Posts Tagged ‘best food’

Event: Dinner at Peter Luger
Addr: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211-6131
Phone: (718) 387-7400
Type of cuisine: American Steakhouse
Time/Date: Saturday Febr 23rd 2014, 18:00
URL: http://www.peterluger.com
Michelin star: 1

 

You know you are at the top of your game when you make your competitors nervous, the faith of PL: some of the so-called food journalists are just waiting for an occasion to put it down ( and we all know how easy it is for some of the so-called food journalists to do that as some of them are essentially just “hipsters wannabes” and PL being a classic restaurant, you can imagine the rest …), since PL does not “pay them to play”. Then there are the clueless peeps who never went there but who are paid to bash PL as just a destination for tourists, only to reveal their crooked agenda as any serious North American steak connoisseur (I am talking about a serious one, not one of the numerous online so-called connoisseurs who are basically just promoters in disguise of their friends of the industry who are paying them to play) do know that the tourists flocking there are actually well travelled and knowledgeable foodies who are true connoisseurs of steaks and who do actually have the means to really taste PL’s steaks and accurately assess it. Seems that all that garbage is not enough to mute the hordes of fans of PL: the place is always packed to the brim … with people who truely know what a great steak is and can afford backing their claims! PL’s Porter House is a benchmark North American steak. Any serious connoisseur of North American steaks knows that. I do, too. And the  popularity of PL does testify (who, in his right mind, will swallow the “garbage” that PL is good only for tourists, unless, of course, if it is to serve an agenda) to that.

***Sorry, no pics – Just wanted to eat quietly with no hassle / distraction of photo nor note taking. After all, it’s a steakhouse, so the 1000th picture of their steaks or 3000th picture of their side of spinach won’t make those items look nor taste any better ;p

 

NY is not far from Montreal, so I recently spent a weekend in  NY to  see if  Peter Luger is still doing great especially after reports from some food journalists about PL losing a bit of its past glory (my 4th visit here in 6 yrs).

Picked:
-The Porterhouse steak: The succulent beef flavor that shone through is a reminder that Peter Luger has mastered, for so long, the art of delivering the perfect North American porterhouse steak: this is one of the few great American steakhouses which dry aging technique of the meat is rarely paralleled. But there’s much more, of course: the right grade and the right cooking degree for the right cut. It’s a breeze to appreciate that they are genuinely obsessive about where that beef grew up, how well did it live, what was it fed with, how great and knowledgeable was the butcher behind that cut, how properly aged and hanged was the cut, etc. One of the few benchmark aged USDA prime Porterhouse (some complain about the sauce that’s underneath the steak…well, this adds to the character of that Porterhouse. If you can’t take it, simply ask them to serve it aside). 9/10
-Their legendary creamed spinach: deliciously rich as usual, though hardly something that anyone behind a kitchen should miss. Still, they do it well, it tastes good and it’s a perfect logical match to that Porterhouse steak 7/10
-Their old fashioned sauce: not too sure how that fares with their patrons, but their old fashioned sauce is not to my taste (I do not find that it pairs well with meat). Of course, a question of personal preference (anyways, the only time I am fine with sauce over my steak is when I eat it French-style as with steak au poivre) , especially since the sauce that’s underneath that Porterhouse largely suffices for me. I won’t score that sauce since this boils down to a matter of personal taste only (I am just not used to pair my steak with the flavor profile of this kind of sauce – a mix of sweet and savoury flavors which, for my palate, had following dominating aromas: horseradish/ tamarind/vinegar/molasse. There are, of course, more ingredients to the recipe, but those were the ones that my palate has primarily detected). I did replicate that sauce at home and after several tries, it now tastes almost like theirs, so that my palate gets used to it.  Yep, that is how food works lol: you do not like it, do not  ive up on it, just accompany your palate in gradually appreciating it and there will be more power to you ;p
-The fabled side of beacon, which I finally got to try this time (kept skipping that one on the past 2 visits): Decent thick slabs of porky meatyness, but beacon abound in North America, its preparation varying widely in quality and depth of deliciousness from one place to another, so it is hard for me to get excited over  their beacon. Certainly not bad, but there are definitely better beacon to be enjoyed across North America 6/10
-The dessert list here features typical classic American steakhouse dessert items (Ice cream, pecan pie, cheese cake, etc). This time, I tried  their Cheese cake (7/10) which was as classically well executed as it gets (as expected, New York style cheesecake that was and as I wrote, in its classic version), the schlag that I also tried being just Ok.

