Restaurant Bonaparte (443 rue Saint-François Xavier, Montreal, Phone 514-844 4368) is a French restaurant offering classic French cuisine in the Vieux Port of Montreal. Their Chef, Gérard Fort, from the French region of Normandie, did work for 3 star Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse years ago.

It has been more than 5 years that I have not dined at Le Bonaparte. I used to frequent Le Bonaparte and Chez Delmo, when I was working nearby. Chez Delmo has changed physically (I miss the old world decor)  and  I found its  culinary performance not as stellar as it once was. Still, Chez Delmo is nice by our (admittedly) not that strong (in general — as there are exceptions, of course) local restaurant standards. Le Bonaparte continued to maintain itself among my preferred classic French restaurants in town.

 

Raviolis de champignons (mushroom raviolis), Proper al dente texture. Champignons de Paris was the appropriate mushroom to use, in this case. Butter/sage sauce using fine quality butter. Tasty 7/10

Navarin de homard a la vanille (Vanilla, muscat wine flavored lobster stew) – Different Chefs, different twists, preparations of navarin sauce can vary widely from the ordinary to the stellar. This one tried to be more contemporary (flavors are not bold, presentation is elegant, the vegetables not cooked in the stew which, for the purist in me, does not really qualify as a lobster stew/ navarin de homard )than traditional (a ragout/ all components are cooked in the stew). Regardless of the twist, I came to expect bold flavors from the best lobster navarin I had. This was a bit too subtle in flavor… for a navarin de homard, though executed properly, with quality ingredients (the butter that they use to make their sauces is of great quality, the creme fraiche too, the muscat wine blends harmoniously well in that sauce).  A good —not great — take on the navarin de homard. And yep, I know, there is a limit to how bold creme fraiche and vanilla can be, BUT I had more exciting lobster navarin that were made of those same components. Still, this, in light of what you will find in Montreal, was good 7/10

Grand Marnier soufflé – a tad less spectacular, in looks, than the one I had recently at Chez la Mere Michel, but airier. The grand marnier fragrance in evidence. Very good. 8/10

Profiteroles- The puff did rise, at some point, for sure, but that was a useless process…as the choux pastry arrived at my table in its non edible form (very hard). I forced myself to eat it just to be polite, fearing the anger of Napoleon Bonaparte….0/10

The flavors are not boldly, but properly French. A compromise between the old (rustic) and the new (the rich flavor is there, but there is also a health-conscious touch in the plate).

Pros: One elegant French classic restaurant in town.

Cons: (1) those profiteroles should not have left any kind of kitchen, even at a hole-in-a-wall eatery, let alone a kitchen charging those prices (2)the pastas served with the navarin de homard was overcooked. A slip that reduced the enjoyment of that dish. Not a badly conceived navarin de homard for a navarin de homard revisited with  a contemporary (a navarin not cooked as a ragout) and international (addition of the pasta) touch, but you will not be floored if you are a purist, although, to be fair, the french technique of the sauce is legit.

Overall food performance (Categ: Montreal Classic French restaurants), a LIGHT  7/10. Fine enough, by Mtl classic French cooking standards, but I was not moved in a way that equivalent restaurants (of same price range, cooking the same type of classic French food), located abroad, not even in France, have been able to move me. I would perhaps rate such meal with a 6/10 if we were in NYC. Others would not forgive the slip of the profiteroles (which I did not forgive, neither, but does a fine enough overall meal deserve a 4 or 5/10 because of some disappointing choux pastry?? I did not think so).

Bottom line: As a reminder, the ratings of my meals are based on the standards set by the direct local competition of the restaurant I am eating at. Consequently, it would be inaccurate to compare my ratings of a French restaurant in Montreal to the one I did rate in New York or Paris. New York has superior French food (Montreal does not have Classic French food that could compete with, say, the likes of NYC’s Le Coucou, Bouley, Le Relais De Venise L’Entrecôte, Balthazar,  etc. ), and France remains, obviously, the reference for that kind of food. It goes without saying that the 7/10 of my review of Le Casse Noix is more accurately a 10 by Montreal restaurant standards, their Ile Flottante and riz au lait a distant dream for Montreal. Therefore, we are in a completely different set of expectations. Whenever a table goes beyond the standards of its direct competition (a pointer: the relevant dish is either a 9/10 or a 10/10) and offers food of world class quality, I will let it know.  Regarding this meal, all I have to say is that French fine dining, at those prices, even when it is fine enough…will always “taste” overpriced if it is not going to stand out …, but I will repeat it one more time: Le Bonaparte is fine enough.

