Archive for the ‘finest dining in montreal’ Category

Daniel Boulud’s fame took off as the Master behind ex 3 star Michelin Daniel in New York (now 2 star Michelin) and he has  nowadays a mini empire of restaurants across America: Café Boulud in Toronto, Boulud Sud in New York, etc.

In Montreal, Maison Boulud is located inside the Ritz Carlton, a symbol of luxury that resonates well with the old time pal who did invite me to share this dinner with him. Coincidentally, one of my preferred French food journalists, Gilles Pudlowski, has published a rave review on Boulud Montreal. A meal, which for Gilles, was an awe-striking performance. The opinions of Gilles coupled with  the idea of a  meal  with an old time friend sufficed to fuel my enthusiasm for eating at Maison Boulud.

The dinner menu (you can find an example of that menu here )  is divided in several sections: a tasting menu,  food items to share, a section untitled “from the garden” and the A la carte items (fish, meats, pasta). Since it is white truffle season at this moment, they also have a white truffle menu. The influences of the cooking  are essentially Italian, and French. The ingredients are of very high quality by Montreal restaurant standards.   I ordered a starter of scallop ceviche, a main course of lobster gnocchetti as well as a dessert of Pear and hazelnuts, praliné parfait, meringue, confit lemon:

 

PRINCESSE SCALLOPSPrincesse scallop ceviche, sea urchin, apple and celery – the ceviche was served in seashells, but this was closer to a salad of scallops and apple than to a proper ceviche. Yes, I could taste a bit of the ceviche’s marinade under the scallop and celery/apple, but they  should have mixed all the ingredients together in the marinade.  Furthermore, it is hard to appreciate a ceviche of scallops that has more apple in it than scallops. The idea of serving a ceviche as separate tiny portions is fine in regard to the   presentation but I prefer having my ceviche served on a plate.  The way this ceviche was conceived needs to be rethought.  6/10

gnocchettiHomemade Potato Gnocchetti with Lobster, Leeks, Mushrooms and Coral Emulsion – There was  way too much of the emulsion for the quantity of gnocchetti and  Lobster that was served.  The Coral emulsion could have been more flavorful had its maritime fragrance better expressed. 6/10

Pear and hazelnuts, praliné parfait, meringue, confit lemonPear and hazelnuts, praliné parfait, meringue, confit lemon – Pear of good  quality,  dazzling sorbet (of pear), excellent praliné parfait, the meringue not only perfectly executed but also packed with superb flavor. The base of the dessert needs to be softer though (it was way too hard).  Even if I take into account the issue with the base of that dessert,  this —by the standards of desserts found in Montreal restaurants — was a really nice  way of  revisiting a classic combination of ingredients such as pear and chocolate.  7.5/10

PROS: (1) Excellent service as you would  expect from both the Ritz and a Daniel Boulud’s restaurant (2) Thoughtful menu

CONS: (1)More coral emulsion than gnocchetti and  Lobster..is like serving a beer with more of its frothy foam than the actual beer. Meaning, there is not much that you will end up enjoying. For my taste, this was  a misjudged use of the coral emulsion. With a bit more lobster and pasta, a delicious creamier seafood flavored  sauce and  just a little bit of that coral emulsion, this dish would have fared far..far better. (2)In  a ceviche, if the protein element is not going to cure / benefit from its marinade, then it is not a ceviche anymore. It is a salad. And a salad served in sea shells –actually even a proper ceviche in sea shells — is hardly something that you can properly taste because the portion is way too small .. therefore it won’t last enoughly long in your mouth to leave any impression.

Bottom line: it is always a great pleasure to share a meal with a long time friend, so  that aspect of the  dinner was perfect. On the subject  of the food, it was no love, for me, except for the nice dessert and superb coffee.  Service was as great as it gets in town.  Maison Boulud Addr: 1228 Rue Sherbrooke O, Montréal, QC Phone: 514) 842-4224 Type of cuisine: Fine dining (French/Italian), on this evening, but they also have more casual fares. Date and time of this meal: 20-11-2015 19:30 My personal overall rating for the food of this specific meal: 6/10 Service: 10/10

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Coming soon….reports of a Montrealer’s NORMAL DINER’S 3* Michelin fine dinings. Till then, enjoy my latest project: Montreal’s & Eastern Canada  top finest dinings at http://www.xanga.com/aromes

This Friday (April 23rd 2010), I went to pay a visit to two major tables considered by the most as Montreal best: A Lunch @ DEREK N’ ALEX, then I completed the day with a dinner at L’Inconnu (See next review for the review on L’inconnu).

