Archive for the ‘montreal’ Category


The same local foodie who did notify me about the recent opening of Tsukuyomi (visited and reviewed here) has also mentioned  that another Japanese  eatery   opened its doors on Avenue du Parc, not far from the corner of Avenue St Viateur.  The name is Cocoro (Addr: 5407 Park Ave, Montreal, Phone:514-303-0332 ).  I checked the web to see if there is any mention of this, online, but no serious/reliable online source has yet mentioned its existence as of the day of my 1st visit (Thursday Aug 17th 2017), with the only two pertinent online mentions of this restaurant being the restaurant’s Google profile and its facebook page,  so I went to find out.

Cocoro all black interior has the looks of a  simple bistro.  It also has a terrace that was not open on the day  of my visit. When you push open their glass door, you are immediately welcomed by a noren. The waitstaff explained that they do not have their alcohol license yet, but  that  it is coming soon.

Remembering the superb and genuinely Japanese donburi   as well as chicken karaage I had at Nozy — which are reviewed here (easily the most “genuinely Japanese” of any donburi and chicken karaage I had in Montreal), I wanted to see how they would fare under Cocoro’s roof.

I started my meal with their Tokyo ramen, which broth is made of  pork and chicken  (the noodles that are used are of the  thin wavy sort), light and yet  flavorful. For those in the know (people who  made ramen at a serious level for a long time), it was evident that lots of skills went into that broth (well judge timing, superb sense of seasoning, great work of the  flavor, etc).  The  waitress explained that the Japanese Chef (born and trained in Tokyo) has just arrived from Japan around 1 month ago and it shows: the seasoning of his broth was as genuinely bold as it is the case with most bowls of tokyo style ramen in Japan, with the necessary kick of salt present (I am insisting on this because lots of food journalists and food  reviewers do inaccurately report saltiness as a fault. They just do not know when saltiness is a lack of judgement and where it should be expected. Saltiness may be the pet peeve of the health-conscious world but culinary-wise, salt is what makes certain dishes great. It is therefore important to remind people that for certain types of ramen, a certain level of  saltiness is required. You take that away, your ramen will be something  else. I mean, if all you can taste in a broth of this quality is just salt, then you have some homework to do before talking about ramen: go, spend years enjoying ramen across Japan, then come back and see if  you are now  able to differentiate “necessary kick of saltiness” from the “oversalty”).  For a ramen bowl in Montreal, this was  impressive as  not one single detail was  spared: the yolk of the egg had the wet-appearing center that a serious ramen fan will look for as it helps the egg melting with the broth, an aspect that’s important as it just makes the ramen tasting better, the texture of the chāshū  チャーシュー  was the best I ever saw in Montreal ,  the noodles were precisely cooked to aldente doneness, the use of   julienne strips of the white  part of a Japanese leek (Shira Negi)– which they did use as a topping for the ramen —  is rare at our local ramenyas.  One benchmark bowl by LOCAL ramen standards. 10/10

Chicken karaage was another demonstration of the great sense of seasoning of the Chef. This time, the seasoning intentionally not strong (there is not just 1 way to make and season chicken karaage and this example was one legit version of a chicken karaage), but well balanced, with a quip, though: some pieces of chicken had a surface that was tough to tear apart. Given the skills on display during this meal and the ensuing one, I would not lose a sleep over that quip, as anyone familiar with advanced Japanese cooking techniques would not fail to observe that the Chef karaage technique is on point (again, regardless of that quip). The only limitation, for this  Chef, will come from the quality of our poultry (it is not bad, and Cocoro is using quality poultry, but it is not as great as the poultry in Japan) – but that is not the problem if this kitchen.

Talking about the quality of the ingredients in Montreal: the owner came to say hello to every client and when she dropped by my table, she said she would like, at some point in the future, to start importing ingredients  from Tokyo’s  Tsukiji market,  wagyu from Japan, etc. I appreciate her ambition but let us  be clear about this: the Montreal foodie scene is not ready for that. I gather that by reading my blog you may think that I dislike our local restaurant scene, and  that it was all logical that I would suggest that our local foodie scene is not ready for superb Japanese ingredients flown in from Japan, but thinking  that way is wrong: I am an untiring  advocate of the best aspects of our foodie scene in a way that I have always bragged about our smoked meat, poutine, cheesecakes.  They are the best in the world. Classic Quebecois cuisine is amazing, and I never miss an opportunity to mention that. In the heydays of Martin Juneau at la Montee, I did not hesitate to notice that he was (BACK THEN) up there with the very best Chefs of this globe. I did the same thing when Martin Picard was cooking. It was also the case for Hughes Dufour (Hughes is still an active Chef and he is now a star  in the competitive and  real world class foodie destination of New York), Jean-Francois Belair when he was working at le Marly and another world class Chef, Chef  Jean-Paul Giroux (who used to be at Cuisine et Dependance). Even today, there are still  local Chefs of which, I keep saying that, in their prime, they are are capable of world class cooking:  Michele Mercuri (Le Serpent), Olivier De Montigny (La Chronique), Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly  (Marconi) . So, NO…I do not dislike our foodie scene. What I cannot stand is the bullshit that surrounds this foodie scene: selling  Montreal as a foodie destination when any serious foodie knows that  it is everything you want..but  NOT  a proper foodie destination. Let us talk between  adults, here: Montreal, you managed to  convince San Pellegrino’s listing of the  top restaurants of the globe that an eatery selling lobster spaghetti should be in its top 100. You are certainly a hero  on the marketing aspect, a big zero foodie-wise. Marketing is important, but what makes a foodie destination serious is its ability of having an effective restaurant scene which performance can justify what is advertised  (which are what Paris/Tokyo/New York/London are about). Montreal has a restaurant and foodie scene that is, in general, at the opposite end  of what is promoted as evidenced by the never ending number of cooks who are more interested by opening restaurants to simply make a buck (when all you do is to parade on TV and you leave your restaurants in the hands of poorly trained cooks, that is the only thought that comes to mind, obviously), cooks who are celebrated as geniuses when the so-called geniuses do not even know how to season their food, etc. When Chef Belair was at le Marly and Michele Mercuri at XO Le Restaurant, they were both cooking world class food, but the Montreal foodie scene never knew what that meant… – Anyways, I like Montreal and do believe that when you like something, you have to be honest about it. And that is what I am doing. And to be honest, the great fish of the Tsukiji market +  best wagyu of Japan ..that  is not a good idea in the context of Montreal because the only two local restaurants that are selling the best fish and red meat from abroad are not “mainstream” restaurants, they cater to a “niche” of people driving luxurious cars and smoking expensive cigars… that is the only way they could “survive” in the context of the Montreal restaurant scene because the local foodie scene does not know how to appreciate that.

Back to the main topic, my meal at Cocoro. Impressed by the skills on display during my initial meal, I went back the following evening (there are currently just 4 food items on their menu. The 4 food items that are reviewed in my post. The staff explained that there will be  more items, soon,  in September):

Kaisen Donburi (sashimi rice bowl) is easy … right? Just rice, some pieces of raw seafood, some salmon roe, some basic toppings. Those in the know, those who really  did it, those people  know that is not that easy. Well, it is easy to make an ordinary bowl of rice, for sure. A bit more difficult to find Chefs who pull this  off brilliantly. What I was having was one of the best Kaisen Donburi I ever had in Montreal, the Chef’s skills so evident in the superbly well executed savory tamago (even in Tokyo, it does not always  look that refined and appealing to the eyes…)  he did cut in small pieces, dices  of fresh quality squid, salmon, tuna revealing great knife skills and lots of finesse in the overall execution. The rice was also tasty, which is not always the case at plenty of  Japanese restaurants across  North America.  This was a reminder that simple food like this can dazzle….only in skilled hands.  Even the accompanying sweet soya was of nice quality. Beautiful skills! 9/10

I also ordered their udon made in a mix of  bechamel sauce / dashi bouillon, a Franco Japanese offering that is right now trendy in Tokyo. You have your  proper classic French Bechamel, not as rich as your old school French bechamel sauce,  therefore “lightened”  and that works well with the dashi bouillon. In the dish, there were also some morsels of quality chicken that were cooked not too tender, not too firm (for proper chew).  As it was the case during the two meals, the attention to details was remarkable (the doneness of the noodles always well timed so that it is never mushy, never too hard, the noodles always holding well to their respective sauces or broths, the timing of the cooked vegetables was also well mastered, resulting in  vegetables of vivid textures/colors..not a common feature at our local restaurants). A successful dish 8/10

Overall food rating: 8/10 A TRUELY skilled Chef who masters the fundamentals of cooking well (salty where it has to, tasting mild or strong exactly where need be, great sense of timing, great sense of textures/temperatures/colors, great palate, etc).

Bottom line: Culinary-wise I now have two “preferred” Japanese eateries in Montreal. Cocoro and Nozy. Eventhough the Japanese presence is more serious than it used to be,  on our local restaurant scene, Nozy and Cocoro are, right now, among the rare restaurants that seem to deliver the flavors that will get you, in Montreal,  as close as it’s possible to the motherland (which is not a light  feature when you consider  that you are located at 10,383 kms away from it).

