All reviews of my Michelin star meals are listed on the left, from the higher to lower rated meals. I am sorry if my reviews are sparse, I just don’t believe in ‘quantity of visited restaurants” as an important factor in dining. Even if I was rich, I would not move away from that principle, trust me. I go to restaurants only when I feel the place has potential to really please me or teach me something. The fault to my long years of cooking, lol.
Latest updates: the September 2013 meals at 3 Michelin star restaurants L’Arpège (Paris) and Le Louis XV (Monte Carlo) — Chef Passard continues to be an exceptional Chef as proven by the best dishes of that meal, L’Arpège remains a very strong 3 star Michelin, one of the few that I can comfortably call a ‘favourite’. Many upscale tables appear flawless on the surface, but few are able to pull off exciting food matching the amazement of the finest dishes of this Lunch at L’Arpège. What was even more impressive, in my view, is that the dishes I did not like were still admirable. I did not like them because they did not please my palate, but they still had a sense of perfection/ soul/depth/pride and whatever attributes I find many tables have lost since a long time. Just remember that it is different from the usual fla fla of haute dining, so do your homework and inform yourself a lot about it (its style, the kind of place, the kind of food, etc) before heading there. For my French compatriots, I drew this picture, in French, my mother tongue, of my latest meal there at L’Arpège.
In the case of Le Louis XV, the savouries of that particular lunch left me wanting for more, but let’s give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar: it’s a dining place of exception, and their pastry team can work wonders. Furthermore, the magic landscapes of the Mediterranea largely makes up for any shortcomings.
Then a great finding in Nice, Bistrot d’ Antoine(Sept 2013), the incredible big plump Roumégous (http://www.huitres-roumegous.com/) oysters at Café Turin in Nice (that’s coming from someone who grew up with some of the finest oysters at a stone throw of his birthplace) and it was exciting to re-experience the fabulous riz au lait and Ile flottante of my tender childhood in France at Bistrot le Casse Noix in Paris (that is like trying to find a great lièvre à la royale, almost impossible to find since most of the new gen cooks are busier practicing with laughable juxtaposition of textures like kids with lego games rather than educating their palate with the REAL great food of their elders).
On Montreal, nothing really interesting (plenty of buzz/noise as usual, which always sounds nice, but only to end up with the same old wheel. Montreal restaurant scene has hard time pulling off some new excitement, which I thought was the point of cooking (having fun, showcasing creativity, believing in something different but done well) ever since I started cooking in my tender childhood. But still, some places do maintain the bar high: it was a pleasure to continue to find Pizza Bottega on St-Zotique (not just a Pizzeria but also a great Italian Bistrot) to be as great as ever as well as enjoying what I do believe to be the best rib eye steak in Montreal at this moment (Le Marchand du Bourg’s 40 days dry aged Certified Quebecois Black Angus rib eye). Mr Bourg is an inspired artisan, now more and more busy because of his success, but I trust that he will keep his exceptional artisan standards as high as they are right now and his success is well deserved.
My pick for #1 fine dining destination in Montreal is now Restaurant La Porte (It used to be Hotel St James XO Le Restaurant, but Chef Michele Mercuri is not working there anymore, so I can’t tell if XO Le Restaurant is still as great before re-visiting the place). Au Pied de Cochon, even if I find it less spectacular compared to the days under Chef Hugues Dufour (now at M. Wells Dinette, Long Island City, NY), continues to stand out as a bistrot that does something refreshingly different and doing it well. Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon remains a top bistrot that is not roaming away from what food needs to essentially be: delicious.
Worth noting: a serious coup de Coeur in 2013, in Montreal, was the discovery of Ramen Misoya (2065 Bishop St / (514) 373-4888). Before going there, couple of friends I know were not that impressed by Ramen Misoya and have suggested few other ramen places they highly regarded . So I tried both their recommendations as well as Ramen Misoya. To my surprise, the difference in quality of the cooking (between Ramen Misoya and the others) was considerable. Ramen Misoya having the edge in all respects: precision of the cooking, depth of flavor, exciting seasoning, great work of the texture, better technique, a really good Cha Shu. I can understand that taste is subjective, but I was still surprised that amateurish takes on ramen (most being a tad better than the dollar store instant noodle) would have a chance to be compared to Ramen Misoya, let alone considered as being better. For me, there’s, in Montreal, at this moment, just one fabulous bowl of ramen soup and it’s cooked at Ramen Misoya.
Lately, one of this city’s serious Chefs (Chef Aaron Langille) found himself at the helm of a Chinese restaurant called Orange rouge in Chinatown (106 De La Gauchetiere West – 514-861-1116), a table that I have not tried. I have discovered Chef Langille’s work when he was working at Café Sardine and there was no doubt in my mind that his talent was undeniable. His seriousness continued to impress me as I realized that he was the kind to express his talent where we need him to: his kitchen! A respectable great Chef, indeed. Talking about respectable great Chefs, Chef Charles-Antoine Crête (Toque!, Brasserie T!) seems to have a new project in his boxes (as/per http://montreal.eater.com/archives/2013/12/06/crete-bids-toque-tata-as-new-projects-loom-1.php) and Chef Michele Mercuri (Who used to work at XO Le Restaurant) could make a come back .
Some are not my favourites anymore (for eg, Bouillon Bilk on St Laurent street, Sushi Mikado on St Denis — both places continue to offer superb service, but I found the food performance to not be as startling at it once was). Others have Chefs who seem to have never been able to regain the spark of cooking (Lack of inspiration? Success that got to the head?? Or perhaps ‘one hit’ or ‘once hit’ wonders??).
Last but not least, some new restaurants that have just gained their 3 Michelin stars this year: Reale (Abruzzo, Italy), Restaurant Überfahrt (Germany). If you ever have to bet on the country that has the finest 2 and 3 star Michelin anywhere around the globe, bet on Germany! In Hong Kong, Chef Alvin Leung won 3 Michelin stars. Not that I am interested by his place (certainly not the style of cooking that calls me, anyways), but gotta applaud his exceptional efforts at selling his Xtreme Chinese cuisine to the world. Obviously, he is to the dining scene one of its latest most influential people.
Also: Chef Frédéric Duca (ex alumni of 3 star Michelin and iconic Chef Gérald Passédat, ex Chef at Taillevent/Darroze/Palme D’Or ) who was working at L’Instant D’Or in Paris, till very recently, has now moved to new York. Chef Duca is one of the most promising talents among the current young Chefs of France, therefore I am looking forward to hearing more about his next venture. Something is sure: he has the talent to surprise New York with a 2, even 3 star Michelin level of food, which comes as no surprise given his impressive resumé. The ball is in his court …. http://www.terroirsdechefs.com/les-grands-chefs-etoiles-de-france/biographies-des-grands-chefs-cuisiniers-de-france/Frederic-Duca.
For those who care about the subject, you can find my reported journey through Montreal ethnic food here (kept active).