DNA Restaurant
355 Marguerite D’Youville St. (Vieux Port / Old montreal)
Montreal, QC
Phone: 514-287-3362
URL: http://www.dnarestaurant.com
Type of Cuisine: A Mix of Modern French/Mediterranean/Italian

UPDATEDUPDATE: THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED

DEREK N’ ALEX (DNA) is widly known as one of Montreal hottest and most popular
restaurant of the moment. Located in the Old Montreal, at a stone trow from the
harbor, the restaurant is hosted in a beautiful  building:
  What I like with DNA is it’s commitment to a cuisine that goes way beyond the usual  monolithic same of the same usual Bistro/North American  fares that’s spreading all around this city,  thanks to it’s mediterranean touches and original takes on game meats, seafood,
thoughtful ingredients. Ironically, during for this Lunch  @ DNA, I did not pay justice to their own unique dishes (Sorry DNA! ;p). More on this later on.

Upon arrival, on this Lunch, I felt transported in an oasis of beauty: their rooms (a lounge section on the
Left of the reception area dominated by warm orange touches):






the main dining room on the right  (dominated by glass and an overall light-penetrating modern and trendy looking area) are beautiful  renditions of attractive design:


In it’s genre, perhaps one of the most beautiful restaurants of  this city (with La Porte remaining my personal coup de coeur for it’s Milles & Une Nuits decor / But both are from 2 different styles, obviously).

I first thought about paying tribute to their usual classics (sweetbreads in agro dolce, etc),  but the beauty with most of those fresh Market-focused Montreal restaurants are the little surprises they just brought from the market. So the waitress informed that they had also snow crab salad and fresh halibut. Sorry Chef Dammann for not paying a tribute this time to your classic own creations,  but I am a son of the Sea (born and raised at a stone throw from the Indian Ocean surrounded by the freshest  mass of seafood in the warmest waters;p…perhaps one of those rare moments I didn’t fear to surrunder to the mass! Rfaol!) and was seduced by the Seafood offerings.

Choice #1: Snow crab, Meyer Lemon, Aioli
Disposed on a fresh piece of bread, the crab salad was drizzled with aioli. Oozing of freshness,  the Snow crab meat was of impeccable freshness. With a more upfront punch of marine robustness,  this crab meat would have been pure joy in heaven. My second best crab salad in this city after the one I had at Cuisine & Dependance. 7/10

Choice #2: Halibut, Salsa rustica.
Topped with a perfect golden crust, the fish was ideally moist and had an unbelievably  beautiful snowy white texture (within) that made no doubt about it’s impeccable freshness.  It’s cooking, it’s tempting taste, it’s balanced texture and precise spicings made of it an impreccable piece of fish. We may not, in Montreal, be as gifted as in Japan or on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea and yet some restaurateurs are doing miracle in managing to catch up with great fresh seafood. I tend to lower a bit my expectations with seafood in Montreal since it’s unfair to compare the level of stunning fresh seafood I was surrounded by on the banks of the Indian Ocean (totally on  a different scale, there), but honestly I know many cities who would envy Montreal for that. To conclude on this dish, underneath the fish there was wheat seeds replacing rice. Cooked at enjoyable al dente consistency and packed with it’s pristine flavors, this was a masterfully well thought addition. The accompanied salsa rustica was good, light and precise. 8/10

The overall was accompanied by a wine that I asked the waitress to chose from her own inspiration:  Pinot Blanc Lake Breeze 2008. Her choice turned out to be an ideal spot on match to the seafood and the  wine on it’s own was without reproach: nicely balanced, enjoyably aromatic with remarquable freshness, enjoyably fruity (sensed perfectly well the subtle aromas of pears +citrus). Excellent.

The welcoming and the service was also of admirable mention: the several ladies who served were impressively patient, attentive, efficient. Their class and quality of service is of  high mention.

The dominant festive music (varied rythms of Jazz, Reggae, French and more), the beautiful layout,  the remarquable charming and impeccable service, the great food, the proximity to the waters/harbor (I can see lots  of couples enjoying a nice roamantic walk on the water front after their meal there)…DNA is unarguably a HOT spot!

