, Lol. It’s because he proved it, on the field. Valentin Rouyé, when I got to sample his creations in 2010 (see the macaron, sweets, dessert of this meal), was..to put it boldly….at the same level of any 3 star Michelin pastry Chef out there. Nothing less, nothing more! Two months after that meal, a highly experienced  world gourmand  who visited me in Montreal and went dining at La Porte upon my recommendation, had to say this of Valentin Rouyé ”’are you serious? This guy’s macarons beats Hermé’s, his inventivity crushes many high profile 3 star Michelin pastry Chefs around the world””.  I am French, and do visit my homeland twice a year (Perhaps the Pierre Hermé’s reference is a bit exxagerated, although I have always considered Valentin’s macarons, for ie, to stand among  the very best I had) but  I can confirm what that gentleman was saying: indeed, Valentin..at his very best…he is something!   Even more amusing: Valentin never had any training in pastries at that time! Imagine. Valentin moved on,  completed his studies at Ithq , and now he works at Maison Boulud, downtown Mtl. I have no clue whether Valentin is at its top shape as he used to be, but what he was doing in 2010 was world class. Nowadays, the Rouyés have a new Pastry Chef and I was curious to sample his creations. Alas, the dessert I had (Sablés bretons, corn cream, maple-leaf flavored pop corn, green apple sorbet)   was ‘challenging’ to me: I am a huge fan of sablés bretons since it’s the kind of pastry creations that virtually every kitchen claims to do well, but only a few make the standout types. This sablé is probably a standout sablé, but I will never know because it was covered with the corn cream! Please, never cover superb sablés with anything else! Then again…slices of apples, a featuring element of the previous scallops dish. Why using repeating ingredients in the course of the same tasting menu??… It just takes the appeal of your menu away. For me, there were way too many things going on in there, but not cohesively: for ie, I’d rather have the apple sorbet and the popcorn  as the main elements of one single dessert. Leave the sablés as partners to your coffees (which they do really well, btw). And the cream of corn should be the base to a totally different dessert. I can’t judge this Pastry Chef on one dessert only, but  while I was sampling this dessert, I was  missing Valentin’s sweets. 5/10

WINE list – The wine list is short (approx 14 bottles featuring on the list available at my table on this dinner, presumably more gems available on the premises) with choices mainly from France, but also some few from California, Australia, Italy, New Zeland and Chile. Examples of great red wines found on that list: St Emilion Grand cru 2007, Chateau L’Armont ($87 the bottle/$17 the glass), Margaux 2007, Ch Paveil de Luze ($88), Sangiovese  Scabi 2009, Azienda agricola San Valentino ($52), a Californian Merlot 2010 Grayson Cellars ($54 the bottle, $11 the glass).
Among the white wines available on this evening’s wine list: AChablis Laurent Tribut 2010 ($98), Les petits QV Mas St Laurent 2011 ($52 the bottle, $10 the glass), Sonoma Rodney strong, chardonnay ($60).  Two rosés : a majolica cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2011 ($41), Château la lieue 2010 provence ($48). Bubbles comprised of a prosecco di valdobbiadene brut, crede, 2011 ($46 for the bottle, $9 for the glass); Cava cordoniu classico ($57),  Champagne Barnaut, grand cru de Bouzy ($97 the bottle, $19 the glass).

Service was impeccable. 

