Recent reviews: Restaurant Mercuri, Bar Mercuri, Le Serpent, La Chronique, Jun IL’Européa, Sushi Yasu, Kyo, Peter Luger, Kam Fung, FiregrillPatrice Patissier, Raku, Au cinquième péché.

***My second visit in 5 years at restaurant La Chronique, Montreal, showcased a startling food performance that plenty of top Michelin starred establishments across Europe would be very proud of. Chef De Montigny is indeed a top class Chef and his restaurant is a first-rate establishment. Firmly in my top 3 in Montreal (La Porte/Le Serpent/La Chronique). My review of that meal here.

 

***Restaurant Magazine has Noma back at its World’s 100 best restaurants of the world‘s pole position, which, to me, makes perfect sense. In 2012, both my wife and I have revisited what we strongly believe to be world’s top 3 , Noma/Alinea/Fat Duck and it’s clear in our minds that those three restaurants are the only ones deserving of world’s top tier position. Their craft is simply way above anything that’s being done at this moment.  We could not believe that El Celler de Can Roca was restaurant’s mag #1 last year, a pure nonsense: we dined there twice in the past 5 years and there is no way El Celler is a World’s #1. It is a World’s #1 for best value restaurant anywhere around the world,  I would bet on  that, but no more.   Again, nothing against Restaurant Magazine listing, it’s the personal choices of their folks, so who are we to judge other people’s opinions, but I am not a robot, thefore was entitled to my opinion too ;p

***The highlights, for me, of this first half of my current foodie year in Montreal have been the superb return of Chef Michelle Mercuri at Le Serpent. One of my favourite Chefs anywhere across the globe, this talented Chef   continues to be consistent with the top standards he keeps setting wherever he goes . Montreal is no short of cooks who went from hero to zero, but Michelle is certainly not one of those.  I was also impressed by the silky  skills of Chef Ding at Kyo in Le Vieux Port. With  Chef Ding at the helm,  Kyo is simply the best isakaya in town. A simple marinade of his beef tataki , to take an example of something simple, therefore packed with details that can be easily overlooked, had depth that only 5% of the Chefs in town could replicate and understand. For sure, if such details is beyond comprehension to you, then skip forward, lol,  but it is with details like those that I can appreciate the talent of a Chef.  Aside from both Kyo and Le Serpent,  it was also nice to see La Chronique confirming what I was suspecting (a true Montreal giant) as well as sampling some dazzling bistrot fares at an old favourite, Au Cinquième Péché.

******I went paying a visit to Chef Joe Mercuri’s new establishments, his fine dining destination called Mercuri as well as his more casual bistrot-centric Bar Mercuri (both sharing the same roof). Super Joe is one of my favourite Chefs in Montreal, the Mercuri family being a well known (to the Montreal restaurant scene)  family of talented Chefs (Michelle, Joe) with memorable tenures at Bronté (both Joe and Michelle), XO Le Restaurant (Michelle), Rosalie (Joe) and much more. It was a pleasure to resume with Joe’s crafts after years of absence from the restaurant scene. As ever, the man is there, even on a quiet Tuesday, a rarity for most Chefs nowadays, hard worker  and a great fan of all things tasteful (stylish décor, beautiful platings, Pascale Girardin dinnerware in the fine dining section, Opinel knives at Bar Mercuri). Apart a failed attempt at a contemporary fancy flight around the  snow crab (There’s no doubt in my mind that Joe did not craft that one. In Montreal, only Chefs like Joe Mercuri, Michelle Mercuri, Francois Nadon, Mario Navarrete Jr are truly capable to turn such challenging assortment into something magic) everything else was enjoyable, backed by beautiful produce,  and of course couple of  hits made their appearances as to  remind that Joe is still the man,  like a galanga mousse with texture and taste I never enjoyed in Montreal before, shitake mushrooms that I knew could be tasty but not as exciting in mouth as this one I was having, and some pappardelle to never forget.  What needs to be ironed out is easy to address and are normal in the context of a restaurant that is only in its 3rd month of existence: avoid any notion of meager portions when a risotto is served and billed as a main course (see the review of my  fine dining meal), keep the “dishes all served at once” communal / tapas principle to couples or groups only, not to a solo diner (see the review of my meal at Bar Mercuri), unless , of course, that is what he/she wants  (not too sure why a solo diner would opt for that, though).

***Chocolate flavored fried chicken, anyone? Well, not bad at all as an idea. One wonders how come no one has thought about it before? lol. Adam Fleischman is making it happened at Choco Chicken in Los Angeles.

***A £1,235 A HEAD, yeap for a meal, no kidding! It’s the idea of Michelin-starred chef Paco Roncero and it’s happening in one country that’s heavily affected by the current global economic turmoil, Spain. Check that out, it’s really not a joke: clear here.

***3 star Michelin Chef Régis Marcon could be interested to open a restaurant in Japan. More, here.

***3 star Michelin Ledoyen (in Paris)  will have Chef Yannick Alléno at the helm, soon (more can be found here). For me, this is for the better, in the case of Ledoyen as I have visited this place twice, by now (in the past 3 years) and truely felt that it was an overrated 3 star Michelin.  The report of the first my two meals there can be perused on this link.

***Went back to a personal favourite French Bistrot in Montreal, Au Cinquième péché.  Au Cinquième péché  continues to rank in the top-tier of Montreal bistrots. As it’s realistic to put, you can’t expect any kitchen or Chef to be in its prime all the time AND that  it is in its prime that its true skills are to  be accurately assessed. This meal was simply a benchmark of its kind with a beef tongue dish as well as their signature sweetbreads worth of word class (by French Bistrot  standards) praises. Of course, I also had less spectacular meals here, as you won’t fail to  experience with  ‘normal’ meals at your  favourite bistrots, but even on the ‘normal meals’ they still managed to rank among Mtl’s best. But on this meal, they left the Montreal scene, conquered the world and crushed plenty of their competitors worldwide, lol. Joke aside, this was a startling bistrot meal. My review here.