What I think days later: Let us see how Montreal will react to yet another good Chef. Are we going to pursue with that bad habit of trying to alter what others have been doing successfully for ages (Yes, Montreal, you know what I mean by that! Some  local Japanese eateries  were great   and you started complaining about the bold genuine flavors of  their  food. They  did adapt to you and  were not the  same anymore!!). So if one day this Chef is not who he  is anymore , you will have just our laughable clueless foodie scene to blame. And to the Montreal foodie scene, I have this to add:  you should start ditching your  “it is too good to be true” mentality as that is making your foodie scene “tasting bland” btw!!! … In Tokyo, Paris, London, New York, they think  that “it can truely always be consistently great”, no wonder why they are world  class foodie destinations! Mind you, they have the “collective” mindset to make that happen …and you do not!!!

This review of restaurant Park (Addr: 378 Victoria Ave, Westmount, QC; Phone:514-750-7534) completes my recent reviews of some of the best —- according to our local foodie experts (major local food journalists, major local foodie websites)  —- sushis of Montreal. The other two sushi spots that are highly regarded by those sources and that I have reviewed are Jun I and Sushi Yumi.
Antonio Park is the most talked about  restaurateur and chef of our local restaurant scene. I discovered his work years ago when he was at Kaizen. At Park, he offers his take on contemporary cosmopolitan cuisine that is influenced by Japan (non traditional sushi, sort of kaiseki)  as well as his Korean/Latin American background (the ingredients he does use, his takes on some korean staples).
I ordered the Omakase, which, on the evening of my visit, did consist of  5 courses (if I’d choose the duck magret) or 6 courses  (option of the sushi instead of the duck magret).
The menu has appetizers such as park style sashimi, nigiri, green salad, asian salad, 2 oz Japanese kobe beef, charcoal grill albacore sashimi, miso soup, edamame. The list of Mains goes like this: park  bowl (either with chicken or salmon), Jap Chae, sashimi moriawase, nigiri moriawase, etc
p1Mushroom shitake broth, ordinary shrimp – Between a glass of water and what I was having, I would opt for the glass of water. There was really nothing going on here, no taste, no depth, nothing. I have been dazzled, in the past, elsewhere by similar broths, and this one was a world away from those. The only pleasant feature being the dinnerware the broth was served in.  0/10
p2Scallops, shiso, kombu / tosaka algae with a tempura made of the mantle of the scallop (braised, then fried) – Fine raw scallop from Boston,  properly cooked tempura, properly done salad . Ok  6/10
p3Nigiris – Usually, I am fonder of the traditional Japanese style sushi, but I knew, coming here, that their sushis are not traditional. Shima aji, akami, yellow tail, tuna, salmon served as toppings to the nigiris. They were seasoned with ecclectic ingredients such as shishito pepper, jalapeno, maple syrup. This was properly done (fish well sliced, the rice and the taste not as great as at, say, a fine sushiya in nearby NYC, but correct for Montreal / the rice not far from body temperature on this visit). When you had tastier sushis of the traditional style, meaning with far less seasonings than these, you leave underwhelmed. Still, above average sushi by Mtl standards , though such feature is really not that hard to achieve. Ok  6/10
p4Makis (blufin tuna, reduction of maple syrup/soya), filling of cucumber/shiso/tuna. Fine enough. Again, not a maki which souvenir would linger on my mind. Still, above average by the weak standards of Makis in Mtl. Ok  6/10
p5Hamachi, akami, salmon, tuna albacore with spices of steak –  Ok, as Ok sashimi do taste and feel like. Ok is also how I would describe the broth. 6/10
p6White choco/ raspberry sorbet. Again, just Ok. Ok classic blend of white choco mixed with raspberry. Safe, safe, safe and not what I want to sample at an omakase priced … this high. Ok was, indeed, going to be the recurrent qualification of most of the food items of this meal …but Ok is not what I am looking for when I dine out…Ok?  6/10
Overall food rating: 5.5/10 (Categ: Montreal fine dining standards) –  You can’t afford one single  0/10  dish when you are not a world class restaurant. I did not invent that 0/10. Your broth …well, ….water tasted better! Get it? What rating would you give to a dish like that if I was serving you a broth that was less exciting than water??? At L’Arpege, to take an example, they could afford that. They could afford even 2 or 3 dishes like that. Because they have the kind of exceptional skills to wipe off such disappointments. Not you. Antonio (he was not present on that evening) would have definitely lifted up those dishes. Though, even with Antonio, let us get the records straight: Park is no exceptional eatery. That said,  this was still a tolerable meal / slightly above average meal… by the weak standards of the majority  (there are, of course, some few Japanese artisan Chef restaurants in town that are consistently good, but this time I wanted to focus on what the local experts had for us) of our local Japanese-inspired eateries. “Tolerable” happens to be over flattering in this case. I am generally not a diner who insists on cost performance, as proven elsewhere on this blog ( I have never mentioned cost at L’Arpege or L’Ambroisie, some of world’s most costliest restaurants), but this meal at Park is really way too $$$ for what I was getting (my meal at Hvor did cost way less with far superior cooking and dazzling produce). Meaning that I do not even have to go abroad to realize that this particular omakase is not worthy of the pricetag.
Pros: Service (10/10)  was the highlight of this meal. I am usually more into the food than the service, but I definitely know how to appreciate great service and will always take the time to mention it whenever it is the case. Antonio knows how to surround himself with a staff that perfectly balances professionalism and amiability. He did it at Kaizen, he keeps doing it at Park
Cons: A restaurant of this reputation and charging what they are charging should ensure that …when the main Chef is not working, the performance remains worthy of the pricetag.
Bottom line: Montreal is not a sushi destination, we all know that, but the sushi scene used to be way better here back in the days when Mikado/Jun I were in their prime   + there was a hole-in-a-wall sushiya on le plateau that was really good by mtl sushi standards. The rational thing to do is to save  your money and your time and just go to NYC for your fix of good sushi. At least, there, you will understand where your hard earned money has gone and you will have a good time.

Jun I (Addr: 156 Avenue Laurier O, Montréal, QC, Phone: 514-276-5864  ) is my long time preferred sushiya in Montreal.  During my last meal at Jun I (click here for that review), Master Chef Junichi Ikematsu was present at his stronghold and his craft was a benchmark sushi meal by Montreal standards. It might sound unfair to review Jun I right after the review of a first-rate sushiya of the caliber of Sushi Azabu, but not to worry: both are not competing in the same category, and that is taken into account in my assessment. I am also someone who will never become jaded:  I can eat at the best sushiya of Japan one day, and still appreciate a perfectly well crafted sushi in North America the next day without allowing my appreciation of the former to influence my impression of the latter. The standard of sushi in Montreal is nowhere near what you will find in NYC. Just to give you an idea of how far behind (their peers of NYC) our local sushiyas stand, here are couple of laughable examples that “””speak volume”””: we are in 2017  and … fresh grated wasabi at a sushiya in  Montreal is still a futuristic project. Actually, there is probably one  wasabi root in the drawer, lol…BUT  it will be served to the  happy few (local celebs, a poster diner, etc). It sounds surreal, but that is Montreal. Primitive examples of that sort abound. The problem is that Montreal has nothing of a serious foodie scene, in reality. I said “the problem”, but I should have accurately submitted that it is “the reason” …one of the reasons, actually … why montreal has nothing of a serious foodie scene. Therefore I returned to Jun I with the right expectations, first and foremost to enjoy my food and have a good time. And if there is any reference point to look for, then it will be the one that Jun I did set during my last meal right here, 3 years ago under their roof, as that meal remains the best sushi meal I ever had in Montreal.

3 years later, how does  Jun I fare? Jun I would be in NYC and I would gladly look into online reviews and find out. But in Montreal, that would be an exercise as useless as trying to talk to a rabbit. One would think that the local food journalists could help enlightening us on Jun I’s whereabouts, but apart one or two of them, our so called food journalists do essentially run after novelty. Food journalist Tastet noticed that in 2015, a year when Jun I was still in its prime, most food journalists had  forgotten about him. I am not surprised at all: our food journalists are basically just hipsters. Anyways, most of  them know Japan just by the name and the closest they got to Japan is by drinking sake and feeding themselves on americanized sushis.

On to my meal:

juni-1Yellow tail tuna was served with a thick yuzu / miso sauce, which was pleasant but lacked finesse and complexity. There was also some rice cracker, that did remind me a bit of Chinese prawn cracker, only it was made with rice and was consequently snowy white in color. 5.5/10

juni-2Spicy scallops as a temaki was not too spicy, which was  actually its only noteworthy feature. The wrapping made of ordinary nori. Ordinary, very ordinary. And I am being very very very polite, here…. Trust me!  5/10

juni-3An array of nigiris and sashimis (japanese red  snapper, tuna, salmon, spicy tuna on a piece of cucumber, eel, etc) – for Mtl, the quality of fish is fine. But since the fish was  generally offered in its “bare naked”  glory (generally not marinated , not aged, not cured, etc), the only way out is to get the ” fundamentals”  right :  so your   fish has to be sliced masterfully, your rice needs to dazzle, the  quality of seafood cannot be just fine, it has to be exceptional. And all of that was  not the case at all, here. 6/10

Overall food rating(Category – Fine dining sushi in Montreal): 5/10 The 3 young folks at the helm, on this evening, were not in the same league as Master Chef Junichi Ikematsu. From slicing the fish, pushing their craft beyond the ordinary, etc..they have many rivers to cross. They are young, cool, nice looking and the future pertains to them. I wish them the best. I really do. I also hope, for …them, that they continue to learn and develop a sincere passion for their job. Passion, they will need. For now, they need a Master around them  (I have no clue if Chef Junichi Ikematsu had a day off or if he is still associated with the restaurant as I did not inform myself about it).

