HAMBAR, Montreal – This meal was perhaps too pricey for what was on offer

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 is one of the latest big entries on the Montreal restaurant scene.  The restaurant is situated inside the trendy Vieux Port’s boutique hotel St-Paul. It  has a pretty modern hip bistro feel, with no tablecloths, beautiful  use of wood and glass and a nice long bar right in the middle of the room. 

It was extremely busy on this thursday evening, which added to the lovely electric  ambience (For those in search of a hip 5 to 7 place, the happening is here on thursdays) I experienced during this meal, but the wait staff explained that this was a particularly busy night.

Food: I picked their star item, the charcuterie platter, along with a fluke ceviche, grilled octopus and a beef tartare.
Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)

The charcuterie platter consisted of a  poultry liver mousse (stunning for both its remarkable palatability and fantastic texture), cauliflower, local ham (ok), prosciutto di parma (ok, although it does not help that I still have, freshly in mind, its far better version sampled at Salumeria Garibaldi in Parma this past June), okra, Iberian cheese (ok), sausage (ok). This is one Ok charcuterie plate (at the exceprion of the poultry liver mousse, an exceptional item on this evening), with perhaps the one at Comptoir charcuteries et Vins appealing a bit more to me. The components seemed, to me, as good as any ordinary restaurant charcuterie in town. A matter of personal taste, as usual.  7/10

 Fluke ceviche came with a cream of avocado, jalapeno, lime emulsion, crème fraiche and puffed rice.  I appreciate the efforts. They try hard as obviously observed by the thoughts put in their dishes and obvious determination to be creative. I just found it unfortunate that the results did not blow me away:  I mean, it is a good riff on the ceviche, and I can’t remember many tables being able to pull out such appealing intensity of acidity (either the citrus was an exceptional one or an exceptional palate was behind that brilliant ceviche marinade), but the overall was just decent to me. Pleasant enough ceviche yes, but alas, unremarkable as far as I am concerned. 6/10

 Beef tartare  came with home made chips (Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip; among the better home made chips I have sampled at a restaurant in Mtl), a topping of sunny side up egg, and horseradish. A decent tartare, imo. Simple dish   like a tartare has no other choice but to be stellar in order to be noteworthy, which means stunning ‘beefy’ flavor, remarkable work of the texture,etc. Which I failed to experience with this beef tartare. Again, pleasant enough but not great, and I found this pretty much frustrating for them…yep, not even for me, the paying customer.. ..but for them…given the amount of efforts they have invested (plenty of accompaniments, logical touches to elevate the tartare such as the addition of the egg, etc).     6.5/10

Grilled octopus – The octopus was tender, but overwhelmed by a puttanesca vinaigrette that was way too thick. The octopus was mixed with that vinaigrette, and that did not help the seafood at all. In this particular case,  the puttanesca  would have been a better idea as a side dipping to the octopus. I know, the idea is to mix it with the seafood..and I had far better ones made with just that theme of mixing the puttanesca with the octopus…but on this occasion,  it just took the appeal of appreciating the octopus away.   The octopus also lacked enough heat to be  enjoyed  at its best, especially since it is  grilled. A world away from the octopus dishes I had recently at Kazu, or  Lawrence in September. 3/10

Service was really cool with perfect attitude from young and fun wait staff, although  I should note that I did not appreciate that the priciest wine glass offering appeared to be the one which bottle was not presented to me.
 
Pros: A focused palate won’t fail to find the touch of acidity of that ceviche memorable. Alas, that touch never elevated that ceviche to what my palate and all other senses would have perceived as a great ceviche. This was also the case of that stunning poultry liver mousse, almost close to the better ones one would enjoy in France,  but again…not enough to save the rest of my evening’s charcuterie platter from passing as  just Ok , as far as I am concerned. Then there was the effort put in each dish, the very nice homemade chips,  the hip ambience.
Cons: I found this meal way too pricey for what was on offer. My meals at Lawrence, some of the finest I had at Bistro Cocagne or Kitchen Galerie on Jean-Talon were certainly not cheap, but I never mentioned prices because the food made the price an afterthought. In contrast, on this evening here, none of the 4 food items of this meal was remarkable, whereas the bill …was!  This evening’s meal of mine lacked better work of textures, it lacked mouthfuls of succulent bliss.

Overall food rating: 4/10 From what I am accustomed to at equivalent eatery in Montreal (charcuterie-based Modern Intl bistrot cuisine in this case). To me, this evening’s meal (I judge my meals, not restaurants)  was nothing more than  just some Ok food. In the genre, charcuterie-based eatery offering their takes on International modern bistro food, Comptoir Charcuteries & Vins fared better to me on the aspect of food.

Conclusion: I know Montreal is generally ridiculously pricey when it comes to food at restaurant, and yet I still found this meal overpriced for what I was enjoying on this evening. As a comparison, solo dining meals (I was dining solo there, on this evening)  with equal quantity of food items and wine by the glass   at restaurants that are among this city’s very best like Bouillon Bilk, Lawrence and Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon  cost me less than what I have just paid.  Yes, I do understand that I did splurge, but that was equally the case at the other mentioned restaurants. And just in case I did not make myself enoughly clear: even  without splurging (so no wines, just tap water), and at whatever price, I still would have found this meal too pricey for what I was having on this evening.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER: When you have cooked for so long (which is my case), you are confident about certain things, others not. Of course, it happened that I stumbled upon average meals and had no doubt that the same brigade of cooks could surprise me with better meals on  subsequent visits (for example: Maison Boulud in Montreal gave me that impression. I had an initial overall average meal there, but I knew the next meals would be better, And I was right.  but in the case of Hambar, deep inside of me, with the same cooks that have cooked that meal, I doubt there could be a radical improvement. Still,  the beauty with  cooking is that you can indeed be a better cook. You need to find out how, though. I won’t return to Hambar because I do not believe in it, but see for yourself. Who knows, they are probably proving me wrong. Which I hope, for them. But I’ll tell you right off the bat: I am not going to find out and i just could not care less!
 

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Restaurant Mezcla, Montreal – Not blown away but seriously CHARMED!