Chez La Mère Michel (1209 Guy St, Montreal, QC Phone: 514- 934-0473) is a classic French restaurant in Montreal that opened over 50 years ago. I could not make it to Chez La Mère Michel, 50 years ago, but here I am, in 2017, attending my first meal ever at this legendary house. The New York Times once submitted “”for dinner, you have to try Chez La Mère Michel, if only because it might just be the finest of Montreal’s more than 4,000 restaurants“.

The menu is concise, featuring great classics of French cuisine such as rognons de veau flambés a l’armagnac, homard nantua, magret de canard sauce aux agrumes, sole de douvres meuniere, the terrines, etc

I ordered:

Oysters “tresors du large” from Iles de la madeleine – Shucked like … it was shucked by someone who would be the defacto winner of a highly prized competition of the best professional oyster shuckers. There are restaurants specializing in oysters, with shuckers for whom, this level of precise shucking is a distant dream. The oysters were first-rate bivalve molluscs, tasting freshly of the sea.

Escargots, beurre a l’ail parfume au ricard (snails in garlic butter with a splash of ricard) – One proper traditional French Escargots beurre a l’ail. Snails of fine quality. To make it healthy, they did not add too much salt to it. I am fine with that. 7/10

The pan-fried dover sole of my friend was a true dover sole, not the pacific dover sole.  Carefully filleted, lightly cooked as it should. Great sourcing of the ingredients and a classic French preparation that was well mastered by the kitchen (seasoning, the work of flavors and textures, everything was of a high level) . 9/10

Coq au vin (that they translated as “genuine french chicken in wine sauce”)  -This classic from Bourgogne is one of my preferred French classics. The recipe, regardless of its variations, is not rocket science, just time consuming. And of course, as it is the case with all recipes, a great palate will make the difference. The best Coq au vin I had were made with wild roosters which flesh led to an intensity of flavor that was a world away from any coq au vin I ever had in Montreal. Chez la Mere Michel’s got close to those souvenirs, except that wild roosters are rarely used nowadays, here and even in France. They use chicken. Technically well executed red wine-based sauce,the french flavor profile on the forefront, the chicken timely braised (the meat not feeling dry). The use of wild rooster would have led to the sort of fuller taste that I came to expect from the best coq au vin I had, but in the context of Montreal restaurants, this was very good. 8/10

 Crêpe Suzette – the friend, I was dining with, is on the look out for some great crêpe Suzette  in Montreal. I think you can find satisfying crêpe Suzette in town, but I doubt you will find one that is done with the “tour de main” and passion of a good classic table in France. Still, I am expecting such house with long years of cooking classic French food to get me a bit closer to what a good crêpe Suzette  can taste at a fine classic restaurant in France. That is exactly what happened at Chez la mere Michel. No more of the tableside presentation that I am fond of (the city does not allow that anymore) , but a crêpe Suzette  that will, in the context of Montreal, get you as close as it can be, to the delicious traditional crêpe Suzette  that past generations of French have long perceived as the way a good traditional crêpe Suzette  should feel, smell and taste like (dazzling genuine flavors, with an exciting orange confit/grand marnier sauce). Beautiful nostalgy! 8/10

Soufflé grand Marnier – I would have liked it a tad airier, but this was done really well, properly risen, with enticing fresh eggy fragrance.  I could not fault the accompanying Crème Anglaise, mixed with a bit of grand marnier. 7/10

Pros: Easily among the best classic French fares I ever had in Montreal.
Cons: N/A

Overall food rating : 8/10 (Category: Best traditional  French restaurants  in Montreal) – The limitation, here, is … the evolution of trends. Since a long time, now, even in France, many are not cooking their Coq au vin in a certain old fashion way (braising a wild rooster, which I remain  partial to). In the case of the Coq au vin, this has been a major  change, a change that transformed this superb classic into an ordinary dish (chicken is nowadays widely used, but however tasty the chicken…it will never match the character of a Coq au vin made with braised wild rooster). That limitation aside, the sauce revealed how talented their Chef was.

That talent was also noticeable when the excellent dover sole was served. Then came the crepe suzette. The most ‘classiquement Francais” of the crepes  suzettes I ever had in town. Not many Chefs, in Montreal, do cook traditional French food this well. I can imagine how special   this house used to be with its service au gueridon (they dropped that).

