Brasserie T, Montreal
Addr: 1425 RUE JEANNE-MANCE Montréal, Québec, H2X 2J4
Phone: 514 282-0808
Type of food: North American Bistrot
Call and book, even if you are around and want to eat there within the 15mins, 30 mins, 45mins, 1 hr that follows. It took me a while to get the trick, and as always..this is the kind of practical infos I wish most Mtl food bloggers would write about intead of the usual one directional raves. I do not mind raves, after all if you are happy, then let it know..but while you are there writing about something, bring a bit more than just the eternal “humm..c’etait bon” or “merde..c’etait nul!!”……………….lol. Anyways, they do always accept people who pass by, but you might have to wait a bit if you do so. So just use the phone call trick even if you happen to already be nearby.
Brasserie T is co-owned by a woman I have always valued as one of world’s best professionals of the restaurant world, Madame Christine Lamarche. Whoever you are, however you are dressed, whatever you say, this woman is one of the very rare hosts (she is actually not usually found at Brasserie T, but omnipresent at their stonghold, restaurant Toque!) who will have real consideration for who you are. In other words, even if the Cheikh of Brunei is there, behind you queueing (lol), she will still consider you as important as the Cheikh. When I said this to my waiter (A gentleman from France), he added: she is also one of the very rare owners who pays her bill, at her own restaurant, as if she was a normal customer. What a woman! If that means nothing to you, well it means a lot to me. This is the kind of person I highly regard and to me, Madame Lamarche will always be one of the exceptional few greatest women of the restaurant industry (I actually have only Nadia Santini in mind when I think about the other greatest woman of this industry, Chef Santini being the only Chef who banished any hierarchy notion —- you know, the bullshittin “I am god, you are the 2nd, he is the 3rd and that one is just the dishwasher type of 10th Century obsolete mentality…..” from her kitchen.
On this lunch, I went with two very basic dishes. For anyone who has cooked for years, it goes without saying that you do not need tons of food to assess the level of a given eatery. One single item can be all you need. I took two: (1) their $15 or $22 beef tartare with salad. I always take the pricier one, not because I want to play the big star diner (no need to, I can do better at home) but because I want the kitchen to not worry about sizing this or that item for this or that price. I am giving you carte blanche for the most elaborate item, so just focus on what needs to be delivered: the food! I thus went for the $22 beef tartare. Well done, nice balance of acidity, good quality of beef. So a deservedly 8/10 (very good tartare, indeed), but at $22, I am not a big buyer. A bit pricey, I found (for the size and even quality — since the quality was undeniable — BUT I’d opt for anything in the $15-$18 range based on what is commonly offered in Montreal). I mean, as very good as this was, it was still setting no benchmark as far as tartare goes in Montreal. Still, very good. And they still have plenty of other courses (that I saw other people ordering) which had a good ratio between quantity and price (they had on this lunch , couple of “menu du jour” items that were reasonable in price (less that $20).
Then a steak bavette, at $22. In my opinion, this was just an Ok steak bavette (6/10, for me) though ‘just OK’ means actually ‘great’ by Montreal steak bavette restaurant standards (this also applies to my experience with most Parisian bistrots too): the meat tasting good, its sear perfect. But I can’t figure a higher score for it for the simple reasons that (1) I want my steak bavette better tenderized (make no mistake: this one was tender enough, but it could have been even more tender) and (2) although its taste was beefy enough, I wanted that steak bavette to shine with deeper beef flavor. Again, I came to identical conclusions at virtually 99% of the eateries known to have the best steak bavettes may it be here in Montreal or in Paris (the next lines might explain why). Am I looking for the moon, then? NOPE! Here’s the thing about steak bavettes: more than any other cut, you need it sliced expertly so that the beef flavor is at its peak or else half of the steak enjoyment is gone. The problem is that –like to hear this or not — few butchers know the REAL ultimate proper way of slicing it. It’s like with anything else: everyone thinks they know how to drive a car…..but the reality that hurts is that everyone knows how to get the wheels spinning … driving, well that is another story (that applies to the vast majority of people, I am no exception) ;p Then you have the marinade. It is a tough cut, as we all know, so the timing of the marinating process (not enoughly long) is perhaps the other explanation to the not-that-startling 99% of bavette steaks I have sampled in Paris and Montreal, this one at Bistrot T included. So, the butcher’s slicing or the marinade??? Hard to know where the problem lies (I am a normal diner, not the butcher’s and kitchen’s marinade inspector, rfaol) but the big majority of diners (after all, and I can’t underline it enough: that is the norm of most great steak bavettes you’ll find here and in Paris) are obviously happy with this standard of the steak bavette. Do I have a reference point for the type of steak bavette I am idealizing? YES…or else I’d not have spent my time with all the above mentioned details AND I do not score a number if I have nothing to compare it to: in Montreal, up to around 7,8 years ago, there was a Belgian woman who made the finest bavette steaks I ever had in Montreal and in Paris. She had that eatery in Le Village, on Sainte Catherine Street (not far from Metro Beaudry). To put it boldly, she was making the bavette steak by which I had no other choice but to judge all other bavette steaks in Montreal and Paris, all dining standards included..YEP!..u’ve read this properly (If you know who I am talking about, let me know where she went?? Ou est-elle svp??). Her steak bavette’s tender texture was a work of unusual patience, timing and dedication to the little details that can make simple things great. But there was more to her perfectionism: she would slice her meat herself, complaining about even the finest butchers not really knowing that much about meats, lol. She used to mock them arguing that most knew how to slice the common ‘easy to sell and easy to slice’ cuts, but when it came to the ‘trickier’ cuts, they were weak. The Belgian woman knew also how to walk the walk: she was herself an exceptional artisan butcher. I have never had a better steak bavette in Montreal, and had only two or three versions that got close to that Belgian woman’s steak in Paris. Rest assured: Bistrot’s T steak bavette is what most diners will find great. But what that Belgian woman did was so outstanding that it makes all other steak bavettes ordinary, years after she has closed her restaurant.
I ended with a Brazilian coffee (lol..what do u want..the exotical soul in mine will never go away, rfaol), but at $11 on lunch time, am I am wrong 2 suggest that it is a bit too $$$. I may be wrong, as usual, especially given how that gem was elegantly concocted, but still…..such a tiny quantity of Brazilian coffee, at perhaps $8 or $9 would have ……….my mouth…shut ;p Still, done way better than at a myriad of places in Montreal.
Service is exactly what I expect at a bistrot of this calibre: classy, present when it should. But again, this is not a Michelin star restaurant, so do not expect the waiter to pour the wine at will. It is a bistrot, ding dong! Lol
Pros: the terrace is fun and you can’t go wrong with anything related to Madame Lamarche/Toque!.
Cons: N/A But remember, it’s basically a cube of glass, so the limitation in space is normal.
Overall rating: 7/10 Solid bistrot standard as expected from the sister restaurant of one of Montreal’s finest dining destinations (restaurant Toque!) . Do not be surprised, on some instances, to stumble upon performances that even rise beyond the 7/10 standards. Just remember: it is a bistrot, so if you happen to expect the moon (gourmet offerings, wow effect , then the problem is obviously not the restaurant BUT the misleading expectations).