Posts Tagged ‘hvor montreal’

Hvor (Addr: 1414 Notre Dame Ouest, Montreal, QC ; Phone: 514-937-2001 ) has been in my top 3 in Montreal since its opening in 2016. Despite the Scandinavian name, their  focus is on contemporary Franco Japanese cooking (French technique with Japanese sensitivity) . They now have one “surprise” tasting menu and clearly lent an ear to those who need not to be surprised as, on the evening of my visit, the wait-staff explained that  an A la carte menu (only verbal, not written) was also available. This is a kitchen brigade capable of great creativity (but not a creativity that will shock as the flavours remain familiar/comforting for  anyone accustomed to the contemporary cosmopolitan restaurants of any big city of the western world), therefore I chose the “surprise” tasting menu.
01Their  take on the japanese okonomiyaki savoury pancake, cabbage, black trumpet, truffles, foie gras mayonnaise  – inventive take on the okonomiyaki with superb ingredients, served at  a warm temperature that did add  a lot to the enjoyment of this  delectable   take on  the okonomiyaki  9/10
 02Hirame fish (fluke in this case,served raw), marinated in a  citrus vinaigrette, served with a dressing of   japanese pickled red radish (daikon), white radish, persimmon, habanero chilli – the quality of the fish high, the pickling of the red radish excellent,  the hint of sweet persimmon,  spice  red radish / habanero chilli  are well matched to give this dish  great complex layers.   8/10

03Jerusalem artichoke velouté (the velouté was mixed with  white beer), shrimp from British columbia, mushrooms, sunflower seeds (the mushrooms and the sunflower seeds having the look  of a mini  tartare in the middle of the velouté, the shrimps atop) – the velouté  rich, dense with a necessary kick of salt that lifts up the flavor of the velouté. Oftently, kitchen brigades and diners confuse “too salty” with a necessary bold kick of salt. A talented Chef should never be afraid to use a  bold  “kick” of salt where it is really necessary. That is the sign of intelligent and inspired cooking, which is  what they have accomplished with this dish. A first-rate velouté. 9/10

Carpaccio of Quebec’s lamb, grated prosciutto of that same lamb, a bit of tarragon oil (which blended remarkably well with a touch of sweet onion confit), a pesto made of jalapeno/mint/delicately crushed almonds. The dish also featured some marinated chanterelles and drops of mayonnaise of Japanese sardines. For many kitchen brigades, that collection of endless ingredients would lead to a lack of synergy between the components of that dish. Not here. The top quality lamb from Quebec was not the sole star: the pesto was a benchmark of its kind,  exciting on the palate. Exciting could also be said of the mayonnaise, every single ingredient of that dish as well as the dish as a whole. The parts and the sum of all parts dazzled. Exciting is generally a word I do not use profusely in my reviews (not that I would not like to, not at all, but only because most restaurants are just replicators of generic recipes) but this dish forced me to do so. A dish pertaining to the big leagues here and abroad. 10/10

04Rutabaga fettucine, black truffles, hazelnut butter, mimolette cheese – the aldente texture of pasta faithfully replicated in the superb crunchy texture of the top quality rutabaga. It is true that top quality produce is one important aspect of such perfected dish. But then, that is a tool and you need to know what to do with it. What they did with the superb produce they had in hands is a dish that expressed a really high level of technical execution (precise cooking, perfected textures) ,  and superlative flavors. Lots of wit.  It is hard — by any level of cooking, here and abroad —  to improve upon such dish 10/10
05Cod, celeriac, Vermouth flavored sauce – The flesh  kept properly moist. Fine sear of the cod’s skin. Ok  6/10
06Rabbit wrapped with speck (beacon fat) and chocolate sauce – The speck adding necessary fatty and meaty flavor to the rabbit, the chocolate sauce having the necessary delicate cocoa bitterness to cut through the fat of the speck while still complementing very well a meat of restrained flavor such as the rabbit. Technically, this pertained to a very high level of cooking as they nailed it where …. even highly regarded kitchen brigades do sometimes fail by misjudging  the right percentage of cocoa that is needed in chocolate sauces that are used in combination with meats. That percentage of cocao is obviously important as it determines the intensity of bitterness to be found in the chocolate sauce. Less bitterness from the cocoa would have led to a flavor profile that is generic/ordinary . A tad more bitter and you may as well remove the rabbit as its presence would not be pertinent anymore.  They made something  tricky look effortless.   8/10