On my way out,  I remembered that this area where Jun I is located  had couple of great eateries, around a decade ago (the “golden era” of my foodie existence in Montreal) : Barros Luco, Chao Phraya, La Chronique, Palais de L’Inde, Wilensky‘s. Chao is not what it used to be. La Chronique remains in my top 3 in town. Palais de L’Inde burnt, Palais de L’Inde I will miss a lot. Wilensky closes at 4pm, therefore it was closed on that evening (btw: I was there this past summer. I still like Wilensky’s but will submit that the quantity of meat in their sandwich is not as generous as it once was).  Barros used to be a favourite, but once I pushed open their door, whoever was at the counter seemed more interested to chat with his pal than serving his clients. Perhaps a sign that there was not much  to feast on, anymore. Montreal, oh Montreal, one of world’s most insconsistent restaurant scenes!!!  You just can’t keep doing things right….don’t you?? So I went to the last nearby ‘survivor’ of that ‘golden area’,  Fairmount bagel . At FB, the old guard is not there anymore, but the young gunz are still doing a great job. I told  one of the young gunz at FB  that I was surprised that they are  still doing this well after so many years. His answer will be my conclusion…the appropriate conclusion… to the current  review : “”  You  learn from those in the know. However painful the journey, if you have the last laugh, then you know you have achieved nothing. If they have the last laugh, then  you know you are doing something great “”.  Food for thoughts. Dear Jun I, I really hope that was just an off day!

My thoughts after this meal: I am a long time fan of Jun I, therefore this  experience was definitely not one I was expecting. I  know, that is life, and life goes on. I was just not prepared mentally for this, under their roof. There is a reason why Sushi Masters have spent years perfecting their craft. There is a reason why Sushi is considered as true art by many people.  I know that the newer generations of  cooks  can’t afford spending the time that their predecessors did, and that is understandable. But then, ensure you spend some time mastering the fundamentals (knife skills, handling of the fish, the rice, the basic gestures of a skilled and experienced itamae) alongside various Sushi Masters, those in the know. Observing is also very important as in observing how a true Master Chef keeps his working space organized. You can do that without the long and painful years that the older generations of Sushi Chefs went through.  I was sitting at the sushi counter, on that  evening, and that is what came to mind.

Restaurant: Au Pied de Cochon
Type cooking:  Remake of rustic traditional Quebecois cuisine+ Misc French classic bistrot fares
Address: 536 Avenue Duluth Est, Montréal
Date/Time of the meal: June 13th, 2014 18:00

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.


I went back to a long time favourite bistrot, Au Pied de Cochon. Sadly, this is the 3rd visit in a row that leaves me disappointed. I am one of the earlier fans of APDC, with amazing souvenirs of its brighter days. I do understand that not every cook can trade head to head with super skilled Chefs like Picard or Dufour (the earlier kings of this house) but there is no excuse for  subpar cooking….especially for food as easy to satisfy as classic-based bistrot  fares. It pains me  to write this about  Picard’s stronghold, Au Pied de Cochon (APDC),  as I had some of the  most interesting restaurant remakes of  rustic/old school hearty Quebecois and French bistrot  food,  there in its early days when both Picard himself and Chef Hugues Dufour were  still at the helm, but it now  seems, to me, far, and each time further and further, from its  best days. On this evening, I dined with a friend who knows his food well. His first time at APDC.  His opinion is that he was impressed by the great service and loved the concept but sharp cooking skills is basically what he was missing.










Crab salad – Basically, well sourced fresh crab flesh mixed with a salad of cucumber. Not bad, but an $18 salad of crab certainly calls for a sign or two of ….restaurant quality effort. This was basically as decent  as any salad that  anyone would have made at home with quality crab and cucumber in his/her hands. Casual cooking does not mean easy / basic food….And btw,  most bistrots would deliver this with a bit more creativity, a witty touch. Want more? Ask Chefs Dufour and Martin Picard if they would have deliver this salad in such uninspired fashion (simply toss a mayo-based vinaigrette with cucumber and crab meat..the effect was as basic as that)   5/10

AU PIED DE COCHON, POUTINE FOIE GRASPoutine au foie gras – There is a myriad of suggestions about what the perfect poutine should look and taste like, but such debate essentially pertains to the the usual subjective nature of personal preferences. What matters is that you are using real and quality potato, that your gravy is not of the soggy tasteless kind, that your fries feature a nice crisp, and that the cheese curds are of fresh springy quality. So, homemade French fries is the way to go, and homemade those were, starring proper cooked-potato texture and flavor. The cheese curds are, as expected from a place of this standing, of very high quality (perfect springy consistency), fresh. The crisp of the fries, decent enough . The accompanied lobe of foie gras having a nice sear, its livery flavor sadly not as deep and exciting in mouth as it once used to be under this same roof (disappointingly subtle, in flavor, during this meal) . The sauce is the secret, as they say in Quebec, and APDC’s creamy foie-gras based concoction has been for a long time, one one of the most appetizing poutine sauces you’d run across in town. On this evening,  its texture not as perfectly  smooth as you want your poutine gravy to be, its temperature judiciously controlled so that the cheese curds do not start melting, indeed, but the sauce used to be far more inspiring: I recall finding the texture of the gravy more spectacular/ the taste more delicious.  All in all, this fared , to me,  far less accomplished than its versions of the earlier days (The fries used to hold their crunch longer, the sauce more exciting during those days)  5/10 (oftently an 8.5/10 back in the days)


AU PIED DE COCHON, SEAFOOD PLATTERSeafood platter – Summer at APDC has the seafood platter as the star of the house. APDC seafood platter comprises of a mix of raw (oysters, clams, conch , whelks, mussels, calamari) as well as fried items (sometimes fish, but on this occasion, well…anyways, we’ll get to that later), served with condiments such as tomato sauce, aioli, spicy yoghurt. Everything was well sourced on this platter, but sadly…everything was overdone and in a nonsensical fashion: whelk was drowned in a sort of mayo-based concoction that I did not bother inquiring about since it killed the appreciation of the whelk with its heavy creamy overwhelming dimension. Poor whelks, one of my favourite seafood items…. – The brigade on duty this evening seems to really love anything that  pivots around  mayo or cream-cheese or whatever yoghurty look alike dressing:  the oyster not escaping from this pattern  as one of those nonsensical dressings did escort my oysters,   an aigrelette cream sauce   accompanied the oysters this time . Good lord, … that is a perfect recipe to turn the oyster serving into an unappetizing bite both texturally and palatably (the effect being exactly the same, on this instance, as pairing cream cheese to oyster…certainly, that was not going to do anything good to the oyster).   Mussels came in the form of small mounds of heavy-loaded brunoise of veggies mixed with mussel flesh, introduced within the mussel shells…so heavy on the stomach that I would hate mussel forever had this been my lifetime first mussel bite.  Calamari, were drowned in what looked like a squid-ink based concoction that managed to be cloying, …poor calamari!  As for the fried item..well, it  came in the form of what looked like tiny pieces of fish (??) tempura sitting atop  some of the sea shells offerings, and shall be remembered as yet another element too many in an already confusing seafood platter (this was the $60 seafood platter).  For me, this was nothing more than just a  waste of well sourced ingredients  2/10










Lobster risotto featured rice that was properly cooked to the bite but the overall texture was   ‘cloying’ rather than creamy.  I do not expect them to compete with the finest Italian risotti in town but for me, this was cloying, not creamy and cloying is not the texture I need with a risotto. And at $42 the plate, I need the lobster morsels to benefit from more inspired work than just featuring as morsels of boiled lobster laid atop the risotto…  5/10







Veal tartare was the best item of this meal, the veal seasoned judiciously, its taste really appetizing. The ‘asian’ touch of wrapping them in a nori sheet is an idea that never fails to entice as raw meat and seaweed sheets is one of those combinations condemned to pair well.  7/10

PROS : Popular, boisterous, it is never boring here. The service really great as always.

CONS: This (a remake of rustic traditional Quebecois cuisine) is one kind of food that I am very familiar with (by very familiar, I mean about 2 decades of enjoying it…) and to which my palate tends to be partial to, therefore easy to reach out to my expectations, BUT their current cooks really need to  draw the line between enjoyable rich food (what made Au Pied de Cochon a widely praised foodie destination)  Vs overwhelming fares (what I have experienced all along the recent  3 visits). Today, I saw plenty of dishes, served at other tables, and that were lost amidst an unreasonable amount of ingredients and condiments. My past two visits starred a lamb shank confit that was so over garnished to the point that I could not tell the difference between the meat and its garnishes. On that same visit, a piece of delicate fish suffered from the same problem (why, on earth, do you associate a delicate piece of fish with that much reduction on the plate??).  As for the current meal, same old problems….

