Posts Tagged ‘best restaurants of montreal’

The Deli, Montreal’s forte (alongside other local staples like the poutine, cheesecake) as it is  virtually impossible to elect  the smoked meat by which you’ll  judge the other smoked meats in town:

You  need to try the major delis of Montreal, those most Montrealers usually consider as pertaining to their tier1 and tier2, which are the usual culprits: Schwartz‘s, Reuben’s, Smokemeat Pete’sThe Main, Jarry Smoked meat, Dunn’s, Snowdon Déli, Lesters, etc.

You have to try those since they can be really different from each other’s (the seasoning, the quality of the rye bread, some prefer rusticity, others opt for  refinement )  and the differences will tell you how inaccurate it is to hastily elect one smoked meat as the ultimate One.  As an example: isn’t that tempting to associate dry brisket with failure? Well, if you do so, you could be wrong because some have their dry brisket perfectly balanced by either seasoning or the perfect amount of mustard kick that would make the whole less exciting had that same  brisket been moist. The preparation can be completely different from a place to  another as some cover their brisket with spices, others do not, some have their meat easily breaking apart (considered as authentic to some), others do not (and that does not mean the brisket is less good..obviously),etc.  And examples of that sort abound and remind us  that you should not anticipate anything that sounds off-putting  as necessarily bad when it comes to the smoked meat.

I went back to one of Montreal’s major delis, Reuben (the one on 1116 Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest) after two years of no show. As soon as you enter the place, the attention to details jump to your eyes: this will be about refinement (for a deli in Montreal) all the way -> the art-deco inspired interior design is not overly flashy but  this is clearly Montreal’s best looking deli as far as décor is concerned, the staff looks good and is dressed well (again, by Deli standards).

ImageSliders ($20) rank  among the priciest sliders that I had in Montreal, but they  were also the finest ones I ever had in town since a long time. Amazing  textures and flavors, the bun beautifully leavened, the beef expressing flavors like few sliders in town do. Not one single flaw to be noticed: dry? NO, try ‘savourishly juicy’ instead! Tired looking bun? NO, more accurately of the ‘beautiful glossy golden’ color kind  with soft fresh risen dough. I had my share of sliders since the beginning of the year  (Le Hachoir, Bier Markt, Boccaccinos , etc), but those at Reuben’s fared far better to me. I have  no clue if Reuben’s sliders are always as impressive on a regular basis but  you’ll hardly get better sliders than those I was enjoying, even on gourmet tables, in town 9/10

French fries came with the sliders (you’ll be surprised by the laughable number of places that serve their sliders with nothing else), and their texture was great. They were not served enoughly hot, but that could have been intentional as to not burn your tongue ….I don’t know, I did not ask. Just guessing. Regardless, those were good French fries that would have been startling ones with extra heat and more expressive potato flavor. 7/10

ImageI went on with their 10 oz ‘famous super sandwich” (that’s how it’s called on their menu) – Ordering the smoked meat been obviously the main reason I came here. On their web site, they state that ‘’ Each plate is expertly hand-carved to order and served steaming hot”””, which was not just a statement but also an evidence. The quality of the meat, fresh rye bread,  and the genuine artisan skills at play are admirable here, but I found even more impressive the fact that they managed to deliver a gourmet-quality sandwich (great mastery in refining every aspect of the smoked meat: for eg, no bold seasoning at all, no aggressive mustard flavor, no overwhelming rich fatty brisket even with their fattier  smoked meats..AND YET, the balanced and controlled flavors are very enticing, tasting fresh and delicious)  without losing the soul of  its rustic version. I am saying this because many fans of the smoked meat do sometimes associate genuine smoked meat with messy fatty brisket or with dry over-seasoned one (try all the major Délis in town and you’ll get what I mean…but again, as I wrote earlier on, what sounds off-putting is NOT  necessarily a failure when it comes to smoked meats). Well, Reubens proves them wrong. Excellent  9/10

Last, I had their strawberry cheesecake (of the North American sort, of course), the strawberry not overripe nor undeveloped, served at timely ripeness, its  taste consequently savourishly fruity, its appearance of the fabulous deep red kind,   the cream cheese packed with a great kick of fresh lactic flavor, gorgeously sweet and tart sensations mingling together.  This is a speciality of Montreal, so many places are doing a great one but Reuben’s is largely one of the finest strawberry cheesecakes you’ll get in town. A flawless cheesecake in terms of the technical conception  as well as for the palatable enjoyment  9/10

Pros:  The refinement of their smoked meat generates a mouthfeel effect that’s as enjoyable as those of any  rich and flavorful rustic takes on the smoked meat. Another admirable feature is to observe that doing more than just smoked meat (steaks, burgers, etc …which WE Montrealers usually do not want from our  Delis…we want our delis to just focus on the smoked meat)  substracts nothing to the quality of those smoked meats. Furthermore, they don’t just do an excellent smoked meat but they also perform well when it comes to the non-déli items as demonstrated by sliders that had the edge over other versions found at  places specializing in burgers.  This is one of the few places in Montreal that seem to suffer from virtually no inconsistency.

Cons: The gentleman (40ish, relatively short, bald) serving us was polite, but I felt a bit rushed. Now, I live in Montreal  since a long time so I know where such thing should be treated as perfectly expected/normal, which was the case here. The reason I do mention this is because some people, especially from outside Montreal, could have a different interpretation of this. So here we go: there’s nothing wrong to that and I could have just asked him to slow down a bit.

Verdict – 9/10 (Excellent) in  its category (Deli). It’s being a long time that I live  in North America, and delis I have visited and re-visited. There will always be plenty of contradictory opinions about what the perfect Deli should be, and mine is that  Reuben’s is the  perfect all-rounder deli : refined and yet enjoyable, great cooking skills, nice décor, etc.      REUBEN’S DELI   1116 Sainte-Catherine W. Montreal, Qc 514.866.1029  http://reubensdeli.com/ – Visited on Wednesday March 19th 2014 18:00

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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
URL: http://www.lachronique.qc.ca/

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL

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.

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL_MENU

 

 

 

 

 

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.

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL_LOBSTER BISQUE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL_scallops

 

 

 

 

 

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

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL_lamb

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

LA CHRONIQUE, MONTREAL_baba au rhum

 

 

 

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.