PL is what it is, not what you want it to be, which is exactly how things should work: it has its charms (the classic setting), its relative weaknesses (obviously, not a modern trendy fancy steakhouse so  if that’s what you are looking for, you’ve knocked at the wrong door + it’s not cheap) , its own character (old world charm). You learn to know what they are, if that pleases you, you go, if that does not fit, then you look elsewhere. I am delighted  to observe that  PL  remains as it is, which means at it has always been, regardless of the pressure that new trends put on our perceptions/appreciations: a classic house with personality.

I have read online arguments about PL being a tourist trap to some (100% pure BS! IMHO) , that they have suffered at some point from a shortage of Porterhouse, that they once had a matriarch who was second to none when it comes to selecting the finest meat and that perhaps her successors are not as diligent as she used to, but I have also spent 15 years in North America, enough time to familiarize myself  with most major NYC’s and USA’s steakhouses and came to the conclusion that if PL is a tourist trap, then the definition of tourist trap has evolved into a compliment. There’s no way a serious steak connoisseur  would confuse PL with a tourist trap. Has PL delivered the perfect Porterhouse steak on each of my 4 visits (I took the Porterhouse everytime I went there)? The answer is NO.

On one particular visit, I could easily name  plenty of American steakhouses which Porterhouse was superior. But it’s naïve to attempt to convince oneself  about the definitive appreciation  to have of a  restaurant based on just one meal. You can judge the meal, which I do too and that is  fine, but not a restaurant. Which leads me to where I am getting at: on the two other visits, their Porterhouse outshone their major competitors by leaps with effective superior aging technique and far better sourcing of the meat. Are there steakhouses in NYC where I had more fun? Of course Yes. Are there better cost performance steakhouses?  Absolutely.  But again, ambience and better value have nothing to do with why I like Peter Luger: the quality of its Porterhouse!   I was impressed to see that PL continues to deliver some of this globe’s finest American Porterhouse steaks. The Porterhouse steak, their star item, remaining as glorious as ever.

Portehouse steak  (9/10), Appetizers (6/10), Sides (6/10 ), Service (7/10 )

Recommended: This  great article on America’s current finest steakhouses

Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
Event: Dinner at  Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
When: Saturday June 16th 2012, 7:30 PM
Michelin stars: 2
Addr: Via Privata Raimondo Montecuccoli, 6 20147 Milan (Italy)
URL: http://www.aimoenadia.com/
Phone: +39 02 416886
Type of cuisine:  Italian Haute cuisine (Pan-Italian with Tuscan influence)

The Maestro is not cooking anymore but what I found here was some of the better Italian food of this  globe. 

 

Overall food rating: 8/10 Delicious take on Italian classic. One of my few favourite tables around the globe.
Service: 9/10 Lovely, attentive
Overall dining experience (the non food factor):  8/10    This is my type of  dining experience, classic, focused on real great food/flavors. For those whose ideal of  a dining experience needs to be pepped up with  ‘theater’, the score will undoubtly be lower, and   I also suspect that the dining room, not modern-looking though charming, and the neighborhood, perhaps too ‘suburb’,  might lack the little ‘extra mileage’ in appeal that some would require to be floored. To each their own, then.

 

Food I had:  I am a bit busy,  was there with some friends (so no pics since having fun between friends turned out more important than bothering about food photographing), so won’t  elaborate too much on each of the dishes — we basically shared bites of what we had ordered — , but I have sampled a tortelli / ossobuco of Piedmontese veal, the work of taste amazing, though very classic in presentation which is my liking (9/10), Veal (tenderloin cut) / Jerusalem artichoke, the veal (from the region of Piedmont) of stunning quality, the vegetable just ok (easily an 8/10 for that piece of veal — they could have simply served it as a carpaccio and I would have been a happy camper, the meat on its own being so fabulous in mouth) , Oxtail of beef is a classic here and you should not miss it if you go there, its deep meaty flavor enhanced by a well bodied stew made of red wine. Again, hearty and delicious like whatever we kept eating on that meal, easily a 8/10 for that oxtail.  Rest assured that you can’t make such dish exquisite only by relying on the fact that fat and bones will do the talk…it takes a great palate and skills and this brigade certainly has both.