I hope you do not limit yourself to my two simple meals there (make them sound like a seafood place ;p).
For something more elaborate, I’d suggest you go with their dinner. From a past dining experiences there, a while back,  I recall a level of gastronomic coup de force that skyrocketted this restaurant easily among the very top best dining experiences I had the good fortune to enjoy in this City, not to mention how creative and original they can be!

Event: Dinner at Restaurant Toque!

Type of cuisine: High end (North American/French) fine dining
Address: 900, Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, Montreal, QC
Friday November 27th 2009  17:30
Tasting Menu, Pairing wine,1 cocktail

Food rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7), just Ok (6)

(English review to follow)- Cette grande table Montréalaise réussit à se maintenir dans le top 3 Montréalais depuis plus d’une décennie. Et dans l’assiette, l’expérience reste indémodable: des plats aux textures et gouts du jour. De ce repas du 27/11/09, je retiens plusieurs plats de solide calibre 2 étoile Michelin tels que le ”plat de foie gras poélé”, le nougat crémeux, le soufflé de poire, l’éffiloché de lapin. Parcontre, quelques observations à prendre constructivement et qui ne concernent que le repas dont j’ai fait la critique: Il faut, à ces prix là, insuffler de l’éclat meme dans des éléments aussi anodins qu’un simple amuse bouche. Ce n’est pas un drame (cela peut s’addresser à une panoplie d’autres  grandes tables), mais je demeure convaincu que tout avis constructif permettant de faire mieux ne peut que profiter à l’évolution de la table en question. Et tant qu’à offrir des mignardises, offrez-en quelques uns (j’en ai eu eu qu’un seul lors de ce repas). Évidemment, il y’a pire dans la vie et ce genre d’observations peuvent paraitre farfelues à plein des égards (des milliers d’enfants crèvent de faim, par exemple)…mais elles demeurent tout à fait appropriées vu qu’il s’agit ici  d’apporter un oeil critique mais constructif sur un  restaurant haut de gamme . Ces observations, dois-je le répéter, n’enlèvent rien à l’excellence de cette grande table et ne peuvent qu’etre bénéfiques au restaurant lui meme.

Well, I guess there is no need for presentations here! Anywhere around the world, pick any touristic pamphlet about Montreal, and chances are that you will find Restaurant Toque at the very top of the Mtl advertised restaurants. Ask any world restaurant rating system to have a look at Montreal, and Toque will be one of the very first they will stare at.  And our friend has a long list of distinctions to talk for him: it is the only  Relais & Chateaux in Montreal as of right now, it has –like Nuances — some diamonds of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA). The Guide Debeur has also awarded our friend.

Toque! is located in the financial district, downtown Mtl, right besides the Inter-continental hotel and right in front the Palais des Congrès:

On the inside, the decor is elegant, vast (lot of space in between the tables) and contemporary,

bathed in a balance between pastel toned colors and some darker tones as well, with a “wealthy feel” to it.
In the middle of the restaurant, their wine cellar:

It’s located in the Montreal financial district, and with that in mind I must say kudos to their designer: like it or not, it’s –decor wise —one ideal type of table to expect in such environment.

I started picking a cocktail that is unique/original/curious, an idea of the Toque! house: A Hydromel (quebec’s honey flavored wine)  & Saffron cocktail. The concoction has an appealing full bodied golden yellow color, with a first  in-mouth strong-in-alcohol zest (in contrast with it’s light smell).  Particularly appreciated the fact that the saffron was not overwhelming here. Barely noticeable and this helped the cocktail  to be more enjoyable (I will try mimicking this one in my food lab at home just  to see what it gives with stronger levels of saffron flavourings). Then the more you drink it, an enjoyable citrus taste starts developping. Very nice cocktail if you do not give up on the 1st in-mouth strong alcohol punch!

 

I opted for the 7 course tasting menu with foie gras  +   the prestige wine pairing choices.

The tasting menu kicked off with a mise en bouche:

A  tangerine & orange liquid  shooter. Not bad, but a forgettable item. I’d suggest a mise en bouche with more punch/zest (I know, a mise en bouche is not intended to shock  the tastebuds…but it still can / and has to be a work of memorable flavorful/zestier  taste). In you want to go for that kind of amuse-bouche, then go for something complex, daring like this one of L’Astrance.  5/10

 

