Le Margaux, Montreal


LE MARGAUX ,
classic French Bistrot, 5058 Ave du Parc, Montreal
514-448-1598
http://www.lemargaux.com/
Dinner there on Nov 29th 2012, 19:00

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, La Porte, Au pied de cochon ,

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

Le Margaux is a  French bistrot mostly inspired by  influences of south western France’s classic cuisine . Bistrots focusing on classic regional  cuisines of France do not abound in Yul, and  the few that I have tried passed as simply Ok to me (Paris Beurre being one that comes to mind). This is not to be confused with a a Bistrot like Au 5e Péché, which has indeed a Chef from France, but which cuisine  leans towards modern French bistronomy.  The cooking at Le Margaux is a cuisine  I am very familiar with for having spent many years in South west France. It (south western France) is also the other  place around the globe, after the Indian Ocean, where I have fine-tuned my cooking skills, both places having a strong influence on my long years of cooking and in my food likings, naturally.

We are not in Southern France, so I’ll keep my expectations to realistic degree and will apply myself to situate this meal to its closest local peers, if you can call that comparison… (as I wrote earlier on, real authentic French bistrot do not abound in Montreal).

The meal started with an amuse bouche of  creme de cepesAn exciting and refined  ‘crème’ with fabulous buttery and earthy mouthfeel. The best item of my meal, tonight.  9/10

 

Then crab cake/lobster bisqueThe good news: the price, $8.95. Who can do better? Another good news: tasty, generous (you had pieces of bread, with rouille atop and emmental cheese)… all of that for 8.95!!!!!!!! Can’t beat that cost performance. Now, as much as I like this place, as much as  I need to get down to business here: first, too many things going on … too busy as a dish! A simple stunning crab cake (this crab cake was forgettable,  its bread crumbs lacking the beautiful golden color of a winning crab cake, its expected meaty-ness and more importantly taste of the crab barely present) with a memorable bisque (‘passable’ is how I would describe that lobster bisque, since the crustacean never managed to express itself with this bisque. A world away from the one I had last year at  Le Bonaparte) would have been a blast.  Also: I did really not need the emmental cheese. It is a very generous table, and many will appreciate this feature, but oftentimes  I find dishes this generous to be mostly over-done, especially at Le Margaux. Le Margaux is at its best when it sticks to doing the classics in their sheer simplicity (I’ll repeat this oftently in this review) , not when it tries too much to please, in my opinion.  5/10

Ris de veau en persillade $25.99 – Those sweetbreads were done in proper classic French cooking traditions, seasoned as it should and I could see that the classic sweetbreads/persillade process was indeed applied beautifully (as we all know, the pre-cooking preparation being a key feature of the execution of a ris  de veau en persillade, and I could observe that this part was well mastered just by the fresh quality and consistency of the meat itself  ), but they lacked the excitement in visual appeal and depth of flavor that a place like Au 5e Péché, as an example,  manages to pull out from its sweetbreads.   Cooking is no miracle: a little detail such as an additional last minute addition of fresh parsley would have made a good improvement here.  Generosity is Le Margaux’s forte, so  the sweetbreads came with a flawless hachis landais,  bites of duck confit, and a spoon of duck  foie gras. The accompaniments were good, but I wish the sweetbreads would be packed with the beautiful plump texture of its better versions.  5/10

Joue de veau braisée à l’ancienne $ 23.99 – A generous portion of beautifully tender veal cheeks. Some would look down on dishes like this because it is more homey than gourmet, but that would be an error: this kind of classic dish is expected to have a homey feel. It is the way it should be. This had a really nice taste and showcased great respect of traditional French cooking methods. Those familiar with créole sauce rougaille (http://recettes.de/rougaille)  would particularly feel at home since the sauce tasted exactly like a sauce rougaille, with the fresh tomato tang and the parsley flavor being this time so well exploited . A well executed one, btw. It takes  dishes like this to  remind us how cooking is vast and the more you know, the better you appreciate. This, in its genre, was a successful classic French dish.  Just stop serving that spoon of duck liver crème brulée  dish after dish (it featured again as an accompaniment to this dish) . 7/10

Mousse noisette, sorbet à la manguehazelnut mousse was excellent confirming what I have always thought of Le Margaux since its very debuts, years ago: sheer simplicity  isbetter for them  (7/10), but I found the mango sorbet ordinary for its lack of vivid texture and color, although the taste was Ok, still far from the most successful fruitier  versions that abound in town or that I could have made at home  (4/10)

PROS of this meal: The crème de cèpes! The kind of item ppl would tell you that it is no big deal but ask them to deliver it, lol!  What a crème that was!  Still on the food aspect, I appreciated the bright homey flavors  brought by the rougaille tasting joue de veau. On a personal level, I have always liked the pristine all-white clean décor of Le Margaux. I feel so good here, in my element. It is, with the décor of La Chronique, the type of simple European setting that I am fond of.