Overall food score for this meal: 4/10 You have all you need to know in the description of each of the dishes. Needless to add more …

Conclusion: Once upon a time, under this very same roof, the exact same items that failed today … were better conceived, and came with a very personal touch, because whoever was crafting them had a better sense of flavor combination, in my view and for my taste. APDC remains ‘unique’ / ‘original” by local standards, but, for me, the soul of this house has moved to their sugar shack (the souvenirs of the inspired rustic food that Martin Picard or Hughes Dufour were once crafting … they seem to have somehow resurfaced at their sugar shack). I do not  know if there is an  urgency of hiring a Chef of Picard’s or Dufour’s ilk, I just know that ADPC  seems, to me, to fail to thrive well.

Post thinking: I usually have a section called ‘what I think a week or a month later”.  With a meal like this, there’s no need for such section as it’s not a performance I want to think about. There are many things in life that we learn to cope with, and a forgettable meal is just part of life, even when you pay as much as what you would have paid at  a 3 star Michelin restaurant….  for a poorly executed bistrot performance, but I   have a friendly advise, just a friendly one:  seafood are a gift from the above, whoever cooks has no other choice but to  be gentle with them (the seafood), respect them (the seafood) because they (the seafood) are unforgiving when you treat them badly….they bite! (wink).  I know that, because I have yet stumbled upon a kitchen that cooks well without paying utter respect to them (the seafood). Seafood is the mother of all ingredients, trust that one….On an aside note, I’ll conclude by suggesting that as an old fan of Martin Picard, and knowing how proud and passionate this man is, I can safely presume that Martin would not be proud of what I was left with in the course of  the underwhelming past 3 visits.  The past 3 meals had more to do with testing my patience rather than getting the job done…Now, can we resume with  serious cooking???Is that too much to ask?

WOLD CUP SOCCER 2014On a non-foodie subject, the magic of  the soccer world cup is now in full effect. So an exciting summer for us, fans of soccer. June 12, July 13, let’s play!  My WISH : a final between Brazil and Germany! ;p Though, I have a soft spot for Italy (would love to see Pirlo with the world cup in his hands, he’s my favourite soccer player ) as well as the UK (I grew up admiring Steven Gerrard). Regarding the recent games, my opinion is  that the defeat of Spain against the Netherlands should not be taken seriously. Spain knows how to win and their next games will reveal an unbeatable side. I really do not see Brazil going that far eventhough my wish is that they face Germany for the cup. Yes, they have some of the players that I do admire a lot, like Oscar and Willian, but I do not sense, from their part,  the fire or strong and deep passionate commitment  typical of a team that is on mission (It’s of course a bit too early to talk about such, but Costa Rica seems to have that fire up to now). I also think that the South American teams will surprise many during this WC! Ah, soccer, the beautiful game….





Restaurant La Chronique
Dinner on: April 23rd 2014, 18:00
Type of cuisine:  Updated French-based market-driven cooking (Fine dining)
Addr: 104 ave Laurier Ouest
Phone: 514.271.3095


This month, I am revisiting some of Montreal’s top restaurants. This time, La Chronique.  La Chronique is considered by plenty of   ‘experts” of the local food scene as one of Montreal’s very best tables. Even if my previous visit here did not impress me (its review can be found here),   there was still no doubt in my mind that La Chronique’s  envious  position on the local restaurant scene was justified (if you carefully re-read that review, it’s not the skills of the kitchen that I had issues with, far from that. It was the presence of couple of items I judged not worthy of that tasting menu). Anyways, la Chronique has always ranked in my top 7 best tables of this city,  although   the  meal I was having on this evening  gave me no other choice but to  firmly insert La Chronique in my personal top 3 in Montreal (La Porte/Au Cinquieme Peche/La Chronique).  I think that most Montreal food connoisseurs (food journalists, etc) got it right in their assessment of La Chronique.  Where those ‘experts’ of the local food scene have largely missed the boat was in the case of XO Le Restaurant (when Chef Michelle Mercuri was working there, he is now working at Le Serpent) as well as the (now closed) Le Marly : it was laughable to observe that the ‘experts’ were  raving about weak Chefs at the helm of average restaurants and largely ignoring two of the very best tables that Montreal ever had . BUT oh well, what do you want… it’s all subjective, n’est-ce pas?  ;p


Back to La Chronique. They have now moved to 104 ave Laurier Ouest, right in front of their old location, the restaurant having  two floors. On the street level, the room is narrow and small, with an elegant interior bathed in warm tones of white and dark brown, a large glass window providing great penetration of natural light.  Upstairs, they have a private dining room for special events as well as some few tables.







On this evening, the market driven menu featured 5 starters as well as 5 main courses, which is, in my view, a smart way, for a kitchen relying on the freshest produce available , to better express itself without the distraction of long (unfocused) offerings. There was an additional tasting menu available.








I opted for the tasting menu, which kicked off with a first-rate lobster bisque. This is the other ‘best’ lobster bisque I ever had in Montreal, the other startling bisque is one that I once had at Le Bonaparte. Le Bonaparte’s is executed the traditional way, whereas this one is a revised take on that. I am normally a hardcore purist when it comes to the bisque, but this rendition cooked by La Chronique just broadened my perspective of the bisque beyond my once firm veneration of the traditional bisque: inside the bisque,  thinly sliced leeks, pieces of lobster meat and truffle cream as well as the thoughtful addition of parmesan cheese crumble. On paper, that addition of parmesan cheese crumble was the touch I was afraid the purist in me would be frustrated about, but in mouth it turned out to provoke exciting sensations that would convert any purist on a heartbeat. When I learned cooking,  I was taught to always respect tradition and to  build on the best part of the past.  When you master the flavors of the past, however crazy you want to express yourelf, chances are that you’ll pull off something great because it’s built on solid foundations. This is what this bisque was about:  you still had the best part of its traditional conception (the traditional bisque flavor was there) and much much more, in a much much more exciting fashion…  This was a  bisque about exceptional skills, by any standards of dining, here and abroad, its depth of flavor and fabulous texture simply of benchmark material 10/10

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL_tuna tataki, shrimp tempura




Followed by tuna tataki, shrimp tempura, drops of spicy mayo of unparralled depth of taste, avocado purée of spectacular quality lifted by an exciting fresh kick of acidity, quality cucumber nicely marinated (the marinade’s expression being spectacular in mouth). The tuna tataki featured high-grade tuna (references to quality will abound in this article – yep, when a kitchen uses such stellar ingredients, to such great effect, there’s no shame about underlining the feature endlessly), its spicy crust marked by balanced and highly enjoyable heat sensation. The shrimp tempura encased in phyllo pastry, the shrimp beautifully meaty,  its taste utterly fresh and  exciting, the phyllo pastry executed well.  Inspired! 9/10







Next, scallop from Iles de la Madeleine. You’ve got the picture by now: the scallop was not the usual average scallop most restaurants in town are serving, its sear spot on and of course, the flavour exciting. Inside the scallop, some of the freshest crab meat I ever had on a table in Montreal. On the plate, quality cauliflower completing the dish. 8/10

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL_pan sear foie  gras







Then,  pan sear foie gras (of examplary fresh quality and memorable deliciousness, the sear admirable, the deep livery flavor so typical of the finest seared foie gras lingering on my palate), pastrami of duck (a clin d’oeil to the pastrami that we all know, but here using duck – this was flawlessly executed), drops of an exciting reduction of soya/maple-syrup (yeah, the kind most cooks will pretend to never miss, so easy it sounds, but rest assured that most can’t pull this off this skilfully),  and superb potatoes. 8/10








Lamb of Kamouraska rank  among the finest quality lambs of this province, the kitchen carefully opting for a top-grade short saddle of lamb. This was not only of fabulous quality by any standard that I can think of, here and abroad, but everything else was as admirable: remarkable depth of fresh meaty flavor, irreproachable accompaniments such as beautifully sourced zucchini, olives and a vibrant chickpea purée. Another top class dish. 9/10





Ended with a take on the baba au rhum, topped by a stellar homemade ice cream of almonds/amaretto/vanilla (10/10 for the ice cream, and like most ppl….I haven’t started enjoying ice creams ..yesterday;p ) as well as a ‘brunoise’ of  pineapple that did benefit from exemplary sourcing (the acidity low, which is great, and for those familiar with the matter, it was easy to see that this is pineapple that was hand picked at its optimal stage of ripeness / we were far from the ordinary looking and dull tasting average pineapple that so sadly abounds in plenty of restaurants in town, a remarkable feature for a table that could have rest on its laurels following the previous spectacular courses BUT that chose , instead, to maintain the bar of its quality produce high till the very end), the baba au rhum risen enoughly long to allow better flavor, the cake light, having a perfect crumb and, on this instance, not boozy at all. An excellent take on the Baba au rhum (9/10).