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
Type of cuisine: Contemporary Mix of South American / French 
Addr: 1251, De Champlain Street
Montreal, QC
Phone: 514 525-9934
URL: http://restaurantmezcla.com/en

Mezcla, recently opened in the Eastern Montreal area of Hochelaga Maisonneuve (End of May 2012), has made the headlines as one of the  latest strong additions to the Montreal restaurant scene, and according to many, this is top level dining destination. Food journalist Thierry Daraize even rating Mezcla with a near to perfect 4,5/5.  I was not as blown away, but I’ll invite you to read on: this place has charmed me much more than  other places  which meals I had to score higher for technical reasons, not based on pure pleasurable grounds (I’ll explain later on, in the food review section + also have a look at the ‘overall rating’ section at the end of this article) .

The food here is Latino American Fusion food (Nuevo Latino), perhaps the only type of fusion cuisine that I appreciate the most, which, for someone like me who has always favored minimal interraction between different cooking styles, speak volume about how, when done really well, this fusion can indeed entice. Nuevo Latino is nothing new anymore this side of the border: Chef Navarrette Jr has been doing it for years in Montreal, and in Trois Rivières, Au Poivre Noir‘s Mexicano-Quebecer Chef José Pierre Durand has been, sometimes (not all his dishes are of the Nuevo Latino style), inspired by Nuevo latino cuisine. Perhaps, another proof of my admiration for Nuevo Latino food is that both Chefs count among  my favourite Chefs around the globe, as many Nuevo Latino restaurants do feature among my favourite restaurants around the world  as well:  Cobre in Vancouver, Ramiro’s 954 in New York (I was impressed by a recent meal there – New York is relatively not far from YUL, so whenever you pass by, give this one a shout!).

Service on this evening was a charm: my main waitress, Melissa, an amazing  French/Italian  woman being not only the type of waitress I would expect at a top dining destination, but oh my gosh..many, many, I repeat many .. would give her an award for fun, amazing, hospitable world class personality. Melissa, you’re simply an incredible world class woman!  Perhaps the only thing I would recommend is to always get the customer to taste a sample of the  wine first, before filling the glass (although I am pretty sure, given the amazing professionalism of Melissa, that this was a very minor omission) .   The rest of the team was superb, the two other women working alongside Melissa being so attentive, welcoming, professional. But many people I dearly love do read my blog and I owe them the truth and only the truth: Yes, there was something that could have perhaps hit on some nerves, but trust me, it’s not a big deal: the only  Gentleman of the wait staff squad  did not change my fork and knife between two courses. Ah..ha..Ah..Ha..He even asked me whether he should change the glass of wine or not. Ben là..la, Rfaol!  ;p Drama? No. No. No, because this Gentleman was really amazing, pouring water on a more regular basis than at most serious restaurants, and really a cool man. No, because there are some serious restaurants where you sometimes keep your fork and knife. A hint? Well, what about 3 star Michelin Bras in Laguiole? Ca vous va? But for the wine, indeed…change the damn glass, Bro! …Rfaol!  Again, this was superb service despite Bro’s Laguiole’s standards. Allez, we have just one life to live, so Bro’s performance is to be taken with humor and in a very cool way. You will be surprised how I really liked Bro. Anyways, Melissa and the other women of this amazing squad will balance everything with the classic grand service you  are accustomed to when in a more serious mood. And Bro, remain yourself. Just change that damn glass of wine, I ‘m telling you!

Decor here is no luxury, but exotic and warm elegance: wood, wall bricks, plenty of light penetration due to the big glass window they have. It’s contemporary warmth, and cozy enough for all kind of dining events: romance, between friends, familial, etc.  Perhaps an exception to the nowadays restaurant trends: you have no bar around the open kitchen. One thing I found odd, though: they have two Chefs. One was in his section, the other in a separate area. I’d guess this was perhaps a temporary situation it would make sense to have both Chefs in the same kitchen’s area?? 

Food & Wine – On this evening, the menu comprised of starters priced in between $10 to $16 (for eg, Tuna/Aji amarillo, cancha/vermicelli $14, fish and seafood ceviche $15, crab/tuna tartare $14, Galette of Yuca/Chorizo of Charlevoix/chicha syrup $12, Blood pudding/corn bread/Jalapeno/ $14, Crab cake/Tartare sauce $12, etc), main courses priced in between $19 to $33 (for eg, Seafood rice $26, braised Gaspor piglet $33, Braised Cornouailles chicken $19, etc). Desserts were all priced at $6 ( Trilogie de sorbets from bilboquet, Crème brulée, chocolate fondant) . And they have their $34 tasting menu (5 courses), which is clearly a steal: I took it, and not only the courses were generous, but top tier items featured on that menu. At this moment, this is one the best value tasting menu you can have in YUL, all type of dining offerings included. I do not know how long this will pursue, but at this moment, if  you can manage to discard the fancy stuff like wine pairings and extra ‘bling blingos’, you’ll leave with a huge smile on your face for a while.
Wines were decently priced between $29 (an Errazuritz, Casablanca Chili 2011 – This is also offered at $6 by the glass / $19 he half bottle) to an $88 Perpetual, Priorat, Spain 2008. In between, plenty of well chosen bottles: a $54 Brazilian Merlot Fausto de Pizzato, Vale dos Vinhedos, 2009; a $40 Vouvrau Brut Chateau Moncontour, Loire, a Dreaming tree, North coast California, 2009 at $46 the bottle, a delicious Vina Esmeralda, Cataluna, 2011 at $34 (this was paired, by the glass, with my initial starter of Ceviche. This wine seduced me so much, that it would have cost $5 or $80 and yet my appreciation of it would remain the same: a superb ‘sensual’ white wine, if this tag would makes sense to you. Those folks are not crooks: they charged me 1 glass at $8….I’ll never forget this since I was charged twice this amount for 1 glass at lesser restaurants!!), a fabulous Grand Lurton Reserva Mendoza, Argentina 2007 $47 the bottle, $12 the glass (I love this wine).