CONS of this meal: On this evening, the crab cake, the lobster bisque, the sweetbreads, the mango sorbet, all done with great intent but lacking in palatable excitement. 

Overall food rating of this evening’s meal5/10 based on what I came to expect from a classic French bistrot outside of France.The overall score being low here because the crab cake and sweetbreads were essentially too weak. But Le Margaux can, at times, do better than this, especially when they stick to dishes oozing of sheer simplicity such as that crème de cèpes, the joue de veau à l’ancienne (remember, this was not the neo-bistrot version of the veal cheeks but one classic French interpretation of it), the simple but well executed hazelnut mousse.

Bottom line: Le Margaux is considered by many among Montreal top bistrots. I like this place, but I can’t confidently situate it among Montreal finest. Let me explain: this is my 3rd visit here in 5 years, and when Le Margaux sticks to sheer simplicity, it can indeed do great  as proven by the item of crème de cèpes, an item that even many grand tables can’t always deliver with equal panache. But as on my 2 other visits here, the amazement was unfortunately not always continual. Exactly as I have experienced this evening: crab cake and sweetbreads that seemed to me to have never shone at the heights of the crème de cèpes. Tip: when you go there, focus on their strengths which, based on my experiences with Le Margaux, have been their work of the duck (duck magret, for example). Foie gras is also king there. I am not too sure if they still do it as well as I have enjoyed it on my 1st visit there, but they also used to do some nice things with  veal kidneys (again, I have no clue if they are still  as good as those  I had on my 1st meal here since I never re-ordered veal kidneys ther for a long time).  This evening I seemed to have pushed them a bit out of their comfort zone (notice that I took no duck magret, ordered no foie gras, etc). Service on this evening was top! 

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER – Not much on top of what  I have already written. I don’t think that Le Margaux will ever be a top classic French bistrot (well, I hope for them, that they can prove me wrong), but it certainly can, here and there,  offer some pleasant traditional flavors

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Au 5e Péché: could this be the best Montreal Bistro?


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

Au 5e Péché
Type of cuisine: Modern French Bistro
Addr:  4475 Rue St Denis (this is their new addr)
Phone: (514) 286-0123

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

Mon bistrot #1 en ce moment en ville (avec le Bistro Cocagne). Quel talent, ce Chef Lenglet! Quoi dire de plus? Sinon que j’y retournerai en courant et que…ah oui…que c’est rafraichissant de voir 1 chef de qualibre 1-2 étoiles Michelin..je parle d’un VRAI, ici….s’activer aux fourneaux meme en pleine tempete de neige (lisez mon ‘update’ du 13/01/2012)…à une époque ou des pseudos ‘cooks’ de circonstance, avec meme pas le 1/10e de son talent…se ridiculisent à parader à la télé sous pretexte qu’ils se sont imaginés en nouveaux ‘roi des fourneaux’. Seul BÉMOL de ce restaurant: c’est un péché dont il est difficile de s’en passer!!!!Ha..Ha..Ha

UPDATE Sat September 29th 2012, 19:30 – Dined here with my wife on this  Sat September 29th 2012 evening. We picked a multiple-course tasting menu. “Pressé de courge” was a good creative idea, the butternut squash having interesting complexity with mustard and maple leaf syrup matching so well on this dish. The overall was topped with prosciutto. All of top quality as it’s always the case here, the overall really pleasant (7/10), a nice fresh piece of salmon  paired with mushrooms was enjoyable but not in the league of the better dishes of this tasting menu (6/10), a piece of foie gras au torchon showcased  great work of the texture, great depth of taste, appealing presentation  (9/10), guinea fowl legs were comforting in taste, its accompanied beet purée of excellent texture (7/10), mackerel in vin jaune sauce was a good idea with the successful and delicious vin jaune sauce moderating the natural strong taste of the mackerel , a good joyous and tasty dish (7.5/10) and as dessert, we had iced nougat/granité of basil/tomato confit, which both Jannice and I found exciting in mouth, with the contrasting ingredients blending surprisingly well together (9/10).  A pleasant meal, with the  staff as fun as usual and wine pairing still among the most interesting in town. Overall food rating for this Sat Sept 29th 2012 meal: 7/10

