Dinner on Saturday Aug 24th 2013, 19:00
Type of Cuisine: North American, Market Cuisine Bistro
Type of place: feels homey, not fancy
60 Rue Jean-Talon Est, Montreal, QC
In Montreal, there are hundreds of bistrots. But few do really count among my favourite (the ones I feel comfortable to submit in my top tier). There are actually 5 or 6 that I would really consider in my top tier, no more. Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon (not to be confused with their sister bistrot, Kitchen Galerie Poisson, that I visited once and did not like at all) is among those few ones, and in its prime, it has proven to be a benchmark bistrot by Montreal standards. On lesser impressive meals (all our favourite places have ups and downs), it still remained one of the good bistrots of Montreal.
When my wife and I do go there, we usually take the cote de boeuf for two, a generous meaty marvel that could easily feed 3 persons. But we are getting old and our body is not able anymore to coop with that beast, lol. Still, easily among the tastiest, if not the tastiest cote de boeuf for two you’ll find in Montreal. Of course, the quality of the meat plays a great role here, but there’s more: they simply seem to have plenty of fun doing that cote de boeuf and the savourishness, joyous flavors of that dish have been remarkable.
The best meal we had at KG was the very first one. Dish after dish, they kept delivering bistrots fares of uncommon deliciousness. It remains, years later, the meal by which I judge all other bistrots meals in Montreal.
Susbsequent meals were fine, just not as stunning as that first one. One great mistery has been the ‘Foie Gras Poélé, Tarte tatin aux pommes, Sauce Caramel”. The first time I had it at KG on Jean Talon, I would look straight in your eyes and elect that version as one of this globe’s finest bistrot items. I do not take that kind of risk on superlatives for the sake of trying to sound sensational, if I am confident with such bold statement that is because it was simply that stunning. Even the devil would not have enough arguments to convince me of the opposite. But I have never re-experienced that marvel, its other versions happened to just be Ok (the sweetness less sensational, the tarte tartin simply less fruity) . And yet I never lost faith in KG on Jean Talon as a top Montrealer bistrot.
This evening, both my wife and I sat at their counter , and decided to give another chance to the ‘Foie Gras Poélé, Tarte tatin aux pommes, Sauce Caramel”. For some reason, my wife was very happy with the dish –probably because she is more interested by th efoie gras, which was great, rather than the tarte tatin — , while I was torn in between the successful piece of fresh foie gras (8/10 – the sear perfect, the deep livery mouthfeel exciting; if you think that such easy item can’t be faulted, think twice: many, many..even among this globe’s most ambitious dining destinations, seem to not be always capable to pull off such exciting piece of foie gras, perhaps because it’s not the kind of details that the most look for…as some would say: foie gras is foie gras, lol. Not my case, I want my foie gras to have perfect caramelization, the deep livery flavor exciting) and the tarte tatin (0/10 – what happened to the once startling tarte tartin?? On this evening, it was tiny in size and incredibly dry ).
Then my wife picked a salmon tartare. Delicious in mouth, with judicious seasoning, the kick of acidity really well balanced. The accompanied salad vibrant in mouth. Easy easy bistrot fare and yet I always wonder how come many bistrots have hard time getting it this right?? Lol. 8/10
For me, a dish of roasted beef filet with roasted potatoes. Again, spot on seasoning and exciting mouthfeel. All things you would expect from such simple bistrot fare, but they make it happen where many are debating about it. One thing though: I’d appreciate a bit more potatoes, and I’d add some carrots or other root vegetables. 8/10
For dessert, I do not expect miracles in bistrots. If bistrots in France are not always able to pull off startling French desserts, I dont see why I should expect the moon from desserts at a North American bistrot. And yet, they are doing things the way I was taught to cook, which naturally means the way I appreciate: a simple crème brulée was not going to be served without Chef Axel verifying how it was done by the trainee who made it . I think even the trainee was surprised: when was the last time you saw a Chef bothering about an item as simple as a crème brulée?? When?? For sure, this is not the type of things that will wow the most, and I do understand that, but for me that is what REAL cooking should always be about: the little details!! The crème brulée, excellent (the custard well done, its consistency lusciously rendered avoiding the overly rich/thick disgusting heavy creamy feel that some try to sometimes sell as authentic just because they can’t make a proper one).
Less successful was the eclair, which was not startling, not bad neither. But again, it is a bistrot, not a pastry shop
Pros: If you are going to throw that kind of simple but well executed delicious food, of course I’ll fall for you.
Cons: Hey..what is happening to the tarte tatin, Lol?? Folks…I don’t get that one, Rfaol!!!!
My overall score for this meal: 8/10 for this type (traditional/rustic but somehow with a modern touch ) North American bistrot (by Montreal standards). Simple bistrot fare, so it’s easy to overlook the little details that make things great, but that is where KG shines: they somehow manage to make the little things that many fail to notice…GREAT. And that is why KG is still a favourite for me. As long as they have trainees / new cooks who understand that principle, this will remain one of Montreal finest bistrots. I was also impressed to see those young trainees doing exciting versions of mom-and -pop sauces. Such young souls …being able to replicate the authentic joyous flavors of the past in an improved way —that is to me, an achievement! And there was more on this evening: they had a take of the duck confit that looked/smelled (I did not taste it, it was served to the gentleman seating next to me ) like what I wish many French bistrots in France will start understanding: a great duck confit can keep its traditional spirit and yet be exciting at touch/smell/ looks (I have no doubt the taste followed, given the joyous flavours found on the dishes I have sampled ) …. It does not need to be dry and tasteless in order to be authentic!!!!!!!!!!!
Conclusion: Eventhough I have not re-experienced the ‘magic’ of that stunning first meal, KG (the one on Jean Talon) continues to deserve its position in the top tier of Montreal bistrots. Some restaurants master the art of going from hero to zero simply because they are managed by people who are not capable of being reliable. That is not the case of KG and it is easy to see why: Chefs Axel and Mathieu Bourdages are working hard in their kitchen, instead of parading on TV, and they are doing it with pride and fun. No shortcuts are taken. KG has proven one more time that a team that’s talented and having fun together will always prevail against the drawbacks of success (lack of consistency, etc ). They are consistent, their deserved success never got to their head, and their food tastes good. The D in Delicious!