Bottom line: Chez La Mère Michel may appear divisive (some have raved about it, but they have also been dubbed a tourist trap by others),  but  that has  to do with their desire to please their patrons. I realized it when my waiters told me that they adapt to the taste  of their customers. I immediately told them that I know and love traditional French food and do expect the Chef to express his classic French  cooking freely. They understood that I was not a tourist, and what came from the kitchen was one of the most inspired traditional   French meals I ever enjoyed in Montreal. To think otherwise, I would have to be utterly ignorant of traditional French cuisine, or some aspects of  it, or to confuse it with something else …

What I think days later – Montreal works really hard to ensure that food loses its soul and  should taste of ..nothing:  Fire (smoking, wood / charcoal grilling, flambeeing) elevates the taste of food? Forbidden! Continue like this,  Montreal! Lachez pas! Foodies around the world have long noticed that our city is the most overrated food city in the world, thanks to your ridiculous policies. As for La Mere Michel,  I have no doubt that it used to be even better when you could  flambée your crepe suzettes before the eyes of your patrons and when the “service au guéridon” was still a reality, but  in the context of a city like Montreal, you have worked wonders.

 

 ​MONTREAL – On the fine dining front, Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal was the major restaurant opening of 2017.  I went eating at AJRM in January. It  did deliver the type of cooking I  came to expect from the big majority of the celebrated restaurants in Montreal: some predictable/safe cooking, but of course…it can always be much more inspired when the food journalists or poster-diners have snatched a seat as  can be observed in the interesting difference between what I did experience Vs what stood as a life-shattering revelation to our  food journalists (just google what the food journalists have raved about and enjoy the bromance!).  At least, I can’t say that I did not know what I was getting into: as predicted  in my review of Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal  ” Occasional local diners as well as our local food jounalists will  be impressed while well travelled foodies will be expecting more in light of the standards that AJR has set elsewhere” –  our local  food journalists were inevitably going to  have a blast, a totally different experience from anonymous /normal customers).

Fortunately, I also found, in Montreal, some restaurants that are cooking great food no matter who you are, and as it should be at  serious restaurants: Le Virunga delivered one of the very best meals I ever had in Montreal. Its Chef, Cheffe Maria by Coco Bee, promotes Pan-African  food with a clin d’oeil at Quebecois cooking. Both African and Quebecois cuisines count among my preferred types of food, but the sceptic and purist  in me is traditionally apprehensive when a chef does not focus on one specific type of food. I did not have to worry as this Cheffe has the skills to wipe away any doubts  about her ambitious programme. Skilled, gifted…whatever the flourishes, she deserves praises for what she is doing right now at Le Virunga.

To continue with the good news on the local restaurant scene, Nozy was another gem I discovered this year, with a true skilled Japanese Chef cooking the genuine food of his motherland. I wish long years of success to this amazing true artisan Chef, and plenty of rewards for not running his restaurant from home (directed at  the myriad of pseudo cooks in Montreal, whose head got big, and are at home, watching tv, while their poorly trained assistants are left to themselves cooking food that should not be served at a restaurant).

Two other local restaurants impressed me during this first quarter, Hvor  with a brilliant  Chef at the helm, as well as Marconi of Chef Mehdi Brunet Benkritly, the last real  Chef that Au Pied de Cochon really had. Hvor, in particular, coming to the rescue right after my just correct / safe meal at Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal.

In little India , Maison Indian Curry House  has consistently delivered the best lamb curry  in town, but the lamb curry is not as consistently good as it used to be (sometimes, some of the chunks of meat are hard, while others are tender and  you need to ask them for the non spicy lamb curry, as the spicy sort is not that great). Their thalis and naan bread are not the best in town, all the rest is fine enough to keep MICH among my go-to places.

I also tried Gandhi and the Taj.  Gandhi is not bad, not the best in town, neither,  but  it is a way too pricey for what I was  getting. Le Taj is pretty, but I was not as satisfied, about its food, as much as at some of the restaurants of Little India.

I finally tried the very popular Escondite, which owners are very successful restaurateurs opening plenty of restaurants inspired from various types of cooking: japanese, hawaian and, in the case of Escondite, mexican. I am usually a bit sceptic about that formula (looking for the concept  that sells)  as it is, usually,  mainly about business (japanese style bistrot sells, so let us open one / tapas sells, so let us do the same thing),  rather than the type of artisan Chef cooking (a true artisan Chef who has mastered his craft his entire life and cooks with heart, first ) I deem worthy of my hard earned money, but hey… heart is not going to make you rich, lol, and the owners of Escondite are not promising artisan Chef cooking. Furthermore, they are opening pleasant restaurants offering enjoyable  food and that was the case of Escondite.