 UPDATE Thurs Febr 23rd, 2012 17:30 – 3rd dinner at Au Cinquième Péché on this Thurs Febr 23rd evening and as you will see from this quick report, the cooking here keeps shining with consistency. A very reliable restaurant, indeed and even with courses that I rated lower than 8/10, you’ll see that it was not because of technical fault nor any sort of letdown. Far from that: I started this dinner with ‘carpaccio de veau, gremolata‘. A bargain at $9, especially for the stunningly fresh and remarkably sourced veal. Less would be more here, though: way too many ingredients in there made this dish unecessarily too ‘busy’ to put it boldly. A 7.5/10 for me, but again, there’s nothing technically wrong with the dish and this goes down to a matter of personal preference: I tend to be more excited by dishes  that manage to bring so much out of very little, for ie the carpaccio on this dinner at Le Marly is a great example of what I do expect. Followed by “Carré aux dattes, canard confit, foie gras” $18 featured a square of duck confit and date fruit (work so well together) and the usual top quality duck liver (au torchon in this case) that I’ve always found at 5e Péché. 8/10 for that dish. Then one of my favourite dishes at Au 5e Péché: their ‘onglet de boeuf‘ (hanger steak) $28 that I have tried for the 1st time in Febr 2011 (you’ll see its review at the bottom of current article). This time, the steak is complemented by gougères. Here, a lot of dazzling features showing the superb talent of Chef Lenglet: on its own, the mastered work of the gougère’s texture stole the show on this dinner. The meat, successfully cooked and worth of praise. Even my quibble over the piece of pork that was underneath the beef (that piece of pork seemed out of place on this hanger steak dish;  I’d personally replace it with something like a bold rework of  a ‘tartiflette’ for example) could not stop it from deserving a 10/10 mark. Crème caramel, apple and dulce de lecce brought this dish to its end: an 8.5/10 dessert with nothing really wrong (the mousse of dulce de leche had superb flavor, the crème caramel so appetizing), although I suspect that  a different choice of fruit would have bring more excitement than the apples. Bottom line, a very enjoyable meal as au 5e Péché continues to deliver with reliability. Service was marked by the genuine hospitality and usual professionalism that I have always found here: on this evening, my waitress was the same amazing mulato young woman who was on duty during the last dinner in January. Wine pairing as thoughtful as I have always noticed  it at this table. Overall food rating for this Febr 23rd 2012 meal: 7.5/10
UPDATE Fri Jan 13th, 2012 19:30 – For the record. my ‘project” of text & photo reporting on Montreal’s very best  bistrots and fine dining ventures is over. The only Montreal restaurant updates you will see on this web site will cover re-visits at tables already reviewed here (no more photo reporting but a text summary of the meal ). This Fri Jan 13th, 2012 meal is my only  second visit  at au 5e Péché, now located on Saint Denis, right at the corner of Mont Royal on the premises of the previous  Le Vintage Tapas Et Porto restaurant: the small stone-wall bistrot has a warmth that I now really enjoy (I say ‘now’, because their old location on Mont Royal was as attractive as a card board box…). I sat at the bar (a comfy bar, btw!) overlooking the kitchen. The meal started with an amuse of white beans purée with lime (10/10): as my readers already know, I do not force my imagination to unecessarily relativize things or partake in theorems such as ‘nothing is perfect’ – for some, a creme caramel or a purée can’t deserve a 10. I don’t agree. If it’s flawless as this amuse was, I don’t see why it won’t deserve a perfect score. The $14 starter of  ‘foie gras terrine, jarret de porc fumé, confiture poires/raisin‘ had fabulous foie gras terrine with texture and taste  that left no room for reproach, and yet the pear/grapes marmelade brought this dish to  benchmarking levels that pertained to what you would expect on a solid 3 star Michelin level. I am not saying that Chef Lenglet is a 3 star Michelin capable Chef (It’s hard to go all the way to such conclusion when bistrot food limits you to a certain level of relative restraint compared to fine dining – I’d need Chef Lenglet to cook couple of food items I value as 3 star Michelin worthy before jumping to such conclusion,  but it’s clear that Chef Lenglet’s cooking is anywhere in between 1 to 2 Michelin firm star level). Another 10/10 for the foie gras terrine/pear-grape marmelade.  Next, I took ‘Canard, pain perdu aux chataignes, jus de veau, fleur de sel, pleurottes, choux de bruxelles‘ ($27): a 9/10 dish. In Montreal, from what I can talk for, few magrets ever came close to the dazzling taste of this duck, its superb quality and remarkable construction. Only reason it’s not a perfect 10 has to do with my only qualm: the trio of small pain perdu  (chestnut-flavored portions of bread pudding that would benefit from a greater depth of flavor, so perhaps replacing chestnut by another ingredient). Cheese cake, confit de prune (10/10) was another 2 star Michelin capable dessert (of course, not your usual cheese cake) with not one single quibble but a reminder that even at the very top bistrot level (Au 5e Péché is clearly Montreal’s top #1 bistrot along with Bistro Cocagne at this very moment), it’s rare to see such top performance from the very 1st nibble up to the dessert. Although Bistro Cocagne is, in my view, the other top Montreal Bistrot, I have got to admit that Au 5e Péché has offered (on those two meals I’ve sampled there) a slightly more ‘complete’ top level bistrot performance (even the less significant items such as  desserts, have been impressive at au 5e Péché – always varying in between 9 and 10/10, a rare occurence at top bistrots here and abroad). It’s interesting to see a CHEF like CHEF  Lenglet with such amazing talent (clearly a 1 to 2 star Michelin level European standard, I re-iterate), c o o k i n g    for real there…right there…behind his stoves on a harsh evening of snowstorm (A major snowstorm blanketing Montreal on this Friday Jan 13th) where other half-accomplished  cooks believe that it is a priviledge for you to enjoy their presence on ..TV!..and then pay the big bucks to indulge in lacklustre dinings cooked by their name bearers at their name-bearing restaurants while they are ….   Au 5e Péché has  excelled far away from that questionable practice and established itself efficiently, in my opinion, as Montreal’s  #1  bistrot (along with Bistro Cocagne, ahead of my two other bistrots favourites: Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon and Bouillon Bilk). They are even careful with the bill: sweet prices for such top level of food and cooking skills. The service was flawless too (I had a superb waitress at the bar, a young mulatto woman , who will quickly become one of Montreal very best waitress and sommeliere — wine pairing was simply superb and inspired all along this meal  —  no doubt about that!). On this Jan 13th dinner, if I am not mistaken, I also saw a young woman who I think was one of the finalists of les Chefs, Laurence Frenette??, in their kitchen. This young woman is super talented , but for now, she is lucky to work along one of the most talented Chefs in North America! Real talent. This meal, from start to finish, was as strong as any 2 star Michelin level of cooking performance in Europe. Forget the tablecloth, forget the stuffy grandeur of some fine dining ventures, remember that it is a bistrot , its menu displayed on a wallboard and enjoy the cooking of this amazingly talented Chef. There are sins that I’ll always forgive!  Overall food rating for this Jan 13th  2012 meal: 10/10