My tasting menu kicked off with an item that many have raved about: their Ceviche. Usually, they use some daily fish and other seafood on that famous Ceviche. On this evening, fresh salmon, octopûs,  aji amarillo sauce. As much as I would like to join the bandwagon and tell you that this was indeed one of the best Ceviches I ever had, as much as I found this item to be the main reason I could not assign a full 9 or 10 over 10 as an overall score to this dish: this ceviche was really pleasant, it would make most restaurant ceviches in town pass as amateurish. the produce really fresh and well sourced (how..for god sake…do you do that on a tasting menu of $34…no wonder this has turned as one of the most successful dining destinations in YUL)…BUT this was certainly NOT a TOP Ceviche: it lacked the refinement and “éclat”  that  I am used to with far superior ceviches. Certainly tasty (the piquant and fresh acidity will appeal, for sure) … but I had better. far better, and right here, in YUL!   6/10

Then, Octopus, Cancha (Corn from Peru), Black olive sauce – The Octopus nicely tenderized, the grilled corn would entice the most especially for the novelty aspect coupled with lovely grilled flavor , the black Olive sauce a perfect foil to the octopus. Clearly, if you expect lively flavors from genuine Latino Cuisine, you may perhaps be a bit disappointed. Set your mind to  International cuisine, and this is as good as it gets. I am scoring this with a 7/10 since I can’t see how more of an excitement this could have been, but in total honesty: this was as good, not exciting,  as a delicious morsel of octopus could mingle with an accomplished olive sauce.

The 3rd item was one that I had ordered from the A la carte menu: the $16 pan sear foie, chicha (black corn from Peru), House-made corn bread and Jalapeno – Hourrah! Some serious work here: the excellent corn bread suggests that they should continue with whatever bread they do in house. Then again and again, some nice piquant (Jalapeno) Vs sweet flavors (corn) thoughtfully complementing the superb pan seared foie gras. This, I’ll tell you right away, is a 9 / 10 item, but there’s a reason I do not score this  with a 10/10 and they could fix this easily:  folks, a stunning piece of  pan sear foie gras needs HEAT! It needs deep livery flavor. Which I missed on this one. Sizzle it and serve right away….;p   Still, I know serious tables who could not even manage to deliver such amazing texture in their pan seared foie gras. Again, I was not teleported to Latin America here, something that Chef Navarrette Jr managed to provoke on numerous meals, but a  9/10 is well deserved, and where I had no choice but to give a 9/10 (excellent) to some dishes at other restaurants only for the technical mastery,  here is dish that pulled off excitement both visually (a dish crafted  beautifully) and palatably. I just can’t imagine how ‘epic’ that would have been had that deep livery flavor and last minute touch of heat been imparted.

Fourth item was part of the $34 tasting menu: Blood pudding, beurre blanc, chorizo from Charlevoix, nuts –  There was, next to me, a family of latinos. I love being discrete, but I wish I could ask them: so, what do you think?? Lol. Anyways, they seemed to appreciate their meal. I, for sure, appreciated mine: The blood pudding is one of the most successful ones I ever enjoyed in a restaurant in YUL. Spicy, tasty, meaty, deliciously bloody. Other praise-worthy element: this Beurre blanc, which  was not just nicely done by them, it was excitingly revised. I like that when an item (a simple beurre blanc in this case) is pushed to newer heights, serving as a remainder that you can still do a lot more with what’s usually “taken for granted”. Chorizo from Charlevoix: great!  This was an exciting piece of  International cuisine. Excellent! 9/10

Then their Braised ‘Cote de Boeuf ‘ , green beans, panais purée, chica sauce, pieds de moutons The mushrooms were world class, the green beans properly cooked , the ‘panais purée’ without reproach, but nowadays, braising meats is a ‘granted affair” that even home cooks are not missing, let alone professionals. It is a restaurant, thus we do expect nothing less than professionals. Which triggers this question: why an overcooked piece of braised  meat? Why some parts dry? Why were some parts chewy, others tough, other superbly edible? Why? I did enjoy this whole dinner  way better than my last meal at Brasserie Central, but because of items like this, I could not assign a higher overall rating to this evening’s meal. Brasserie Central  would not dare making a subpar braised beef. Braised meats, as we all know, depends on careful timing of the braising. This was braised too long.   5/10

The dessert of this tasting menu was in line with the philo of this house: generosity! It is hard to  assess things properly before such generosity, but it is a challenge that motivated me into sharing my side of the story. I pointed out what I had to, eventhough a $34 tasting of such calibre could have largely expedite my feelings in ‘Mr lover, Luva’ mood. My conclusion: indeed, one of the few best value tasting menus in town (I still believe that L’Un des Sens tasting menu, without wine and all bling blingos is the very 1st best value tasting menu). As for the rest, well. my assessment of each dish talk for themselves. Ah..Oh..zut…I forgot to tell: the dessert was a chocolate mi-cuit with some ice cream (7.5/10), of which I can say one thing: it was delicious, well done without teleporting me on the moon. 

I’ll go back to Restaurant Mezcla, way before even thinking about some tables that I had no other choice but to score higher (usually because they technically did a better job, not necessarily a more exciting one though..). Not to give shit to my buddy, Bro…Rfaol! I told you, I really liked the guy,  but  to keep scoring hard on that $34 tasting menu till it gives up. Again, a fabulous value for a $34 tasting menu, by Canadian standards. If you decided to splurge and went beyond and above that bar, then it is YOUR problem! As far as I am concerned: not blown away (No fiesta for me when a ceviche lacks optimal refinement, a braised cut of beef missing excitement) , but certainly charmed (I once said to a 2 star Michelin Chef ”’mais est-ce si compliqué de poéler du foie gras??”””” …Mezcla, even with a pan sear foie that needed more heat and more depth of livery flavor…did  better!!!!   ) … and their blood pudding course, on this evening, was simply something exciting. How often did I write the word ‘exciting’ in my reviews…..
PROS:  (1)Melissa, a superb host. My little quibble over the fact that I need to sample my wine before my glass is filled substracts nothing from her outstanding performance (2) The blood pudding and pan-sear foie gras came so close to outstand, the former being utterly delicious, the latter missing just that little heat and depth of livery flavor to catch up to its finest versions.
CONS: (1)The Ceviche: its juice  lacked the  refinement of the best ceviche I had (2)The braised cote de boeuf: braised way too long…thus taking away all the appeal of the successful nature of braised meats (3)Bro, Rfaol! ….change the glass of wine. Do not ask if it should be changed.  (4) I am nitpicking here, since Melissa was an outstanding host, but please..please: let me taste a sample of the wine first, before filling the glass! 