I was also curious to look into some of the major sushiyas in town, so I turned to the  local food experts (food journalists, etc), hoping that their recommendations could be useful. They seemed to have found world class sushiyas ran by exceptional itamae, so off I went to find out. Before I elaborate about my incredible findings, I just want you to know that sushiya/sushiyasan/itamae are generally terms that I use not just to enrich any vocabulary or showing up whatever kind of knowledge, but solely by respect to the true Japanese Craftmanship that we know as Sushi making. But in Montreal, whenever you see me using those terms,  keep in mind that it’s with the deliberate intent to be… sarcastic (rightly so, btw). Montreal is not making sushi. It is just molding rice and leaving pieces of fish on it. It could be whatever kind of rice, and anything that bears resemblance to a fish, does not need to be a fish — to be honest with you — and the aftermath (yep, aftermath is the adequate term, here)  will be the same. In case you think I am exaggerating, I will leave you with my reviews of the so-called (by our local experts) best local sushiyas of Montreal:  Jun I, Park, Sushi Yumi. Baffl.., baffled….I was.

 NEW YORK, on the other hand, is the world class foodie destination that we all know.

New York continues to dazzle, and their big gunz seem more concerned about being consistently great rather than waiting after a poster-diner to find some renewed motivation. Two of their latest “hot” restaurants are Ichimura and Le Coucou, both restaurants would qualify as  destination restaurants anywhere around the globe.

I did also visit Sushi Azabu in February, which  continues to be my preferred Sushiya in NYC.

Then a Brooklyn institution known for its cheesecake, Junior’s. According to the local medias, a rich sheikh had one of Junior’s cheesecakes flying over several continents and oceans to be savoured in his palace. I was not as impressed by that cheesecake, but Junior’s (reviewed here) offers some great food.

In Koreantown, I tried two korean bbqs: one that’s very popular, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, as well as Dons Bogam. The former is a fun place, but it was disappointing on the culinary front, whereas the latter is an elite kbbq spot.

I also tried their most talked about ramenya, Ippudo, which I will review soon. I tried the one that is situated at 65 4th Avenue. Ippudo is not an elite  ramen shop, back in Japan, but in New York, it is doing enoughly well to rank among the very best at what it does. If you can detach yourself from the comparisons to Japan, then you won’t fail to appreciate my latest assertion…eventhough, like most ramen fans who happened to have tried some of the best ramenyas of Tokyo, I, too, would have couple of things to reproach to Ippudo NYC.

As with any major foodie destinations, if you let your guard down, you can stumble upon bad eateries, such as Miss Favella in Brooklyn (reviewed here),  but, overall, NY deserves its reputation as  a true world class foodie destination.

 ATLANTIC CITY – At approximately 2hrs drive from New York, you will find the coastal city of Atlantic city, famous for its picturesque ocean views as well as for its casinos. There, I ate at two of their most popular restaurants: Docks oyster house (seafood) as well as Kelsey & Kim’s (soul food). I will go back to Kelsey & Kim’s but not to Docks.

I​n May 2017, I hope I will be able to attend the burger bash in Atlantic city as some serious burgers will be available at that event. Traditionally, I do not take seriously foodie events of that sort, as the competitors are mainly present for promotional purpose, and it is always a joke to try giving your best miles away from the ingredients and tools that made you famous, but the best burgers of the burger bash event are known as some of America’s most serious burgers. You are on the land of the burger, after all. Of particular interest, during this upcoming 2017 episode of the burger bash:
-The Guinness Bacon cheeseburger from the Hard rock cafe. Atop the beef patty, Jameson bacon jam/Guinness cheese sauce/lettuce and tomato.
-The Margate dairy bar and burger’s The MDB Burger which is composed of a mix of short rib and brisket (from Pat LaFrieda)/lettuce/picles/tomato and American cheese. They will use a secret sauce for their burgers, therefore it will be interesting to see how that sauce would have elevated the burger.
-The Metropolitain’s steak au poivre burger (comes with bacon/gruyere cheese) as well as the Bocca coal fired bistro’s pepadew bacon burger (angus burger/aged white cheddar/pepadew relish/cherry wood smoked bacon/buttery brioche roll) are also on my list of burgers to try.
Event: The burger bash Url: acweekly.com/burgerbash
When: Saturday May 20th, 2017 from 1 to 4pm,
Where: The Deck at Golden nugget, Atlantic city

 

The cooking at Le Coucou (Addr: 138 Lafayette St, New York; Phone +1 212-271-4252) has been making headlines around New York  since the  opening of the restaurant in June 2016, with rave reviews  from New York’s major sources of information on their local restaurants: Time Out New York, New York Times, Zagat, Forbes, The Infatuation, Grubstreet, Village Voice and the Wall Street Journal. The Chef , Daniel Rose from Chicago, was an apprentice at Bruneau, when the restaurant was bestowed with 3 Michelin stars (Bruneau  has a sole Michelin star nowadays)  and trained under the supervision of 3 star Michelin Chef   Yannick Alleno (Yannick now owns a duo of 3 star Michelin restaurants in France,  Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen as well as Le 1947 in Courchevel) . Daniel, who  also owns successful restaurants Spring and Chez la vieille in Paris, is offering Classic French cooking at Le Coucou.