07The dessert was a technically assured interplay of textures around (essentially) white chocolate and citrus fruits: White chocolate mousse/powder/meringue, sorbet of bergamot orange / lemon and some drops of vodka gel – a dessert that would not be out of place in a serious michelin star restaurant with meringue, mousse, gel, powder and a sorbet of sheer perfection (striking textures). Glamour in the form of a dessert 10/10

PROS: the world class cooking of the Rutagaba fettucine and lamb carpaccio of this evening

CONS: N/A

Overall food rating (Category  Top tier restaurant in Montreal): 9/10 Culinary-wise, I found this meal more  exciting  than  what I ate the other day at Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal (both kitchen brigades happen to be inspired by French and Japanese cuisines). This is also one of  the very best meals I had in Montreal in a long while. Hvor’s kitchen brigade takes the risks that many Chefs are afraid of (for eg, using a vast array of  ingredients ), turn them into successful creations and ensure to cover all aspects that great cooking should go through: tasting great, inventive, technically strong. Excellent service, inspired wine pairings, first-rate ingredients and a pretty restaurant. Hvor is in my top 3 in Montreal in good company (La Chronique and Le Serpent).

What I think days later – I do not use ratings for the fun of it. I use them to underline how far a dish expressed a deep level of inspiration (going beyond and above the basic act of replicating a recipe). I realized, with time, that most of the dishes that I have rated with a 7/10, despite being good dishes, were essentially just the work of a chef replicating a recipe for the sake of replicating it (there are, of course, exceptions to this rule). The “industrial” or “factory”  effect, if you want. I am polite, so I do usual define the “factory” effect ..when the food is still decent…in terms such as “this was good execution rather than benchmark craftmanship”, it was “fine”, it was “pleasant”, it was “correct”. Yep, read between the lines! But that is not the “effect”  I deem worthy of leaving the comfort of home for. Anything above an 8/10 is not an applied recipe. It is the work of a talented Chef expressing true cooking skills, a touch, some wit. When I look at the reviews of my meals at Hvor, I see a lot of those 8/10, and  even dishes largely deserving of higher ratings. Of course, it helps that I appreciate both French and Japanese cuisine, but without true skills, you won’t win my heart. Hvor won it and I hope it never stops to excel at what it is doing right now.

After a highly satisfying visit at Hvor, one that propulsed it in my top 3 in YUL, I went back, curious to see what they had to offer now that autumn is approaching.  I was a bit reluctant, though , after the non enthusiastic review of my preffered local food journalist, Marie Claude Lortie, who used terms such as “unaccomplished” to convey her experience at Hvor

