Restaurant Le Mousso is one of the three most serious recent restaurant openings in Montreal(the other two are Lili Co and Montreal Plaza) earning rave reviews from the local foodie community. There are some aspects of Le Mousso that I really liked (some food items were stellar by local restaurant standards, the neo industrial decor is fun) and others that simply marred what could have been an otherwise wonderful experience (jump to the “CONS” section, below) – That said, I am not the type of person who will allow his emotion to trump reason (I would not share my experiences if my emotions would deter my assessment of the food I am eating) and that echoes in the very high rating of the food (see below)
The tasting menu (they have just one menu, a tasting menu of 7 courses + 2 other courses charged as extras) started with an amuse bouche that they had to charge as an extra, sadly not first in Montreal. If you are going to charge an amuse as an extra, well fine…but then I need you to deliver an inspired one. Alas that was not going to happen: a madeleine cake had a tiny quantity of caviar atop – in between, some creme fraiche. A surreal misconceived food item as the madeleine floury flavor is exactly what you need if you want to find an element that simply can’t be paired with caviar (it is, as one would expect, a combination of flavor that makes no sense to a palate). But the frustration would not end there: the madeleine came with an oyster! Listen, if I wanted to collect random items for the fun of it, I could have stayed at home and gather some toothpaste, a glass of wine, a piece of paper and a piece of wood….it would have been as pertinent as what was served to me as an extra charged amuse. When the waitress asked if I did like this amuse, I answered YES! …There is a reason for that: in cooking, you do not want to start contradicting the people who are feeding you. A contradicted cook can do mistakes, lose motivation. They are humans, not robots. Feel free to voice your disenchantment if that is what you are at ease with. After all, that is just my personal imperfect (if everyone does like me,the restaurant will not improve – obviously ) view on that subject. As for the Mousso….oyster and a madeleine…madeleine and a little bit of caviar…seriously, folks??
Céleri/truite/foin – Celery/trout/hay. Hay is actually the translation from what appeared on the menu (foin). Excellent flavoring-technique with a flawless airy celery root mousse, the flavor of the mousse subtle enough (in a good way) so that it compliments well the smoked trout. Atop, you had the ashes from the “hay” that was used to smoke the trout. Trout has never been a fish that I do particularly appreciate, but this was plenty of fun, showcasing faultless technique, and more importantly …. a dish that stood out for its focus on refinement and clarity of flavours. 8/10
Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules – Grilled leeks, crumble of hazelnut butter/ mussels. I know you will read this and perhaps suggest that mussels and a crumble of hazelnut butter was going to be another joke, like the one of that amuse bouche , but make no mistake: this was a brilliant way to elevate the flavor of seafood (mussels in this case), the toasty flavor of the hazelnut butter crumble pairing excitingly well with the mussels emulsion. Emulsions can be tricky in lesser hands and even plenty of high end restaurants in Montreal do deliver tired looking ones, but here it was startling to the view, the smell and on the palate. The overall serving as an exciting enhancement to the beautifully grilled leeks. Here is a demonstration on how to get the land (leeks, hazelnut) and the sea (mussels) expressing themselves at their very best 10/10
Carotte/épices/lait de chèvre – Pickled carrot (pickled in sunflower oil), ricotta mixed with goat milk (of superior fresh quality) , edible sponge of carrot and garam masala. Each individual element executed to perfection, and more importantly, this was an appealing (to the smell and the palate) display of complementary lovely flavors. 8/10
Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras – Plum (“butter” of plum), seared scallop and a little bit of shaved frozen foie gras atop was yet another demonstration of the “cash in” mentality that kept transpiring here and there all along this meal. Again, a business is there to cash in, and we all expect that and that is fine … but when you charge a food item as an extra, guess what: your customer expects some ..extra efforts!! Food that’s inspired! Or else, why bothering with extras…. ???? How on earth can a piece of scallop with some shaved foie gras atop pass as an extra worthy of the ..extra cost?? What’s extra about such insignificant food item (btw: they simpy list ingredients on their menu. In this case, it was Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras – Excited by the creativity expressed through their “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules” dish, or even through the dish of “Carotte/épices/lait de chèvre “, I would have never imagined that that “Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras” was just seared scallop and shaved frozen foie gras……
Champignons/céréales/morue (mushrooms/cereals/cod) – WAY WAY WAY too much mushrooms on that plate, but this was still a delicious dish with enticing smoky aromas coming from the toasted barley, roasted wheat, superbly fried quality cod. 8/10
Pois vert / Agneau / Melisse: First-rate tartare of lamb BUT …… PEAS IN AUTUMN?? REALLY? If this was traditional cooking, I would not mind the peas (many traditional dishes, such as ragouts, can involve the use of peas and they are commonly served this time of the year), but this is not traditional cooking. Respect the seasonailty of food, folks!
