Posts Tagged ‘montreal’

Restaurant Bonaparte (443 rue Saint-François Xavier, Montreal, Phone 514-844 4368) is a French restaurant offering classic French cuisine in the Vieux Port of Montreal. Their Chef, Gérard Fort, from the French region of Normandie, did work for 3 star Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse years ago.

It has been more than 5 years that I have not dined at Le Bonaparte. I used to frequent Le Bonaparte and Chez Delmo, when I was working nearby. Chez Delmo has changed physically (I miss the old world decor)  and  I found its  culinary performance not as stellar as it once was. Still, Chez Delmo is nice by our (admittedly) not that strong (in general — as there are exceptions, of course) local restaurant standards. Le Bonaparte continued to maintain itself among my preferred classic French restaurants in town.


Raviolis de champignons (mushroom raviolis), Proper al dente texture. Champignons de Paris was the appropriate mushroom to use, in this case. Butter/sage sauce using fine quality butter. Tasty 7/10

Navarin de homard a la vanille (Vanilla, muscat wine flavored lobster stew) – Different Chefs, different twists, preparations of navarin sauce can vary widely from the ordinary to the stellar. This one tried to be more contemporary (flavors are not bold, presentation is elegant, the vegetables not cooked in the stew which, for the purist in me, does not really qualify as a lobster stew/ navarin de homard )than traditional (a ragout/ all components are cooked in the stew). Regardless of the twist, I came to expect bold flavors from the best lobster navarin I had. This was a bit too subtle in flavor… for a navarin de homard, though executed properly, with quality ingredients (the butter that they use to make their sauces is of great quality, the creme fraiche too, the muscat wine blends harmoniously well in that sauce).  A good —not great — take on the navarin de homard. And yep, I know, there is a limit to how bold creme fraiche and vanilla can be, BUT I had more exciting lobster navarin that were made of those same components. Still, this, in light of what you will find in Montreal, was good 7/10

Grand Marnier soufflé – a tad less spectacular, in looks, than the one I had recently at Chez la Mere Michel, but airier. The grand marnier fragrance in evidence. Very good. 8/10

Profiteroles- The puff did rise, at some point, for sure, but that was a useless process…as the choux pastry arrived at my table in its non edible form (very hard). I forced myself to eat it just to be polite, fearing the anger of Napoleon Bonaparte….0/10

The flavors are not boldly, but properly French. A compromise between the old (rustic) and the new (the rich flavor is there, but there is also a health-conscious touch in the plate).

Pros: One elegant French classic restaurant in town.

Cons: (1) those profiteroles should not have left any kind of kitchen, even at a hole-in-a-wall eatery, let alone a kitchen charging those prices (2)the pastas served with the navarin de homard was overcooked. A slip that reduced the enjoyment of that dish. Not a badly conceived navarin de homard for a navarin de homard revisited with  a contemporary (a navarin not cooked as a ragout) and international (addition of the pasta) touch, but you will not be floored if you are a purist, although, to be fair, the french technique of the sauce is legit.

Overall food performance (Categ: Montreal Classic French restaurants), a LIGHT  7/10. Fine enough, by Mtl classic French cooking standards, but I was not moved in a way that equivalent restaurants (of same price range, cooking the same type of classic French food), located abroad, not even in France, have been able to move me. I would perhaps rate such meal with a 6/10 if we were in NYC. Others would not forgive the slip of the profiteroles (which I did not forgive, neither, but does a fine enough overall meal deserve a 4 or 5/10 because of some disappointing choux pastry?? I did not think so).

Bottom line: As a reminder, the ratings of my meals are based on the standards set by the direct local competition of the restaurant I am eating at. Consequently, it would be inaccurate to compare my ratings of a French restaurant in Montreal to the one I did rate in New York or Paris. New York has superior French food (Montreal does not have Classic French food that could compete with, say, the likes of NYC’s Le Coucou, Bouley, Le Relais De Venise L’Entrecôte, Balthazar,  etc. ), and France remains, obviously, the reference for that kind of food. It goes without saying that the 7/10 of my review of Le Casse Noix is more accurately a 10 by Montreal restaurant standards, their Ile Flottante and riz au lait a distant dream for Montreal. Therefore, we are in a completely different set of expectations. Whenever a table goes beyond the standards of its direct competition (a pointer: the relevant dish is either a 9/10 or a 10/10) and offers food of world class quality, I will let it know.  Regarding this meal, all I have to say is that French fine dining, at those prices, even when it is fine enough…will always “taste” overpriced if it is not going to stand out …, but I will repeat it one more time: Le Bonaparte is fine enough.

License IV (Addr: 1524 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Phone 514-938-8084, offers classic French cuisine. The restaurant has just opened a few days ago, and it is a foodie friend who notified me about its opening as no serious restaurant-related online source has mentioned it. Given the ever growing French community in Quebec, I am surprised there are not that many restaurants cooking classic French fares. Perhaps the newer generations of the French are not into raclettes and crepes suzettes? Montreal will find that out, soon, as License IV brings such beautiful memories back.

It’s actually because I kept complaining that there are not many places making crepes suzette in the beautiful old fashion way, and not many places doing great tartiflettes in Montreal, that my foodie friend has suggested that I try License IV. “You won’t believe me…there is that new place cooking French food and that has crepe suzette and tartiflette on its menu“… he submitted.

License IV does not joke about its French identity:  It has a brasserie feel  (cute french brasserie looks, btw, with dark wood and green tones), songs like ´enfants de tout pays‘ and ´mon manege a moi” , do proudly play through their quality speakers.  The wait staff is from France. A true feeling of being agreeably transported to l’hexagone, which is to  my liking.