The following covers the 1st dinner there. That occured at their previous location (on Mont Royal street) – Dinner on Saturday Febr 12th 2011  20:30 ; the table you see on those photos are those they had on Mont Royal. On St Denis, at  their new location the tables are made of  darker wood ->

Kicked off with an irreproachable home made lentil hummus ( with a kalamata olive tapenade): light, tasty and refined. Very good. 8/10

Before I go ahead, I have to pay special mention to the young French sommelier. I chose wine pairing by the glass for each course, and his picks were inspired, well thought. The Gentleman is skilled: at the beginning of the meal I purposely abandoned him to a tricky challenge: a terrine of foie gras and oysters. Find the perfect wine for that. Most would say ”this patron is an imbecile’. He was smarter than most: he found the perfect wine pairing for it.

The oysters were fine.  8/10

The terrine of foie, a master piece. It was a skillful conception where a top quality terrine of duck liver was surrounded by tasty meaty duck meat A 3 star Michelin caliber terrine of foie where execution, taste and outstanding precision in details (texture, moisture of the meat) were met. 10/10

Onglet de boeuf, paleron  à la flamande, endive au jambon – I rarely rate a piece of meat (‘Onglet de boeuf’ is ‘hanger steak’) higher than an 8/10, as perfect as it might taste. Sure, any decent Chef should not miss his meat (still, many do!) …but here, Chef Lenglet reached newer heights:  this meaty marvel was an outstanding demonstration of balanced texture, flavors and cooking precision. Another 10/10, a rare rating for me when it comes to rating grilled or braised red meat.