The script:
This concludes an  interesting journey of seven days in Italy that I started off in  Rome (only 1 quick day in Rome) , and then  carried on to Northern Italy (Lombardy, Veneto,  and Emilia-Romagna). Tiring to say the least, but this is Italy: a borderless  ‘open-air candy store’ where everything is tempting. It is, as we all know, one of those rare countries where each parcel of  land worths its weight in gold. This is  not my first time in Italy, and everytime I visit this country, I regret of not having spent more time.

Gastronomy is, to me, as important as culture, history and architectures. Italy obviously offers plenty of those and this trip was the excuse to enjoy some great food as well as visiting as many historical vestiges as I could in such a short period of time. The dining part of this journey is crazy: Dinner on Tuesday at 3 star Michelin La Pergola in Rome, an impromptu quick lunch at 2 star Michelin Trussardi alla Scala in Milan on Wednesday, a big lunch at 3 star Michelin Dal Pescatore in Canneto sull’Oglio on Thursday, and finally this Saturday dinner at the iconic 2 star Michelin Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan. It is absurd to enjoy as many meals in one single week, but absolutely understandable given the circumstances.

It was interesting, as a reflexion on my visits at the above mentioned Italian Michelin  star ventures to reach conclusions I had not expected prior to the events: for eg , I had high hopes, given the raves and also its worldwide status as one of the grand tables of the world,  that La Pergola would  have blown me away. Although grand — It’s indeed a grand table, executing to perfection all the details that makes it known as one of the very best 3 star Michelin tables in the world – I have to admit that I was not fully impressed on a personal basis. I found it to be as expected: a great 3 star dinner, but not one that was outstanding enough in my view. This explains the recurrent 8/10, 8.5/10 marks (which means ‘very good’ in my assessment, but far from stellar) that I thought accurate to assign to most food items. In contrast,  other 3 star Michelin tables that many would find average have surprisingly fed me with sometimes quantitatively less…but  oftently far more impressive food. That is why this whole thing is subjective, after all … and it would be fair to remind that this is based just on one visit at those places.

Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, situated in remote suburbs of Milan,  is a 2 star Michelin and legendary establishment of  the city’s haute dining scene, with over 50 years of existence. The original Chef,  Tuscan cordon bleu Aimo Moroni (he started cooking in the mid 50s) now fulfills the role of the  owner, while two  Chefs, Fabio Pisani (Grand Veyfour, Waterside Inn, Dal Pescatore) and Alessandro Negrini (Dal Pescatore, as well), are at the helm of  the kitchen’s operations. What they do is basically their own interpretation  of Pan-Italian cuisine with inspirations   from Tuscany, Piedmont, Sicily and many other regions of Italy as well.

Aimo e Nadia is particularly praised among experienced gourmands of  Italy’s high end gastro scene for  offering strictly  the very best produce of the country (for eg, the top grade veal from Piedmont, Sienese lardo, etc), which is a feature that  I do expect at any table anyways, especially at this dining  level and in this corner of the world, although I am mentioning this because that aspect will naturally grow big on the subconscious dimension of my perception of the meal to come.

In a world where there is a lot of babbling about classic   techniques being boring, you would think that  trendy modern cooking would bring the supposedly exciting palatable emotions that comes along,  but years after the rise of  those novel cooking trends, few modernist Chefs are really capable of offering the true excitement that pertains to the splendid impact that classic food can unleash in skilled hands (the Spaniards remain among  the very few  whose depth of modern cooking creativity can  indeed rise at palatable heights of  the fabulous taste of the kind of successful classic cooking that I am praising). So many people are lured by the superficial aspect of food that they can’t even make a difference between an average, above average, superior or excellent straightforward food item such a soup or a tartare.  You get the idea:  a restaurant like Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia  catches my attention more than any of the latest trendy eateries, but this naturally comes with the expectation that classic food being my favourite cuisine type, it therefore needs to surpass itself.

