Restaurant Tre Colori
Date/Time of the dinner: January 29th 2014, 19:00
Addr: 1696 Avenue Bourgogne, Chambly
Other Mtl & suroundings Italian restaurants reviewed on current blog: Le Serpent, Pasta Casareccia.
I was southshore Montreal (in Chambly, 32 kms from Mtl), eating with some friends and seized the opportunity to visit a place that was highly recommended by many ppl I know.
It’s an institution down there in the city of Chambly, opened since 1967 with a generation of Italian families (from Calabria) at the helm. As always, I like reading reviews before going to a place, but most of the bad opinions sounded like personal vendettas against that place, whereas most of the glorifying reviews sounded over the top for a place of this caliber. So I quickly erased those from my memory. After all, your best judge is your very ownself, lol The place has a classic Italian elegance interior décor (minus the pricey material like marbles), white tablecloths, paper napkins on the tables (although, those were of good quality).
The ppl who did recommend TC to me have raved about the Pizza, so I ordered a Pizza Margherita (as always, it’s in the simple and authentic little things that I want to see you walking the walk..never with the flights of overdone /overloaded pizzas…lol) . Being a long time fan of Pizza, particularly the Neapolitan ones, I do naturally favor wood-fired pizza ovens (At Tre Colori, there’s no wood-fired pizza oven on the premises), though it’s of course not synonymous with a better pizza (you have the tool, but then you need to use it skillfully). Tre Colori’s Pizza Margherita is certainly nowhere close to Bottega’s levels –but again, who does in Mtl?? Everytime I hear about a Pizza place in Mtl that’s supposedly better than Bottega, I try it…and time after time, the suggestions turned out to be sad jokes!!!!! and NOPE…I won’t start un-realistic comparisons to what’s done in Italy, at say, a place like Da Michele in Napoli. We are not in Italy! — but for a Pizza that does not benefit from the advantage of nice wood-fired aromas (they use the deck oven you’ll find at most Pizzerias in town) , it was actually good: it still featured some of the characteristics that gets close to a Neapolitan Pizza, such as a tender center, nice puffy crust edges, the proportion of dough Vs sauce pretty much well balanced, the mozza of good quality and the homemade tomato sauce as good as you’ll get from most good pizzas in town . This fared actually way better than plenty of Pizza places that oftently appear on most rundowns of top 10 best Pizzerias in town. 7/10 by Montreal & surroundings standards.
Then Pasta (spaghetti) alla calabrese – Here using capicollo and homemade tomato sauce, though using sardines in place of capicollo would have somehow imparted a much more Southern Italian/Calabrian touch to that pasta (listen, I am not saying this to sound interesting or ‘connoisseur’, I do not trade on those grounds. This touch would have provided that dish with more genuine flavors, which would have elevated it from a standard pasta dish to something more ). Still, tasty enough, the doneness of the pasta to the bite as it should and the homemade tomato packed with superb tang of fresh acidity. By Montreal standards, a proper 7/10. Good.
Went for their Tiramisu, $6. YEP..I know, some find it too cliché to stick to the T at an Italian eatery, but ‘cliché’ is not part of my vocabulary. Those simple items that have been around for so long, I like them because I’m interested to see how far you can get them to shine. Tiramisu is indeed easy to make, but a startling one will always be hard to get by. I realized that when even one of my favourite Italian tables in Montreal, Bottega, had a Tiramisu that was indeed good, but not stellar. And god knows that Bottega’s kitchen is not your average / ordinary kitchen. Presented in a glass, Tre Colori’s has the relevant mascarpone/eggs mix blending appetizingly with the coffee flavor, and this was as good if not even a tad better (though not conceived the same way: this one had a first creamy layer, then you had the cake part in the middle, whereas the I had at bottega was mostly a cake) than the one I had at Bottega. Among the better Tiramisus you’ll get in Mtl. 8/10 PS: The well known ‘Italian lobster’ dessert, widely found in Southern Italy, would have brought a ‘special’ dimension in that otherwise safe list of desserts (essentially composed of the Tiramisu and couple of chocolate-based desserts – you can see that menu online).
One companion picked the $39 special daily menu, which comprised of a minestrone soup, lamb chops that came with pasta simply sautéed in olive oil and garlic + a lemon granitée (he shared some of his soup, lamb chops as well as granitée with me) . The minestrone soup was an average one (5/10), but the lamb chops pertained to a standard you won’t get to enjoy that oftently at any restaurant level in town and one that would make a great Michelin star restaurant really proud. It was a lesson on how flames, exploited dexterously, can lift up the taste of meat to levels that our palates tend to ignore because most do not bother about taking ‘the granted’ (no one should miss grilled lamb chops …) and turn it into the ‘not that granted‘ (…but few can make one this delicious). There’s certainly no scarcity of lamb chops in town, and I do not know if they do it this well on a regular basis, but those we were enjoying on this evening were simply sublime in all accounts (the meat enhanced by superb grilling flavors but in an exciting palatable way that few can achieve, the seasoning bold and perfect, even the texture of the cut/quality of the chop was flawless), exciting lamb chops that will be remembered as long as my memory serves me right (9/10), the accompanied pasta achieved to proper al dente doneness though a tad too garlicky according to the person who ordered the lamb chops (I did not sample the pastas, but this buddy knows his food so I trust his judgement) , then a lemon granitée of great finesse (7/10) – the third person took a small all dressed Pizza $11 (6/10 They call it All’Americana , dressed with pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, bacon, brick cheese — not bad at all, from bites that I have sampled, BUT I found the Margherita to better showcase the good level of skills of this kitchen) as well as some cheese au gratin French bread $5 (again, surprisingly average considering the skills displayed on the better dishes of this evening 5/10).