Ris de Veau, Soubise de betterave, pleurotte – Many consider Chef Lenglet’s sweetbreads as the best in town. I will surprise you: this dish was perfect in my opinion, but for its accompaniments rather than for the sweetbread. Yes, it is among the best sweetbreads in town. But No, it is not ZE  BEST sweetbread in my opinion. Why? Simply because I had better sweetbread at Club Chasse & Peche for ie. Let’s continue with this very odd discussion: on its own, was this sweetbread perfect? Response: YES! Yes, because this is what sweetbread should be all about, in my view: successful golden exterior, nice moist meaty consistency within. But sweetbread is a bit like soya chunk: it is as tasty as what you’ve decided to mix it with. It was mixed with nothing here. But wait…it was perfect: tasty, well cooked. Now the real deal: I am fed up of those fake Chefs who pretend elevating veggies to newer heights. Most of the time, the concept outweighs the promised magic. Chef Langlet delivered that magic so oftently announced: he cooks veggies better than most of the supposedly world reknown magicians of the greens. I told you, this dish was perfect: a 10/10. Yep!

Concluded with a cheesecake  (Cheesecake aux marrons, Argousier) that paired creativity and delicious taste. Another perfect 10

With, for me:

Gateau Susie, Chocolat blanc, courge – Here, total surprise..again! Usually, most Great Chefs are kings on the savory department and leave the desserts to a pastry Chef. To my surprise, this — a work of a very talented pastry Chef — was the work of Chef Lenglet himself. This was a mix of tasty chunks of choco and delicious fruity creations. ‘Courge’ means ‘pumpkin’ and on this dessert they are discovered under a totally curious and enjoyable angle. A 9 over 10.

Even the Brazilian coffee @ Au 5e Péché was among the best ones I’ve enjoyed in Montreal………

Service: efficient, accomodating, pleasant.
Decor: It is a small bistro. So do no expect tablecloths and hush tone ambience. The menu is on two boards strategically located.
Price: $29 for the sweetbreads, $27 for the beef, $9 for the gateau susie, $8 for the cheese cake to give you an idea. With the quality of ingredient, skillful cuisine at play and relatively generous portion of the food, I found this to be of good value. 
Menu: Short but smartly varied. This evening, they had 5,7 starters (foie gras, oysters, marinated fish, etc),  couple of  main courses (wapiti meat, gnocchi, guinea fowl,  sweetbreads, hanger steak, scallops), 3 desserts.

PROS: In my assessment, this is easily the #1 bistrot in this city at this moment
CONS: As far as I am concerned, Nothing to complain about

I know. It just sounds too good to be true. I myself have hard time believing in the ‘real deals‘ being so oftently ripped off by PR BS or buzz that’s never backed by effective realisations. But  Au 5e Péché does not suffer from that and reached out to its well deserved reputation: one of the best bistro in town, indeed. Even more revealing to me, I consider it as my top #1  best Montrealer Bistrot along with Bistro Cocagne and Kitchen Galerie.  One of those few restaurants  where I’ll go back for sure.

AU 5E PECHE
Overall food rating
(febr 12th 2011): 9/10 Excellent from what I am accustomed  at this level, at comparable dining level
Overall service rating
: 8/10 How are they doing this: despite being buzzy busy busy, they maintain a really good standard of service.
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.

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BEST TABLES OF MONTREAL: Le Club Chasse et Pêche

Event: Dinner at Le Club Chasse et Pêche Restaurant
Friday November  13th, 18:00-21:30
Addr: 423 St Claude Montreal, QC H2Y 3B6
Url: http://www.leclubchasseetpeche.com
Phone: (514) 861-1112
Type of food: High end refined North American dining


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

(English review to follow) – Officiellement, cette table est dans le top 5 Montréalais. Je dirai que c’est exact si je me base sur mon repas du 13 nov 2009.   D’abord, lors de ce repas, j’ai été épaté par le plat de sanglier braisé. Un plat d’anthologie, pas seulement digne des meilleurs 3 Étoiles Michelin mais aussi de la crème des meilleures tables de la planète. Cela a beau sembler exagéré sur papier, mais ne l’est point dans les faits. Puis un plat de morue digne d’un solide 2 étoiles Michelin. Malheureusement, tout ne fut pas parfait: le dessert et l’entrée de pétoncle ne furent pas dignes du triomphe des deux plats précédemment mentionnés. Au final, c’est du top pour sa capacité à surprendre ici et là par un grand coup de magie (le sanglier, par exemple, lors de ce repas confirme que le Chef Pelletier est capable de froler le ciel).