Service was  of great hospitality standard, with on this evening, one waiter and also the Chef serving   his own dishes. Chef Olivier De Montigny came regularly in the room to serve every patron and he explained that he tries to not roam away from the principles of French cooking by avoiding flourishes such as, to take an example, espumas. Well, that is exactly what I favor the most too.  I find that too many people go to restaurants with absolutely zero knowledge of what the restaurant is doing. How many times did I hear people expecting flourishes on tables that are focusing on doing the classics great, the flourishes really not in their plans at all. You want flourishes, fine, but then do expect it where you should: at a restaurant that’s known to adopt it.  It is nice that Chefs serve their own food and explain what they try to achieve:  it’s the best way to remind ourselves that a good part of enjoying a meal is to understand what it is about, not what we want it to be.

Wine pairings was a charm, featuring some top choices with excellent picks such as a dazzling glass of brego cellars pinot noir (2010) serving as a brilliant match to the pan seared foie dish, an amazing glass of  Jermann Afix Riesling 2012 (great pairing to the tuna tataki) or the memorable Passito del Rospo 2009 2009 (for the baba au rhum).

Overall food rating: 10/10 The meal I was enjoying on this evening is a 10/10 meal by Montreal highest restaurant standards, an enthralling meal from end to end. This is  revised/updated French-based artisan Chef cooking (Chef Olivier de Montigny is not watching TV at home while you dine here, he is right there working for real in his kitchen), with a Chef who has a great palate (something I regrettably can’t say about a myriad of cooks …) and superb skills using what count among the finest ingredients to be found on a table of this city.  The restaurant itself is also classy: minimally but tastefully decorated, intimate/cozy.  I know restaurants  in France and across Europe that went on to  earn two Michelin stars for the quality of food  that I was enjoying on this evening.  I decided to indulge in their elaborate evening tasting menu so that I can enjoy their work in its full glory, but they also have affordable lunch menus for those who want to try La Chronique at lower cost. La Chronique deservedly joins La Porte, Au Cinquième Péché, Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon   in  the ‘cream of the crop’ of my favourite restaurants in Montreal.


Bouillon Bilk
1595 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, H2X 2S9
Phone:(514) 845-1595

It took me just one visit here, couple of years ago, to be impressed. So much so that it has been in my top 5 favourite dining destinations of Montreal, since then. It is always controversial to consider  a restaurant  as one of your city’s very best upon visiting it just once,  but there was no surprise with my initial    great impression of this restaurant:  at its helm, one of Quebec’s most talented Chefs was in charge. Chef Francois Nadon was one of the most brilliant cooks of the Mercuris entourage, one of QC’s most gifted and legendary family of Chefs. He was cooking on that first visit, and what had to happen happened:  it was a stunning meal by local standards.

On this evening (Tues Sept 3rd 2013, 20:00), I went back to see how his cooking has evolved. He is still the Exec Chef at Bouillon Bilk.

I sat at ‘the comptoir’, their bar if you prefer. The menu is typical Mercuri/Nadon style:  a collection of ingredients (on average, 5 – 6 ingredients are used on each of the dishes, ) at the service of  a  contemporary  refined bistrot  cooking style that can be more accurately described as ‘eclectic’ and ‘cosmopolitan’. Chefs like Mercuri and Nadon do this really well, so I was excited to enjoy once again such  a style that is not that common in Montreal (of course, as a foodie once wrote to me …it is déjà vu abroad. To which,   I have to remind that 99% of what is cooked is déjà vu…no matter the greatness of who’s cooking it. I mean, apart Alinea, the Fat Duck, the Adrias, Redzépi, some few of the Spaniard Chefs and a handful others..a handful … not many are truely standing out  in an exceptional way in relation to what is already established at the finest  evels of world dining. Let alone at the standard of dining found in a city like Montreal (Montreal is not a top dining destination as far as I know…).  But  Bouillon Bilk has always been for me a favourite by comparison to  local Montreal restaurant standards.

On this evening, an amuse bouche of poached shrimp (Nordic shrimps) in a dashi bouillon.  A far cry from the stunning savory umami flavor of the dashi bouillon I had once at restaurant Park. Notice that I keep the comparisons local, here. In a nutshell, a bouillon that was way too subtle (There is not just one way to make a dashi stock, but regardless of the form that it takes, a  dashi stock requires very precise umami kick, or else it’s pointless to make one. There are of course some subtle versions of the dashi stock, but this evening’s version has nothing to do with those)  to be exciting and Nordic shrimps….like it or not, do not come with the bold shrimp flavor that can mark souvenirs.  I am not saying they are bad. I am just saying that they brought nothing to this amuse. And if you are going to make me pay for an amuse ($5) — a first for me and surely something that can be potentially unpopular (the only reason I offer no resistance to things like those is because I always want to give the kitchen some momentum so that they express themselves fully with not one single contradiction…but of course, if you do not seize the momentum I am offering to you, then…well….my patience has its limits  )  ———- , I am still fine with that…but make it amusing, because amused I was not!  5/10







Then beef tataki (again, the beefy kick too subtle despite a decent ginger/soya flavor that served as seasoning), urchin (irrelevant on this dish, to the point that even a great fan of urchin like me did not even notice its presence),   radish, salicornia and fried corn. The fried corn was memorable for its impact in mouth (a great caramel kick to remember for a while), but the overall was underwhelming for me. No particular palatable excitement, but the thought that few Chefs can indeed transform this array of ingredients into something cohesive and memorable. Chefs like Nadon, Mercuri do just that: they are among the few who, in town, can make such collection of ingredients somehow great in all aspects (technical cohesion, palatability, etc). The beef tataki could not testify to that.   5/10







Then tomatoes, zucchini flower, burrata, melon. Zucchini flowers were certainly not bad, their stuffing of burrata logical, but I had far better  textured zucchini flowers at many bistrots here and in France, ones that had perfect light and crunchy shapes I failed to get with the zucchini flowers I was having on this evening. Little detail..perhaps, but details that set ordinary fried zucchini flowers from better ones.  Fried zucchini blossoms are nowadays popular in most home kitchens, so easy and fun to make, so restaurants have just one way out: offering a version that is out of the ordinary. It is doable, many bistrots are doing it.  On top of the ordinary zucchini flowers, I was left with not much to feast on : tomatoes were fine, the fleshy melon interesting, but at the end of the round, it was an ordinary overall dish 5/10








Pieuvres, poulet fumé, pomme de terre, citron, chilli – The pieces of octopus tenderized properly, their taste decent. Octopus, if it’s not going to blow your tastebud with deep marine robust flavor and a kick of great grilling, forget it! It’s not worthy of the efforts of cooking it. I was frustrated for …them: they have tenderized it properly, which in itself is great effort, but marine robust and great grilling flavor were nowhere to be found. Even worst: what was the smoked chicken flesh doing there?  I mean, do this:  take a piece of braised octopus and match it with, say, turkey ham (the smoked chicken tasted exactly like turkey ham)…. 5/10

It is at this moment that I decided to have a look at the kitchen (it’s an open kitchen, so easy to spot from the bar) and realized that Chef Nadon was not present on this evening. My main waiter at the bar, Monsieur Nicolas, realizing that I was not enthused, came to the rescue. He explained that Chef Nadon was absent due to an injury. That is life, I do appreciate Monsieur Nicolas classy move and do understand that all tables have indeed ups and downs. So perhaps just a bad night, but I have principles that I insist on standing by:  if a meal seems underwhelming to me, then it is. No matter the reasons.

BOUILLON BILK, crab tempura fried with coppa







I concluded with a dish that was available on the ‘menu of the evening’: crab tempura fried with coppa, burrata, celeriac, sea lettuce, samphire, sea purslane plant. Definitely better than the previous items, the crab tempura seasoned properly. Still, this was just a standard / normal crab tempura.  Also, cold cuts like coppa, with a tempura, that can be interesting in the hands of geniuses like Nadon or Mercuri.  Few cooks can really make this kind of pairing working. Few. On this evening, It was frankly as coherent as fire and water…. Should I say more??     6/10

Pros:  (1)The admirable service (Monsieur Nicolas showing   outstanding hospitality standards. Same could be said of the tall lady who was welcoming the diners at the entrance, on this evening). (2) The fun wine pairing, except that I found the Bio wine from Alsace to be interesting on its own — I am educating my palate to appreciate this kind of wine — though not suitable for any sort of pairing to food, any type of food actually.. .  As usual, a matter of personal taste.

Cons:  (1) Well, obviously the entire text is clear about what went wrong on this evening.  But I’ll add this:  We have plenty of  talented cooks in this city, so it is important that they express their own skills.  Yes, respect Chef Nadon’s guidelines. After all, he is a gifted Chef.  But hey..use  his guidelines, add your own touch  and have fun! Unleash it all!! Lol.   As we say in French: Lachez votre fou, Lol! Après tout, cuisiner est bien plus le fun de meme ;p (2)Being charged $5 for the amuse bouche of poached Nordic shrimp in a dashi bouillon. Why calling it an amuse if you are going to charge it?  Call it an appetizer, then.

Overall score for this meal: 5/10  All in all, my second visit here was disappointing,   performing  far behind the stunning first meal I had here at Bouillon Bilk. With the circumstances that I now know (Chef Nadon was injured, so absent on this evening), it makes sense. I have no doubt that his assistants are talented, and perhaps this is a style that’s too personal to Chef Nadon for them to really exploit Chef  Nadon cooking”s full potential.  In which case, I’d suggest that they adapt this cooking style to their own inspiration when Chef Nadon is not around. I have been cooking for enoughly long to understand that it is never an easy task to fill the shoes of giants like Chefs Michele Mercuri or  Francois Nadon. Better build on what such geniuses teach you and have fun your own way. This is one of the rare  places in Montreal  in which I  have full trust, since the main Chef is talented and the owners and staff are serious/reliable.  All that is left is just that: when the big Chef is not around, the kitchen needs to find a way to be exciting in ………its own way. That’s all.

