Restaurant Le Fantôme has come to my attention when Gault Millau rated it with 3 toques. Later on, I read a bit more about this place and found that all the major local food journalists have also been impressed with what comes from Le fantome’s kitchen.
They offer two tasting menus, with 5 courses at $45, and 7 courses at $60. No more a la carte choices on my visit.
Started with foie nem which was an unbelievably tiny version –why on earth …feeding people with food that is.. infuriatingly so minuscule ??? — of the vietnamese fresh nem roll. There are indeed places where some food items are sometimes as minuscule as this foie nem: one great example were the mignardises I had at Pierre Gagnaire. The difference is that at PG, they were so exceptional that indeed, I was happy to ask for more ….instead of thinking about mentioning that they were minuscule..!!!. But here, this was no exceptional food item, consequently, … that foie nem was nothing more than a frustrating bite, a frustration that is actually shared on the web by other diners on the common crowd-sources review websites. So clearly..there is an issue! I won’t rate this for the sake of accuracy as I find it hard to assess such a meager portion of food. I understand that you do not want your patrons to “”feel heavy””, especially since this is a tasting menu, but plenty of restaurateurs – here and abroad – have long mastered the art of not overstuffing their diners while avoiding laughable minuscule portions of food items. It is not even..as if .. you were saving money by doing so: miniaturization is costly and time consuming, perhaps worthy of your time in ..science, but OBVIOUSLY worthless for food……… ) .. YOU FEED OR YOU DO NOT!! There is no excuse here. …
Carpaccio of beets (white, red, yellow) , crème fraîche, hazelnuts, shaving of truffles – The carpaccio of beets had a very enticing natural buttery sweetness to it and the quality of the beets was cleverly exploited (meaning you really got to enjoy the 3 types of beets in a way that most salads, made of the 3 beets, would fail to please). 7/10 if I consider the superb beets, but way less than that when I think about the crème fraîche (which did add nothing to that dish) and the hazelnuts (pls folks…no need to follow..at all cost… the textbook of the “contrasting textures”…for eg a bit of crunch overhere, a bit of other texture overthere). And of course, truffle was going to add nothing….to yet another dish, but no one has the guts to say it, because a bit like with Wagyu…., we are brainwashed by the powerful marketing machine found behind such luxurious ingredients. Ultimately a 5/10 when considering the addition of the crème fraîche and hazelnuts (adding more…is not always a good idea)…this sounds severe but the crème fraîche and hazelnuts diminished the enjoyment of the beets (just take whatever carpaccio…put some creme fraiche underneath..and you tell me if that is a culinary achievement !) . There are Chefs who managed to dazzle, using the exact same combination of ingredients, but this was not going to serve as an example of such …
Carpaccio of beef, bone marrow, deep fried potato match sticks, raifort – quality beef that they left unaltered (meaning not seasoned) as to let the produce expressing itself. I have no problem with that. The potatoes had great flavor. Alas, the raifort and the bone marrow did not add much here. 7/10 if I consider the potatoes (which had great potato flavor), 6/10 without them (quality beef, for sure, but dazzled I am certainly not………..!). And…once again, an item (raifort) ..actually two (bone marrow)…too many….!! as they did add nothing to that dish.
Homard au charbon, roquette bisque de homard – the ..incredibly tiny pieces of lobster tasted fine, thanks to the chargrill flavor, but they were way too tiny to be fully …enjoyed. Furthermore, they had their own rendition of the bisque that just did not do it for me . Let us put it that way: a classic bisque would have been better.,……….far better, and I need a reasonable amount of seafood, not just a “glimpse” of it…in order to feel sated………..). 6/10
Poached halibut, beurre blanc, morel – , well done beurre blanc (this confirmed that….the Chef should focus on the classic French recipes that he does so well….instead of trying to impress with non classic renditions of what he is is cooking — for example, his rendition of the bisque did not seduce me at all) and a piece of fish tasting good. 7/10
Asparagus, pasilla pepper , rhubarb, shallots confit – usual comforting flavor that can’t fail to come from sauteed veggies, but rhubarb added nothing here …You will end up with similar flavor with or without the ………….rhubarb!! 6/10
Lamb (from Quebec) packed with crowd-pleasing qualities (tender, delicious) and an equally superb lamb jus. simple combination of ingredient, but there was nothing to fault here. This came with a puree of avocado that stood out (enticing fresh acidity to a puree of avocado that was just not your average avocado puree) 8 /10
Anguilles du Quebec – Sea eels from Gaspe and portobello mushrooms tasting as fine as good quality eels and mushrooms, would taste, by default, if you’d chargrill them yourself at home, meaning it was fine, just not “restaurant material” enough (this opinion also applies to the dish of Asparagus that was reviewed above) . 6/10
The desserts comprising of sorbets/ ice creams (popsicle orange) and a nicely executed cremeux chocolat mixed with some … mushrooms that added nothing to it… – I won’t anymore rate any dessert at restaurants that is basically made of ice cream, as good as it is… – Enough is enough…there are ice cream parlours for that. But I will tolerate a chocolate cremeux as long as it is as enjoyable as that one I was having (minus the mushrooms that they had to mix it with).
Pros: The ideas (the candles everywhere, the nondescript entrance ), the somehow “cool attitude” of the staff
Cons: (1) The more (ingredient) you add the better it should taste, which is what supposedly lesser rated tables (lesser rated by Gault Millau and our major local food journalists, I mean …………) do effortlessly. Here, the more (ingredients) they were adding, the less convincing it turned out to be … (2) Not trying to be mean here, but truth be told…You will have to be really exceptional at what you do if you are going to try to impress people with food that is, oftently, that “minuscule”…..
Bottom line: I appreciate that the staff is fun, the overall concept refreshingly different from what we do usually find in Montreal right now, the candles, the door of the toilets that do not open in a conventional fashion…ha ha ha, …amusing — . Food-wise, I suspect that Le fantome can be at its best when it sticks to the classics: the halibut, the lamb, the chocolate cremeux , the beurre blanc were fine , though not that “outstanding” by Montreal’s restaurant standards as the performance of this kitchen on that specific evening got nowhere near (in general) what Chef Mercuri (Le Serpent) or De Montigny (La Chronique) can cook at their best (all tables rated as inferior to Le fantome by G&M / some those local food journalists). And plenty of other local tables have fed me with food as fine as the better items I had here. Last but not least, when you add an ingredient to your dish, it should ADD to..NOT SUBSTRACT from…the enjoyment of the food!!!!! – My rating for the food: 6.5/10, Service: 7/10 Restaurant Le Fantôme, 1832 rue William, Phone: (514) 846-1832 URL: http://www.restofantome.com/
What I think days later: There have been cases where one or two items “too far” would disappoint me at restaurants, but rarely to the point of taking away from the enjoyment of a dish, which is what happened oftenly during this meal.