***My first visit at Patrice Patissier. Patrice continues to wow Montreal with his dazzling desserts and pastries. My review here.

***I also paid a visit to L’Européa, one popular fine dining destination in Montreal. It is hard not to like L’Européa as you’ll be pampered like a queen/king here. BUT the food REALLY needs to improve, by leaps! My review, here.

***Sushi Yasu is one of the rare sushi shops (in Montreal & surroundings)  with a real Japanese Sushi Master at the helm. Unfortunately, on the back of my meal there, that was not an advantage for them. My review here.

***Raku is an isakaya in Brossard, South shore Montreal. It’s the kind of place that is easy to overlook if you have no sense for details or tend to jump to hasty conclusions: if I’d have simply sampled their sushis, as well as a simple tartare that was poorly executed, I’d remember this place as just another average shop. But I was curious to dig a bit more in their menu and surprise, their takoyaki balls was top class, their veggie tempura was above average. A mixed bag if you wish, but for me this seems like a kitchen that has its strenghts. You just need to find out which ones they are. Report of my meal, here.

***Lately, on this blog, my quick post on Nice seems (if I look at the wordpress counter) to have been very popular among the viewers of this site. A sign that summer is in full effect, lol. Well, Nice is indeed a special place but what has impressed me is that after two decades of no show, I was as excited by Nice as it was the case two decades prior. I have re-visited many places after decades of absence but have rarely left with this same sense of satisfaction. The thing about Nice is that whether you are nearby or within, you’ll always be stunned : the sun, the beautiful landscapes, the beautiful people, the great food and everything that makes France look good, well they have it. Some of you did ask where I stayed during that trip: I stayed at the Ibis Styles Nice Vieux Port, nothing special here but  reasonable in terms of lodging budget given that you are in the fun part of Nice. I do not regret that choice and would repeat it again if I’d re-visit Nice.

 

***I was also surprised to see the following less popular posts gaining a sudden rise to fame, among you:
Victor Gourmet Shloss Berg: You’d have hard time convincing me that there’s better than Chef Bau’s performance on that evening, but I am not naive enough to believe that the sun shines all the time. Restaurants, like anything operated by humans, have their ups and downs. So, I can’t bet on this house to be consistently as magical as on that evening. All I can is to talk about that meal I was having and that was magical, indeed. Looking forward to re-visit Victor Gourmet Shloss Berg, though. Germans, you can count on their consistency. That is well known.
-Mon top 10 des meilleures chansons: Lol, that was funny. I did not want my blog to focus solely on food. So, I use my blog in its conventional definition, which means a space where I ”spit” whatever comes out of my mind and that I deem fun to share with whoever might be interested to dig in.
Some of you seem to have liked this post and I do certainly appreciate that.
L’Arpège: I was expecting that post to be popular, but it was not (for a while). Recently, your interest for my post about L’Arpège grew up significantly. I hope you are not misled by my article since I did my best to be as accurate as possible: for my taste, this is a special place for me. If you are interested, then do lots of searches and ensure that’s really what you want because L’Arpège is not your usual conventional type of 3 star Michelin. You know, appreciation for food is like appreciation for colors: I’ll rave about my favourite color because I am genuinely attracted by it, and even the devil won’t be able to alter my opinion, but that does not mean my favourite color will be yours.

***Other big hits, lately, on this web blog: the review on L’Ambroisie. I am surprised by this one. L’Ambroisie is a very expensive place, so I do not quite get this one. I know what I like and I am upfront about it, so Chef Bernard Pacaud was cooking on that lunch and there were just 3 tables, so we (the 3 tables) had Chef Bernard  Pacaud for ourselves and indeed  I found him, along with Chef Jacques Maximin, to be an exceptional Chef with amazing instinctive cooking genius. Therefore, I was floored despite the hefty cost of that meal. But I am not sure I would recommend a place this $$$ to someone. Furthermore, is Bernard Pacaud still at the helm? Also: remember that this is a dated review (few years back). So, you are free to share my enthusiasm of that meal, lol, but ensure that you did your homework, verified what it is up to nowadays and find out for yourself.  As for me, that was a meal even superior to what Girardet or Joel Robuchon himself offered in their prime. But again, that was my meal there a few years ago when Chef Bernard Pacaud, the dad, was still cooking on lunch. Nowadays,  if I am not mistaken, it is his son who’s actively at the helm and I have no clue if the food experience is as stellar as when his dad was behind the stoves. Of course, that meal at L’Ambroisie will always have a special place in my heart and Bernard Pacaud, the dad, will always remain in my top 2 best Chefs of all time  (the other is Jacques Maximin)  but on the other hand, I am realistic: most ppl nowadays want value for their money.

***You seemed to have also found an interest in my latest review on Bouillon Bilk in Montreal. Obviously, you were ‘served’ with the perfect  reality of any  restaurant with both a  1st review that was not short of flourishes, then that second one which did not live up to the hype of the earlier report. Regardless, if Chef Nadon is at the helm  you’ll enjoy one of Montreal’s better contemporary food destinations. It’s just not the sort of food that an aide and/or  a kitchen brigade can replicate easily. You really need to know what you are doing when you craft that kind of assortment. It will take me some time before I go back there  as I dine out to enjoy my food, not to observe that life is made of ups and downs…I can cook well,  myself,  so I’ll leave that sort of observations to food journalists – they are paid for that kind of existential analysis, after all –

 

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