Course #1: Pétoncles Princess à l’eau d’amande amère, brunoise de chou-rave, pomelo et mousse de wasabi   Impeccable freshness of this top quality scallop: fresher than that,  it’s in it’s waters! I do not mind paying the $$$ for quality (I’m especially extremely tough with seafood’s quality, being born in a fishermen village), but the quality has to be there: and that was the case here! Now a suggestion: scallops that tiny, you do not cut them in 3 tinnier slices (that was the case here): keep them as a whole! It was complimented by a light enjoyable wasabi mousse (geniusly concocted, light and enjoyable and by not overwhelming at all, on top of completing so well the scallop item) , tiny slices of apples (nice accompaniments, too) + an enjoyable zesty touch of sour almond water (taste exactly like vinegar)  at the bottom. Not an item that would mark my souvenirs, albeit not bad at all especially considering the top quality scallops and beauty of the presentation (the 2 shells sitting on top of a  layout of crushed  ice was pleasing to the eyes).  I just wished it could’ve been flavorfully bouncier/more vibrant.  8/10
Pairing White wine: Chablis 1er cru 2007, Les Vaillons, D. Dampt
Nice green yellow color, a fine palate of lemon and granny smith. It is a wine that I usually drink for a  straight pleasant consumption. It’s a young wine, with no particular character,  but ideally light and of perfect companionship to the scallops. It’s mineral flavor balanced so well with the scallops. Safe choice imho, but the results are there -> harmonious pairings.

Course #2: Terrine de foie de lotte, gelée de saké, radis, concombre et soya gélifié
Nice touch here. Where most restaurants will offer just 1 version of foie with their “tasting menus with foie”, Toque! is more generous -> 2 versions of foie are offered here (one cold, the next hot).  And I appreciate their will to add an original touch of not offering just duck foie only.  Here it is a terrine of the burbot’s liver. Surrounded by small pieces of cucumbers and carrots, the foie terrine  had an ideally pink fresh texture on the inside with a perfect smooth velvety overall consistency. The problem here is not with the foie itself (which was perfect on it’s own) but with the soya sauce it was bathed in: the soya had overwhelmed the full flavor of the foie. So nice idea (the overall really brings some kind of  oriental fusion food trend that could have been a blast) but the foie needs to be enjoyed fully flavor-wise. 7/10
Pairing wine: Vouvray sec 2006, Haut-Lieu, Domaine Huet
This too, appeared a bit of a safe choice to me. Make no mistake: it’s a good mainstream wine, and I  usually like chenin blanc, but this wine is more appropriately ideal for a day to day consumption imho.  With that said, it’s a good wine, with an intense rich smell (ideally aromatic with green apple flavors I truely  enjoyed), hearty light sweetness in mouth. The wine paired nicely with the oriental feel of the dish  (terrine of liver bathed in soya sauce).

Course #3: Foie gras poêlé, daikon poché au foin d’odeur, eau de pomme et gelées de miel et jurançon Very elegant chunk of beautifully-textured (perfect soft unctuous texture) pan-seared foie. Evenly cooked, deliciously tasty with an impeccable smooth inside  consistency. It kept all  it’s fully inner flavors. Bathed in a light subtly sweet delicious  apple jus, with dices of apples and heavenly delectable dices of honey gelée. That apple jus is very distinct and lightens the dish. Simply, WoWed!  Largely among the best pan-seared foie Items I ever had on any of the finest tables I dined at in Canada and abroad!  10/10
Pairing wine: Pinot Gris Grand Cru 2006, Sonnerberg VT, Domaine A. Boxler
This Pinot was intense, richly fruity and reached out perfectly well with the sweet apple jus and
lightness of the foie.

Course #4: Effiloché de lapin, pâte à cavatelli,  matsutakés et craterelles, betterave et purées de rutabaga The tender small cubes of sauteed rabbit were impeccably tasty.  On top of being tasty, this dish was generously filling, nicely seasoned, flavorfully  well balanced. I courageously gave a good bite at the far left lonesome generous chunk  of garlick only to find out that it was free from it’s usual agressive taste (that garlick was surprisingly sweet, enjoyable).  10/10
Pairing wine: Vosne-Romanée 1999, J. Grivot
As much as I was reproaching the first 2 wine pairings to be safe choices, as much as I like this one and find it daring, ambitious, full of character. It had an intense depth of  in between cherry to cola flavors with enjoyable gentle tannins. And this wine will keep improving with age. Great wine on it’s own,  and would be a perfect wine pairing to the the rabbit had the meat been more char-flavored.