hvor01My second  journey at Hvor did boot with a home made prosciutto of local quebec lamb that was not a pale copy of what the finest charcuteries of Europe has to offer. Superb dry-cured charcuterie, indeed, though not surprising given that Quebec has some of the finest lambs your palate will ever have a taste of.  Still, there is some serious technique to master, if you want to deliver serious charcuterie,  and that technique they nailed it. Superb!
Then a  mini, minimini miniature (as to convey how mini that was)  veggie tartlet.  The Chef purposely not overwhelming his minimini mini miniature tart with seasoning as to allow your palate to enjoy every single ingredient  at its peak (as fresh as you’d have handpicked them from the garden just moments ago). Nice touch, but I am not a fan of miniature food (which was fine, here, as it was the only miniature item of the tasting menu and it was part of some amuses….I know some restaurants that would serve it to you as the sole amuse!). Still, I considered that miniature veggie tartlet  as a perfectly well executed clin d’oeil to Alain Passard’s  tartlets. In the medias, only Marie Claude Lortie did mention that the Chef had, once, trained at Alain Passard’s L’Arpege. Passard’s touch could truely be felt in that miniature tart of veggies which intent was to mimmick a pizza. Mission accomplished as it tasted of the better aspects  of a pizza.
hvor02Choux bruxelles, fourees au foie gras torchon, reduction vin rouge, crumble cacao. this was amusing: only couple of brussel sprouts were stuffed with their home made foie gras au torchon, but what a foie gras au torchon that was! A benchmark of its kind (I am talking about the foie gras au torchon)   9/10
hvor03Then foie gras de lotte (burbot fish’s foie gras),  Yuzukoshō  – first rate  burbot fish’s foie gras. The Yuzukoshō  condiment showcasing outstanding skills (the effect of its heat  entincingly complex) as it was as genuine as your reproduction of  the Yuzukoshō   will feel and taste out of Japan.  8/10
Then another first rate item, a tartare of duck that did benefit from Japanese accents (mixed with rice, seasoned with Japanese seasonings).  Then a dazzling piece of  kinmedai  fish elevated by superb seasoning  and condiments.
hvor04Grilled guinea fowl  (pictured)  was also excellent, and, clearly ahead of what most would do with their guinea fowl in town (meaning, dazzling taste,  accompaniments that were packed with superb textures) .
To wrap up the meal, some excellent desserts (sorbet au pommes, brioche a la canelle, Etc)
Bottom line: So, still in my top 3 in  Mtl? Absolutely. Enticing Franco-Japanese flavors (Despite the scandinavian-inspired name,  the Chef  is inspired by Franco-Japanese cuisine) on this particular evening. Just keep in mind that the way I assess the skills of a kitchen is by “micro analyzing ” some very specific aspects of what I am fed with. Here are examples  of just that: (1)the miniature pizza. Some may say ” ah, it was way too mini, so not much to talk about”, but I say “when it is miniature, but done with such skills, then why not? as long as you do not feed me with just that, which is a mistake that they did avoid at Hvor”. (2)the brussels sprouts of which some may say “hey, why that display of plenty of brussels sprouts, but only a few of them are filled with the foie gras” … to which my answer would be “it is one of those amusing tricks of the nowadays contemporary cuisine, found at plenty of contemporary restaurants around the globe, but what I do care about  was that foie gras au torchon and how well it went with the red wine reduction, that particularly great quality of brussels sprouts, a bit of cacao crumble… it is a lot of risks to accompany brussels sprouts… cuz they can be bitter..with cacao…another ingredient known to be bitter, obviously..to  foie gras  au torchon. But they nailed it where many would inevitably get either the cacao crumble or the brussels sprouts to overwhelm the foie gras. That (fabulous skills that allows my food to taste great, especially after NOT taking the easy road, which they do at Hvor) is all I need to know about the skills of a kitchen. I grew up considering great cooking as that ability to make what’s tough to get right (condiments, sauces) sublime, which, to my palate, is what Hvor delivered. This is a kitchen that has the potential to elevate franco-quebecois-japanese combinations of food ideas to another level. I can imagine some witty stuff with, say, a tartiflette, a six pattes, etc…but with Japanese accents. The ball is in their yard. All I know is that the skills are there. URL: http://hvor.ca/en HVOR 1414 Rue Notre-Dame O, Montréal, QC  (514) 937-2001 Subjective personal overall assessment for the food: 8/10, Service: 10/10, Ambience: 10/10
01Tiradito is the new kid in town. It is  a (contemporary) Peruvian bistrot bathed in an attractive contemporary interior. You basically sit at a long bar surrounding the Chef (another trend, in town,  nowadays).

Peruvian cookery is “en vogue” (to the point that a simple marinade like the “leche de tigre” is a very  trendy term) these days, thus a winning formula a bit everywhere in North America. As explained elsewhere on this  blog, I never review food that I am not familiar with or simply can’t appreciate for reasons that have nothing to do with the food itself.  For eg, you will never see any review of Romanian, Brazilian, Polish food on my blog. They are great cuisines that I do respect but my palate simply can’t appreciate them. So instead of laying down inaccuracies on paper (things like ´there was fish in my sushi’ or ´my neapolitan pizza had burnt edges, therefore it was bad’),  I always ensure to familiarize myself with the food first, then I will assess it. By familiarizing myself with the food I am assessing, I mean getting to taste how the food is cooked by those having the proper kno- how, understanding the genuine flavors of my food. So Tiradito was going to be a restaurant from which I knew what to expect.