Moules marinières, celeri, beurre, vin blanc, onion, roquette, tomate $13 – it was easy to see that the Chef was properly trained in classic french cuisine as the flavor profile was genuine. There are different recipes for moules marinieres, and theirs was tasty as it’s supposed to be when using flavor-enhancing ingredients such as onion, celeriac, tomatoes and butter, and yet that (the tastynes of moules marinieres) is not always a given as the Chef still needs to have a good palate (which was the case, here).  Well done! 7/10

Escapade d’escargot poeles , sauce tomate, poivron, estragon, oignons, pastis $11 – land snail cooked in tomatoes. Again, genuine classic French flavors. The only limitation I could see …having nothing to do with the kitchen: the same ingredients, in some parts of France, are better. Still, no complaint at all. This is one proper French-based recipe of a dish of cooked snail in the context of a city like Montreal. 7/10

Bouillabaise , homard, saumon, morue, crevettes, moules, fond tomate, pomme de terre vapeur, pastis, croutons, rouille $28 – If you had your share of bouillabaise in the right places in France, you surely have your preferred ones. Many recipes have their own twists. No matter the twist, my preferred bouillabaise had their bold maritime flavor at the forefront. This did not, though make no mistake, the seafood was of good quality and had flavor (their flavors  did not take a break as it was the case of the recent oysters I had at Docks Oyster House). I also would have preferred a bit more of the saffron. The piece of additional lemon confit was not a bad idea. All in all, a bouillabaise that was not bad, but it was a bit less eventful, for my taste, when compared to the best bouillabaises I had.

Wrapped up my meal with the crepe suzette. This is a bistrot, not a restaurant offering French haute cuisine, so no tableside presentation of your crepes suzette, as, say, at Taillevent (Paris) – which, is traditionally my preference. Regardless, I know what to expect from my crepe suzette. Both the crepe and its grand marnier/orange sauce were done properly. 7/10

All in all: 7/10 (Category: French bistrot in Montreal) – Condiments are well done, here. Classic French flavors are properly expressed, ingredients are as great as they can be at a restaurant in Montreal. Lifting up the maritime flavor of that bouillabaise would be, realistically, what they could have improved during this meal. Everything else was fine. I doubt the bread is baked in house (I did not ask them), mais putain qu’il était bon, ce pain baguette!   Service is perfect. This is a good addition to the Montreal restaurant scene. I will go back and see if they have the tartiflette  (it was not available the day of my visit). I hope they beat the best tartiflette I ever had in Quebec (One that Chef Anne  Desjardins had, once, cooked when her restaurant, L’eau à la bouche was still open in Sainte-Adèle).

Le  Virunga (Addr: 851 Rue Rachel E, Montréal; Phone: (514) 504-8642 ;  opened 8 months ago on Le Plateau. As/per their web site, their cooking is influenced by both Quebec and Africa. My waitress explained that  the owners, both Mom (the Chef) and daughter are Congolese/Portuguese, who have travelled  through Africa  and have decided to share their appreciation of African cuisine. Whatever the script, as you will find out later on, this Mom is not just about the talk. She also walks the walk… a miracle on the local restaurant scene, believe me!

Africa, mon dieu, justement…. to Africa, I owe my passion for food. That is where it all started for me: 6 yrs old, yes … 6 yrs old, learning to cook, by observing my grandma cooking. Then, throughout the years,  learning from my Mom. Newer generations may associate this with folklore, but back in the days, we had no iphone, no TV. After school, I was grating coconut exactly like on this video, fishing and watching grandma butchering poultry, rabbits, etc. There are things we were eating back then and that the newer generations would not eat nowadays, even in Africa, such as the hedgehog  (the best meat I ever enjoyed in my life. In comparison, whatever they are trying to sell you as the most memorable meats, nowadays, whatever the BS…wagyu, etc… it is just some boring  joke in comparison).  That is where, my  foodie adventure started. Plenty of nostalgia. And more: no meat, no vegetable, no seafood ever came close to their dazzling renditions of my childhood in Africa. When I went visiting  Japan, they were very proud of  their exceptional tuna and world famous wagyu BS beef. When I went to France, their poulet de bresse was all the rage. I won’t argue with that, but inside of me, deep inside…. I knew that there was far better. Far, far better. And I had the priviledge to have sampled that,  because of you, my beloved Africa!

Africa, taught me to trust my palate. It started with a strong Bantu influence (culinary-wise, Bantu-based  cuisines  were my  very first steps into cooking, the flavors I was born with, if you prefer), but this beautiful continent had so much to reveal, so I went on studying, savoring, understanding the flavors of all the corners of the  continent. Africa, if I am passionate about food, today, that is because of you! It may mean nothing to the rest of us, but what matters is that it means a lot to me. Flourishes aside, the truth is that I hate reviewing African food. It is the food that I love the most (yeah I know, there is an incredible variety of African cuisines)  therefore the food that I am the most picky about. Does that makes of me a better judge of African cuisine than someone else? Absolutely NOT! It is food. A subjective topic, as one should know better! Your palate is your sole judge.