Overall food rating
: 7/10 (good) for what I am accustomed to at comparable dining level/style. I was more excited by this meal than at many  recent ones which were scored higher ONLY because they technically achieved an almost ”sans faute”” with accomplished work of textures and the usual culinaric ‘class act’ that comes along. But for the excitement, Mezcla’s has the edge over those. The reason I am NOT completely in an awe here is because technically, some of the dishes (for eg the ceviche,  the subsequent course of octopus, then the subpar braised cote de boeuf)  lacked the ultimate world class ‘refinement’ and perfection that would force me to think of an 8/10 or even better as an overall score. Interestingly, I found that world class refinement in the ‘blood pudding’ course and the pan-sear foie gras dish, despite needing more heat and deeper livery flavor,  would have not felt ‘out of place’ on a serious 1 star Michelin table.
Service: Melissa =  Wow! Bro = whatever you want..Lol…but change the damn glass of wine, Rfaol!
Decor: Simple, and yet versatile, which means  appropriate for a romantic dinner, familial , etc. It is warm, cozy.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER – I haven’t re-visited Mezcla yet. The  blood pudding and pan-sear foie gras dishes (I had) suggest  that this is a promising brigade, but they need to wipe off  the inconsistencies found during that initial meal: the ordinary ceviche, subpar cote de boeuf. This is  a place that will undoubtly attract many rave comments over the web since they understood what most people want: affordable meals, in cool/relax ambience. But for me, a restaurant needs to rise beyond the simple observation that its lucrative goals are achieved, especially when my meal showcased some poorly executed dishes (a cote de boeuf has to be tasty! it is what any cook takes for granted right from the beginning, and this applies to  a ceviche,too!)…BUT I believe in this place and I know they can do better. Actually, whenever I start going back to restaurants in Montreal, I’ll pay a visit there.

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Restaurant Helena, Montreal


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

(IV) SEE ALSO: the reports on VeniceCinque Terre, Milan & Parma. .

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

Restaurant Helena
Type of cuisine: Contemporary Mediterranean/
Portuguese-inspired bistrot
Addr: 438, rue McGill – Montreal,
Phone: (514) 878-1555
URL: http://restauranthelena.com

Helena is an upscale Contemporary Mediterranean-inspired bistrot whose owner is the Executive Chef and also owner at Restaurant Portus Calle, a Portuguese fine dining destination on Saint Laurent Street. The bistrot, situated in the vieux Montreal,  has a very elegant/chic modern decor (with respect to other diners right to enjoy their meal in privacy and comfort, I try to never point my camera at a dining room full of people, or in the very rare cases I did so, it was done very discretely and faces were  blurred. The room was not empty, therefore I refrained from taking pics, but if you go on their web site, you’ll find plenty of pics showing how elegantly the dining room is  decorated). As it’s always the case nowadays when you dine solo, you are offered to sit at the bar. A trend you end up getting used to. 

I am fond of Mediterranean fares (for ie: Italian, Portuguese, Greek,  etc) but  do usually have hard time with  their upscale versions since I tend to expect the latter to be more than just the act of laying down elegantly  what  I would have sampled at lesser fancy restaurants. Furthermore, when you have been cooking since your tender age, you tend to be impatient when you are served with restaurant food you could have done yourself. All normal reactions especially given  you can have great Italian or Portuguese food in their more humble restaurants, one fresh example  was my recent trip to Northern Italy where the laidback trattoria A cantina de Mananan‘s savoury dishes in Corniglia outshone, in my view,  those of my 3 star Michelin meal at Le Calandre (Rubano). And I’ll let you guess the difference in $$$ between both.

The other thing about Portuguese cuisine is that it is a very ‘accessible’ cuisine in the sense that you do not need to be Portuguese to ‘understand’ Portuguese food, nor to appreciate it. And although it is always a good thing to know what authentic Portuguese food tastes like (Montreal is blessed with a strongly present Portuguese community and great authentic Portuguese food can be sampled at some of their close-to-traditional eateries in town), you won’t really need to be stuck with  those notions while eating at some of the  contemporary Portuguese dining  ventures, a feature that I do appreciate since I was born in a country where some of the most delicious food pertain to the topic of acquired taste. Portuguese food is accessible, indeed, since even the most traditional fares (make friends with Portuguese and ask their grand parents  to cook for you. It’s the way to go!) are not challenging at all (not drastically at the opposite of what our Western palates have been used to).

In Montreal, Portuguese restaurants represent just a fraction of the restaurants that are opened in town. After 15 years in YUL, you end up knowing them pretty well. My appreciation of Portuguese restaurants went through various phases: once, Ferreira Café (think of a contemporary and refined take on Portuguese food as opposed to Traditional Portuguese) on Peel Street was a favourite but I gradually lost interest in that place. Then I was once charmed by Douro (Think of an updated take on traditional Portuguese) on St Laurent Street before, again, giving up on it. In both cases, the ‘value for food’ aspect  was  the main issue I was personally having and  I also, at times, had some minor  qualms about the service at Ferreira Café (as usual, your experience might be completely different). Between the two, if I had to go back to one of them, I’d probably return to Douro (the food at Douro is closer to my ideal of what Portuguese traditional fares should taste like) way before thinking about Ferreira. Again, a matter of personal prefs as usual.

A restaurant that I did appreciate and still do, without particularly ‘knocking my socks off’,  is  Portus Calle (the big brother of Restaurant Helena). I kinda liked Chez Doval for its traditional fares (wished I would be as equally impressed by the service, though), but my personal long time favourite (unfortunately, a bit pricey in my opinion) has always been the very traditional Casa Minhota on St Laurent (I am not saying that you should all flock there and that it is particularly special; all I am saying is that it is the Portuguese that, in Montreal, has pleased me the most up to now) . The rest are mostly rotisseries with some other eateries that you certainly do not want me to elaborate about, since they just do not worth one single second of my time.

The thing that I have always found laughable is when people sample Mediterranean fares with the fear to stumble upon predictable food. You know, the kind of simplistic suggestions  like ”nothing here you probably haven’t tasted before”. Rfaol! A bit as if I go to the beach and suggest that I saw nothing here you probably haven’t seen before! I am afraid that this is the kind on non sense that is driving lots of cooks away from mastering the basics of real good cuisine. I am not against modernist food, but it has to be mastered properly, and for such you need to get the basics done right in the first place. And basics done superbly well translates in  the type of food that catches my attention, it is also the only expectation that I have for Mediterranean cuisine.