Going to CCP is mystic affair (I love mysticism, it just have to happen naturally and charmingly. Which was the case here) for me: from booking a table over the phone with Ray, one of their staff gentleman (Oh man…this gentleman has that quiet powerful full-in control tone of voice of a young godfather, . Mystic was starting to blow in the air, right there!)…to watching the mystic appeal of their web site…to the choice of a Friday 13th…6PM (yeah..I know, it would be even better at midnight)…to lurk into the dark lanes of the Vieux port…


to the nostalgic soviet acronym (CCP)..to the somber  interior of CCP:
…it was really a feeling I have so rarely experienced before going to a restaurant. Although I truely felt that mystical mood — I could not help myself from stopping to build up on the inside — to be very special/funny/and welcoming since years of intensively eating at restaurants had put aside the sweet excitement I once used to have whenever I was going at restaurants (there are feelings you just cannot control), I was also certain of  one ultimate bottom line result: my judgements will be at the exact heights of my tastebud enthusiasm: mystic or not, I will rave if the food is great and will not hesitate to call a cat a cat if it’s less stellar .

Upon arrival, I am courteously greeted by a dynamic wait staff (very dynamic, helpful, courteous. You can see that they were very well selected, very well trainned). I truely like this refreshing melting pot (from different backgrounds/origins) of well-mannered, professional and yet accessible gentlemen and women. My dedicated waiter, Phillipe Morissette, is a gem of  his own: soft spoken, very well educated + articulated, this cool high class gentleman is service-oriented, very knowledgeable and his past experience at some Relais & Chateaux shows towards his impeccable service (along with Sidonie at XO,  Phillipe  — up to now — is among my personal top two favourite Mtl waiters of 2009).

The decor is dark (the cool kind of dark ), narrow, with low ceilings:


Because of it’s omnipresence of somber colors (oil-painted alike dark grey on the walls, dark burgundy  armchairs, dark colored ceilings and floors),


it brings a cozy feeling but make no mistake: this place is very popular and this evening  was lively (lots of people, great ambiance, nice background music of techno and other type of trendy music types. Background Music was set to perfect volume since you could talk without having to raise the voice and you could easily hear others with them talking at normal tone). Pics were of course taken right at the opening at 6PM, so people were not getting in yet (but less than an hour later, it was packed).

It is important to note that there’ s no official tasting menu at CCP. But they are so accomodating that they will concoct one upon your special request. That  is the case here and I highly appreciated the move:


Course #1: Pan-seared scallop cooked à l’unilatérale
(cooked on one side) with an artful line of fennel cream. The solo big scallop had a succesful sear, was evenly cooked  but I wish it  had more of the fully marine flavour punch and exciting effect of its far better peers. Fortunately, this was not an indication of what would follow next  5/10
Accompanied wine: a 2007 Alsace Bergheim’s white Marceil Deiss pinot. I have a long time soft spot for most wines from Alsace (they are accessible, have a nice light fruity taste I am fond of) and this was no exception. The slight creamy and apple-y flavors of this subtle sweet elegant wine is ideal pairing to the scallop.


Course #2: Sweetbreads/Gremolata/Artichoke

Sweetbreads is a touchy affair. It is bitter by nature but the most talented chefs know how to turn this snicky meaty chunk into a tastebud wonder. And this one at CCP was exactly this: a marvelous tastebud wonder!
Cooked in white wine, the sweetbreads were flavorfully intensily rich, utterly tasty, perfectly smooth on the inside, nicely crispy on the outside. Awesome expert work here to avoid the usual natural bitterness of the sweetbreads and making it very pleasant as I expect my best sweetbreads to stand. The accompaniment of gremolata is a genius classic accompaniment  to veal meats and it was there, and it was a superbly tasty expertly concocted condiment. The light and vibrant mushroomy porcini reduction, the savourish creamy elegant celery-root purée …all added an harmonious multiple dimension of tasting experience to this flawless course. 8.5/10
Accompanied wines: two glasses here. Really a nice touch from Phillipe, my waiter. He is also a sommelier, too. The idea here was to get the short finish light-on-the-palate 2005 Les Fourneaux chablis 1er cru  to reach out with the artichokes accompaniment of the sweetbreads, while his buddy the 2005 Cotes du Jura Chardonnay (more vibrant/with a  long finish and subtle nose of hazelnut)  would take care of the rest of this course:

Not a bad  idea at all since they all paired harmoniously well (particularly on a plate where there was quite a suite of ingredients: gremolata, porcini reduction, celery-root purée).