The state of African cuisine, right now, in Montreal – No African restaurant has managed to better the best African restaurant that Montreal ever had, Souvenirs d’Afrique (closed since a long time). But Le Virunga is now my preferred African restaurant in town. Le Nil Bleu is as great as your Ethiopian food will taste in Montreal. And it is a beautiful restaurant.  Hot Africa can surprise you with some of the best local homey African food, when it is in its prime, eventhough I am not a fan of their sauce of goat (a matter of personal taste).  Their  braised fish is the best in town, right now. But they badly need to take care of the interior decor. Diolo has, currently,  one of the best thieboudienne in Montreal and its Chef is a charismatic and very friendly cook. However, as it is the case at plenty of ethnic restaurants in town, the first days of the week (Monday, Tues, Wed) will come with its share of re-heated food that they coud not sell the prior weekend. So, on a quiet Tuesday at Diolo, I recall having a perfectly fine thieboudienne (actually freshly made) that came right after a reheated starter of pastel. Pastel is a disaster  when served reheated….! The “first days of the week” issue was also my main quip with a recent meal at Gracia  Afrika – click here for that review (Still, I think GA deserves a second chance, so I will go back there on a friday or saturday).  Near Jean Talon, La référence was doing a tolerable job until the day they took the risk of serving me beef instead of goat while insisting that it was goat. Big mistake! … you cannot take such risk with a foodie, who, on top of that, has Bantu cooking (the very same cooking that they offer at La référence) as the cuisine he grew up with. Consequently, the food he knows and loves the best. I never went back to La référence, but it seems closed. But then a Congolese foodie  had recommended Petite Ya Quartier to me, and when I went visiting PYQ, I saw some of the people who were behind La référence at PYQ and this time, things were far better with a grilled goat that dazzled. I haven’t tried East Africa , Restaut Bar le 30 JuinMarmite Africaine and  Le Bled, yet.

Le Virunga has an interior decor that’s tastefully decorated, simple and yet classy with appealing warm earthy tones. It is, right now, one of the very rare local African restaurants that’s taking care of its aesthetic (sorry Petite Ya quartier and Hot Africa, I love your food, especially you Petite Ya Quartier,  but Le Virunga, as well as Le Nil Bleu, despite their masculine names, are the true African “hotties” in town ;p ).

On the evening of my visit, the Pan-African (Sub-Saharan Africa  in this case) concise menu (the menu will change regularly, according to the staff) featured 5 starters (velouté d’Antananarivo, beignets de tilapia, Sosaties brochettes de faux-filet,  mini poutine de chèvre — their take on the Quebecois poutine, blending tropical ingredients such as plantain bananas/cassava with smoked cheese, bacon, a sautée of vegetables–, gateau de foie de volaille/crème de champignons/crostini de  banane plantain )  and six main courses (Poulet grillé, mijoté d’haricots, darnes de Malangwa, mijoté d’agneau, ragout de chèvre and poulet mijoté en sauce à la crème de noix de palme), served alongside a variety of tropical ingredients of good quality, using varied cooking techniques, priced fairly.

I started with:

Sosaties – Brochettes de faux filet marinées 24h au saveurs d’abricots, curry et pili pili,  Sauce mojo à la coriandre et jus d’orange sur lit de laitue. A duo of tasty faux filet skewers of fine quality, flavored with curry/pili pili/a mojo sauce mixed with coriander and orange juice. The seasoning well judged. This was refined, for sure, and perfectly accessible to  western palates, and yet  an African who spent time sampling the various flavors from the different corners of Africa will not fail  to notice that is  one genuine African flavor profile   7/10

Gboma Dessi – Mijoté d’agneau, sauce épinards à la togolaise servis avec duo de quenelles  d’igname,  et patate douce. The lamb as tender and as delicious as it gets in skilled hands, with a flawless spinach sauce (the genuine  flavor of the Gboma Dessi , a classic spinach-based sauce from Togo, is there, indeed)  +  sweet potato and yam  elevated to fine dining quality (meaning, not just your average pieces of  yam and sweet potato, but ones that are flavored and executed with finesse). Again and again, the flavor profile is genuinely African while reaching out to western sensibilities. It takes skills to do that this well, btw! 8/10

To finish my lamb, I did ask for the chikwangue  to test the Congolese roots of the Chef, but I was served a plantain puree instead (as the chikwangue was going to be too filling). Not to worry: the plantain puree was packed with exciting taste and boasted a perfected smooth texture. A plantain puree that’s a benchmark of its kind. Again and again, the African in me did connect with the flavor profile on display. 10/10

As an ultimate test, I asked for some chilli. When the chilli arrived, there was no doubt about how genuinely African its aromas stood. One exciting rendition of a genuinely African chilli sauce. 10/10

There were several desserts available. Some more “African” than others, but they materialized exactly what they have advertised: African cuisine with Quebecois accents.

So, I chose their Pudding chomeur Africain, creme whisky Quebecois – This is a perfect clin d’oeil to  a popular Quebecois dessert. I have spent 20 yrs in Quebec, and did therefore have plenty of time to understand what a fine Pudding chomeur should taste, smell and look  like. This was a perfectly well executed Pudding chomeur.  When I asked who made it, the waitress replied that it was the very same African Mom that did cook the rest of my meal. So clearly, when she  says that she  can deliver both Quebecois and African flavors, that was not just some talking. The waitress explained that for this pudding chomeur, the Chef was inspired by both the Quebecois pudding chomeur, naturally, but also by the South African Malva pudding. The Quebecois part was defining, in this case, and I am not going to complain about it! Superb dessert. 8/10

PROS: So thoughtful – it is African where it needs to be, Quebecois when it has to. Both are dazzling cuisines on their own rights, and yet, here they work under the same roof. It works because the Chef is talented. The proof that with talent, you can cook whatever you want and it will make sense.