GOOD TO KNOW: I can see that this post is very popular among the visitors of this blog. It would, then, be accurate to  remember that this post dates from 2013. Since then, many things have changed on the local chophouse scene and some of the steakhouses that did not impress, at that time, have improved (a good example is Moishes. I respect Moishes because they  respond gracefully –a breath of fresh air in an industry where ego is generally out of control  — to constructive criticism  by  adapting to constructive change).


Montreal is not a city for steaks (our strenghts are the smoked meat, the bagel, the cheesecake, to some extent the poutine but that is unfortunately less and less the case in Montreal).  The scores you’ll see below are scores limited to Montreal steakhouse  standards. If I had to start comparing those with the finest in the US,  just as an example, the scores would be even lower.  Let alone, the finest Argentinian, French, Japanese, Australian, Spanish  cuts of  meats that are virtually not present in Montreal while remaining high on the list of this globe’s  most praised meats. Montreal  has couple of steakhouses that are widely known as the finest of the city. The most famous of them all is La Queue de Cheval of  charismatic restaurateur Peter Morenzos.  Other highly regarded Montreal steakhouses are  Rib n Reef, Moishes, 40 Westt, Gibbys.  Choices of meat do not vary that much: mostly  Black Angus from the US,  occasionally some cattles from Alberta and recently some Australian Wagyu.  Of course, Montreal has other chopshouses  but those are the ones generally regarded as Montreal`s  finest.

You’ll find below the reviews of following steakhouses:
-Queue de Cheval
-Rib’n Reef
-Steakhouse Vieux Port

I had my first steak at a steakhouse in 2009. Since then, I have enjoyed plenty of stellar steaks ( Argentinean, Scottish, US, etc ) . At this point in time, my preferred rib eye steak is the like of a corn-finished 40-45 days solely dry aged Black Angus, bone-in, backed by rigorous sourcing and an exceptional understanding (from my butcher or steakhouse) of what makes a prime cut really great ( for eg, using the best aging technique for X cut, understanding the importance of the health/diet of the beef/the proper slaughtering technique/proper hanging technique, etc –when you are obsessed about doing things right, it never fails to be noticed by a diner who prioritizes quality).  I am impressed when I see a butcher or steakhouse concerned by the traceability of their meat.  In regard to the reviews you will peruse,below, I’d like to remind that the sole intent of my scores is to convey what I have perceived  as closer to /  or far-off  my preferred  type  of rib steak,and they (my scores) should not be interpreted as a way to assess one steak as superior to  another one (those steakhouses would not be in Business for so long if they were serving bad steaks, so rest assured that none of them had bad steaks). Obviously, food assessment is utterly subjective (solely based on personal expectations), so consider my ratings as  what they are, and not what you want them to be. IMPORTANT: Most steakhouse staff in town is unable to inform about  the exact cattle as well as the farm where the beef was born,which is why you’ll notice that I always mention the grade of the beef, but virtually no info about everything else.  That is something to improve upon as being knowledgeable about  traceability is a way to show respect for the food you are serving.

***Recent steakhouse review (Sept 2014): Steakhouse Vertigo Stk (click here for the review).

La Queue de cheval  (aka the Q  is an iconic steakhouse in Montreal. There has been a split, recently, which resulted in the Q moving from its original location (they were on 1221  Rene Levesque Street ) to a temporary spot (1234 De la Montagne, but they are planning to relocate soon) and the other half of the team remaining where they used to be (now re-named Steakhouse 1221). If you are curious to know where  Montreal’s legendary restaurateur Peter Morentzos did end up, the answer is that he is the strongman of the Q.     The Q is pricey, therefore I can’t afford heading there on a regular basis. This being only my 2nd visit in 5 years. But not many steakhouses in town offer the quality of  beef and  the proper depth of knowledge/expertise you can  find at places like this,  therefore I find it justified to splurge once in a  long (only when I feel like really enticed at the idea of dining out at a top steakhouse ) while on Montreal top steak contenders (Moishes, Gibbys,Rib n Reef, Queue de Cheval). In a long long  while.

At their current temporary location, there’s a tiny bar made of marble as well as a relatively small dining room that they share with nightclub 1234 (another reason I chose to eat there earlier in the evening). I sat at the bar, which ensured a completely different ambience from my last visit here (last time I was at the Q, I was in their grand dining room on  René Levesque), with my waiter, Thomas, offering stellar service where professionalism and warmth is perfectly balanced. Thomas is a charismatic gentleman of the type you occasionally  encounter at few grand dining destinations.

Picked their classic 20 oz bone-in Lou cut’s rib steak (I chose the corn-fed Colorado’s Black Angus USDA Prime cut as opposed to the mostly grass-fed Kansas cuts / At touch, smell,  and look,  I can  and always  judge the dry-age of a meat myself,  and my cut had less than 30 days), the precision in cooking absolutely faultless with that steak I was having: medium rare as requested, medium rare is delivered.  The good  marbling delivering enjoyable steak flavor, the usda prime quality being indeed a cut above most of  the non usda prime versions found at most steakhouses in town. Objectively a good steak by upscale steakhouse standards in Montreal.

The problem with the Q, based on my visits here, is not a problem of quality nor cooking skills (the problem, as with most upscale steakhouses in Montreal, is $$$). As an example, their take on the tiramisu (it’s their take on it, so do not expect comparisons to traditional Italian versions of the Tiramisu) was delicious, technically well crafted. The Brazilian coffee done properly, the salad fresh but over-overpriced for what it was. The problem, as it’s oftently  the case with upscale places  like the Q is the price.   I do not disclose details about the amount of  my bill, since I value such infos as purely personal, but their prices can be found on their web site.
It is admittedly always hard to tell whether a steakhouse of this standard worths all that money. No one will ever have the absolute answer, anyways.  But it’s not rocket science to fire a great steak in a back yard, so buying a great aged steak at my butcher remains the best cost effective option.   What I insist on doing, though,  is to avoid mixing up the effect that prices have on our judgement with the real appreciation of what I am eating. With price in mind, I have always valued 95% of the dine out scene to be widely over-rated. So if I decide to dine out, I am looking for other factors to fill the gap: in this case, the expertise/knowledge  about their meats, the way they age them, etc. Things that move me out of what I’d be able to do at home: I can cook a steak at home. But I do not age steaks. So I opt for the cuts they’ve invest the extra mileage I could not.

Factsheet – The steak I had on this meal at the Q:
20 oz bone-in Lou cut’s rib steak
Breed: Black Angus
Dry or wet aged? Dry
Grade: USDA Prime
Upon visual inspection, indeed this  had USDA Prime marbling distribution. Of course, USDA Prime is not only about marbling, but this was the element I could realistically factor as a diner looking at  his steak
From: Colorado, US
Aged: less than 30 days (for the cut I was having)
Corn? Grass? Matters less than factors such as the breed and skills/care of the farmer, but this was corn-finished and as such, it only makes sense that cattles feed mostly on grass.
Do they have a mostly grass-fed cut? YES, their Kansas cut.
Buttery flavor (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional): Good 7/10
Juiciness      (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional): Good 7/10
tenderness     (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional): Good 7/10
Timing         Proper timing/ the steak was not rushed to the table upon cooking
Cooking        (missed, achieved)                       : Achieved (requested medium rare, served medium rare)
Personal appreciation (Disapointed>Satisfied>Blown away): Satisfied
MY Overall score for this steak                                      :  7/10
Deserves its rank as one of the finest few steakhouses in Montreal:
Absolutely, the seriousness/care, dry-aging, sourcing makes this one of the finest steakhouses in Montreal.
Just don’t draw comparisons to the finest of NYC, for example.
Service: Thomas is simply one of world’s best in the hospitality business.
In my Top 10 steakhouses ever? No, but remember it’s a always a subjective matter, that the grass tends to always be greener at the neighbor’s, that I just had rib steak on my past 2 visits here,  whereas they have other cuts, from other breeds, etc
What I liked: (1)The world class service of Thomas (2)The opportunity to discuss steak with a knowledgeable staff (3)Because it was early and there were not many people, the ambience felt intimate (3)Although limited in variety, the wine by the glass was relatively decently priced by upscale steakhouse standards in Montreal.
What I did not like: (1)Pricey as one should expect from an upscale steakhouse that walks the extra mileage that such steakhouse have to invest in  (2)The wines by the bottle are $$. (3)Wines by the glass are limited to very few choices
Final Notes: I did not elaborate on the decor because it’s a temporary location that they are currently sharing with the Nightclub BAR 1224. It’s actually funny since when I was younger I wished all bars were attached to a nightclub to get my refill of protein right on the spot ;p UPDATE, OCT 2014:  La Queue de Cheval has now moved to 1181 rue de La Montagne