Course #3: Cod
, oyster flavors, vegetables, Black garlick purée
Smelt very enjoyably freshly flavorful right away. Bathed in a light crème normande , with a fresh flavor of oyster and topped by artful slim slices of beets and carrots with tasty mushroomy accompaniment. Perfectly seared on the outside, with an ideal tender flaky and moist inside consistency. This was total blast in terms of impressive taste, freshness, tastebud amazement: it had that very memorable ‘marine’ flavor I seek in my perfect  freshest pieces of fish. All accompaniments stood out well here: mushrooms were tender and packed of flavorful freshness. The crème normande was very tasty. I want to underlign a particular element on this plate that I would, If I were them, put a patent on:  on the plate, there was a tiny trace of creamy sweet black garlick purée. This was not just original, it was a memorable treat -> heavenly tasty without the bad notes of garlick, this creamy marvel is true genius workout that I have never tasted before and that compete with the Bistro Cocagne’s onion chutney I intensively raved about (check out the review of my Septh 4th Bistro Cocagne’s dinner). Both CCP and Bistro Cocagne should put a patent on the above-mentionned creative dish accompaniments! 9/10
Pairing wine: the 2006 Savigny les Beaune (Domaine Catherine & Claude Maréchal). I had enjoyed some great Savigny Les Beaune (the Les Hauts Jarrons, 1er Cru, Nicolas Potel being one I highly enjoyed) and this one was in the same trend: full bodied, with a refined elegant texture and enjoyably aromatic flavor. Satisfying choice of wine, but I would personally chose a nice white Sauvignon (as usual, question of pure personal prefs).


Course #4: Braised boar/Brussels sprouts/hazelnuts/Caramelized fig
Bathed in a very delicious light and flavorful meaty jus (the juice of the braised boar itself), this course has simply stole the show as my 2009 Mtl’s best main course (along with the Free Form Lasagna I had at XO): with a light amazing tasty crusty coating on the outside (basically a light elegant cheesy coating), perfect browny texture, ideally tender on the inside. This marvel-to-the-tastebud wonder was a genius workout of amazing flavorful meaty taste with accompaniments that were creatively so well thought: the hazelnuts in there were not just another ingredients to try…they were a perfect harmonious addition to the rest of this course. The caramelized fig was pure genius food work: intensely rich and tasty, it was the kind of tastebud amazement marvel that secured for good what I think of this cuisine: one of world’s bests (YES…you are reading this right! Do not go to CCP, order a risotto and complain that I am pushing  a bit too much when I write this. Instead, be more accurate: Go to some of the best restaurants of the world like the Fat Duck, El Bulli, L’Osier, L’Astrance, Hermann. Then head to CCP, try this Braised boar course. Then you will get what I mean! Of course, I am not stating that CCP is as great as those. That is purely subjective and I wont go there. What I am stating is that on this tasting menu, some items compete with the best ones I ate at the Fat Duck, El Bulli, L’Osier..etc). Back to the helluvah heavenly caramelized fig: so it added to an already flawless course, a level that is hard to beat. This, folks, would send even the best tables of the world (El Bulli, Fat Duck) to reflexion. Stunned! 10/10
Pairing wine: Montecillo Gran Reserva 2001. To my tastebuds, this was perfect match with the boar meat. The oaky intense flavor of that MGR 2001 is exactly what I seek for with my game meats.


Course #5: Pan-seared duck liver
, purée of dates, jalapeno flavoured apple jelly
Nice cooking technique here (very close to my two top personal Mtl’s all time best pan-seared foie: refer to my Febr 13th dinner at  L’Eau à la Bouche + the Sept 4th dinner at Bistro Cocagne): beautifully seared, slightly brown on the outside, enoughly smooth (albeit a little bit mushy at some point when I was digging deeper into it, which makes it just a tad behind the impressive one I had at EAB…but with accompaniments that stole the show over it’s similar at EAB…mind you the one I had at EAB had barely any accompaniment…didn’t need accompaniments neither since it was stellar on it’s own self) consistency on the inside. The taste was flawless, very hearty and delicious. It was accompanied by a suite of pure wonders I have got to rave about, because not only they did add a welcoming degree of creativity and well thought additions to the duck liver, they also were very tasty: a delicious sweet fruity purée of dates (talk about adding marvels to the marvelous), a jalapeno flavoured apple jelly (Wowed! Patent..Put a Patent on this, my dear CCP! Heavenly delicious, elegantly concocted) , nice fresh slices of spice bread…all were heavenly breezes to my heart, eyes and tastebuds.  8.5/10
Paired with a QC’s ice cider: that’s the beauty of the new world touch -> as much as I liked my fruity Old world classic wine along with the foie, I must admit that ice cider brings better punch!