02Tiradito de thon albacore ($12) would be the sort of dish to look for, here, as the name of the restaurant implies (tiradito is basically peruvian crudo).  This featured fine fresh tuna, and accentuated heat coming from the amarillo chilli of the leche de tigre. I appreciate the fact that the Chef opts  for the bold genuine spicy flavors of his motherland.  This came with bits of cancha corn. Fine
03Papa rellena $5  (1 papa rellena for 1 person is enough as the portion is sizeable) was properly executed – the potato flavor present, as it should, the taste of the ground meat enticing (which is a sign  of fine  quality meat and proper seasoning) the accompanying sweet sauce having its  sweetness nicely balanced.
04Empanada of blood sausage was also correctly executed, the accompanying coconut curry  went really well with the empanada  –
Bottom line: Expect dishes that are done as it should, in the spirit of a refined Peruvian bistrot, the flavors and textures properly rendered. Perhaps some nice grilled charcoal-grilled meat would have boosted my level of enthusiasm, but this place is not designed for that. So no charcoal-grilled  anticucho, at least not for now. In the category  “Peruvian bistrot” food, I had my share of dazzling as well as pleasant food and these were pleasant bites. Tiradito has  no issue with the fundamentals (seasonings are mastered –it will be spicy where it should, balanced where it needs to be),  which is a good start. It is also perfectly fine the way it is right now. I just need a little bit of wittiness ***  (though, to be fair, restaurants do sometimes have  menu items that do not feature on the standard menu  and those are generally more exciting — I did not ask for those. I think you should,  as, based on the pics that I can see on their facebook page, there seem to be  items that could be of better interest, under this roof, than what I chose ) to get this whole thing to spice up my enthusiasm (Tiradito is young, so it has plenty of time to switch from “perfectly pleasant” to “dazzling” ).  Overall food rating: 6.5/10 Tiradito 1076 Rue de Bleury, Montreal, QC, Phone: (514) 866-6776 URL: https://www.facebook.com/tiraditomtl/
***People oftently ask me “Hey, what do you mean by wittiness?”. I’ll answer, as truth  be told, we tend to “lay down” words but do not take time to explain what we truely mean. Everytime you see me using the word wittiness, I mean any of these : a work of flavors and or textures that went above an beyond what is usually found for the kind of food that I am assessing. Furthermore, food is about little details: If I bake something and serve it right away to you, it will never be the same as I bake the same thing and serve it 10 mins later. Flames tend to bring more enjoyment than by other methods of cooking. Crudo is generally fun, but it relies a lot on exceptional quality produce (which of course is costly, sadly) to make an impression. So when I talk about wittiness, it is the ability to bring all those little details together.

 

 

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restaurant-lambroisie-paris-6L’Ambroisie, Paris –  is a 3 star Michelin restaurant that transcends time. Here, following trends is the least of their priorities. They know what Classic French food should taste, feel and smell like and they deliver benchmark versions of such food.   They are who they are and are very proud of that. This is a very expensive restaurant to the point that they do not even bother revealing the price of their dishes. With Dal Pescatore, L’Ambroisie is my “ideal”  of  a  “best restaurant in the world”. I do not mind firing confidently  such bold statement as one should better know that this is utterly subjective. People who are not interested in Classic French cooking are obviously … not going to fall for such place, but putting down L’Ambroisie because one does not like Classic cooking is like electing one color as superior to another, the moon better than the sun, water superior to fire, that right is better than left, that eating is better than drinking ..meaning, as meaningless as it gets. L’Ambroisie will not win any prize for cost performance, which is not its intent neither, but this globe’s most serious food bloggers/foodies/food journalists (just google them if that matters to you) continue to admit it: this is Classic French food by which such food needs to be judged. Years after my sole visit there (there won’t be a second visit as the anonymous/normal diner that I am can’t afford a repeating visit here) –click here for my write-up on that meal — I am amazed to read about how stellar the Classic French food at this place continues to be a benchmark of its kind, considering that they have lost some of their major sous Chefs:  Aki who opened La Table d’Aki and Matthieu  Pacaud   who is now at the helm of Hexagone and Histoires  —  (So, ….Chef Bernard Pacaud has not retired or what??  ).