1221 Steakhouse ( ) is the other half of what used to be la Queue de Cheval. So after visiting their other half, La Queue de Cheval on De la Montagne, I paid a visit to them. I was particularly curious to see the difference between their rib steak, especially since both teams have benefited from the same knowledge, for so long and the split is just recent.
At 1221, I picked their 20 oz Rib Steak dry-aged 28 days steak.  There’s something that we all need to know: when you go to such upscale steakhouse, in Montreal, the dry-age period does not reflect  on the price as it logically can be the case at some places abroad, or perhaps elsewhere in Canada:  logically,  the older cuts are the priciest. Not in Montreal steakhouses. On the flip side, you can end up with a 40 days the same way you can get a 20 days dry-aged steak (28 days minimum at 1221), for the same price. I was lucky at 1221, on this visit:  my cut was dry-aged for easily around 40 days, and it therefore was a  more flavored than, say, the one I had the day before at the Q. Both the Q and 1221, during this visit, served their rib steak with garlic. So, I’d recommend you order a side dish to go along. In this instance, I ordered their onions rings (7/10 good onion rings, large in size, prepared properly but I think I have to get used to the fact that less salt/spice  is better for health. It was a healthy serving of onion rings. But still, for  someone like me who enjoys big bold strong flavors, the climax was nowhere to be found). The steak itself:  can’t complain since it was cooked precisely, and the resting carefully timed. A 7.5/10 for me (both the Q and 1221 not altering the steak flavor with superfluous flavor-enhancement, which is what you should  expect   from a top steakhouse indeed, but their mix of steak spicing –they lay a bit of  that on their steaks —  is one that is not a secret recipe…so if you are looking for the next mysterious/revolutionary steak seasoning, you might have to knock at other doors ). UPDATE, MAY 2014:  this place is now closed (replaced by Bier Mrkt)

Factsheet – The steak I had on this meal at the 1221:
20 oz bone-in rib steak (They don’t call it LOU’s CUT)
Breed: Black Angus
Dry or wet aged? Dry
Grade: USDA Prime
Upon visual inspection, indeed this  had proper USDA Prime marbling distribution.
Of course, USDA Prime is not only about marbling, but this was the element I could realistically factor as a diner looking at  his steak
From: Colorado, US
Aged: Easily more than 40 days (for the cut I was having)
Corn? Grass? Matters less than factors such as the breed and skills/care of the farmer,but this was corn-finished and as such, it only makes sense that cattles feed mostly on grass.
Buttery flavor (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional): Good to Great
Juiciness      (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional): Fair
tenderness     (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional): Good to great
Timing         Proper timing/ the steak was not rushed to the table upon cooking
Cooking        (missed, achieved)                       : Achieved (requested medium rare, served medium rare)
Personal appreciation (Disapointed>Satisfied>Blown away): Satisfied
MY Overall score for this steak                                      :  7.5/10
Deserves its rank as one of the finest few steakhouses in Montreal:
Absolutely, the seriousness/care, dry-aging, sourcing makes this one of the finest steakhouses in Montreal.
Just don’t draw comparisons to the finest of NYC, for example.
Service: Gianni was extremely patient, and I appreciate his very accomodating behaviour ->
fearing that my bill would reach skyrocked highs, especially with the price of wine, I did put a brusque halt to any extra splurge, so no dessert, no coffee, nothing else .  Instead of treating me in a snooty way (especially with the close table of wealthy gentlemen feasting on caviar, lobster and champagne), he was as caring to me  as he was to his wealthier patrons. Hard to not like a service like this.
In my Top 10 steakhouses ever? No, but remember it’s a always a subjective matter, that the grass tends to always be greener at the neighbor’s, that I just had rib steak on my past 2 visits here,  whereas they have other cuts, from other breeds, etc
What I liked: (1)The classic steakhouse decor with the aged steaks displayed at the entrance, the warmth of black stones mixed with rustic wood. This place is big and special in its own way (2)I was lucky to stumble upon that 40 ++ days aged cut.  It made quite a difference: as expected, a tad more concentrated in beef flavor than the cut I had the day before at the Q, the flavor benefitting for the expected extra concentration of meat flavor. It was on its way to develop the nuttier aromas of some exceptional dry-aged cuts, therefore really a cut packed with character in the aspect of texture in particular. The kind of cut that calls for a pause, then admiration of the work behind it, then you can start devouring, Rfaol!
I did not like: (1)Pricey as one should expect from an upscale steakhouse that walks the extra mileage that such steakhouse have to invest in  (2)Wines by the glass are way way WAY too pricey…..for example, the steak-friendly and good red wine Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 can’t be priced in the 20ish by the glass….when it cost almost the same $$$  for the bottle at the SAQ. FOLKS…WE ARE NOT IN A MICHELIN STAR VENTURE, HERE …………
Final Notes: Did you notice that I scored this steak with a 6/10 on the aspect of tenderness? Which is paradoxal in theory , given that the longer the cut was aged, the more tender it’s supposed to be. Make no mistake: this cut was tender, but
I had cuts that were even more tender and that were not aged this long, so tender that I could cut them with a spoon. This is not a bad thing btw, since again, this cut was tender enough for a steak of this standard, but I am glad I have experienced this  paradox as a reminder that theory and practice are sometimes just two different buds. That there’s never just one possibility that counts, but a myriad, depending on a vast umbrella of factors reinforcing the suggestion that a cut of beef will never be as simple as stating that bone-in ribs are more flavorful than boneless ones (there’s a steakhouse in Montreal that has stopped being a favourite of mine since they change their boneless ribs to bone-in ones…), this breed is better than that one (I have enjoyed stunning cuts of incredible beef flavor from supposedly poor breeds as I have experienced with poor meat from supposedly great breeds), corn is better than grass (in my lifetime top 10 best steaks, I have as many corn-finished as there are mostly grass fed-ones), etc

Moishes ( is considered as Montreal #1 steakhouse on many web forums as well as restaurant review web sites. Forbes Magazine even rating Moishes in World’s top 10 steakhouses in 2008, and   this wikipaedia article telling everything you need to know about the glory of this widely praised steakhouse destination .  It is an institution with already 75 years behind it. The interior decor is very elegant in its  classicism,  and to me, this is the warmest and prettiest steakhouse dining room of the city (I find it even prettier than Gibby’s — Reviews on Gibby’s and Rib n Reef will come soon). The service was flawless on this evening, the young lady at the reception being very welcoming and most of the staff   hospitable. Another big hit:  you have a variety of breads, some pickles, butter (with ice on them) as well as   as some coleslaw served for free, which makes this steakhouse one that’s exceptionally generous with its side offerings (apart bread, you do not get that much extras alongside your steak at most steakhouses in town). My problem was with the main feature of the evening :  my 3 weeks boneless rib steak (colorado  USDA Prime according to my waiter) could not compete with the superior aged bone-in rib steaks I had at the Q (around 30 days) or 1221 (40 days ++)  in the aspects of tenderness (at same doness, which they achieved perfectly  – I required Medium rare– this steak I was having at Moishes remained a bit too firm  for a rib eye steak to be fully enjoyable) and depth of  meat flavor (the bold rich beefy flavor I came to expect with this  cut was certainly not at the forefront, on this instance) .  There are plenty of reasons to love Moishes, such as the charming service and the lovely place, but if you meet someone claiming that this is the #1 Steakhouse in Montreal, send him back to his homework:  he needs to visit all of this city’s finest steakhouses first!  The Gentleman who was serving me was a very patient and offered superb service, but he had no answers to some of my  questions   (grass fed? corn finished, etc),  so I’ll have to go with a shortened factsheet of this rib steak, which I scored (overall score) with a 5/10:

Buttery flavor (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional):  Poor
Juiciness      (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional):  Decent
tenderness     (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional):  Poor
Timing         Proper timing/ the steak was not rushed to the table upon cooking
Cooking        (missed, achieved)                       : Achieved (requested medium rare, served medium rare)
Personal appreciation (Disapointed>Satisfied>Blown away): Disapointed
MY Overall score for this steak                                      :  5/10
Deserves its rank as one of the finest few steakhouses in Montreal:  In my opinion, No. A rib steak is the easiest cut to work with. Bold beefy flavors is its raison d’etre. You say rib eye, you automatically think rich meaty flavor.  It has to dazzle.

I liked:        The warm classy and cozy decor, down to earth and charming welcoming
I did not like:  My steak!  For me, this   3 weeks boneless rib steak (no bone-in rib eye at a time when bone-in rib steaks are all the rage?? Something is sure, the waiter told me there was no bone-in rib steak when I asked ) was not even close to the character of the finest  bone-in wet age steaks of 30 to 40 days I enjoyed either at Montreal’s steakhouses or bought from local butchers.  Which took me by surprised given the praises over this steakhouse. What I also found disconnected from the praises seen everywhere on the web   (btw, I too do love Moishes  but I can’t pretend that this is the finest steak or among the finest  I had in this city. It’s simply NOT the case, as far as I am concerned) is the opinion about the side of baked potato.  It’s Ok, not stunning and eventhough there is a lot of babbling about  chain steakhouses being poor, I have to say that at the end of the day  I can only deal in facts and that the baked potato of a chain like the Keg has pleased me far more than this one I was having at Moishes.  I also enjoy being presented with my steak before it goes to the grill, a piece of theater that adds to the experience of a grand steakhouse dinner and that I did appreciate a lot at places like the Queue de Cheval and 1221.  That did not happen on this visit. Same for the wine by the glass  (the glass arrived with no presentation of the bottle).  I am not one who will force his imagination to let prices affect  my appreciation of things,  so never rely on me for such things like value (although I know very well what  might perhaps be  cost effective or not), but prices aside (For the record, this steak at Moishes cost me almost the same price at the Q or 1221), my steaks at the Q and 1221, during this round up, were easily 2 cuts above my steak on this meal at Moishes.