CONS: Some imported wines, perhaps (??). My waitress told me that they are working on this. What to think about that? Well, it is a luxury that only the big gunz in town can afford because of their endless means. I would be Le Virunga, I would wait a bit on that one. On the day of my visit, the wine list was composed of  5 red wines (Kumala Western Cape / Petit cabernet sauvignon, Ken forrester/ Secateurs 2014 Badenhorst / Ke Pinot noir 2015, Klein constantia/The brew master 2013 , Nederburg)  and white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Klein Constantia/Hartenberg 2013 Bottelary Hills, Boschendal 2015 Groot Drakenstein, Old vine reserve 2015 Ken Forrester) as well as a bottle of MCC Brut 2012 Klein Constantia.

There was  also an enticing list of  several tropical cocktails.

Overall food rating: 8/10My Mom is the best cook, but your Mom ain’t no joke! “””  …that would be my message to the daughter. Lol!  I will go  back. Next time I will eat there, I will try  the chikwangue. I really want to test their chikwangue. It’s an item that is very technical. One of the most important items you need a Congolese Mom to nail. In light of this evening’s performance I have no doubt that  she would not fail the test. Chikwangue or not, I would, had I met the Chef,  tell her — very honestly  — as we say between Bantu Africans “Maman, respect, vous etes talentueuse! “. I know I am sometimes severe  with the Montreal restaurant scene, but that is because many of the local restaurateurs rest on their laurels… and that is – — rightly so — infuriating, especially with the ridiculous pricetag that most restaurateurs are charging in Montreal  (prices that  you generally find in world class foodie destinations like London, New York  or Paris). Le Virunga does not rest on anything… they cook, and they cook some of the most inspiring food I ever ate in this city. And it is not nostalgia that led me to such conclusion. It’s the powerful argument of their cooking skills.

My thoughts, days later: My (other) coup de coeur, so far, this year in Montreal (the other one is Marconi). Classy little restaurant, with  a gifted Chef, great service and superb food. As a diner, just remember that no Chef, as talented as he or she is, will be able to execute stellar after stellar versions of food, especially when embracing such ambitious project as cooking  food from the  vast swathes of land of  Sub-Saharan Africa. Inevitably, their Chef will have some food items with which she will be at ease, others, a bit less and that is normal. Other limitations of this ambitious program:  she will have to stick to African food  that can please western palates without losing its original flavors (which she is doing really well, right now), so I doubt  the Chef will cook food that’s more of an acquired taste (for eg a dish like The Romazava made with brède mafana from Madagascar, which is in my top 3 all time favourite dishes, will unlikely fit in the formula). Having said that, this is a Chef who can live up to the challenge.






















Nozy, Montreal

Posted: March 4, 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

nozy-1Tokyo trained Chef Nozomu Takeuchi, has worked for a while at several great restaurants in North America, with a stint at restaurant Miso, before deciding to open his own neighborhood / unassuming eatery Nozy (Addr:3568, rue Notre-Dame Ouest Montéal, Québec ; Phone: 438-386-9797 URL: . The restaurant has two seatings at dinner time.

This was the conclusion to my short recent journey into Montreal’s Japanese-style dining scene. My previous reviews were based on what the local experts were raving about (Jun I, Park and Sushi Yumi, aka “the big gunz” according to the experts) . For the last stop of this journey, I left the local experts behind  and I went my way. A huge risk, because  it is never  a good idea to part ways with the experts, especially when you are just a poor lonesome anonymous normal diner like me, right? You are right…LMFAOL!

I went for the omakase. But here, omakase is not just a branding…or a trendy word … as sadly used, with not much inspiration, by some of the top gunz in town.  At $60, this is the cheapest omakase of this quality in town. Ensure, though, that you do understand that this omakase is not offered to you one course at a time. Instead you are served several dishes at a time as clearly mentioned on their web site (they serve teishoku style food).

nozy-2Nice  plump fresh  oysters from Massachusetts.  Really good quality for an omakase priced this low. 7/10

nozy-3Miso soup, light yet rich in subtlety, nuances….meaning that someone skilled made it!  7/10

nozy-4Salmon served different ways (as a tartare, served raw, tataki style, with salmon roe atop), on a bed of rice. For me, great cooking is the ability to deliver enticing traditional flavors, no matter the presentation. Here, they shared my views, not on paper, but on the …palate! The  tartare dazzled (10/10), the raw salmon was good (7/10). Delicious, inspired, whatever the words … it dazzled in mouth!

nozy-5An assortment of food items, which, from left to right (based on the previous picture), did consist of:

Beef tataki, ponzu/daikon vinaigrette. Excellent beef, which consistency is kept slightly firmer than what western ppl tend to prefer, but firm or tender has nothing to do with what is right or wrong. It is a matter of preference. 7.5/10

In the middle, fatty tuna/albacore/Japanese snapper  6/10  – the fish is of good quality (I liked the fresh quality of the fish   that was on display and asked my waitress where the fish came from. She said it’s flown in from Japan, Canada and east coast U.S) , but I have to admit that I am picky with fish and this was the only time I thought the big gunz did better (for eg, better knife skills). That said, the big gunz like park, jun i and sushi yumi are either dedicated sushiyas (jun i and sushi yumi) or, in the case of park, reknowned for their sushi. By contrast, Nozy is not a sushiya, thus I am not expecting Nozy to showcase perfect knife skills, etc. Still,  the big gunz can…. sleep away…as Nozy did far better when I am eyeing  at the “big picture” (the overall food performance).

