Posts Tagged ‘beef tartare’

Vertigo Stk Bar | Steakhouse | Addr: 1235 Univertsity, Montreal | URL:

Went to Vertigo Stk bar, a  new steakhouse opened in downtown Montreal.

The interior of the place is impressive by Montreal steakhouse standards (at the exception of the Queue de Cheval, which, based on the pics posted on their facebook  page, seems to boast the most lavish decor of any steakhouse in town), with leather and dark wood featuring heavily. The  ‘pictures‘ section of of their web site has everything you need regarding the looks of their decor. Those pictures will show you how pretty the place is (it is very pretty), but it won’t tell you how those chairs were ergonomic (I have rarely seen chairs this thoughtfully comfortable at a restaurant in Montreal).

01I ordered their Certified Angus cowboy steak (rib steak) as that is usually one of my preferred steaks  when dining at most  North American steakhouses.  The superb condition of the bone (Yep, I know, some ppl could not care about this kind of detail,  but then…why bother dining out if there is nothing to be expected from a restaurant??) revealing how well  the beast was treated, the doneness achieved as  requested (medium rare) . The seasoning spot on. The most  important, when I eat a steak at a restaurant (on top  of the quality of the meat, obviously — the quality is fine here,fyi) is how the aging effect of the meat manages to deepen the meat flavor and helps  tenderizing it. I do not buy into the idea that a meat shoud be aged over 50 days…beyond 50 days, the effect is one that my palate stops appreciating. It should  not be too short neither (in between 40 to 45 days is the ideal for my taste). There’s of course more (to just the number of   days of aging) , as I prefer the effect of   dry aging over the one of wet aging, the flavor of corn-finished beef, barely no seasoning as to allow the meat to express itself (though  an exciting steak seasoning that is well done will achieve that same great impression, too). The meat here is aged with a minimum of 21 days by their (US as well as Western Canadian) suppliers then wet aged in between 7 to 14 days by the house, the beef corn-fed and finished (our North American palates tend to generally associate meat of corn-fed and finished cattles with enhanced beef flavor and indeed, this tasted more flavorful, to my palate,  than most of their grass-fed counterparts),  the steak grilled on infrared gas grill, served charred, the effect in mouth (of the steak I was sampling) underlining  the character that I came to expect from well sourced and timely  aged cuts, which means beefy enough in flavor,   though, in this case, not as delicately tender as I came to expect from the sort of  prime-aged rib steaks that I am partial to (dry aging that beef instead of the wet age method would have helped achieving that tenderness I was looking for, in my personal imperfect and subjective view). 6/10





My wife ordered the beef tartare which was all about the quality of the meat: indeed, well sourced. It was hand cut and meat this fresh always make a good impression. Not  as boldly seasoned  or exciting as one would wish right from the first bites,   but bite ater bite it morphed into an enjoyable tartare. 6/10 for me, 7/10 for my wife.

03The fish tacos is an item that most online accounts have raved about. It was not bad, but two factors jumped to our attention: (1) the tortilla had a grilling  flavor that we  –surprisingly —  did not enjoy. It was not grilled  throughout (more accurately quickly laid on a grill ) , but the grilling flavor’s bitterness was a bit too present…so not   pleasant  for our palates. Taste is subjective though, so give it a try and see for yourself (2)the fried  fish that was in the tacos was of good quality, but the overall was standard/regular/normal western style take on the tacos..nothing more. The problem with tacos is that the Mexican influence is never far away, as we are in North America, so fine tacos is fresh in North American memories – for eg, while eating those tacos, I had the finer ones of El Rey del Taco (in Jean Talon’s market) fresh in mind, and the ones I was having at Vertigo paled a bit in comparison as they did not have the Mexican panache   I am expecting from a take on the tacos  –    5/10 for me, 6/10 for my wife.

I also enjoyed some first-rate fresh pickle point oysters,properly shucked,   from Prince Edward Island. These  were  beautifully sourced bivalves. The only minor problem is that this evening’s accompanying  mignonette sauce was sweeter than usual and that  clashed with the natural mild briny   flavor of  the pickle point oyster . Mignonette done this well (this starred the kind of vibrant fresh /exciting acidity that mignonette have long lost at most restaurants because the big majority of kitchen brigades are  in  auto mode  when it comes to execute it. This also revealed that even the quality of the lemon is not overlooked at Vertigo Stk bar ) needs nothing superfluous.












Desserts went a notch above the performance of the  savouries,  with warm chocolate & croissant pudding of flawless execution and fabulous taste (superb classic pastry technique elevated with panache  in a way that even the new generations of diners will have their share of fun as,for eg, the pudding felt contemporary -meaning devoid from the heavyness of old fashion pastry — but kept the exciting rich flavor alive, and that was  also  the case for the crème anglaise). The donuts  featuring excellent  textures, their apple butter/lemon cream flavor not bold, rather delicately complex, which in itself is a sign of great technical mastery.   First-rate classically-based desserts.  8/10 in the assessment of  both my wife and I.