Last but not least, I have always maintained a certain ‘reserve’ in my appreciation of most contemporary interpretations of Mediterranean cuisine: I find that many Chefs tend to believe that they can convert to Mediterranean cuisines on a split second decision, just because it looks so easy to cook. Wrong move! This is food that only shines in the hands of Chefs who have gathered long years of practice and cooking memory alongside those who have traditionally cooked this very well with no need of written recipes

The FOOD
There is no menu currently on their web site, so I’ll explain: it is divided between several sections, for ie a section of soups and salads (between $7 to $10, the popular Portuguese soup  caldo verde being available), cold starters (in betweeen $15 to $35; octopus carpaccio $15, Asparagus salad $13, plate of charcuteries $10 per person, Alaskan crab salad $35 for 2), warm starters (between $6 to $15, examples are cod croquettes, blood pudding, fried items like  sardines) a section of meats (Between $25 to $30; for ie, Gaspor farm suckling pig, clams, fresh coriander at $30, a Francezinha sandwich Porto style with beef, ham, San Jorge Cheese at $25, Osso Bucco, etc),  a section for seafood (between $30-$60 for ie, cod confit brandade at $30 — I’ll observe that we are in serious fine dining league’s price tags in this seafood section, probably due to the top quality produce being imported). The menu features French/English/Portuguese brief description of the courses.

Tabua de grelhados lulas plovo e chourico $15 – Grilled squid, octopus, chorizo. All grilled to the point, the quality of the ingredients fautless, the octopus superbly tenderized, seasoning well judged. We are not on the on the shores of the Mediterranean sea, and yet this young team of cooks did quite a nice job in these circumstances in pulling off  appealing  flavors, well timed cooking. Better than this, it’s cooking brought to you by an experienced Portuguese cook who has spent decades at home piling up the entire culinary tradition s/he has inherited from previous  generations, Rfaol! This is exactly what I wished I had experienced on my meal at  F Bar in December. Good 7/10

Then another classic of the Portuguese, The grilled sardines $7 – Clearly, they do not joke with the quality of the produce here. Generous plump fresh sardines of remarkable quality, atop a superb ‘tapenade’ of black olives. Again, for better, you take the plane and land on the Mediterranean coast!   7.5/10

Ameijoas gratinadas, milho, chourico e sao jorge $10 – Gratineed clams (gratineed with Sao Jorge cheese), a fabulous cream of corn underneath (on its own, this cream was so well executed both in textures and work of flavors – a benchmark cream of corn if there’s any), red onions. It might not be rocket science (we are, after all, miles away from Ferran Adria’s or Achatz works of shapes and tastes), but this is a great refreshing example of beautiful creativity when it comes to a contemporary interpretation of Mediterranean fares: mingling lightness of flavors with thoughtful plating that adds to the former intent. Perhaps the tiny clams will hit on some nerves, and it’s important that the wait staff ensures that the diner is sampling this dish before any other items (I didn’t play attention at the fact that it was at the table, so I sampled it after the two other courses it was served along… you have guessed it: gratineed clams, not eaten on the spot, it’s a recipe for defeat, Lol) , but nothing  should distract from the observation that its conception is thoughtful. I found this one impossible  to score since the clams were so tiny and the remarkable corn cream not quantitatively significant.Rating this would be more accurately an assessment of glimpses of what this dish is really is. Perhaps 3 big clams (instead of multiple tiny ones) and more of the fabulous  corn cream would pave the way to a better appreciation of this course.

Feijoada de Mariscos $30  – A seafood ragout with lima beans, squid, shrimps, clams. There’s usually pork in similar Portuguese ragouts. This being closer to what a Brazilian version  would tend to be like (using seafood). They kinda cook this too in the Acores. I need something a bit more Mediterranean here, for eg: add some mint like what they do in Portugal. At this point, I concluded that this team of young Chefs, although offering something clearly different from what an experienced Portuguese Chef fond of his homeland  traditional cuisine would perhaps cook, had managed to showcase beautiful skills with respect to the contemporary genre they have adopted: dish after dish, the food was delicious, remarkably well balanced and the cooking always carefully mastered. This Feijoada de Mariscos was no exception to that rule. Delicious, and in its contemporary style, really well done, but this, I have to underline, did not feed my mind with some flashbacks of Mediterranea . 8.5/10

  Wine choices on this evening were flawless, for my taste: A glass of  Soalheiro Alvarinho 2011 had the necessary appealing depth of mineral aromas to balance perfectly with the starters I had. The Feijoada de Mariscos was served along another beautiful wine: a subsidio 2008 of fantastic taste. You have right there, with both previous wines, great examples of affordable (on the market) wines, both of private import,  packed with chararacter. All wines were properly introduced, their bottles presented as it should, except for the very first glass of wine, and without wanting to sound too picky, it’s worth couple of words because I found it amusing, funny (although I’ll recommend it is avoided ) :  to boot, I asked if they had some Portuguese Sparkling wines. The gentle young woman at the bar responded with an enthusiastic YES! I started to build expectations in my mind: would that be one of the little sparkling gems of  Murganheira or Quintadalixa? Both being excellent Portuguese wine producers (of sparkling wines as well).  The glass is filled, but no bottle shown. I insisted to see the bottle: bingo, it’s a Freixenet cordon rosada from Spain. Ha! That’s why I didn’t see the bottle, Rfaol! A bit embarassed, the young woman at the bar was sorry and explained that it was an exception and assured me of all following wines being Portuguese as I requested. Not a big deal, and I really find this more amusing than anything else, especially with such a delicious Spanish Cava, but please, do not hesitate to be upfront: if there is no Portuguese Sparkling wine, then there’s none. There’s no problem with that, Lol. PS: Not really a complaint since we all know that it is mainly on  wines that restaurants make their profit, but it would be also fair to observe that prices of a glass of wine are on the steeper side  here ($11 for the glass of subsidio 2008, which at least is privately imported;  $12 for the glass of Freixenet cordon rosada, a wine I can find at the SAQ for $14.25, but again, this is normal restaurant prices for such; $14 for the glass of imported Soalheiro Alvarinho 2011. The logic I could see here would be that imported Portuguese wines cost more to be imported. Regardless, those were at least  fabulous wines).

The little things I really loved...delicious food, well balanced. There’s definitely real talent in this kitchen brigade. For sure I do not expect miracles from a kitchen brigade that’s miles away from the Mediterranean coast, but with what they have in hands, they’ve accomplished the essential: showcasing good skills, delivering tasty food, and offering an interesting North American interpretation of Contemporary Mediterranean fares.