Conclusion:  All in all, Maxime Rouyé, on his own, has indeed managed to showcase serious skills. He certainly masters the technique, has proven  that he can cook classically-inspired dishes that has nothing to envy a michelin star restaurant with equivalent offering (exempli gratia, his guinea fowl dish was as great as a practically similar poultry dish my mum had during our meal at 3 star Michelin Ledoyen —that dish was not reviewed in that article, but it was the best dish of that meal) and his creativity can appeal as on that foie gras dish where the subtle addition of sesame paste was genuinely thoughtful.  I did not try his more bistro-alike material, for ie his burgers/club sandwich/salade noicoise, but I heard they are great too. We are in skilled hands, and this is is easily a top bistrot indeed (I personally would situate it right after my favourite bistrots in Yul: Au 5e Péché, Bistro Cocagne, Bouillon Bilk,  Kitchen Galerie on Jean talon) although some details of this meal need to be fine-tuned: exempli gratia,  avoid repeating ingredients like those apple slices on the same tasting menu (I can understand that it is another story when the customer himself/herself orders the dishes, but that was not the case here), work on better exciting cohesion between multiple ingredients on dishes like that dessert of sablé/green apple sorbet/pop corn  or the cauliflower course I’ve just sampled. A suggestion: perhaps creating a perfected “show-stopper” course around that blood pudding or the sardines mousse. They do it so well.   

PROS: The blood pudding, the sardine mousse, duck liver terrine, the guinea fowl dish, the good service
CONS: some ingredient association needs to be rethought, others fine-tuned. That dessert also needs to be rethought.

Overall food rating (on this visit): 7.5/10 seems the most accurate rating for this meal I just had, although I am a bit torn about this overall rating. I’ll  explain: some items of  this meal would  be  big hits at even a 1 star Michelin level : stunning sardines mousse, the ‘as perfect as it gets’ guinea fowl dish, the sublime terrine of foie gras. Thus, anything below an 8 over 10 may sound mean.  But I was not excited by the association of ingredients on the cauliflower cream  course as well as a dessert that is clearly not right up my alley, which  makes me ‘wandering’ back and forth between a 7.5 and an 8/10. I’ll keep it at 7.5 since the better aspects of this meal deserve better reward although  I will observe that Maxime has not managed yet to make me forget about say, Bistrot Cocagne, Au 5 e Péché, Bouillon Bilk and even Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon I am comparing apples to apples here (top level bistrot in Yul Vs other top level bistrots in Yul).  and that this is more of a strong score for the technique showcased on this evening rather than for full excitement . 
Overall service rating
: 9/10  Professional, well trained. Connor, my main waiter on this evening, is a great example of the perfect gentleman: fun, accomodating, great listener, passionate about what he does and he does it well.
Décor
: Simple black and white theme, and yet elegant.
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 specific  meal I am sampling  only.

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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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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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Latest Montreal Restaurants on the rise: Le Quartier General

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (1)
LE QUARTIER GENERAL
1251 Gilford, Montreal, QC
(514) 658–1839
URL: http://lequartiergeneral.ca/
Dinner on Thursday May 6th 2010, 18PM
Type of Cuisine: Contemporary Quebecois/Bistro

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

Lately, some few newer tables appeared on the Montreal restaurant scene (Reminder: I am focusing mainly on French/North American food). Nothing to shake the Top Tier of  the upscale fine dining repertoire (Toque!, XO, La Porte, Nuances and to some extent Raza/LCCP have no new companions as of lately)  for now, Nothing neither to seriously disturb the top tier of the Star Bistros of this City neither  (La Montée, Le St-Urbain, Bistro Cocagne, APDC, etc), BUT  some rising stars already attracting hordes of eaters: Le Chien Fumant, L’un Des Sens and the subject of my current (Also: Note that Madame Lamarche and Chef Laprise, from Toque!, are expecting a new table to open soon) review: Le Quartier General

Le QG was opened very recently and quickly made the headlines of Montreal Gastro actuality. It is a Bistro type of restaurant with a cuisine essentially oriented to Contemporary Quebecois Cuisine/French. On my way there, I was very enthusiast, for once, to distance a bit from the beautifully presented upscale fine dining meals and indulge in a cuisine that’s known to be more focused on the work of pristine ingredients and flavors, elevating the food to what it should be on the first place: a delicious gustatory experience, L’Éveil des saveurs franches.