I wanted to visit Le Coucou since a  long time, but it is a very popular restaurant and snatching a seat for dinner, here,  can be a bit tricky (they start taking reservations at midnight, 28 days prior to the day you want to book). For pictures of the interior, click here.  Everything else that you need to know about the restaurant is concisely described in this Zagat’s post, therefore I will focus on the food I was sampling.

Here are the food items we did order:

Oysters from Washington DC /seaweed butter – fresh maritime flavor. This, although pleasant, its sourcing great, its execution without reproach…was not going to help me understanding the hype about Le Coucou. 6/10

Endives/ham – Endives salad, with dried Iberico ham, served with a grapefruit vinaigrette. A superlative vinaigrette with fresh acidity and vibrant flavor of the sort that many restaurants have long forgotten about. That vinaigrette, as well as the rest of the condiments will be showered with praises, deservedly so, but the overall salad, although enjoyable, was not going to leave any lasting impression. Upon finishing this dish, all I had in mind, is the picture of Le coucou, that small unimpressive bird…though, do not get me wrong: the endives and oysters were made by a competent kitchen brigade, I am not denying that. But in light of the hype, I was expecting more. 6/10

I chose the veal tongue / golden ossetra caviar / creme fraiche – a thick slab of veal tongue, firm in consistency, with, of course, some room for proper chew. This is how a certain generation of French used to prefer their veal tongue. A feeling of a bistrot of la ´France rurale’. I appreciate that Daniel brought such memories back. 8/10 for the quality veal tongue, 10/10 for the dazzling (and pertinent, to this dish) homemade creme fraiche (it is rare for a creme fraiche at a top French table, in North America, ​to be packed with such exciting lactic freshness).

My girlfriend did opt for the Lobster salad, lettuce – on the side a dazzling lobster sauce mixed with egg yolk. 10/10 for that sauce. Perfectly well grilled small piece of tasty quality lobster. 7/10 for the lobster. Hard to tell when you look at the picture above, but there was a big lettuce, next to a tiny piece of lobster ..and that did not sit well with me (quite a weird sight, I found). May as well call it “lettuce salad” …. “avec un soupcon de queue de homard” ….

Lamb rack, egg plants, tomatoes stuffed with “choulder and chard” – faultless cooking with requested medium-rare doneness achieved successfully, quality lamb from Colorado, first-rate lamb jus sauce (mixed with red wine). 8/10 for the lamb, 10/10 for that exciting lamb jus. Clearly, this saucier is crazy … ;)

Prime filet of beef/bone marrow jus/oxtail potatoes – served with a dazzling sauce bordelaise (10/10), the filet mignon of superb quality (8/10),

Braised oxtail / potatoes boasting superlative textures and flavor. This would NOT be out of place at  a serious classic French 3 star Michelin table (10/10).

Cheeses (Aretheusa Blue, O’bannon Goat, Overjarige gouda, Hooligan, Red Hawk) of good quality, from several parts of the US as well as abroad, all served with a first rate sauce of plum/ porto. When sauces are done this well, all I can say is that “you are a first-rate french restaurant”!

Wine service and selection is of prime mention, here.

For desserts, we had:

Riz au lait (rice pudding) — My idea of the perfect riz au lait is the one that Bistrot Le Casse -Noix did serve me, years ago, in Paris. When it comes to the rice pudding, I do not like too many extra ingredients. At le Coucou, Le riz au lait comes with extra ingredients: chartreuse, pistachio. This rice pudding was still enjoyable with one flavor profile that some French of a certain generation will remember, only it is revisited and was well made (6/10)

Roasted pineapple is a simple dessert, consequently there is no shortage of decent roasted pineapples at good restaurants. What’s rare, though, are roasted pineapples that stand out. For some reason, the equation roasted pineapple=quality pineapple+dazzling flavors is an equation that is not taken as seriously as it should by many kitchen brigades. Mind you, who is going to blame a Chef, in the west, for not losing a sleep over some tropical fruits? Le Coucou is one rare restaurant, in the west, that does not underestimate that aspect, as the pineapple that they did use seemed to have been carefully hand picked at its optimal stage of ripeness. The roasted pineapple was served  with a yellow chartreuse sorbet and a touch of olive oil. This roasted pineapple was packed with memorable fruity aromas, a benchmark of its kind (10/10)