The little things  to improve upon …. Nothing is perfect and life goes on, Yep, I know and I also know that  I may sound not enoughly cool here, but as usual, to be taken constructively (for sure, nothing dramatic here, just those little details that bring you a long way) :
***When the patron has the wine list opened by its side, ask him if he is done with it before whisking it away. I may sound picky here, but with the elegant layout, the big efforts done by the rest of the wait staff, ….
***Never hesitate to be upfront with the customer: again, not the end of the world here, but that little episode about the cava should be avoided. Just tell the customer that you have no Portuguese bubbles. That this is an exception.
I am going to insist on this since I would like to convey as much accuracy as I can : I am being really picky here since the overall service was fantastic (the ladies at the bar were amazing, really cool and accomodating; the gentlemen serving me were all great professionals ), but on the other end, when I decided to write my side of the story about restaurants, it was mainly because I wanted to portray things the way they appeared  to me  instead of serving as simple advertising proxies or trying to sound cool / pleasant (as I have always maintained: Not meant to be mean here, not at all, but I do not care about what ppl think on what I write, I do not care about raving wherever I judge necessary, doing the opposite wherever I believe it has to, as long as I reach out to my own principles of bringing things the way I am experiencing them).

As for this one specific dinner at restaurant Helena, all I can say is  that their mission of bringing an interesting North American take on Contemporary Mediterranean-inspired bistrot fares is accomplished. All simple stuff, but well done and tasting good. Blown away? Nope. Satisfied? Yep, this team knows how to cook. Did I feel transported on the shores of Mediterranea? Nope, but that is a tough task to accomplish, virtually impossible when you are not in  Mediterranea.
PROS: Tasty food, technically without reproach. I prefer this over Fbar, but I prefer more rustic Portuguese.
CONS: Next time, get me a bit closer to Mediterranean shores. Learn from those who have cooked traditional cooking for long and pick couple of tricks from them. Add some of those tricks to current  offerings and many will fall for this place.

Overall food rating: 6/10 Above average for what I am accustomed to at comparable restaurants/dining category
Overall service rating: 8/10 Mostly young, professional on this evening.
Décor: 8/10  Elegant, colorful, contemporary. Go on their website, WYSIWYG!
IMPORTANT: ‘Overall food rating’ HAS NOTHING TO DO with the arithmectic calculation
of all dishes. It is my personal subjective rating of the overall food performance 
on the specif meal I am sampling  only.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER:  That 6 over 10 as an overall food rating for that meal seemed accurate to me, based to what I came to expect from this type and standard of eatery. It was not an average (5/10) meal for sure, not a 7/10  neither (in my view), but a meal delivered with flawless technique and they went as far as a non-portuguese team outside of Portugal can deliver on an above average basis. I read a review of my favourite food critic in Montreal, Marie-Claude Lortie, one she wrote about Helena bistrot where she criticized the lack of spicyness of the food as well as some inconsistencies in the cooking. The spicy-ness, yeah perhaps. Well, it is more of a North American take on Neo Portuguese bistrot, so I knew that it would be hard to be transported on the shores of the Mediterranean (a point I actually clearly made in my review). But the inconsistency in the cooking…well certainly not on the meal I sampled there. She might be right, perhaps there were inconsistencies in cooking when she ate there, but it is important, before talking about cooking inconsistencies, to really put things in their context. The latter being only possible when you first get to know what you are talking about (that is why you won’t see me reviewing food that I am not familiar with). Surreal complaints like the pizza was not enoughly cooked at an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria  or the seafood is  raw at a sushiya are  thankfully less and less of an occurence nowadays, but I still suspect many people to carry  cooking standards from their part of the world to food that has nothing to do with those standards. And you might be surprised to find relatively knowledgeable persons indulging in such mistakes: a while back, I was seating not far from a food journalist (no, it was not Madame Lortie if you ask, it is a gentleman and it was in the US) who was complaining about his meat not being at medium rare temp. Wrong call: medium rare is not the way meats are cooked in the cuisine covered by the restaurant where we were eating.

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MONTREAL’S BEST TABLES: La Chronique

Event: Dinner at La Chronique
Friday November 20th, 2009 18:00
Addr: 99, Rue Laurier West, Montreal, QC
Phone: 514-271-3095
Type of cuisine: Fine Dining (French, North American…they call it New American 😉
Dinner/cost: Multiple course tasting menu with wine pairings $229 (Taxes Incl.)
Url: http://www.lachronique.qc.ca

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

(English review to follow)  – Aucun doute là dessus: c’est effectivement dans le top 7 des meilleures tables Montréalaises. C’est un restaurant qui m’a personellement emballé à plein des égards:  des choix de vins parmi les plus inspirants en ville, un aspect romantique et calme qui sort du lot et quel Chef charmant: le Chef De Montigny (il fut le seul aux fourneaux lors de celle soirée là). Je ne connais la Chronique qu’au travers de mon repas du 20/11/09, par conséquent mon observation ne se limite qu’à ce que j’y ai dégusté:  Éclatants -> leur pain, tout simplement digne des meilleures boulangeries. Quelques plats remarquables: L’entrée de pieuvre/chorizo, le filet de Saint Pierre (anthologiques et de calibre d’un solide 2 Étoiles Michelin). Puis, il y’a aussi eu du peu reluisant, et là, à ces prix là, je boude: le foie gras (consistence flasque, mais le sourrire fut de mise car c’était bon au gout), le porc (bof), le dessert (plus d’audace, svp!). Alors, j’abdique? Absolument pas: l’on ne se retrouve pas dans le top des tables d’une grande ville au hasard de la vie. Et si je me base sur mon repas, je dois avouer que ce qui reluit ici, reluit avec plein d’éclat (pieuvre/chorizo  + filet de Saint Pierre, ce fut sensationnel ca)!…. mais il leur faut absolument éviter des ‘écarts’ tels que celui du  foie gras et le dessert qui lui fut peu élaboré pour de la gastronomie de ce niveau. Un rappel: je n’ai pas encore eu l’occasion d’apprécier l’oeuvre du Chef De Cank, l’autre Chef.