I started with the:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL  - CRAB CAKE Gateau de Crabe, Poivron roti – Perfect marine robustness to the crab meat. The crab cake was flavorful, moist,  and evenly spiced. The overall croquette had a nice crust, an ideal crispy consistency , was nicely fried (not one Oz of oily nor fatty trace) and delicately breaded. It was complemented by a roasted creamy delicious orange pepper preparation. This elegant gourmet crab cake was excellent!

Followed by: 

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL  - PAN SEARED FOIE GRAS Foie gras, Fruits de la passion, Haricots Kenya, Purée de betteraves – There is no secret: MISS my Foie Gras or Seafood and I will kill your kitchen!   Stun me with the Foie or the Seafood and I will love you forever!!! I remember —  like a kid remembers his best candy store — the genius behind Toque’s Chef Laprise pan seared foie. I remember with dove’s feather emotions the Pan Seared foie of Chef  Alexandre Loiseau @ Bistro Cocagne. I remember the tears of joy before Chef Desjardin’s Pan seared foie @ L’Eau à La Bouche or the one that was topping my savourish Poutine of Foie @ Au Pied de Cochon. I remember what’s memorable and beautiful. And now, ADD le QG’s Pan seared Foie Gras to this selective list of my personal favourites: Sure, I could play the smart *#% and complain about the candy pinky beet purée (Perhaps a  purée of dates fruit, or a concoction worked out around walnut honey would have seduced me, BUT this is of pure personal prefs and that beet purée was tasty and well done, so no complaint at all. More of a constructive add on) that was accompanying my Star pan seared foie, but I WONT! I wont because nothing deserve to detract from this utterly savourish chunk of heavenly pan seared foie: keeping it’s enjoyable depth of livery flavor, seared to perfect golden texture, served at perfect temperature, remarquable for it’s high quality, this generous chunk of foie gras (here’s what I call a smartly thought proportionned chunk of foie) was pure heaven on Earth. Accompanied Green  Beans were barely cooked, keeping freshness and enjoyable crunchyness to upfront welcoming enjoyment. All was bathed in a delicious foie liquid saucy marvel concoction. 8/10

 

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - GASPOR PORK (1) Porcelet de Gaspor, Salade de Quinoa Royale – Here they caught me by surprise, and I appreciated that: Everytime I had the well known high quality QC’s Gaspor Piglet, it was usually in it’s version of a savourish fatty chunk of tender meat cooked usually through the Sous Vidé cooking Technique. And Oh God, that has always been the bar to reach, for it’s succulent daring deep flavors and tastes 8.5/10

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - GASPOR PORK (2)  Naturally, here, the dish has a different outcome, being from the leanier part of the Gaspor piglet. This rendition is interesting and surprising: it is presented like a Spring roll, cut in half, with the meat remaining tender, flavorful and the spicing well mastered (nothing overkilling here). The quinoa salad was  tasty! 8/10

 

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - RABBIT Lapin de Stanstead, Sauce Dijonaise, Carottes Nantaises, Topinambours –  The slight smoky chorizo flavored meat of this rabbit was of high marks (makes it distinct and enjoyable). Impeccable cooking mastery here: tender and yet, ideally firm. Quality of the rabbit is definitely of high praized. Those bunnies aint no joke! Carrots were fresh, of high quality, nicely crunchy, barely cooked and standing humble before nature in all it’s splendeur (I’ve rarely been impressed by the smart mastery of veggies served at a restaurant. I might give this to them: they know how to make veggies shine. Never too over nor under cooked and always upfront in it’s pristine pure expression. Loved this!). Topinambours (Jerusalem artichoke) came as a purée and had perfect soft paste consistency on top of being tasty. The bathing sauce (sauce Dijonaise, fond de veau) was simply divine. 8/10

Ended with a dessert:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - CHOCOLATE MARQUISE Chocolate Marquise – Delicate, with an irreproachable dark chocolate of high quality. The marquise tasted good. The black raspberries topping that marquise were fresh, sweet. A beautiful fresh Physalis heterophylla (Lol..it’s just the other name for ground cherry aka, groseille du cap, aka  Cerise de Terre) was shining at the top of that Marquise.8/10

They have two services, one at 6PM, the other at 09 PM: smartly thought since in this city, people start massively piling up at restaurants at 6Pm in General. As for 09PM, why not?