Pros: A classy steakhouse, a talented pastry team (no  gimmicks in its  game, but the fundamentals are  mastered really well).

Cons: (1)This evening’s tacos lacked the bold and joyous flavors of tacos  +(2)  this rib steak I was having should have been tenderer + (3) wine by the glass at most steakhouses is Mtl is priced agressively. There’s no exception here: 1 glass of a young (2013)  red Australian wine (19 Crimes, GSM ), costing $19.95 the bottle at the saq (see here) is sold $17   by the glass of 9 oz ……………..

Conclusion: 6/10 , Above average  by Montreal steakhouse standards. There are rarely  bad rib  steaks at a  steakhouse (unless the restaurant is really careless about the  meat),  there are just ones that get close to your ideal of a great rib  steak  or that simply distance themselves from that ideal. My ideal, these days, is one of a Certified Angus or USDA Prime corn-finished  (of course, there’s more to your steak than that, but this is in  summary) cut with effect similar to a 40 days dry aged meat. The one I was having on this evening at Vertigo  did certainly not distanced itself too much from  that ideal, though  in my personal subjective and imperfect view, it lacked a bit of the remarkable tender consistency of some  other rib steaks I had elsewhere.  I’d say that, for my taste, I find that  the one at  La Queue de Cheval has  the edge. Outside of steakhouses, an exceptional Steak shop like Le Marchand du bourg can sell you aged steaks which effect seems, to me, as being  even better than what I have sampled at La Queue de Cheval as well as here, at Vertigo. That  said, this was an enjoyable steak, the produce well sourced (even the vegetables are not an afterthought), the overall experience very pleasant, with great service, in a beautiful chic and modern interior.

What I think days later: The steak did not blow me away but appreciation of steak is identical to  judging colors, there will be  no consensus over the steak capable to please the most, so perhaps it will fare better with  you. What matters, here,  is that is  a classy steakhouse and it has great potential. It’s obviously not going  to be cheap when it comes to feast on their star items, but carefully study their menu and prices (they are available online), resist temptation  and you should  manage to keep the tab in check.


Brasserie T, Montreal
Addr: 1425 RUE JEANNE-MANCE Montréal, Québec, H2X 2J4
Phone: 514 282-0808
Type of food: North American Bistrot

Call and book, even if you are around and want to eat there within the 15mins, 30 mins, 45mins, 1 hr that follows. It took me a while to get the trick, and as always..this is the kind of practical infos  I wish  most Mtl food bloggers would write about intead of the usual one directional raves. I do not mind raves, after all if you are happy, then let it know..but while you are there writing about something, bring a bit more than just the eternal  “humm..c’etait bon” or “merde..c’etait nul!!”……………….lol. Anyways, they do always accept people who pass by, but you might have to wait a bit if you do so. So just use the phone call trick even if you happen to already be nearby.

Brasserie T is co-owned by a woman I have always valued as one of world’s best professionals of  the restaurant world, Madame Christine Lamarche. Whoever you are, however you are dressed, whatever you say, this woman is one of the very rare hosts (she is actually not usually found at Brasserie T, but omnipresent at their stonghold, restaurant Toque!) who will have real consideration for who you are. In other words, even if the Cheikh of Brunei is there, behind you queueing (lol), she will still consider you as important as the Cheikh. When I said this to my waiter (A gentleman from France), he added: she is also one of the very rare owners who pays her bill, at her own restaurant, as if she was a normal customer. What a woman! If that means nothing to you, well it means a lot to me. This is the kind of person I highly regard and to me, Madame Lamarche will always be one of the exceptional few greatest women of the restaurant industry (I actually have only Nadia Santini in mind when I think about the other  greatest woman of this industry, Chef Santini being the only Chef who banished any hierarchy notion —- you know, the bullshittin  “I am god, you are the 2nd, he is the 3rd and that one is just the dishwasher type of 10th Century obsolete mentality…..” from her kitchen.

On this lunch, I went with two very basic dishes. For anyone who has cooked for years, it goes without saying that you do not need tons of food to assess the level of a given eatery. One single item can be all you need. I took two: (1) their $15 or $22 beef tartare with salad.  I always take the pricier one, not because I want to play the big star diner (no need to, I can do better at home) but because I want the kitchen to not worry about sizing this or that item for this or that price.  I am giving you carte blanche for the most elaborate item, so just focus on what needs to be delivered: the food!  I thus went for the $22 beef tartare. Well done, nice balance of acidity, good quality of beef. So a deservedly 8/10 (very good tartare, indeed), but at $22, I am not a big buyer. A bit pricey, I found (for the size and even quality —  since the quality was undeniable — BUT I’d opt for anything in  the $15-$18 range based on what is commonly offered in Montreal). I mean, as very good as this was, it was still setting no benchmark as far as tartare goes in Montreal.  Still, very good. And they still have plenty of other courses (that I saw other people ordering) which had a good ratio between quantity and price (they had on this lunch , couple of “menu du jour” items that were reasonable in price (less that $20).