It is amazing how a lot of people are madly in   with La Chronique.  Most comments, I read on the web, about La Chronique, are  basically declarations of love such as “the best restaurant of montreal”, “my best restaurant ever” and so on. Even, my personal top favourite Mtl food reviewer, Thierry Daraize, wrote a raving review on La Chonique and untitled it “My best chronic“.

Located in Mile-End, at  mas o menos a 10-15 mins drive from downtown, the restaurant is situated in a fully autonomous area (lol): hairdressing salon, art galleries, spas, beauty salon,  shoe stores, cookware stores….

 

…right in front, one of Mtl’s great restaurants, Raza. Not far, another great one: Jun I

…+ couple of other restaurants like Phayathai (close neighbor to La Chronique), Baldwin Barmacie (Wow..that is original. Check that out!). A bit further, you have Chao Phraya (my personal favourite Thai in Mtl), Thai Grill (hot decor, but the food has never stunned me though), Barros Lucco (to my opinion, the best chilean sandwiches in Mtl), + the long time and one of my personal Mtl favourite historical delis called Wilensky).

Back to our main bud, La Chronique:

I do not know if you will get that same feeling, but whenever I was starring at their online pics (http://www.lachronique.qc.ca/fr/photo_resto.htm), I had the feeling that it was a bit somber, tiny old schoolish kind of bistro. The 1st time I watched those pics, I also anticipated the red wall to not be of my taste as well. But stepping physically into La Chronique provided me with a complete different visual experience, a very pleasant one I had not expected: La Chronique is certainly not huge, but I truely like the way they managed to maximize the space of this small restaurant: you do not get the unpleasant chlostrophobic feel usually found in such tiny space. Here, long banquettes are against the walls, tables and chairs superbly well arranged to provide room to the patrons. Really well though in terms of space management. And the restaurant does not have the borying kitsch decor I would have anticipated: to the contrary, there is an elegant bistro chic feel I was not expecting at all here:

The red color of the wall is beautiful, the black and white pictures are the fruits of the talented photograph that is hidden inside Chef De Cank. De Cank (he was not present on that evening), is a passionate photographer and  has a gallery of his beautiful black and white everyday’s life scenery photos displayed at this restaurant: 

Seems that De Cank also works the wood. The following wooden bread and salt boxes are wood art works of Chef De Cank:

OK 2 more pictures of the dinning room, before we indulge in the overall dining report:

 

Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by a gentleman who was going to be my main waiter of the evening, Pierre. Polite greetings, coat checking, and a beautiful corner table with view on Laurier Street.
The chef working tonight was going to be Olivier de Montigny: very sympathic gentleman.

The layout and ambiance is ideally elegant, 

even romantic too (with nice little jazzy music in the background, dim light,  and the general cozy feel of the dinner room, mainly when it’s not busy of patrons, this could be a type of sympathic charming romantic spot that I would certainly adopt).

I picked the multiple course tasting menu with the $can 195 (Before Tax) tasting menu:

Course #1, Octopus/Romesco/Chorizo.

Amazingly tender and very tasty chunk of octopus, oozing with an impeccable enjoyable char-grilled flavour. Intense rich tasty mouthfeel. The subtle tasty romesco sauce was not overwhelming, letting the octopus shine with all it’s splendeur. Finally a table that understood the importance of not mixing up big chunks of chorizo with a delicate appetizer! I am saying finally, because at so many tables, I saw lots of chefs mixing up big chunks of those sausages with food that were delicate on their own, instead of doing what Chef Montigny has brillantly done here: small little dices of tasty chorizos (delicate, elegant and appropriate). Kudos to the ecclectic touch of the chef on this one: here, it’s a successful balad under the suns of the seafood and the exotism of the spaniards (chorizo). Ole! Succulent.  10/10
Pairing wine: Chablis Tete D’or, Brilland Simon 2007. Amazing white wine, with an intensely pure body, fully mineral, sweet and elegant. It reached out perfectly well with the romesco sauce and the small dices of Chorizo. Brillant wine pairing, like the rest of all Pierre’s wine pairings as you will see later on. Great job, Pierre!

Course #2, Tuna/Avocado/Shrimp

Here again, another refreshing touch of ecclectic. This time, we travel to the Oriental world. The tuna is offered two ways here: both in it’s tartare + tataki version. The tataki tuna with wakame algae had a remarquably genuine authentic oriental taste that I enjoyed. Really well done both in terms of technical execution (truely felt like it was done by an original oriental chef using his/her authentic homey japanese tataki cooking technique / the meat was firm as expected, had the perfect texture) and work of the taste (tasty!). The tartare version was as succulent: oozing of freshness, remarquably tasty, it was paired with a julienne of fresh apples and sat on top of a delicious purée of avocado.The shrimp was a beautiful big juicy lonesome marvel dressed with it’s enjoyable tempura crust. Really well done! 8/10
Pairing wine: Marsannay les Longeroies, 2006 (Domaine de Jean Fournier). Great Pinot Noir from Burgundy, delicate, with a remarquably light fruity flavor. This wine was a killer to my tastebuds and paired harmoniously with this course. Really great. It is a private import. 

Filet de Saint-Pierre fish (John Dory)/Lobster

The chunk of Lobster was tender, slightly short of the fully marine flavor that make me go Wowed when I devour seafood items,  bu tasty. The filet of Saint-Pierre fish was impeccably evenly well cooked, not too smooth, not  tough with an appealing memorable white snowy tender flesh. Both the lobster and the Saint-Pierre filet were bathed in a yellow wine sauce: brillant work here since the yellow wine sauce was not overwhelming by all accounts. To the contrary, it completed perfectly well the dish. On it’s own, the yellow wine sauce was as beautifully creamy as enjoyably light and refreshingly tasty. Excellent . 9/10
Wine pairing:  A 2008 Blanco Inedito rioja. Amazingly soft and subtle enjoyable wine that I never tasted before. It reached out so well with the lobster and Saint-Pierre filet.