Conclusion: Italian cuisine is in my top 10  favourite in the world along with Haitian, Congolese (Ex-Zaire), French, Chinese (from all over China), Indian (from all over India), Burmese (a lot of Indian and Thai influence)  and Thai. In that top 10, it is perhaps the cuisine that is technically closer to my cooking philosophy: try  getting the MOST (vibrant taste, above average exciting dishes, etc) out of the very LEAST (a simple ingredient, no fussy manipulation). It is therefore a cooking style that I am at ease with, because you sense the skills  (or lack of talent) of the cook almost on the spot. When I was a kid, one popular   leisure activity   in my neighborhood was to give 1 fish to a dozen of kids (the exact same kind of fish for each of the kids), 1 humble charcoal grill (not the fancy ones we have nowadays),  a box of matches, a bit of  salt and 1 lemon. With those humble and limited elements in hands, the kids had to surpass themselves and make a fish as stunning in taste as they could. Their palate had to dig deep in its sensitivity. Their taste memories constantly enriched with subtleties.  To me, this was the best cooking school in the world because the culinary touch of  each of those amateur cooks could be sensed and appreciated. It was like appreciating Miro’s touch in a painting of Joan Miro, It was Chagall’s spirit in Marc Chagall’s works. Nowadays, when you eat at most restaurants , there is usually a brand name … then Paul, Clara, John and X cooking for the brand name. It’s Miro but not Miro that did it. It’s Chagall, but not Chagall that created it.  It does not  matter who is cooking, as  long as there’s some sort of standard and some buzz. Just paint like Miro and Chagall, the most important is that their name are on the ad and make some noise, hourrahh!!  And most people do not care anyways, since it’s mostly either good or bad food. Lol. No wonder it sometimes takes me 1 year of intense reflexion and research  before deciding over a dinner worth of my hard earned money. What I liked with a place like Aimo e Nadia, eventhough Aimo and Nadia are perhaps not cooking that oftently anymore, it’s the presence of just those two Chefs only (Pisani an Negrini) with one goal: trying to convey, along the years,  the spirit of Aimo e Nadia. They perhaps will never be in a position to replicate Aimo’s personal touch (I am not even sure that cloning Aimo can address this, Lol), but what they did on this dinner was exactly what both Aimo and I seem to have as a common culinary philosophy: a fascination for turning the least into the very most.

Osteria con cucina ‘A Cantina de Mananan’
Via Fieschi, 117 – Tel 0187 821166
Corniglia, Liguria, Italy 19018
Email: mananan@libero.it
URL: https://www.facebook.com/cantinademananan/

One   highlight of my gourmand’s journey in Northern Italy was  a tiny stone walled  Italian osteria in the very touristy destination of Cinque Terre   called  A cantina de Mananan  :

The local gastronome  who brought me here did also introduce me to other  non touristy eateries that are popular with the locals in nearby  Lombardy as well as Emilia-Romagna . Therefore, when he told me  about this  spot located in the  touristy  ‘hamlet’ of Corniglia in Cinque Terre,  I had hard time believing him as Corniglia looked like a place where decent food would be hard to find.

 

I had their Piatto misto acciughe / Mixed dish of anchovies. Top quality produce that has been soaked in the sun of the Mediterranean sea, hand picked, kept away from any freezer or fridge. It is of produce of such  quality that the most ambitious Italian tables outside of Italy do dream about. There are Italian tables with Michelin stars, across the globe, outside of Italy, that would dream to serve ingredients of this quality. But then, it is not just about the sourcing. You also need to know what to do with that superb  produce and at that, they nailed it too: the seasoning was judicious, the flavours divine.  This was  an unusually well executed  dish and  would pass as NO ordinary at all, even by the standards of the finest osterias of Italy. 8/10

 

 