We also had a technically flawless  chiboust (impossibly light and delicate), with well judged meringue to pastry cream ratio. 9/10

As well as a coconut financier  with exciting fresh coconut flavor. The coconuts are from the Caribbean and are grated for their  financier. The sourcing of the coconut was not an afterthought, the technique of high level (9/10).  The talented Pastry Chef Daniel Skurnick, who worked previously for some of this globe’s best restaurants (The River Café, Jean-Georges)  is their current Pastry Chef.

Pros: First-rate updated French sauces. A meal as well as an overall dining experience with many highlights!
Cons: For my pineapple juice, may I suggest that you use that same outstanding pineapple you did use to make the ananas roti? Also:  c’mon folks…..that lobster / lettuce menu item…I mean…c’mon, that is more “coucou” the unimpressive bird than a “crowned eagle” …Lol.

The hospitality standards are up there with what the grand tables of this planet have to offer, minus the heavy decorum that can be found in some houses. The restaurant has a tiny but prettily decorated bar at the entrance. On the wall of that bar (you cannot sit there, btw), a painting that will remind you of Provence. It is the kind of bars you see in movies. The rest of the decor is lavishly styled, with chandeliers, candles on every table, large glass windows, vaulted ceiling, a modern open kitchen.

Overall food rating: 9/10 (Categ: Fine dining, Top tier French restaurant outside of France, Top tier restaurant in New York) –  Hey, mon Coucou, I have no clue if your sauces are always as dazzling as on the evening of my visit, but with sauces of this caliber… , I am flying, too!!!

Bottom line: I made it difficult for Le Coucou. I went there on a Monday, generally a quiet evening, when the best cooks of a kitchen brigade tend to stay at home. I decided not to take their most popular dishes (pike quenelles, tout le lapin, bourride). I brought my girlfriend, a hard-to-please diner. And the star Chef, Daniel Rose was not present. When the meal started, I was certain that I was going to corner the bird and accuse it of not living up to its hype. The oysters and anchovies were fine, but given the hype, they did not deliver the emotions we came for, therefore I was determined to “pluck the feathers” of the bird. But Le coucou fought back, and the bird went on cruising at exceptional altitudes. By the time the beef filet and carre d’agneau arrived at our table, the bird was out of reach, really high in the skies. Then the desserts were served, and I received a note, falling from the sky “coucou, I am not… I am actually a crowned eagle, ca te va? ” Crowned eagle, you are, buddy! Can’t agree more. Ca me va! Hype is always too much, oftently impossible to live up to, but Le Coucou deserves its reputation. It is, right now, a destination restaurant serving some of the very best French fares outside of France. And it happens to have an interior that is very easy on the eyes.

What I think weeks later: Daniel Rose is a TRUE / REAL Chef. You know you are dealing with a REAL Chef when his absence is not felt at all. That is because GREAT Chefs will never leave a kitchen in the hands of poorly trained cooks. I have no clue where Daniel was, on that evening, but if he happened to be at a bar, in the carribbean, sipping a pina colada while I was dining at his restaurant..I swear, I would take a plane, right away, fly to his hideaway and thank him…which, if you have read this blog, is not my normal reaction in such circumstance. Lol. But that is the thing: Daniel is a GREAT Chef! Michelin, please continue to stay away…Le Coucou is a bird that is great, the way it is right now, free from the ridiculous rules that have killed so many talents. Please, please …  DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, dear Michelin! Go elsewhere. Lol

 

 

 

License IV (Addr: 1524 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Phone 514-938-8084, http://licence4.ca) offers classic French cuisine. The restaurant has just opened a few days ago, and it is a foodie friend who notified me about its opening as no serious restaurant-related online source has mentioned it. Given the ever growing French community in Quebec, I am surprised there are not that many restaurants cooking classic French fares. Perhaps the newer generations of the French are not into raclettes and crepes suzettes? Montreal will find that out, soon, as License IV brings such beautiful memories back.

It’s actually because I kept complaining that there are not many places making crepes suzette in the beautiful old fashion way, and not many places doing great tartiflettes in Montreal, that my foodie friend has suggested that I try License IV. “You won’t believe me…there is that new place cooking French food and that has crepe suzette and tartiflette on its menu“… he submitted.