Good fresh wakame salad with the genuine flavors of Japan at the forefront  7/10,

They did present the two sets of assortments in a bento box. One part of the box concealed the previously food items. The other part had:
nozy-6Black cod/miso (tasty, the classic recipe is applied not just properly but with flavors that shine 8/10), braised pork belly which showcased the homey look and dazzling comforting taste of mom-and-pop cooking (and that is a compliment) 9/10, delicious karaage (fried chicken) with a great crisp  7/10 – All in all, this was an excellent display of genuine Japanese flavors.

I skipped dessert as the dessert of the day, crepe caramel, did not interest me.

Pros: It has been a while that I haven’t felt so close to Japan..right here in Mtl! Right now, Nozy  has  a bigger variety of ingredients  and far superior cooking at ….  far less $$$ than at the supposedly “BIG GuNZ” in town.

Cons: N/A

Overall food rating : 8/10 On the culinary front, Nozy blew Jun I/Park/Sushi Yumi away. Whether those restaurants are serving the exact same type of dishes or not, that is irrelevant as I am talking about the culinary skills here. The same Japanese-inspired cooking skills that Nozy shares with the above mentioned top gunz in town. Because Nozy is not trading on the local upscale Japanese-style foodie scene (it is a neighborhood unassuming eatery, no frills, it does not have the  fine dining ambitions of  Park or Jun I), there is no online buzz about it. But I bet they could not careless: the tiny restaurant was full of very happy diners while I was there and their food sends the supposedly top gunz in town…to the wall of shame! I loved Nozy. It is not Tokyo nor NYC level, but it is, right now, the best Japanese spot in town. No plan is full proof (directed to you,  you the supposedly big gunz in town) as Nozy has demonstrated! It was refreshing to see a Chef working seriously without the need to wait after a poster diner (some cooks in town show up only when a celebrity or a food journalist has snatched a seat), it was refreshing to eat food that did not taste like a business model (meaning replicated, copied for the sole sake of making a buck), it was, for me,  refreshing ..finally, to refrain from sticking to descriptions  such as “ok”, and “correct” ;). I just hope they  never change under the pressure of success (a trend in Montreal).

What I think days later: As long as they can cope properly with success (because, success they will have, that is for sure, if of course, they keep the cooking performance this great ), Nozy will continue to be one serious destination for your fix of Japanese food in Montreal. I maintain what I wrote in the review of Park: for sushi, go to NYC. As long as our top local sushiyas can’t figure out a way to be consistently fine and get better, go to NYC!  But for non sushi items and genuine Japanese flavors, Montreal is surprisingly not doing that bad at all (Of course it is not NYC level, let alone Tokyo level), but Japanese cooking in Montreal (we’ll get to that soon – Now that I know what I needed to know about the top pics of our local experts, I will focus on what the normal diner that I am …thinks about the true gems of Japanese cooking in Montreal) is, slowly, doing better than what it used to, and there is better than the “top choices” of the local medias /  local experts. According to the local experts, Nozy is either “charming” (thanks, but that does not tell me what to expect on the culinary front) or a “safe bet” (safe way of staying safe, thanks for that, but I expect the local expert to tell me a bit more than than). Whoa! Lol. We, true foodies, won’t miss the experts, trust me …


***Marie-Claude Lortie’s write-up on Hvor is the best article that a local food journalist has ever written – Yes, she is one of my preferred food journalists of all time. No I do not know her. No, I am not in love with her. And I am sure I am not her type neither: I am ugly. No, I do not agree with every single statement of hers. And that is normal as we share nothing in common. But I know one thing, though: “suckling pigs” is not her favourite dish….my way of saying that she is not biased, not there to make friends in the restaurant industry. And she writes well,  she is  not your usual  “shakespeare wanna be”  or “I  feel smart” type of food  journalists.
Marie-Claude’s article on Hvor is a reminder of how this woman is capable of unusual impartiality, where many so-called  food journalists are just there to   serve as advertisers for their friends of the food industry.

You know that a food review is exceptional when the reviewer sees things that most did not (not  to be confused with …things that do not exist….sadly, the mistake that most food journalists make) at a restaurant that you really liked (Hvor is in my top 3 in Montreal alongside La Chronique and Le Serpent ).

Eventhough Marie Claude’s article has no impact on my opinion of Hvor,  I’ll concede that I had “flashbacks” (lol) of the duck magret I had there  when  she was  reproaching to Hvor… a feeling of unaccomplishment..a feeling that she did observe at times during her meal there.

But aside from that duck magret, there was no other sign of “unaccomplishments” during my meal. To the contrary, there was lots of finesse, a very high level of technique as well as some superb combination of textures and flavors.

Marie-Claude argued that  the desserts at Hvor are “deja vu” creations for her. Well  …Montreal is unlikely the place that one should look for when it comes to reinventing the wheel. Desserts at a restaurant in Montreal, however great they can be, they are certainly not going to be thought provoking!  And Marie Claude should know that. I do not expect restaurants to reinvent anything, anyways. I just want them to excel at whatever they do whether the food is classic or not.  And that is exactly what Hvor was about during my visit.

As for Marie-Claude’s review, that is a master piece (written in French) that you can peruse here.