The restaurant is the ideal clean, elegant bistro type:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (2)

High ceilings, clean warm bright colors

The classic bistro chalkboard’s menu:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (3)

Great penetration of light, thanks to it’s glass windows:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (4) RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (5)

In a city where BYOBs are kings, add some good food to this and attractive $$$, Le QG was assured of it’s instant well deserved success. Le QG is not revolutionazing the world of food nor setting the bar of this city’s Gastro scene,  but it is a smartly thought table that hits the right notes: Great value smartly and expertly well concocted bistro fares.

Service by Charles was cool, professional, charming, efficient, courteous and even fun. Same could be said of the rest of the staff. As for the delay, it was perfect: arrived at 6PM, left at 7:45PM with no feel of rush at all. All in perfect balance and timing.

This place is popular and gets packed easily, so book days in advance. Keep in mind that they have two services: a first one at 6PM, a second at 9PM.

Pros: This meal showcased some nice cooking, appealing playfulness, creativity. Indeed, a nice neighborhood bistrot. But be careful with un-justified over-enthusiasm: for some reason that I can’t point out, some seem to confuse this place with the very finest bistrots in town. It’s a good bistrot, but it is by no means a leading one like say Bistro Cocagne, Au 5e Péché, Lawrence, Bouillon Bilk, Kitchen Galerie. For sure, when you surprise  those top bistrots on an average day, you may think that Le Quatier General is superior, but that is not the way to judge restaurants. A great restaurant is judged based on  its capacity to be way better than its peers when they are all performing  in their prime.

Cons: If I recall properly, they were not making desserts on the premises, on that evening I was there.  That, I do not appreciate: everything should be done on the premises! Again, that was what seemed to have happened on that evening. I can’t talk for anything outside of this occurence.

Thanks for reading, Aromes.

Overall food rating: 7/10 This was a good enjoyable bistrot meal on which I have no reproach to underline.  

What I think years later: I went back couple of times and it is still a good bistrot that I appreciate a lot. But as I wrote in the ‘Pros’ section, it would not be accurate to elect QG as the best or in the very finest bistrots in town as some seem to  suggest. The best ‘bring your own wine’? Certainly not if you have experienced Raza (it is now a BYOW), A L’Os, etc at their best.  Again, on a day when QG is in its prime whereas the other top bistrots in town are caught on an average performance, you could get the impression that QG is superior. But I doubt that QG at its best is as stunning as Bistro Cocagne/Au 5e Péché/Bouillon Bilk/Lawrence or Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon at their best. The most accurate way to compare two kitchens being to evaluate their top performances, and not just through the incomplete and superfluous exercise of  evaluating sparse dining occurences. It is only after several meals at those tables, meals that showcased their highest and lowest performances, that I was comfortable with my opinion about which  stands better than the other.

Standard

Latest Montreal Restaurants on the rise: Le Quartier General

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (1)
LE QUARTIER GENERAL
1251 Gilford, Montreal, QC
(514) 658–1839
URL: http://lequartiergeneral.ca/
Dinner on Thursday May 6th 2010, 18PM
Type of Cuisine: Contemporary Quebecois/Bistro

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

Lately, some few newer tables appeared on the Montreal restaurant scene (Reminder: I am focusing mainly on French/North American food). Nothing to shake the Top Tier of  the upscale fine dining repertoire (Toque!, XO, La Porte, Nuances and to some extent Raza/LCCP have no new companions as of lately)  for now, Nothing neither to seriously disturb the top tier of the Star Bistros of this City neither  (La Montée, Le St-Urbain, Bistro Cocagne, APDC, etc), BUT  some rising stars already attracting hordes of eaters: Le Chien Fumant, L’un Des Sens and the subject of my current (Also: Note that Madame Lamarche and Chef Laprise, from Toque!, are expecting a new table to open soon) review: Le Quartier General