License IV does not joke about its French identity:  It has a brasserie feel  (cute french brasserie looks, btw, with dark wood and green tones), songs like ´enfants de tout pays‘ and ´mon manege a moi” , do proudly play through their quality speakers.  The wait staff is from France. A true feeling of being agreeably transported to l’hexagone, which is to  my liking.

Moules marinières, celeri, beurre, vin blanc, onion, roquette, tomate $13 – it was easy to see that the Chef was properly trained in classic french cuisine as the flavor profile was genuine. There are different recipes for moules marinieres, and theirs was tasty as it’s supposed to be when using flavor-enhancing ingredients such as onion, celeriac, tomatoes and butter, and yet that (the tastynes of moules marinieres) is not always a given as the Chef still needs to have a good palate (which was the case, here).  Well done! 7/10

Escapade d’escargot poeles , sauce tomate, poivron, estragon, oignons, pastis $11 – land snail cooked in tomatoes. Again, genuine classic French flavors. The only limitation I could see …having nothing to do with the kitchen: the same ingredients, in some parts of France, are better. Still, no complaint at all. This is one proper French-based recipe of a dish of cooked snail in the context of a city like Montreal. 7/10

Bouillabaise , homard, saumon, morue, crevettes, moules, fond tomate, pomme de terre vapeur, pastis, croutons, rouille $28 – If you had your share of bouillabaise in the right places in France, you surely have your preferred ones. Many recipes have their own twists. No matter the twist, my preferred bouillabaise had their bold maritime flavor at the forefront. This did not, though make no mistake, the seafood was of good quality and had flavor (their flavors  did not take a break as it was the case of the recent oysters I had at Docks Oyster House). I also would have preferred a bit more of the saffron. The piece of additional lemon confit was not a bad idea. All in all, a bouillabaise that was not bad, but it was a bit less eventful, for my taste, when compared to the best bouillabaises I had.

Wrapped up my meal with the crepe suzette. This is a bistrot, not a restaurant offering French haute cuisine, so no tableside presentation of your crepes suzette, as, say, at Taillevent (Paris) – which, is traditionally my preference. Regardless, I know what to expect from my crepe suzette. Both the crepe and its grand marnier/orange sauce were done properly. 7/10

All in all: 7/10 (Category: French bistrot in Montreal) – Condiments are well done, here. Classic French flavors are properly expressed, ingredients are as great as they can be at a restaurant in Montreal. Lifting up the maritime flavor of that bouillabaise would be, realistically, what they could have improved during this meal. Everything else was fine. I doubt the bread is baked in house (I did not ask them), mais putain qu’il était bon, ce pain baguette!   Service is perfect. This is a good addition to the Montreal restaurant scene. I will go back and see if they have the tartiflette  (it was not available the day of my visit). I hope they beat the best tartiflette I ever had in Quebec (One that Chef Anne  Desjardins had, once, cooked when her restaurant, L’eau à la bouche was still open in Sainte-Adèle).

Docks Oyster House (2401 Atlantic Ave, Atlantic city, Phone 609-345-0092 Url: http://www.docksoysterhouse.com) is an institution in Atlantic city, having fed its share of mouths for more than a century (since 1897).It is their destination seafood restaurant, in Atlantic city, with Zagat considering it as an iconic Jersey shore eat, the thrillist calling it ´quintessential’. Great then, as I happen to be a longtime seafood fan, and perhaps a bit more than just your average seafood fan as growing up in a fishermen village was not just an opportunity to appreciate the scenery of the village, in my case.

On to the food:

Lettuce/cranberry/grapefruit/apple salad – the ingredients were fine, on their own, but the apples and grapefruit did not manage to lift that salad to another level (which is possible as done elsewhere, with the exact same ingredients). Complete absence of cohesion between its  ingredients. This  had the effect of 3 ordinary salads in one.  5/10

I wanted to test a bit the technique of the kitchen brigade, therefore I ordered the pommes souffles. The pommes souffles had no crisp (tired-looking elasticky texture), the potato flavor muted. 3/10