***Le Tonkin as well as Pho Bang New York are (and still are) my preferred spots for Pho in Montreal. Not only is the pho good at the two restaurants, but cleanliness (especially in the case of Le Tonkin)  is another attribute you can append to their respective descriptions, which is not a common affair at our local pho restaurants. But I love phos, so I went trying some of the best picks of other local Vietnamese foodies (Vuong and Han,) that I know and trust. For Vuong, Ho  Guom and Tay Ho rule (he is from Hanoi, and unsurprisingly his preferred phos are of the Hanoi style). Han is a fan of Pho Lien and Lyla  (phos from her native south).

restaurant-lylaRestaurant Lyla 431, Jean Talon W, Montreal, 514-272-8332    The broth a tad sweeter than at Pho Bang NY and Le Tonkin, (which is not a quip, rather a feature of this type of pho) as well as a tad less complex in its nuances but definitely one legit version of the Pho. The ingredients were fine, the quality of the meat good. Unarguably one genuine version of the Pho, but I’ll take Pho Bang NY (which uses  a tad more star anise than its local competition  in  the soup, but to great effect) and Le Tonkin’s more complex (meaning: having more nuances in taste, textures)  / therefore seemingly more exciting Phos anytime over this one.
ho-guom-montrealI then tried one of Vuong’s top picks, Ho Guom, which is a  stone’s throw from Iberville metro station.  Lots of depth/nuances of flavors (that are well balanced, btw) in that broth, and yet a broth that is very clear (what you should look for, the experts will tell you). Bring your own lime, though, as the piece of lime they did serve to me  was incredibly dry! And consider yourself as deprived from any sense of humor if what I did submit about that piece of lime is all you needed to know. Easily in my top 3 local phos (you know your pho dazzled when you can afford complaining about useless things such as a dry piece of lime ;)). Ho Guom, 2035 Rue Jean-Talon E, Montréal
Bottom line: you want your pho to taste/feel/smell like in Vietnam? Then fly to Vietnam! Lol. That said, Le Tonkin, Pho Bang New York and Ho Guom are making superb phos and despite the never ending list of decent phos in town, I have yet tasted a better pho than at the above mentioned  trio of preferred phos.
***Morgan’s bbq is touted as offering one of the finest texas style smoked briskets in nyc. Order them (the briskets) fat, not lean, as to savor your brisket in its more flavorful rendition – which is exactly what I went for. Can’t agree more about Morgan’s bbq reputation: their brisket is as enticingly smokey and tasty as your texan style brisket will get in NY. Coleslaw and potato salad were equally delicious. So did the chicken (you go to a Texan style smoke house for the briskets…yeah, I know, but my sweet half wanted to taste the smoked chicken).
Pros: briskets that would send the ones we have in Mtl to shame, though in the US..the competition is fierce, obviously. Still, some fine Texan style briskets, and not just the briskets as the smoked chicken seemed to have tantalized my girl friend’s palate, which is no light exploit as the lady is a picky eater
Cons: Not too sure if this was an isolated situation, but the brisket I was having was super salty.Because it was as tasty as it was salty, I did not make a fuss of it. I trust that was isolated….
morgans-bbqBottom line: 7/10 (categ: Texan style bbq) – Morgan’s BBQ may not be a standard bearer at what it does, but they are the next guy you are looking for when the standard bearer is not around. For the sake of comparison, our smoke houses in YUL are not there yet (in YUL, our finest texas style brisket’s taste is unidimensional – in comparison).  Morgan’s Barbecue Addr: 267 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States  Phone: +1 718-622-2224










01Restaurant Le Mousso is one of the three most serious recent restaurant openings in Montreal(the other two are Lili Co and Montreal Plaza)   earning rave reviews from the local foodie community. There are some aspects of Le Mousso  that I really liked (some food items were stellar by local restaurant standards, the neo industrial decor is fun) and others that simply marred what could have been an otherwise wonderful experience (jump to the “CONS” section, below) – That said, I am not the type of person who will  allow his  emotion to trump  reason (I would not share my experiences if  my emotions would deter my assessment of the food I am eating) and that echoes in the very high rating of the food (see below)

02The tasting menu (they have just one menu, a tasting menu of 7 courses + 2 other courses charged as extras) started with an amuse bouche  that they had to charge as an extra, sadly not  first in Montreal. If you are going to charge an amuse as an extra, well fine…but then I need you to deliver an inspired one. Alas that was not going to happen: a madeleine cake had a tiny quantity of caviar atop  – in between, some creme fraiche. A surreal misconceived food item as the madeleine floury flavor is exactly what you need if you want to find an element that simply can’t be paired with caviar (it is, as one would expect,  a combination of flavor that makes no sense to a palate). But the frustration would not end there: the madeleine came with an oyster! Listen, if  I wanted to collect random items for the fun of it, I could have stayed at home and gather some toothpaste, a glass of wine, a piece of paper and a piece of wood….it would have been as pertinent as what was served  to me as an extra charged amuse. When the waitress asked if I did like this amuse, I answered YES!  …There is a reason for that: in cooking, you do not want to start contradicting the people who are feeding you. A contradicted cook can do mistakes, lose motivation. They are humans, not robots.  Feel free to voice your disenchantment if that is what you are at ease with. After all, that is just  my personal imperfect (if everyone does like me,the restaurant will not improve – obviously  ) view on that subject.  As for the Mousso….oyster and a madeleine…madeleine and a little bit of caviar…seriously, folks??