I also ordered   their gnocchi salsa di noci (gnocchi and walnut sauce) – Ethereally light gnocchi, featuring a delicious potato flavour, standing up perfectly to the walnut sauce it was served with, rendered in a way that some ambitious Italian tables, especially outside of Italy, would not  achieve this well (the soft texture of that gnocchi was that great). Superbly well executed potato dumplings paired with a flawlessly creamy, smooth and flavorful  walnut sauce  that could only come from combining quality ingredients (it is a simple sauce that relies on few ingredients, therefore the ingredients need to be of topshelf quality, and that was the case here) with a great know-how.  9/10

 

PROS: Great  Italian regional cookery (I am talking about the food I had there in summer 2012)

CONS: Do not come here expecting anything special as far as service goes. Do not get  me wrong: the service is not bad, far from that. Just remember that you are here for the food, though. After all, just keep in mind that it is not a ristorante, it is not a trattoria. It is an osteria (the most casual and laidback of the 3).

One drawback of  Italy’s lucrative tourism industry  is that  plenty  of subpar eateries  are competing with the few rare  gems like OCDM  to  feed the legion  of tourists . Therefore, for a foreigner, it is hard to locate the rare genuinely great eateries  that are silenced by the aggressive competition of the lesser ones.

Over a decade ago, there was great food to be found pretty much anywhere across Italy. To the contrary of what the Tourism authorities are trying to sell to us, that is not the case nowadays. Right here in Italy, a big city like Rome will offer mostly generic food that taste the same as it would taste in any other city in the western world.

Further down the boot, do not be surprised to be served fish that was frozen while eyeing at the Mediterranean sea.  Because that fresh seafood coming straight from the Mediterranean sea is way too expensive. Therefore, they will serve you the more affordable fish that came straight from the freezer, imported from afar. It is not like that just in Italy. It is like that pretty much everywhere alongside the Mediterranean sea .

Exceptional produce does exist, but you will have to pay through the nose to enjoy them at expensive restaurants. My first two days in Northern Italy were frustrating in that regard. On my 3rd day, I was lucky enough to meet with some knowledgeable local foodies and things went uphill from there as  I did enjoy some great  food and produce  at reasonable cost on the ensuing days as it was the case here at A Cantina da Mananan.

There were also some truely great celebrated restaurants such as Del PescatoreIl Luogo di Aimo e Nadia as well as Le Calandre that I did visit during this trip.  But food-wise,  few  left such a big impression on me as this humble osteria (there are 2 other osterias that also made a big impression on me – I just can’t remember their names, right now).

As for  A Cantina da Mananan, it would be interesting  to see how such eatery will fare in the long run: Corniglia is very touristy, therefore I hope ACDM does not, one day, turn into yet another eatery that just wants to cash in on its tourists. It certainly would be tempting. But I can talk only for what I have experienced and  those truely interested by / knowledgeable about genuine Italian regional cuisines would have found this meal at A Cantina de Mananan to be  one great example  of    Italian regional cookery that is hard to improve upon at an osteria  (great ingredients, superb  taste, excellent cooking technique).

 

Event: Dinner @ Le Marly restaurant, Montreal
When: Saturday April 23rd 2011, 19:00
Type of food: Modern French Bistronomy (on lunch), Fine dining gourmet (on evenings)
Addr: 1065, cote du Beaver Hall, Montreal, QC
Phone: 514-439-3904
Web site: http://www.lemarly.ca/

UPDATEDTHIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED

 

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

Click here for a recap of  my picks of all Montreal’s top fine dining & best Montreal’s bistrots.
Also: My  3 and 2 Star Michelin restaurant review web site

UPDATE JULY 2012: CLOSED SINCE NOVEMBER 2011 – THIS REVIEW IS KEPT ONLINE FOR HISTORICAL VALUE. CHEF BELAIR IS NOW EXECUTIVE CHEF AT AIX CUISINE DU TERROIR.