Course #4: Foie Gras

The Pan-seared foie had perfect on-the-outside beautifully browny caramel-looking texture, but it was unfortunately  mushy on the inside. Taste of the foie was good though. It came with a well concocted cabbage roll that was ideally crunchy and filled with an inside of risotto (nice touch!). A bit busy as a dish, but a winner since it was succulently hearty and homey: the delicious delicate flavorfully packed sauce of foie gras was a blast! 7.5 in execution, 8.5/10 in taste
Pairing wine: Clos Saron, La Cuvée mystérieuse, 2004. Intense red color, amazing great nose, enjoyably oaky with a nice sweetness made this Merlot/Syrah a perfect fully flavored rich companion to the Pan-Seared foie gras.  
Course #5: Pork

The pork meat was cooked 2 ways -> sous vide and roasted. The sous vide one, as expected, was oozing of it’s impeccable well preserved full porky natural taste. Perfectly cooked: tot too smooth, not to tough. The roasted was better though: tender, superior enjoyable taste, enjoyable porky peppery flavors. It was also less greasy, naturally. Accompanying the pork: fresh crunchy grean beans and a stand out fresh onion cippolini that was perfectly boiled and it was tasty.  7.5/10
Pairing wine: Saint-Julien 2006 (Domaine du Jaugaret). Impeccable red wine (Cabernet sauvignon at 80%, petit verdot, malbec). Private import. I am trying to get this wine at home for Christmas. Loved it so much!

The plate of cheese

Very nice varied selection (well thought choices, imho) from Quebec and abroad:
I chose went with 4 picks ->
(1)Queso de Valdeon
Nicely aged strong/intense flavoured Spanish blue cheese
A savourish mix of both cow’s and goat’s milk.
(2)Le Cendrillon from Alexis de Portneuf
A flavorful rich cheese of Saint Raymond de Portneuf (Qc) that won the World Cheese Awards 2009. http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/movie-guide/Quebec+goat+cheese+voted+best+world/2063623/story.html
The inside softness of this cheese is amazing.
(3)Pikauba From Lac Saint Jean, QC
Made of cow milk. Flavorfully intense/rich at smell, but surprisingly light in taste/mouthfeel
http://www.fromageduquebec.qc.ca/en/fromagerie.php?fromagerie=lehmann
(4) Fleur du Maquis, Corsica
Made of sheep’s milk. Perfumed with savory (sarriette), rosemary, juniper berries (baies de genièvre). Very mild, light milky taste that is enhanced only by it’s herbal perfume. Just ok.

My four picks of cheese were beautifully presented on a squarish plank of wood, with nicely sweet roasted nuts, dry apricots and other sweet dry fruity savouries (I am usually not keen to the sweet & salty, but this type of balance between sweet and salt seduces me highly: the overall was total tastebud pleaser -> the intense pairing sweet wine (Gewurztraminer Cuvée Théo, Clos des Capucins, Domaine Weinbach 2007: elegant, intensily sweet, fruity, velvety), the salty-ness of the cheeses, the sweetness of the dry fruits and nuts…simply amazing!!). 8/10

Ending on a sweet note:

Course #6: Carpaccio of Pineapple

From left to the right, a delicious oval-shaped ice cream, a creamy white choco concoction, pearls of strawberry sauce and slices of pineapple (hence the name Carpaccio of Pineapple). A dessert full of love, as I like to qualify such dessert: simple, straightfoward but done with passion, all the little attentions and full of elegance. 7/10
Pairing wine: a 2006 Gaillac doux, Domaine Rotier. Nice complexity of apricot, fig, quince fruit (coing). Ideal pairing to the hearty dessert.

SEE better photos of this dinner at my Picasa’s restaurant Gallery:
http://picasaweb.google.com/comorosislands/RESTAURANTLACHRONIQUEMONTREAL#

SO, Voilà!
Overall, VERY GOOD. Would have walked away with an EXCELLENT rating had the dessert stormed the show (read: being complex in execution or tastebud blowing like the Bistro Cocagne‘s Pot de crème I had, or the M sur Masson‘s Caramelized pineapple marvel, or the ‘Amour des Iles’ exotical hottie I devoured at l’Eau à la bouche earlier on in February) + the foie gras being not of mushy inside consistency.

As opposed to Le Club Chasse et Peche or XO, there was no particular meal (out of this one dinner) that I would throw against those of some of world best tables that I already went dining at (El Bulli, Fat Duck, Pierre Gagnaire, Noma), but this dinner at La Chronique has definitely some stellar performances that confirms it’s well deserved consideration as one of Montreal’s top best tables (the starter of Octopus is among the best Octopus appetizer I tried on a fine gourmet table since a long time, their fresh bread would send many of the best bakers of this city to retirement, their pairing wine choices was flawless and service was very good). It is a table that I truely enjoyed, althought this pertains more to my top 10 rather than to my top 5 in Montreal. Next time I will go there, I want this time to try Chef De Canck food as well (a bit of both would be highly appreciated).

PROS: Indeed, one of Montreal very best (in my top 10 of Mtl’s restaurants), the bread …oh the bread..their bread…so heavenly. The Chorizo course, the John dory  too. The wine pairing was one of the very best I ever experienced at a Montreal high end table. BUT….

CONS: BUT…such a top table needs, at all cost, to avoid little flaws like the mushy foie gras (course #4) …especially at those prices!  It also commands a dessert that I can remember for a while (that dessert was way too ordinary for this level of dining)!

La Chronique
Overall food rating
: 5/10 (See the section ‘WHAT DO I THINK MONTHS LATER ‘ below for more about this.                                     
Overall service rating
: 10/10  On that evening I was there. 
Décor
:  simply decorated with taste and lovely touches such as the paintings of one of the Chefs on the wall
IMPORTANT: ‘Overall food rating’ HAS NOTHING TO DO with the arithmecticcalculation
of all dishes. It is my personal subjective rating of the overall foodperformance 
on the specif meal I am sampling  only.

WHAT DO I THINK MONTHS LATER: If you look at my scores of the individual dishes, the dishes were delicious, most of them  really good. But when I am charged the prices of a top tier dining experience and I find myself at what is known as one of the very best of this city, I have no other choice but to compare the overall experience to its closest peers. And this is where my score for the overall food performance remained a poor  5/10, which means ‘average’ for its category. There is no excuse: a mushy foie gras, as tasty as it is (it was tasty) on a 100$ ++ tasting menu., NO!..NO! and NO!!!.,, That average dessert, again, NO! Not at those $$$!!! Not at this level (La Chronique is regularly considered in the top 5 finest tables in Mtl).  The problem was essentially a problem of  value for my money:  I have experienced michelin-star level of food at other restaurants like XO Le restaurant, Raza, Toque!, Club Chasse & Peche, La Porte  …at less $$$ in many cases. 


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