03Céleri/truite/foin – Celery/trout/hay. Hay is actually the translation from what appeared on the menu (foin). Excellent flavoring-technique with a flawless airy celery root mousse, the flavor of the mousse subtle enough (in a good way)  so that it compliments well the smoked trout. Atop, you had the ashes from the “hay” that was used to smoke the trout. Trout has never been a fish that I do particularly appreciate, but this was plenty of fun, showcasing faultless technique, and more importantly …. a  dish that stood out for its  focus on  refinement and clarity of flavours. 8/10

04Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules – Grilled leeks, crumble of hazelnut butter/ mussels. I know you will read this and perhaps suggest that mussels and a crumble of hazelnut butter was going to be another joke, like the one of that amuse bouche , but  make no mistake: this was a brilliant way to elevate the flavor of seafood (mussels in this case), the toasty flavor of the hazelnut butter crumble pairing  excitingly  well with the mussels emulsion.  Emulsions can be  tricky in lesser hands and even plenty of high end restaurants in Montreal do deliver tired looking ones,  but here it  was  startling to the view, the smell and on the palate. The overall serving as an exciting enhancement  to the beautifully grilled leeks. Here is a demonstration on how to get the land (leeks, hazelnut) and the sea (mussels) expressing themselves at their very best 10/10

05Carotte/épices/lait de chèvre – Pickled carrot (pickled in sunflower oil), ricotta mixed with goat milk (of superior fresh quality) , edible sponge of carrot and garam masala. Each individual element executed to perfection, and more importantly, this was  an appealing (to the smell  and the palate)  display of complementary lovely  flavors. 8/10

06Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras – Plum (“butter” of plum), seared scallop and a little bit of shaved frozen foie gras atop was yet another demonstration of the “cash in” mentality that kept transpiring here and there all along this meal. Again, a business is there to cash in, and we all expect that and that is fine … but when you charge a food item as an extra, guess what:  your customer expects some ..extra efforts!! Food that’s inspired! Or else, why bothering with extras…. ????  How  on earth can a  piece of scallop with some shaved foie gras atop pass as an extra worthy of the ..extra cost?? What’s extra about such insignificant food item (btw: they simpy list ingredients on their menu. In this case, it was Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras – Excited by the creativity expressed through their  “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules” dish, or even through the dish  of “Carotte/épices/lait de chèvre “, I would have never imagined that that “Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras” was just seared scallop and shaved frozen foie gras……

07Champignons/céréales/morue  (mushrooms/cereals/cod) – WAY WAY WAY  too much mushrooms on that plate, but this was still  a delicious dish with enticing smoky aromas coming from the toasted barley, roasted wheat, superbly fried quality cod.   8/10

08Pois vert / Agneau / Melisse:  First-rate  tartare of lamb BUT …… PEAS IN AUTUMN?? REALLY? If this was traditional cooking, I would not mind the peas (many traditional dishes, such as ragouts,  can involve the use of  peas and they are commonly served this time of the year), but this is not traditional cooking.  Respect the seasonailty of food, folks!

09Oignons/betteraves/boeuf  – marinated onions of a quality that you’ll rarely get in our local restaurants,  beets of fine quality, and a 72hrs braised piece of beef that paid justice to the long time it spent simmering.  That dazzling meat is a reminder that in cooking, patience is key. And I never had onions marinated/prepared/treated  this well in a local restaurant 9/10

10Petit lait/poires/poivre – Excellent buttermilk ice cream, delicious julienne of pear, sorrel, “syrup” of apple cider vinegar, and a benchmark pepper meringue. Top drawer dessert by our local restaurant standards   9/10


PROS: (1) The superlative “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules” (2) Sharp sharp skills – I do not know if Le Mousso is consistently as good as on this evening, but the skills displayed all along this meal were  very strong when compared to what we are accustomed to in Montreal .

CONS –  (1)The insulting extras!! Charging extra for an amuse bouche! At least, make an inspired one..!!    (2) On one hand, the service looks lovely – the staff looks  passionate, they laugh, they look good and they look cool, down to earth, etc. As an example, my main waitress seemed  fun and we even talked about her boyfriend, trips they would like to organize and I found that superb as it shows how human and real the service can be. BUT then, disaster: the same waitress promises to come back with more red wine – promise not kept. Then she collects the tab, but sends someone else to tell me that there was money missing. I am always prompt to acknowledge my mistake, which I did with tact  and I am always an easy customer –I am paying with my hard earned money, so I may as well have my share of fun, thus  I make no fuss about such things  at the restaurant…but at any serious restaurant, the person who collects the money goes back to his client and voices any  error. You do not send someone else to do that. It is not as if you had a difficult customer yelling at you, berating you in front of other people. No. Instead, we are talking about a very easy going customer, so clearly there is just no rational excuse to such  stone age  tactic of sending a messenger to tell your customer that there was money missing. With such mistakes, the customer ends up questioning the initial positive impressions, which could perhaps be tolerated at a tavern but certainly not at a restaurant serving this caliber of food, at those prices ….   (3)Serving a madeleine alongside an oyster…wtf?? Again, I  go to restaurants  to have fun so I won’t lose my time challenging you, but c’mon folks??!! (4) Peas …in autumn…really?? (5) at times, the impression that they  run out of effective  imagination (a scallop with some shaved foie gras on it….not only the foie gras brings nothing to that scallop, but this is as basic as trying to put butter on a piece of bread).