Rib’n Reef  (  ) – In Montreal, you basically have two leagues of steakhouses : one that’s known as the upscale steakhouses in the city (Rib’n Reef, Queue de Cheval, 1221, Moishes, Gibby’s, 40Westt) and the other one comprising of  the likes of the Keg, Maddison Grill, Houston, etc. Again, which one is better will come down to what you are looking for.   I have no judgement other than recommending that you try them all and see what matches your expectations. A personal matter. As for me, I took my hard earned money and went to find for myself since I want to know where I can bring my wife or what to recommend to close friends and relatives. In the process, I am just sharing what I think with you. This time, I visited R’n’R. R’n”R interior is relatively vast, with several sections: for eg, classic dark wood dining areas, cigar lounge, rooftop terrace, etc In order to compare apples to apples, I pursued with the same cut (rib eye steak)  I chose at other reviewed upscale steakhouses (Queue de Cheval, 1221, Moishes are already reviewed in current post), at exact same doneness: medium rare. Prices for a rib eye steak of mas o menos similar size (for eg, 20 oz at Queue de Cheval and 1221 / 18 oz at R’n’R) is almost the same  at all the upscale steakhouses of Montreal (approx 55$).
Factsheet – The steak I had on this meal at Rib ‘n Reef:
18 oz Bone-in Rib steak
Breed:  Black Angus
Dry or wet aged? According to the waitstaff, it is awet aged for couple of weeks then dry aged for an extra month
Grade: USDA Prime
From: Colorado, USA according to my waiter
Aged: 1 month minimum (for the cut I was having)
Corn?  Corn fed
Buttery flavor (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional):   Decent
Juiciness      (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional):  Fair
tenderness     (Poor>Decent>Fair>Good>Great>Exceptional):  Fair
Timing         Proper timing/ the steak was not rushed to the table upon cooking
Cooking        (missed, achieved)                       :  Achieved (requested medium rare, served medium rare)
Personal appreciation (Disapointed>Satisfied>Blown away):  Not Disapointed, not fully satisfied. Just Ok
MY Overall score for this steak                                     5.5 /10
Deserves its rank as one of the finest few steakhouses in Montreal:  For me, Not for now. But this place shows a lot of pride and will to improve that I trust its rib steak  could one day reach the standards of those of La  Queue de Cheval or  1221.
Service:  Daniel fabulous service is of the highest hospitality standard
What I liked: (1) Daniel’s incredible service (2)At Moishes, I was impressed to see that they served pickles, bread, coleslaw. Sounds like nothing miracular, but you won’t see that oftenly in Montreal. But Rib n Reef went even further. They served those same items (coleslaw being superior at Moishes, in my opinion and the pickle as plump and of remarkable quality, except that Moishes served more of them), and completed the meal with even some cookies. Not the beginning of a new life cycle, rfaol, but a rare touch at a Montreal steakhouse.
What I did not like:  I love my steak thick, exactly as what they served at 1221 and the Q.  For me, a good 2′ thick inch rib eye steak opens my appetite, it locks more juiciness/tenderness. Theirs was about 1′ inch thick (or slightly more, but slightly).  I also like when you show me the steak prior to grilling it, which they’ve omitted on this instance.  Last but not least, this rib steak was certainly nicely aged, but not to the point of reaching the close to gamey/nutty character of the steaks I had at the Q or 1221. The wait staff explained that it  was  wet age then dry aged . If that is the case, then perhaps just dry aging it all the way would be more successful.
Final Notes:  A classy steakhouse, which  has not impressed me with its rib steak on this visit, but that remains promising (I’m always amazed to see people who are always curious about getting better).

Steakhouse Vieux Port – Picked the $35 rib eye steak. Service at Steakhouse VP was really nice with great welcoming from a young lady at the entrance, then superb service from  Angelo, the waiter (this soft spoken middle-aged man, could be an actor in the movie the Godfather ;p) . The rib steak was nicely seasoned (you’ll be surprised how it’s not that easily achieved at many steakhouses in Montreal), though it would have been better with more char and thicker consistency (nowadays trendy prefs at major big steakhouses).  Nice warm bread was also served, whereas green beans + cauliflower  came with the steak. Not bad, but I prefer the Keg’s steak to this one (keep in mind that this whole thing about what steak we find better does not mean that what we find better…it just means that we like X one better than Y one.  Subjective stuff, as always, since those steakhouses just have different ways of seeing things. For me, a stellar steak is one with char,  with the kind of deep meaty flavor usually provided by long dry aged technique. So I can only talk for what I like or not. A  5/10 for my taste

Gibby’s is a steakhouse institution, 200 years  of history.  I asked  questions about the origin  of my meat, but my waitress simply responded that everything here is of top quality. Therefore, needless to  stress that there won’t be any factsheet about the usual detailed infos  of my meat. Of course, I could insist  for the kitchen to bring me some answers, but I was there to eat, not to   cascade my requests. Gibby’s is an institution that I have not visited since 2009. In 2009, when I first visited Gibby’s, I had not much experience with steakhouses and I was very impressed at that time. Years later, I have tried many steakhouses not only in Canada, but also in the US and in other countries where beef is as revered as in the US. The reason I am writing this is because I do not think that Gibby’s is bad. They are doing things the same way they used to, but I believe that I am not impressed by it anymore only because my taste has evolved. So Yes, my rib eye was cooked to requested doneness, but no it’s no more one that seduces me because nowadays my ideal rib eye steak is the like of a corn-finished 40 days dry aged Black Angus, A 40 days wet aged USDA prime, bone-in, etc.. which are clearly not what was offered on this dinner (this boneless rib eye steak was firmer, had less fat distribution, less expressive meat flavor …but again, compared what i idealize as great today ). So less impressed,indeed, but only because my taste has switched to something else, NOT because it is bad! And yes, if you start comparing to some other hot steakhouses, well no it is not playing in the same league as it is not its purpose neither. Still, it’s a generous steakhouse: nice warm bread, palate cleanser, pickles of great quality, plenty of salad did accompany my rib eye. The only thing that i can,t put on the back of the evolution of my palate is : the wine service…leaving a glass of Pinot noir on my table without showing the bottle to me, without pre-tasting NO and NO! You serve me my glass of Pinot Noir while I haven’t finished my other glass of sparkling wine, again..NO! And what about the year of that PN? Its description (region, etc) ??? There’s no excuse for that. Score for that rib eye steak: 4/10

Whenever I’ll drop by (more accurately, re-visits..usually once every 3, 4 years since, honestly,  we   could reproduce most of the hype at home..think of a steak picked at a reliable local butcher……) the other upscale steakhouses in Montreal, I will add my views to this post.  This rundown is now almost completed (I just have the review of 40 Westt and Gibby’s to write whenever I have a moment, but no steak at those upscale steakhouses went above the score of 7.5/10 all along this 2 months of visits. T
My thoughts about Montreal’s upscale Steakhouses:

-When you are a rich , I’d guess price never matters. But I am not, therefore for my money,  proper sourced and aged cuts at a reliable local butcher wins.

-Which steakhouse is the best in Montreal goes down to trying the finest ones (Moishes, Gibbys,Rib n Reef, Queue de Cheval, 1221) and see which one matches the best with  your expectations.   In my experience,  Montreal finest steakhouses is a cut, a times two cuts,  below their competition in say, the US, Spain, etc.

-Grass fed, corn fed: a non debate, folks….I was hesistant to actually mention this  in my  reviews of Mtl steakhouses, because enjoying steaks is not as simple as saying I love grass fed steers over corn-fed ones. It’s actually erroneous to embark on that propaganda wagon.  Cattles need grass, pasture being their natural diet. Then, depending on the popular demand at  some geo locations, corn plays a role in their diet,  usually not long before the animal is slaughtered  so that more fat is imparted to the meat. But meats is not tasty because of grass or corn.  As a matter of fact,  I have enjoyed as many mostly-grass fed cuts (for example Charolais,  Limousin)  as corn-finished ones (widely praised in North America, so you take your pick…. ).  Food is like anything in life: surprises have more chances to come from the neighbor, Lol. Rarely from home ;p In 2012, a cut of solely grass-fed Galician beef outside of  San Sebastian (Spain)  rose as one of the finest cuts I ever put in my mouth. Could that be the effect of the “grass that’s always better at the neighbor’s??”..??..perhaps. I personally don’t care about the reason, I just want to know what beef tastes best to my palate…but think about it. …..meat is much more than just grass fed / corn fed.  The breed of the cattle, the care and knowledge of your farmer might be the recipe of your  next best piece of steak ;p