(English review to follow) – J’anticipe votre réaction “hein,..quoi..du calibre d’un 3 étoiles Michelin…mais il est fou celui  là”. Et vram le survol d’attentes surréalistes! Rires. Soyons clairs: je ne fonctionne qu’avec ce que je vis, je conclus que sur ce que je sais: Je ne suis point  devin et ne pourrai prévoir  si vous vivrez le meme sentiment , mais ce repas du Samedi 23 Avril 2011 à 19:00 fut tout aussi spectaculaire que la majorité des meilleurs repas 3 Étoiles Michelin que j’ai eu l”occasion de savourer. Que vous dire d’autre? Ah oui, qu’il faut pas jouer à l’autruche: un restaurant c’est d’abord un Chef  qu’on le veuille ou Non. Alors, j’ai fait mes devoirs: j’y suis allé un Samedi Soir car je ne m’attends pas à ce qu’1 Chef soit aux fourneaux 24/24, midi et soir, 7/7. Parcontre, Un Vendredi ou Un Samedi Soir, je m’attends à ce qu’il y soit (oui, je sais, certains Chefs travaillent nuit et jour, Peut etre que le Chef Belair est dans cette ligue,  mais c’est surhumain) et le Chef Belair y était comme il y est souvent d’ailleurs. C’est un Chef au talent exceptionnel. Oui, de calibre 2 à 3 étoiles Michelin. Facilement. Si vous y alliez sur l’heure du midi (c’est rare de trouver du gastronomique élaboré sur l’heure du midi ici ou ailleurs) , ou au moment qu’il n’y est pas et que vous m’envoyiez un courriel pour me dire que ce ne fut pas aussi grandiose que ce que j’y ai vécu, alors il faudrait peut etre relire ce que je viens d’écrire!. Et je concluerai sur ceci: Le Chef Jean-Francois est un Chef  d’exception!

I know…with a title like ‘Food of 3-star Michelin level!’, one might think that this is a new marketing strategy. Especially because this is Montreal, a city that …in the perceptions of most foodies and gourmands around the globe….can not succeed at such level…..perceptions, dear perceptions, oh you dear perceptions….I still remember those folks, defining  Montreal food restaurant scene’s perfection  to Le Club Chasse & Peche and Au Pied de Cochon….my project (the current web blog and my top 15 best dinners in Mtl & surroundings) was a direct response to them: buds, you got it all wrong!

Le Marly…I will be honest with you…has never captured my attention as far as food goes: its night-club feel is enticing, indeed, but there was no particular interest in its food: the initial reviews on its restaurant  confirmed that I was right. But then Le Marly  sent a serious warning to Montreal’s food scene: in February, they hired a Chef with an exceptional  raw talent, Jean Francois Belair. I waited 3 months before stepping foot, enough time for Chef Belair to set his comfort zone. I will, for once, let the food talk for itself…before we talk about anything else:

Snails – snails of top quality with an intense, rich savourish snail-meaty sauce on beds of  impeccable brussels sprouts. Excellent 10/10

Cream of corn, parsley foamy milk, coq au vin nugget:   – The nugget of coq au vin  is cooking at its best: a depth of taste that simply revolutionizes the taste of   coq au vin, which on its own is already one of the most flavorful French meals. Whilst the coq au vin nugget, a reference for any upper level cooking performance, was impressive, the cream of corn/parsley foamy milk would be of fair 2-star Michelin refinement (of all corn-based creations that have left great impression, only Navarrete Jr’s Corn soup, Potato salad, chives, aioli, crab meat  fared  better than this one of Chef Belair, for its more flavorful impact), but it stood no short of excellence: a mastery in balanced taste (both the taste of the corn milk and the parsley were harmonious and complemented each other well) and texture. 10/10

Carpaccio of beef – perfect raw meat, of impeccable quality, expressed through impeccable technique and mesmerizing deliciousness.  Each morsel of the composition elevated the overall dish brilliantly: parmesan cheese in its best condition, utterly fresh quality bok choy providing an un-matched kick of taste when paired with the parmesan cheese, parnsnip rediscovered at its best, home made potato chips that are nothing short of perfection…who would think that a potato chip —an already delicious item — had a lot more to prove? Obviously Chef Belair is one of the few who thought so. Carpaccio perfected!  10/10