01Restaurant Hvor , Montreal – This is one of the rare restaurants in Montreal  that has a small garden that any normal /  anonymous diner can actually visit (as far as I know, Joe Beef is the other local restaurant where normal diners have access to the restaurant’s garden).  That,  alone, will pass as a beautiful  surprise for plenty of local diners and foodies. When I arrived, my table was not ready, so they invited me to go upstairs in the garden for a drink at a communal table to be found there, in the garden, which I opted for, with the promise that someone was coming to offer a drink..obviously..and that they will let me know when my table is available. This was going to have “””the same taste “””as the promises of most politicians: there  was indeed a young waitress who came at the communal table asking the couple who came after me if they wanted a drink, but I was invisible to her. Needless to stress that I was not going to rely on her in regard to the second leg of the promises (…”””we’ll come to see you when your table will be available””  – ). Fortunately, when I went downstairs to claim my table, the same young lady was able to realize that I was an actual human being that can be noticeable to a human eye, or two, or more, actually, because … to be fair, the rest of the squad offered a stellar service on this evening. And in light of what followed, we can forget  about that slip..,although..at those prices and with the stellar service found under this roof..that waitress may….if that is common practice in her world…pass as …an unpleasant feature of an evening that was actually really great.  It is always hard to explain why some ppl make mistakes that even a child would stay away from..I mean does it take a genius to understand that the first person who is there…at a table of just 3 ppl… a couple and one other guest…expects to be served his drink  (we are not talking about food, here)  first?? We are talking about the very  basics of hospitality services here.

On to the food (surprise menu concept):

02A kale-wrapped maki sushi roll made of avocado, omelette, smoked egg plant – excellent take on a vegetarian maki  sushi roll. Appealing  textural contrasts (the  kale  — this one not bitter at all, so presumably boiled as that is the way to make kale not bitter — vibrant to both the eye and the smell, but also in mouth. Its texture as superbly well rendered as the one of the rice, omelette and smoked egg plant). The avocado is one logical component of most maki sushi rolls, indeed, but the addition of the other ingredients added a lot  to this technically great  piece of maki. Sometimes a dish is not designed to wow but to reveal much more than the ephemeral: there are tons of takes on vegetarian maki sushi rolls… but what this piece taught me is that …this is a kitchen brigade that can successfully blend a considerable amount of ingredients with great ease…the sign of a skillful  kitchen. I won’t rate this dish as my rating won’t convey my real opinion about it, but the verbiage has all you need to know.

03Mustard ice cream, grilled leavened bread, green tomatoes  – few kitchen brigades in Montreal do master the textural contrasts of their food this well (the way the grilled bread complemented the green tomatoes, which in turn lifted both the flavor and the texture of the mustard ice cream is not your ordinary kitchen brigade’s attempt at juxtaposing this seemingly basic collection of ingredients). Let us just say that they made this look  so easy to do, but that most kitchen brigades would have hard time recreating this superb “symphony” of textures (the flavors, too, are worth of praises). Most just follow a textbook: warm vs cold, crunch vs smooth, salt vs sweet, but this dish was about stellar contrasts, not just dumbly applying the basic concepts of textural contrasts into cooking. Here, the cold in its prime, the crunch exactly where it should be but where many would not pull it off. What looks like a poached egg is actually what most would opt for, the poached egg, because that is the easy way out. Instead, here, what looks like a poached egg is your mustard ice cream and it dazzles, because your brain was expecting the warmth of a poached egg, but then it’s surprised by something that is an even better complement to the overall dish, the ice cream of mustard. World class skills!  10/10

04 Sturgeon from Cote Nord, sea spinach, orange confit – sea spinach seasoned excitingly. It is sea spinach, therefore already salty, obviously, so most kitchen brigades would be frightened of  the idea of seasoning it because most will inevitably overseason it!  Not an issue at all, here, a sign of … great confidence.  Confidence is also what it takes to pair some orange confit with a piece of fish if you do not want the diner to walk away with the observation that it is a piece of bread, and not a piece of fish, that he needed with his orange confit. But confident they were and it worked. Dazzling orange confit that went so well with the spinach and the fish because … instead of tasting of a vulgar fruit jam, it had a complexity of flavors  that  was designed to complement  the fish and the sea spinach.  I am usually not a fan of fish caught in northern waters, so I am  fonder of the subtropical  sturgeon, but this was high quality subarctic sturgeon, its mild flavor an indication that it was wild caught (which my palate finds more flavorful than the farm raised sturgeon). Enticing smoky flavor from the fish.  The overall is classic and yet not tired looking nor tasting, rather inspired!  9/10