Oignons/betteraves/boeuf – marinated onions of a quality that you’ll rarely get in our local restaurants, beets of fine quality, and a 72hrs braised piece of beef that paid justice to the long time it spent simmering. That dazzling meat is a reminder that in cooking, patience is key. And I never had onions marinated/prepared/treated this well in a local restaurant 9/10
Petit lait/poires/poivre – Excellent buttermilk ice cream, delicious julienne of pear, sorrel, “syrup” of apple cider vinegar, and a benchmark pepper meringue. Top drawer dessert by our local restaurant standards 9/10
PROS: (1) The superlative “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules” (2) Sharp sharp skills – I do not know if Le Mousso is consistently as good as on this evening, but the skills displayed all along this meal were very strong when compared to what we are accustomed to in Montreal .
CONS – (1)The insulting extras!! Charging extra for an amuse bouche! At least, make an inspired one..!! (2) On one hand, the service looks lovely – the staff looks passionate, they laugh, they look good and they look cool, down to earth, etc. As an example, my main waitress seemed fun and we even talked about her boyfriend, trips they would like to organize and I found that superb as it shows how human and real the service can be. BUT then, disaster: the same waitress promises to come back with more red wine – promise not kept. Then she collects the tab, but sends someone else to tell me that there was money missing. I am always prompt to acknowledge my mistake, which I did with tact and I am always an easy customer –I am paying with my hard earned money, so I may as well have my share of fun, thus I make no fuss about such things at the restaurant…but at any serious restaurant, the person who collects the money goes back to his client and voices any error. You do not send someone else to do that. It is not as if you had a difficult customer yelling at you, berating you in front of other people. No. Instead, we are talking about a very easy going customer, so clearly there is just no rational excuse to such stone age tactic of sending a messenger to tell your customer that there was money missing. With such mistakes, the customer ends up questioning the initial positive impressions, which could perhaps be tolerated at a tavern but certainly not at a restaurant serving this caliber of food, at those prices …. (3)Serving a madeleine alongside an oyster…wtf?? Again, I go to restaurants to have fun so I won’t lose my time challenging you, but c’mon folks??!! (4) Peas …in autumn…really?? (5) at times, the impression that they run out of effective imagination (a scallop with some shaved foie gras on it….not only the foie gras brings nothing to that scallop, but this is as basic as trying to put butter on a piece of bread).
My verdict for the food: 9/10 (by Montreal contemporary restaurant food standard). There were many flaws, indeed, but the better items of this meal are the best I had in Montreal in a long while. And for me, that counts a lot. As ever, with non classical food like this, you need to show up with an open mind, prepared for a display of unorthodox combination of ingredients. Well travelled foodies have seen this..and much more…time and again (a bit of In de Wulf over here, a touch of Inaki Aizpitarte over there, influences from Japan and the rest of the world, etc), abroad, but for Montreal this is top stuff (except, obviously, for the amuse that did not amuse, the scallop with some foie gras shavings atop, some oyster served with a madeleine…, serving some peas in..autumn). This is quite a gamble though: one single cook who does not get what the kitchen is trying to achieve, a misstep here and there, and the whole picture may look completely different. Le Mousso has all it takes to be in my top tier restaurants in Montreal…but for now, it also has all it takes to be out of that top tier. This was, for me, like landing on a beautiful exotical island but with plenty of things to worry about. Meaning that I would not mind going back, but there will be no 3rd chance. Le Mousso (Type of cuisine: contemporary cosmopolitan ) Addr: 1023 Ontario E, Phone: 438-384-7410 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Le-Mousso-896950477044437/?fref=ts
What I think days later: According to the medias, Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard told them that at his old restaurant, people used to drop by for a quick bite before going to the nearby theater but that with Le Mousso, the show would take place at his restaurant. He is right: by Montreal restaurant standards, even by its finest ones, a dish like “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules”, that I had on that evening, showcases a strong level of skills / creativity that is rare in Montreal. And the show went on: a spectacular “plum butter”, superb pickling technique, emulsions that most restaurants in town would take ages to get a grasp of, marination that is rarely seen in town, a grill that … grills (I know, it should not be an exploit, but trust me…that is a miracle in Montreal), meringues that would make most meringues at restaurants in town pass as “wimps”, etc. But then, they throw those extra charged food items from which you expect so much .. in light of what they are capable of …only to end up with uncreative creations like seared scallop with shaved frozen foie gras atop or a madeleine paired with an oyster…!!!!!!!! Why? Why? Why? Why peas in autumn, Chef, when you seem to be fond of Japanese cuisine, a cuisine that is so strict about ….SEASONALITY?!!! Why? Why? Why?