Course #6: Paris-Brest topped with a popcorn ice cream
The popcorn ice cream is one I never tried before.This one was surprisingly delicious and elegantly superior (in taste, richness of the flavors) to the usual good ice creams. Heavenly tasty ice cream with bites of nuts that were crunchily nice, but the overall Paris-Brest, although not bad at all, failed to seduce me: the choux pastry ring was nice but not memorable. Same opinion over the pastry cream. I am fond of Paris-Brest, but this one was slightly sub par to the top ones I had at the high end pastry spots of Montreal (Patisserie L’Escurier, for ie). Sorry for the comparison but judgement is an equation of comparisons. So, the Paris-Brest was acceptable but not great. 6/10
 
Just need to underlign a nice little touch from their part, here: the Paris-Brest was served with a nice cup of warm enjoyable light Assam tea. This is a great idea, since the amazing malty light flavor of this type of tea really balanced harmoniously well the sweetness of the Paris Brest. Nice touch!

I found the delay very reasonable between the courses (average of 30 mins between the course, but never mind the numbers here…this is perfect timing to enjoy one course at a time as it is supposed to be!). I sometimes see criticisms about tasting menus being too long: that is a non sense. A tasting menu is supposed to be slowly fully enjoyed. What is a tasting menu if I feel like just stuffing my mouth one food item right after another??

If you ask me, given a complete economical blackout, what Montreal restaurant would be the very last to close, I’d say CCP: get this -> without big advertisements, with just mouth to mouth recommendations, this place is packed of devoted fans. And that is happening with nearby great restaurants like Chez L’Épicer. When success wants you, there is no escape out!  I am sure the owner (s) must laugh at night while sleeping: just mouth to mouth reputation and they end up with one of Mtl’s most admired tables. Well deserved because this is a stunning cuisine! It is also a place that shines with an impeccably well trainned admirable staff (here, I deeply felt that everyone is equally treated with class and full attention with a level of professionalism and accomodation that all restaurants would gain from following).

The only 2 reasons LCCP is getting a VERY GOOD mention from my part, instead of EXCELLENT  (it is very close to Excellent btw, and they truely do not need my opinion to know that. Look at how they are appreciated by armies of food fans…that right there talk for their greatness) is just because I expect such highly talented cuisine to blow my tastebuds with an impressive dessert course  (make no mistake, I am sure they can deliver tastebud blowing desserts like those I enjoyed at EAB, M Sur Masson, Bistro Cocagne and Nuances) + the 1st course of Pan-Seared scallop lacked the fully marine freshness and taste I do expect on an appetizer of Seafood .

On my way to CCP, this Bob Marley song was playing in my mind: ‘there is a natural mystic blowing through the air…’. On my way back, another song was reworked to suit my subsequent feelings: Black Eyed Peas ‘I got a feeling that tonight gonna be a good night’ was simply renamed ‘Tonight was a very good night’. There are moments in your life that are simply filled with greatness, and in this imperfect world of sins and economical turmoils, I pray for such spectacular happyness to spread over the destiny of the less fortunate!

PROS: Some of the savouries were of world class level on this dinner, especially the braised boar and cod
CONS: What were that weak scallop starter and forgettable dessert doing there?

Ok, Folks I am out! For more and better pictures on this dinner, please visit my Google’s Picasa.

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATERI went back two more times, with friends, since that reviewed meal, and based on those visits, I  can indeed safely confirm that the finest food items I had here pertains to world class level. The braised boar, as an example, was as spectacular as any of the best food items at a  world’s top 10 best table, if such top 10 makes sense to you. But I have hard time electing LCCP as a strong favourite, for a very simple reason: some items I had here were not items I would expect at the level of their finest dishes. And that transpired right there on my reviewed meal: the lacklustre scallop, the ordinary paris brest. Still, this is easily in top 5 Montreal’s finest fine dining destinations, even top 3 would make perfect sense. Is it number 1,2,3,4 or 5? Hard to say. Perhaps no one will ever know, since it would take several visits to the very top of Yul’s fine dining ventures  (XO Le restaurant, Toque!, La Porte, L’Européa, Nuances) to really get a strong personal subjective opinion about this matter. Keep in mind that even even as a subjective personal opinion, you will still hit another wall: some are into European cuisine, others French, others North American. Good luck!  

 

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