 

Course #5: Gigue de cerf rôtie, cerfeuil tubéreux, rabiole (rutabaga), topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke) et purée de poivron rouge
The chunk of deer was lean, perfectly tender, nicely peppery, warm through the middle with a perfect hint of red. Delicious fresh chunk of meat. Comparable to the best filet mignons I had enjoyed.
The accompanied Red Pepper purée was tasty and beautifully unctuous. The yellow turnip was nicely boiled and tasty, the accompanied brussels sprouts fresh and pleasantly crunchy and there was a also (not mentionned in the title of the menu) a very succulent breaded meat ball of ground foie. 8/10
Pairing wine: Pauillac 2000, Château d’Armailhac
This 2000 Château d’Armailhac red bordeaux wine had not impressed me on 1st tasting (too light, sour, with a short nose at first). BUT it evolved progressively into an enjoyable smooth-palate pleasing intense full bodied wine. Nice surprising  wine that paired ok with the deer.

Course #6: Fromage Comtomme, crème au piment d’Espelette, pain craquant, gelée de piment, pomme et graines de tournesol
Instead of offering the traditional plate of cheese, they brillantly concocted a cheese based marvel: caramelized apples with Comtomme cheese (turned into a slight cheesy fondue) might not be exciting on paper,  but this dish is, to my tastebuds, one of the best daring/exciting/tastebud pleasers I could think of this year.  From the nice crunchy mouthsome to the sweet and salty decadent balanced flavors and tastes, each bite of this tastebud marvel  was a decadent propulsion to heaven. Litterally! In terms of moving tastes (as if that was not enoughly decadent, the creamy slighly peppery touch of Espelette chilly was shining through the dish, not to mention the delicious and exciting gelée of chilly) , this was simply a blast!   Largely one item that all the world’s best restaurants would want to steal from Toque!. I would just present  it differently. 9/10

Course #7 consisted of 2 decadents desserts:
Nougat crémeux, flocons de dacquoise, nougatine,
fruits confits et sorbet à la framboise:
Elegant and more importantly a flawless delicious sugary creamy nougat, with touches of one of my personal top favourite  dessert cake (the dacquoise), delicious confit fruits and a decadent fresh raspberry sorbet concocted on site. Freshness, genius execution, sublime workout of the taste were all reunited in that succulent dessert! 10/10

And to end this heavenly feast,

a peach soufflé:
Here again, the technical mastery of this dessert was impressive. The soufflé was ideally smooth, unctous, sported a perfect fluffy texture, it amazingly held together nicely, and had a  remarkable consistency. It had an elegant sweetness to it. Soufflés are supposed to be simple, and yet  very few are delivering such  flawless soufflé!   10/10

Service
World class impeccable, exactly what I expect from a Relais & Chateau restaurant: There were several waiters and waitresses servicing my table, but all of them had same  polite, courteous, service oriented patient attitude with all 1st class standards such  as always making sure your glasses are never left empty, placing the chair for you when you  are back at your table, always making sure that clean new cutleries are placed on the table, and so on. Kudos to Christiane Lamarche, the Maitre D’: classy, courteous, very professional, she is the “Force tranquille” of all this majestuous Chef d”oeuvre! Flawless.

 

Bottom line:
Overall, a great meal marked by the expected precision in cooking that you should find at this type of high end restaurant.  As far as Upscale fine dining goes at this moment, in Montreal, Toque! is in a class apart with a level of overall modern gastronomic amazement that is superior on the local restaurant scene.

PROS: There’s no doubt: Right now (November 2009) Toque! is in the top 3 of Montreal best tables (that soufflé, that nougat crémeux, the foie gras poélé, the rabbit and cheese courses are on same level  as what we are all used to on a standard 2 star Michelin table in Europe). And one of their fortes is Madame Lamarche. She  is one of this city’s best restaurant managers.

CONS: On this meal, the tangerine shooter amuse did  not fit with the high level of cooking mastery found in the other courses. The scallops brought nothing much to the dinner. Also: I did expect better from the wine pairing on this dinner, especially at those prices! And why serving one piece of chocolate as a mignardise (this was the case on this meal): whether you serve 4,5 petits fours (the standards at the big majority  of restaurants or you serve nothing at all.  Those are little remarks to be taken constructively and are easy to address. For the rest: the ‘PROS’ section says it all: it is indeed one of Montreal very best at the time of writing this review (November 2009).


Overall food rating
: 9/10  I have no clue if Toque! performs all the time  as well as on this specific meal, but there were couple of world class  food items served throughout this meal.