Le QG was opened very recently and quickly made the headlines of Montreal Gastro actuality. It is a Bistro type of restaurant with a cuisine essentially oriented to Contemporary Quebecois Cuisine/French. On my way there, I was very enthusiast, for once, to distance a bit from the beautifully presented upscale fine dining meals and indulge in a cuisine that’s known to be more focused on the work of pristine ingredients and flavors, elevating the food to what it should be on the first place: a delicious gustatory experience, L’Éveil des saveurs franches.

I started with the:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL  - CRAB CAKE Gateau de Crabe, Poivron roti – Perfect marine robustness to the crab meat. The crab cake was flavorful, moist,  and evenly spiced. The overall croquette had a nice crust, an ideal crispy consistency , was nicely fried (not one Oz of oily nor fatty trace) and delicately breaded. It was complemented by a roasted creamy delicious orange pepper preparation. This elegant gourmet crab cake was excellent!

Followed by: 

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL  - PAN SEARED FOIE GRAS Foie gras, Fruits de la passion, Haricots Kenya, Purée de betteraves – There is no secret: MISS my Foie Gras or Seafood and I will kill your kitchen!   Stun me with the Foie or the Seafood and I will love you forever!!! I remember —  like a kid remembers his best candy store — the genius behind Toque’s Chef Laprise pan seared foie. I remember with dove’s feather emotions the Pan Seared foie of Chef  Alexandre Loiseau @ Bistro Cocagne. I remember the tears of joy before Chef Desjardin’s Pan seared foie @ L’Eau à La Bouche or the one that was topping my savourish Poutine of Foie @ Au Pied de Cochon. I remember what’s memorable and beautiful. And now, ADD le QG’s Pan seared Foie Gras to this selective list of my personal favourites: Sure, I could play the smart *#% and complain about the candy pinky beet purée (Perhaps a  purée of dates fruit, or a concoction worked out around walnut honey would have seduced me, BUT this is of pure personal prefs and that beet purée was tasty and well done, so no complaint at all. More of a constructive add on) that was accompanying my Star pan seared foie, but I WONT! I wont because nothing deserve to detract from this utterly savourish chunk of heavenly pan seared foie: keeping it’s enjoyable depth of livery flavor, seared to perfect golden texture, served at perfect temperature, remarquable for it’s high quality, this generous chunk of foie gras (here’s what I call a smartly thought proportionned chunk of foie) was pure heaven on Earth. Accompanied Green  Beans were barely cooked, keeping freshness and enjoyable crunchyness to upfront welcoming enjoyment. All was bathed in a delicious foie liquid saucy marvel concoction. 8/10

 

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - GASPOR PORK (1) Porcelet de Gaspor, Salade de Quinoa Royale – Here they caught me by surprise, and I appreciated that: Everytime I had the well known high quality QC’s Gaspor Piglet, it was usually in it’s version of a savourish fatty chunk of tender meat cooked usually through the Sous Vidé cooking Technique. And Oh God, that has always been the bar to reach, for it’s succulent daring deep flavors and tastes 8.5/10

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - GASPOR PORK (2)  Naturally, here, the dish has a different outcome, being from the leanier part of the Gaspor piglet. This rendition is interesting and surprising: it is presented like a Spring roll, cut in half, with the meat remaining tender, flavorful and the spicing well mastered (nothing overkilling here). The quinoa salad was  tasty! 8/10

 

RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - RABBIT Lapin de Stanstead, Sauce Dijonaise, Carottes Nantaises, Topinambours –  The slight smoky chorizo flavored meat of this rabbit was of high marks (makes it distinct and enjoyable). Impeccable cooking mastery here: tender and yet, ideally firm. Quality of the rabbit is definitely of high praized. Those bunnies aint no joke! Carrots were fresh, of high quality, nicely crunchy, barely cooked and standing humble before nature in all it’s splendeur (I’ve rarely been impressed by the smart mastery of veggies served at a restaurant. I might give this to them: they know how to make veggies shine. Never too over nor under cooked and always upfront in it’s pristine pure expression. Loved this!). Topinambours (Jerusalem artichoke) came as a purée and had perfect soft paste consistency on top of being tasty. The bathing sauce (sauce Dijonaise, fond de veau) was simply divine. 8/10

Ended with a dessert:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL - CHOCOLATE MARQUISE Chocolate Marquise – Delicate, with an irreproachable dark chocolate of high quality. The marquise tasted good. The black raspberries topping that marquise were fresh, sweet. A beautiful fresh Physalis heterophylla (Lol..it’s just the other name for ground cherry aka, groseille du cap, aka  Cerise de Terre) was shining at the top of that Marquise.8/10

They have two services, one at 6PM, the other at 09 PM: smartly thought since in this city, people start massively piling up at restaurants at 6Pm in General. As for 09PM, why not?

The restaurant is the ideal clean, elegant bistro type:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (2)

High ceilings, clean warm bright colors

The classic bistro chalkboard’s menu:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (3)

Great penetration of light, thanks to it’s glass windows:
RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (4) RESTAURANT LE QUARTIER GENERAL, MONTREAL (5)

In a city where BYOBs are kings, add some good food to this and attractive $$$, Le QG was assured of it’s instant well deserved success. Le QG is not revolutionazing the world of food nor setting the bar of this city’s Gastro scene,  but it is a smartly thought table that hits the right notes: Great value smartly and expertly well concocted bistro fares.

Service by Charles was cool, professional, charming, efficient, courteous and even fun. Same could be said of the rest of the staff. As for the delay, it was perfect: arrived at 6PM, left at 7:45PM with no feel of rush at all. All in perfect balance and timing.

This place is popular and gets packed easily, so book days in advance. Keep in mind that they have two services: a first one at 6PM, a second at 9PM.

Pros: This meal showcased some nice cooking, appealing playfulness, creativity. Indeed, a nice neighborhood bistrot. But be careful with un-justified over-enthusiasm: for some reason that I can’t point out, some seem to confuse this place with the very finest bistrots in town. It’s a good bistrot, but it is by no means a leading one like say Bistro Cocagne, Au 5e Péché, Lawrence, Bouillon Bilk, Kitchen Galerie. For sure, when you surprise  those top bistrots on an average day, you may think that Le Quatier General is superior, but that is not the way to judge restaurants. A great restaurant is judged based on  its capacity to be way better than its peers when they are all performing  in their prime.

Cons: If I recall properly, they were not making desserts on the premises, on that evening I was there.  That, I do not appreciate: everything should be done on the premises! Again, that was what seemed to have happened on that evening. I can’t talk for anything outside of this occurence.

Thanks for reading, Aromes.

Overall food rating: 7/10 This was a good enjoyable bistrot meal on which I have no reproach to underline.  

What I think years later: I went back couple of times and it is still a good bistrot that I appreciate a lot. But as I wrote in the ‘Pros’ section, it would not be accurate to elect QG as the best or in the very finest bistrots in town as some seem to  suggest. The best ‘bring your own wine’? Certainly not if you have experienced Raza (it is now a BYOW), A L’Os, etc at their best.  Again, on a day when QG is in its prime whereas the other top bistrots in town are caught on an average performance, you could get the impression that QG is superior. But I doubt that QG at its best is as stunning as Bistro Cocagne/Au 5e Péché/Bouillon Bilk/Lawrence or Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon at their best. The most accurate way to compare two kitchens being to evaluate their top performances, and not just through the incomplete and superfluous exercise of  evaluating sparse dining occurences. It is only after several meals at those tables, meals that showcased their highest and lowest performances, that I was comfortable with my opinion about which  stands better than the other.

Standard