Service: Service (by two young ladies) was flawless, though I had a booking experience (over the phone) that I thought pertaining to ancient times. The gentleman who picked the phone left me on hold for 5 minutes, acted as if he was seriously taking my reservation (name, phone number, etc), but when I arrived at the restaurant, the waitress told me that there was no reservation (she actually never looked at the reservation book) for that evening. Basically, the dude over the phone knew that for a wednesday evening, they do not take reservations but instead of informing his customer, he preferred enjoying his moment of smartness. As usual, no drama and there are certainly worst things in life, Amen, lol, but that kind of behaviour is certainly not what a customer should be looking forward to. At the restaurant, the service was of great standards so that unecessary episode is long forgotten as well as forgiven.
PROS: The top flight lamb chops of this evening. I do not recall having enjoyed a better one in Montreal, the amazing service by the two young ladies. The operatic Italian music and overall charming classic ambience…Truly felt like being in an episode of the Sopranos (some may not like it, but I DO!) ;p Tre Colori is not the discovery of the year, far from that, but it does certain things better than plenty of places enjoying far more visibility / credits.
CONS: To me, it’s a place that has its strengths (clearly, if you tell me that this is an average kitchen, then I do not want to know what you perceive as good, lol, cause those lamb chops I had on this evening are everything you want, certainly not average. Same for the Margherita Pizza, the Tiramisu….simple items I know, but many still miss them whilst they did not), but there were sparse factors that left me underwhelmed (but not to the point of dramatizing neither) and that I did not find consequent with their fortes: the episode about the reservation as detailed in the ‘service’ section of current account, the napkins –which although of good quality — took away a bit of the purpose of the beautiful classic tablecloth’d table, the average minestrone soup, the average bread, the pasta that’s fine but a tad less impressive than elsewhere. At least, here, I can say that I was more satisfied than not and I can certainly tolerate what I’ve perceived as less enchanting (thanks to their better dishes which clearly would send many other supposedly superior kitchens to shame, thanks to that sublime service of those two young classy ladies, thanks to their pride and perseverance at remaining true to what they’ve always been instead of running laughably after trends).
The list of wines flows through several pages of a very pretty winebook, essentially Italian wines (on their web site, you can have a good idea of the wine offerings), with prices ranging from the very affordable (for eg, around the $30/$40) to its far opposite. There was already a bottle on the tables, apparently the restaurant’s ‘coup de coeur’ of the moment, according to my waitress, and you are free to opt for it or not. I chose their ‘bottle of the moment’, a 2011 Apaltagua Envero Carmenere from Chile (online retail price around $16, sold $45 at the restaurant), one kind of red wine I favor for its fine medium body of dark fruit aromas (the plums, in particular, coming through nicely towards the end of this evening’s tasting with an enjoyable round mouthfeel). The bottle of wine opened perhaps at 1 degree under room temperature, though I am confident that this was just a rare minor omission, and I can’t really complain because my waitress was very classy in asking if the temperature was to my liking. To which I replied that it was fine since I did not want to pass as the ‘’’smart ass of the moment’’ in front of friends who were there to simply have fun and not bother about such details. Again, the waitress and the house are not at fault at all as those things happen even in grander houses and it was up to me to let them know.
Conclusion: Conclusion: Montreal having a big Italian community, we are lucky to have plenty of eateries doing really well. I do not understand the recent report of a local food journalist suggesting that there are RARE authentic Italian restaurants in Montreal. So what is Tre Marie then? Da Enrico? What is Pasta Casareccia ? Villa Armando? Di Menna? And there are actually a good dozen of other ‘authentic’ Italian restaurants that I could add to that list! I am not even mentioning my favourite Italian places here. All those places providing flavors as close as possible (for a restaurant that’s several continents and oceans away from Italy) to their genuine versions in Italy. And YEP, guess what, it’s a country that I know well, too! Do those places stop existing as soon as there’s a new trendy restaurant in town (that food journalist was reporting about a new Italian table ) ?? LOL. Now, you’ve guessed it: Tre Colori’s 40 years in business with real experienced Italian Chefs at the helm commended that I go there with, in mind, the expectations that their local peers have already set. In that regard, my meal here was of really good level by local standards. 7/10 as an overall score, the pasta dishes of this meal were almost (almost, I wrote) as good as it gets in Montreal/surroundings, the lamb chops I was having on this evening will be the new reference against which I’ll judge other examples of those in town. I’d have sampled only the lamb chops + Pizza Margherita + Tiramisu and the overall score would be higher than a 7/10. The only reason I am not scoring the whole meal higher has to do with the weak minestrone soup + au gratin French bread (the heights attained by the lamb chops of this evening, as well as good standard of the Tiramisu/Pizza Margherita suggesting that it was reasonable to expect a bit more from even simple items like that minestrone soup and the gratin French bread (it’s not un-realistic expectations: startling minestrone soups do exist), and, I found the pasta perhaps a tad less impressive than at, say, Pasta Casareccia (though, let’s set this straight right away: they are NOT bad at all neither). Next time, I want to test their risotto (it was not on the menu, but the waitstaff told me that you can ask for it and they will oblige) as well as other varieties of the pastas to get a more complete impression of this house. Prices are fair, portions generous. Certainly a genuine finding for me (just skip the items that are usually too mundane like the minestrone zuppa, or else, I am afraid you’ll miss the point), though not one that blew me away, but ”to Ceasar what pertains to him”: what matters most to me is that they’ve proven how far they can go, which answer came in the form of the exciting lamb chops, really good Tiramisu and Pizza Margherita.