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:
-Meal at 3 star Michelin Dal Pescatore  (June 14th 2012)
-Meal at 3 Star Michelin Le Calandre    (June 16th 2012)
-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), 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, 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.
: 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.