Desperately looking for a way to improve the enjoyment of my food, I took matters into my own hands and I decided to “stop asking what the kitchen can do for me” and to … “ask myself what I could do for the kitchen“. I found the safest solution one can think of, at a seafood restaurant: oysters! The kitchen will just have to shuck them. I therefore ordered, not just one type but a variety of oysters, to …multiply the pleasure … of what can’t fail to be a joy in mouth. A platter of bivalve molluscs made a spectacular appearance at my table: cape may salts (Cape May, New Jersey), malpeque (prince edward island), rappahannock (Virginia), blue points (Long island), chesapeake bay (Maryland), Long island medium (Norwalk, connecticut). The mignonette sauce as well as the ketchup/horse radish/lemon/tabasco sauce were properly done. I particularly liked the latter. However, I tasted every single oyster without any sauce and I was surprised that none of them had any flavor. Yep, you read this well: zero flavor! I do not know for you, but on my side of the wall, oysters do have a flavor. They can be farm-raised, they can come from the sea, some have less flavor than others, but they do have a flavor! What I was having, despite the variety of oysters that I ordered, were uniformly flavorless oysters. I mean, I know my palate perceives the seafood of the Atlantic ocean as less flavorful than their cousins of the Indian Ocean and the mediterranean sea, but the bivalve molluscs of the Atlantic ocean are still flavorful as they have been right here, in Atlantic city, at (at least) two other seafood eateries I ate at on that same week I dined at DOH. Therefore, it is not as if the nearby Atlantic ocean had just lost its maritime flavor or that the oysters served in Atlantic city happened to be on strike, their union deciding they would be devoid of any flavor on that particular week. 0/10

I came here for their lobster. They are known for their sizeable lobsters. Their lobsters come from the Maine, and have not seen any sign of hunger and drought. The babies are big, they look healthy, and if eating a 2lbs lobster is the norm your side of the wall, well here, those babies can triple that weight, as lobsters of 5, 6 or even 7lbs are waiting for you. They steamed mine correctly, as expected from any eatery offering seafood. But the lobster dipping sauce was like the … oysters: flavorless. Who knew that a sauce that’s supposed to be made of butter and garlic and lemon juice…all ingredients used to enhance flavor… would taste of  the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to taste? That is purely and simply hard to forgive. ​Ok, Houston, we have  a problem here! There is a reason that sauce is served with lobster, and that reason is to accentuate the flavor of the lobster. This  seemed  not  “obvious” enough to someone in the kitchen at DOH on that specific evening …

I initially had planned to order a dessert, but in light of what kept coming from the kitchen, I figured that was not a good idea.

Pros: They have the standard of hospitality I never fail to be partial to. They have the cachet of an elegant French brasserie (the main floor), which I am fond of. The dining room, upstairs, is pretty in its elegant simplicity. Even their restrooms, upstairs, caught my attention. DOH has all it takes to make me fall in love with a restaurant, except …

Cons: … the food I was having on that visit.

Overall food rating: 5/10

Bottom line: A bad night, for the food? Well, I hope. Seafood is pricey though, so I will let those who are paid to dine at restaurants and those whose meals are paid by others…to find out if the oysters and the lobster’s butter/garlic/lemon dipping sauce have reconnected with the flavors we came to expect from them, virtually everywhere in Atlantic city and around the world. I pay my meals with my hard earned money, therefore I’ll look forward to better seafood, elsewhere, next time I will drop by Jersey shore.

While visiting Atlantic city, I ate at another one of their most popular eateries (the other popular local restaurant that I tried is Docks oyster House, which was reviewed here), southern soul cooking  restaurant Kelsey & Kim’s southern cafe (201 Melrose str, Atlantic city, Phone: +1 609-350-6800, Facebook link) –

Southern fried chicken (wings and breast were my choice) – Cooked fresh to order (this is what they wrote on the menu and it was not a tease as that is exactly what they did in reality), the chicken was delicious and moist and seasoned exquisitely, the genuine flavor profile of african american southern soul food in evidence. This came with a choice of two sides (I chose the collard greens as well as the  macaroni and cheese)  7/10

Collard greens (the leaves timely cooked, meaning not overcooked), tasting  great (superb classic southern seasoning) 8/10

Corn bread was pretty to espy and its execution as great as its looks, its taste deserving of the same compliments as its looks and execution (superb fresh corn flavor) 9/10.

Macaroni and cheese had a flavorful comforting homey taste to it, one forkful calling for the next. 7/10

Crab cake had decent  crab flavor, the quantity of crab meat was generous. The crab cake was served with a freshly made cole slaw as well as good french fries 7/10

All in all:  I am partial to artisan Chef cooking (a Chef cooking for real, instead of one who thinks he has enough awards to supervise an army), which is the type of cooking that is happening here at Kelsey & Kim’s. But then, it has to be done skillfully. That, too, is a reality, under their roof. This is one fine southern soul cooking, worthy of your time and hard earned money, to be enjoyed between New York and New Jersey. I will happily go back. No reservation for lunch, just walk-ins. Just remember that it is a bit far from the busiest part of the boardwalk (far from where the hotels Ceasars and Bally’s are situated), so you will need a car (taxis and uber are available in AC) to get there if you are staying near the above mentioned hotels.