Then a steak bavette, at $22. In my opinion, this was just an Ok steak bavette (6/10, for me) though ‘just OK’ means actually ‘great’ by Montreal steak bavette restaurant standards (this also applies to my experience with most Parisian bistrots too): the meat tasting good, its sear perfect. But I can’t figure a higher score for it for the simple reasons  that (1) I want my steak bavette better tenderized (make no mistake: this one was tender enough, but it could have been even more tender) and (2) although its taste was beefy enough, I wanted that steak bavette to shine with deeper beef flavor. Again, I came to identical conclusions at virtually 99% of the eateries known to have the best steak bavettes may it be here in Montreal or  in Paris (the next lines might explain why). Am I looking for the moon, then? NOPE!  Here’s the thing about steak bavettes: more than any other cut, you need it sliced expertly so that the beef flavor is at its peak or else half of the steak enjoyment is gone. The problem is that –like to hear this or not — few  butchers know the REAL ultimate proper way of slicing it. It’s like with anything else: everyone thinks they know how to drive a car…..but the reality that hurts is that everyone knows how to get the wheels spinning … driving, well that  is another story (that applies to the vast majority of people, I am no exception) ;p  Then you have the marinade. It is a tough cut, as we all know, so the timing of the marinating process (not enoughly long)  is perhaps the other explanation to the not-that-startling 99% of bavette steaks I have sampled in Paris and Montreal, this one at Bistrot T included. So, the butcher’s slicing or the marinade??? Hard to know where the problem lies  (I am a normal diner, not the butcher’s and kitchen’s marinade inspector, rfaol)  but the big majority of diners (after all, and I can’t underline it enough: that is the norm of most great steak bavettes you’ll find here and in Paris) are obviously happy with this standard of the steak bavette. Do I have a reference point for the type of steak bavette I am idealizing? YES…or else I’d not have spent my time with all the above mentioned details AND I do not score a number if I have nothing to compare it to: in Montreal, up to around 7,8 years ago, there was a Belgian woman who made the finest bavette steaks I ever had in Montreal and in Paris. She had that eatery in Le Village, on Sainte Catherine Street  (not far from Metro Beaudry). To put it boldly, she was making the bavette steak by which I had no other choice but to judge all other bavette steaks in Montreal and Paris, all dining standards included..YEP!..u’ve read this properly (If you know who I am talking about, let me know where she went?? Ou est-elle svp??). Her steak bavette’s tender texture was a work of unusual patience, timing and dedication to the little details that can make simple things great. But there was more to her perfectionism: she would slice her meat herself, complaining about even the finest butchers not really knowing that much about meats, lol.  She used to mock them arguing that most knew how to slice the common ‘easy to sell and easy to slice’ cuts, but when it came to the ‘trickier’ cuts, they were weak. The Belgian woman  knew also how to walk  the walk: she was herself an exceptional artisan butcher.  I have never had a better steak bavette in Montreal, and had only two or three versions that got close to that Belgian woman’s steak in Paris.  Rest assured: Bistrot’s T steak bavette is what most diners will find great. But what that Belgian woman did was so outstanding that it makes all other steak bavettes ordinary, years after she has closed her restaurant.

I ended with a Brazilian coffee (lol..what do u want..the exotical soul in mine will never go away, rfaol), but at $11 on lunch time, am I am wrong 2 suggest that it is a bit too $$$. I may be wrong, as usual, especially given how that gem was elegantly concocted, but still…..such a tiny quantity of Brazilian coffee, at perhaps $8 or $9 would have ……….my mouth…shut ;p Still, done way better than at a  myriad of places in Montreal.

Service is exactly what I expect at a bistrot of this calibre: classy, present when it should. But again, this is not a Michelin star restaurant, so do not  expect  the waiter to pour the wine at will. It is a bistrot, ding dong!  Lol

Pros: the terrace is fun and you can’t go wrong with anything related to Madame Lamarche/Toque!.

Cons:  N/A But remember, it’s basically a cube of glass, so the limitation in space is normal.

Overall rating: 7/10   Solid bistrot standard as expected from the sister restaurant of one of Montreal’s finest dining destinations (restaurant Toque!) .  Do not be surprised, on some instances, to stumble upon performances that even rise beyond the 7/10 standards.  Just remember: it is a bistrot, so if you happen to expect the moon (gourmet offerings, wow effect , then the problem is obviously not the restaurant BUT the misleading  expectations).