Medaillon d’agneau, lentil du puy au Chorizo, purée d’olives noir, jus simple – Chef Belair has great humor: at two occasions, he mentionned ‘jus simple’ (simple jus) both on the initial ‘Snails’ dish, and then on this dish. I am sure he believes that his sauces are indeed simple, but in reality most of the 3-star Michelin Chefs that I know will revere him for his amazing sauces. Sounds too flattering, you might think? Nah..would be reality’s response. Have you noticed that I do not bother anymore losing my time with technical notes like ”the meaty beefy note of the sauce was balanced by a perfected texture, enhanced by  a well seasoned jus”…??? Right, there’s no need for such description…especially when the food is perfected to this point. This was Jannice’s food and I had no intent to sample it. But she insisted: huney, you should try this lamb…pure perfection in cooking technique..pure perfection in refinement of taste…you should taste the purée of olives, a redefinition of the perfect olives purée…  Jannice is one of the few which palate   I trust the most  and this  has nothing to do with the fact that she is my sweet half, she does have a profound and unique developped ‘sense of taste’. I tried the lamb (a flesh of impeccable  quality, with an excellent mouthsome and a top-tier jus which lifted the dish well)  3-star Michelin perfection, on this dish . 10/10

Supreme de pintade, champignons pied de mouton, nage de mais, daikon – In March, when we were dining at 3-star Michelin Ledoyen in Paris, my mum had the ‘poulet de bresse’ which is highly regarded as one of the finest poultry at that top level of dining.  Ledoyen’s meal has not impressed as you can read on that review (although that ‘poulet de bresse was not reviewed on that post), but from bites of my Mum’s ‘poulet de bresse’, I  have to admit that her dish was in the top 3 best poultry dishes I ever sampled. The supreme de pintade of Chef Belair is in its own league though: far superior to the Poulet de Bresse in all aspects: excellent depth taste, perfect moisture consistency, accompaniments (potatoes, apple, shrimps, daikon) that were cooked and tasted of exquisite perfection. 10/10

Meyer lemon pie, lemon sorbet – Here, I wish I had a top of the line camera. The picture does not do justice to this dessert. regardless, I want to say this: you know, at our top of the line world’s best tables, buzz aside, what you get on your plate is usually one or two marvellous dishes of exceptional level (the 10/10 that I use), and then a lot of well mastered courses but with nothing out of this world (the 8/10 that I use). And usually, you have either stellar savoury dishes or stellar desserts (L’Ambroisie was one of the few 3-star Michelin tables that delivered stellar execution in both savories and desserts), but rarely both. Tonight, Le marly’s kitchen offered 3-star Michelin perfect food not only towards their savoury dishes, but also in their desserts: the lemon pie and its sorbet were not only packed with a stunning depth of fruity flavour (loved the intense flavor of the sorbet) but their  respective execution was nothing short of perfection. Stellar! 10/10

Caramelised poached pear, churros, salty caramel – I used to say that France is unbeatable when it comes to desserts. I kept saying so even after having tasted the amazing desserts of Quebec’s talented pastry Chefs like Patrice Demers (Although, I have always preferred Rouyé‘s desserts). But  the pastry Chef at Le Marly has put an end to my belief: he did not even need modern sophisticated creations to impress. Nah…he went right in the basics, the simple ingredients, the simple techniques, the simple pastries  (poached pears, churros, salty caramel) and elevated everything to rarely matched execution in terms of perfected refined taste and texture (here, the quality of that pear stood out, the execution of the churros was flawless).  10/10

Decor
Modern, design, Bistro-chic  decor. There’s a night-clubbing feel to the place, but obviously they take the food very seriously (not a huge place: when you enter, the bar is on the right, the restaurant part facing the bar on your left. They will also have a 30-seat terrace open for summer).

The menu
Relatively short but smartly thought (varied): for ie, the main courses included a variety of food items (guinea fowl, boar, lamb, fish) with diverse accompaniments. The same could be said of the starters and the wine list (wine list has lots of affordable choices, with mostly plenty of wines from France and Italy but also some from other parts of the world). I found the by-the-glass pairings to be among the ones that I enjoyed the most in Montreal (Alex, my waiter and sommelier of this evening mastered so well his pairings). Here’s a sample of their menu.