 

05 Scallop from Cote Nord, spiced carrots puree/ celeriac, sea urchin sauce – classic flavors done superbly well. Nothing tasted tired here but flavorful / exciting.  The sea urchin based sauce being a benchmark of its kind (this was of top quality, as all the other ingredients they do use, but what was remarkable is the way they got the  natural flavor of the sea urchin amplified) . Again and again, not one single ingredient made no sense here… the sea (scallop, sea urchin) and the land (carrots, celeriac) so complementary (a piece of cake, you think? Well think twice because many kitchen brigades, using those same ingredients, will have hard time combining spiced carrots puree, celeriac and sea urchin sauce to such exciting effect)   9/10

 

06Canard de la canardiere, cerises (cherries), choux rouge (red cabbage)-  the least impressive dish of the evening, though nothing to fault as every single ingredient was there for a reason ..the sign of a skilled kitchen brigade. Some few of their aromatic leaves ,  pine seeds, cherries…an item or two too many? Not at all…rather some thoughtful add-ons  that many kitchen brigades would be scared to add to this dish!!!  My sole issue:  the main star of this dish…the duck! Whatever the cooking technique they did use to cook the duck (some cook it sous vide then pan sear it switfly, others pan sear it then bake it, etc), the genuine gamey flavor of the meat of the duck — one flavor I am particularly fond of– was completely gone.  This was just not as flavoursome as the better duck magret dishes I had at other local restaurants. Consequently, especially after enjoying  the other superb  items of this meal, I was kind of taken aback.  6/10

07Mille-feuille , bleuet, caramel salee (salted caramel in place of the traditional icing or fondant that is usually found atop a classic mille-feuille)   – A classic that I am fond of because it is so hard to perfect. Here, the classic French pastry did benefit from  the addition of a bit of caramel sauce (atop the mille-feuille) and some blueberries . The creamy filling as remarkable as what the finest pastry Chefs in France are capable of, the crisp of the puff pastry superbly well conceived . As it was the case, all along this meal, every single ingredient adds to the overall enjoyment of the  dish, so even the blueberry  was not a dull adornment. A pastry team that seems to be as inspired as the team that has cooked the savory dishes.  8/10

08And to wrap up this meal, some popcorn , salted caramel  ice cream – clearly, here , every single ingredient has a purpose. I know this because when you add popcorn to desserts, or any type of food, I am skeptical. But they turned my skepticism into real enjoyment.

Pros: in its prime…easily in Montreal’s top 3!
Cons: The duck magret.

Bottom line: 8/10. My current top 3 in Montreal  has two long time members (La Chronique/ Le Serpent) as well as a new one:  Hvor!  Hvor 1414 Rue Notre-Dame O, Montréal Phone: (514) 937-2001 URL: http://hvor.ca/

What I think days later –  In general, I do not share the enthusiasm  of most of our  local food journalists ( with Maison Boulud , Le Fantome or Lavenderia coming to mind as the most recent examples of such)  but in the case of Hvor, the local food journalists were absolutely right: Hvor, on the back of this meal,  is worth going out of your way for, and that … regardless of my opinion about the duck magret. The quintessential duck magret is traditionally one key food item by which I judge the skills of a kitchen because it is so easy to get  right, so hard to make a mesmerizing one and mesmerizing  duck magrets are normally what you do usually get at restaurants of the quality of Hvor. But I have no doubt that a table like Hvor can cook a first-rate  duck magret. The duck, on that evening, was perhaps intimidated by the beauty of the other food items. But as ever  with  most restaurants in Montreal, the right question to ask is one that is about consistency:  will Hvor consistently maintain those  high standards in the long run? Time will tell.

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