Service:
impeccable (Alex, our waiter, was the perfect balance between professionalism, accomodation, coolness, patience  and took great care of his customers). Great work ethic from what I could see on this evening’s dinner (not stuffy at all, but caring and friendly).

Price:
A bargain for such level of food. You can see the prices on their online menu.

CONCLUSIONS:

What impressed me the most with this dinner was that rare ability of elevating familiar cooking to excellence: take those snails, the lamb medaillon, the lentils, the guinea fowl, the poached pears for ie. They sound very familiar, perhaps, but the modern re-work of those dishes was superb, exciting, and as Jannice stated ‘this is food that brought emotions”.

What about the  10/10 marks? Does perfection exist? I am not one who forces his imagination to see trouble where there is not. If a dish has superb depth of flavor, is very well executed and stands as ultimately delicious to my palate, then that is a perfect dish to me. If it is lacking, then that is not a perfect dish. The marks over 10 should not be a surprise: this blog is not about ‘adventure-sly’ discovering restaurants, but focuses on restaurants  that has long proven to stand out in Montreal. In the case of Le Marly, it is the arrival of talented Chef Belair at this place that attracted me there. And yet, despite focusing on a certain level of skilled cuisine, some  meals at other restaurants have failed  miserably if you take time to go though all my reviews. Regarding each course of this meal at Le Marly, they deserved their high scores for the amazing top quality ingredients and high level cuisine that was experienced on this evening. And even where they sounded simple (snails, poached pear), they were executed with outstanding refinement. Being able to make the most out of the least, that — in my opinion — is one important equation of a skilled kitchen.

Recently, when reviewing le Filet Restaurant, I was stating (following the launch of my latest 3-star Michelin Star dining web site that saw light in Paris), that Montreal most talented Chefs (Michelle Mercuri at XO Le Restaurant, Navarrette Jr at Raza, Rouyé at La Porte, Normand Laprise at Toque, Loiseau at Bistro Cocagne, Pelletier @ Club Chasse & Peche, etc) are mostly as stellar as the best 2 Star Michelin Parisian Chefs. I also mentionned that Paris had a big advantage on the 3-star Michelin dining level and that only Michelle Mercuri’s XO Le Restaurant was of 3-star Michelin caliber. Chef Belair, on  the back of  this exceptional dinner performed to a level of perfect 3-star caliber Michelin cuisine. Furthermore, this meal  is the  new #3 of my top 15 best dinners in  Montreal’s & Surroundings.

What about the reference to the 3-star Michelin? Was that a joke? Rfaol…Nope, not at all. First, I am talking about 3-star Michelin level of food. In Montreal, up to now, only  4 dinners have reached that level in my opinion:
-XO Le restaurant’s March 19th 2010 dinner
Raza’s October  22nd 2010
-To some extent, the dinner I had at  La Porte was almost of that level, too
-This one dinner at Marly
Of course, they are not identical: Raza was modern Latino/French, XO Le Restaurant was Modern European, La Porte Modern French, same could be said of this one dinner at Le Marly.  Those were all food that definitely left better impression on me than at some attended 3-star Michelin meals like my 2008 lunch at Jean Georges, or the most recent 3-star Michelin meal at Ledoyen. With that said, from my perspective, food of a level of 3-star Michelin just means food which cooking and taste have been perfected to a rarely matched level. But even at that level there are several sub-levels of perfection: a 3-star Michelin table like L’Ambroisie, for ie, pertains to the top of the crop of 3-star Michelin perfection, and even among the best well established official 3-star restaurants I don’t see many approaching to the excellent level of L’Ambroisie. So, in the case of  this above reviewed meal at Le Marly I am referring to a good level of 3-star Michelin level, which although is by no means to the level of L’Ambroisie remains a solid dinner performance of the highest order. I’ll go back!

Wishing you the same amazement!

PROS: This was a startling dinner. As long as Chef Belair keeps the heat ON as what I found on this meal, Le Marly will be in Montreal’s top 3 fine dining destinations.

CONS: Nothing to complain about. But a reminder: I believe that the best time to indulge at most restaurants with such skilled Chef is in the evening, especially a Friday or Saturday evening.