My verdict for the food: 9/10 (by Montreal contemporary restaurant food standard). There were many flaws, indeed, but the better items of this meal are the best I had in Montreal in a long while. And for me, that counts a lot.    As ever, with non classical food like this, you need to show up with an open mind, prepared for a display of unorthodox combination of ingredients. Well travelled foodies have seen this..and much more…time and again  (a bit of In de Wulf over here, a touch of Inaki Aizpitarte over there, influences from Japan and the rest of the world, etc), abroad, but for Montreal this is top stuff (except, obviously,  for the amuse that did not amuse, the scallop with some foie gras shavings atop, some oyster served with a madeleine…, serving some peas in..autumn). This is quite a gamble though: one single cook who does not get what the kitchen is trying to achieve, a misstep here and there, and the whole picture may look completely different. Le Mousso has all it takes to be in my top tier restaurants in Montreal…but for now, it also has all it takes to be out of that top tier. This was, for me, like landing on a beautiful exotical island but with plenty of things to worry about. Meaning that I would not mind going back, but there will be no 3rd chance. Le Mousso (Type of cuisine: contemporary cosmopolitan ) Addr: 1023 Ontario E, Phone: 438-384-7410 Facebook page:

What I think days later: According to the medias, Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard told them that at his old restaurant, people used to drop by for a quick bite before  going to the nearby theater   but that with Le Mousso, the show would take place at his restaurant. He is right: by Montreal restaurant standards, even by its finest ones,  a dish like “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules”, that I had on that evening, showcases a strong level of   skills / creativity that is rare in Montreal. And the show went on: a spectacular “plum butter”, superb pickling technique, emulsions that  most restaurants in town would take ages to get a grasp of, marination that is rarely seen in town, a grill that … grills (I know, it should not be an exploit, but trust me…that is a miracle in Montreal), meringues that  would make most meringues at restaurants in town pass as “wimps”, etc. But then, they throw those extra charged food items from which  you expect so much .. in light of what they are  capable of …only to end up with uncreative creations like seared scallop with shaved frozen foie gras atop or a madeleine paired with an oyster…!!!!!!!! Why? Why? Why? Why peas in autumn, Chef, when you seem to be fond of Japanese cuisine, a cuisine that is so strict about ….SEASONALITY?!!! Why? Why? Why?

PHO BANG NEW YORKPho Bang New York is a very popular Vietnamese Pho destination in Montreal. At their old location, the pho was richer in flavor, more rustic in presentation, the place cramped. They have now moved to a new location, cleaner and spacier, the service is now better and the Pho better adapted to nowadays trends (not greasy as it used to be, more refined in its taste and presentation while remaining tasty). I was not a fan of the old PBNY, but that has changed: their new place deserves its enviable reputation. Do not go there expecting their Pho to be what it cannot be, meaning keep the expectations real (for eg, we are obviously NOT in Vietnam, a Pho that wows is a notion that is utterly personal/subjective, etc ), but by Vietnamese Pho standards in Montreal, this is one Pho by which I’ll judge the other Phos in town.

*MONDIAL DE LA BIEREThe Mondial de la Bière  took place at the Palais des Congres. I tried La Pitoune ( from Shawinigan  / the Imperiale Ale (Brasserie les Deux Freres), the Houblon libre (Micro Brasserie du Lac St Jean), a white wine from Les boissons du Roy, called sa Majesté (my coup de coeur of this fest), L’Église Noire ( Microbrasserie Kruhnen). Clearly, Quebec offers some world class beers and that white wine dazzled.

PROS: the variety of beers, obviously

CONS: One can argue that paying, on average, $4 for a glass of 3oz of beer is hard to understand, especially given that such event is an opportunity for those merchants  to be ‘visible’ to the most,….

AU 5E PECHEAu Cinquième Péché (Translation: At the 5th sin)  is a long time favourite bistrot. It has been a while since I last ate there, but with the beautiful sun out I went back and sat on their terrace.

I ordered:

AU 5E PECHE3Demi homard de Gaspésie, lard confit, polenta, , tomates confites – the lobster poached as I like it, meaning cooked to tender consistency while boasting necessary chew, polenta as fine as a properly executed polenta would taste and look like the ingredients of good quality as it has always been the case here. It is unfair that someone who swears only by the spiny lobsters of the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean (my case) –I am not talking about the frozen spinies that are sold at the super market, obviously, but of fresh spinies — would start telling you how he was not that impressed with  lobsters from colder waters as my perceived (as ever, such things are purely mental as,using the poaching or the boiling methods, unless the crustacean was snatched from the floor of the ocean just moments ago, is hardly the best way to compare the taste of crustaceans that are actually not even from the same species) superiority of one lobster over the other is just that .. personal/subjective (my palate just perceives tails from cold water lobsters, that is not grilled, as less tasty), so it would make no sense for me to assess this dish.

AU 5E PECHE2Terrine de foie gras. The terrine properly executed by classic French terrine standards, the fruity elements fine enough rather than dazzling (I have no clue how they did their confit, but I prefer a confit that tastes more of the natural sweetness of the fruit, whereas this tasted more of granulated sugar– again,not a fault, just what a matter of personal taste) , though, to be fair, the effort to make a fruit confit complex and dazzling is what I am expecting on a fine dining table, not really at a bistrot, but of course…dazzling it can also be at a bistrot. 7/10

-Deconstructed choco / lemon tart comprised of a tiny block of choco (good rather than great, for ie properly rendered, tasting fine, just not as exciting as some examples of deconstructed choco tarts I had at other bistrots), lemon cream (the best element of this dessert). I would take a classic choco or lemon tart, anytime, over this one. 6/10

In fine, I was not floored on this evening but there is nothing to reproach to Au 5e Péché neither: it is obviously not their fault if I perceive spiny lobsters as better than any other types of lobster. I did argue that the deconstructed lemon / choco tart could have been more exciting (to make it more sinful ;p), but here again…it boils down to what you are looking for, not necessarily to what is right or wrong: you prefer a choco tart with dark choco or not? You like the choco tart richer in taste or not ?Etc. As always, the cooking is consistently of reliable French bistrot standing at Au Cinquième Péché. The rare times I heard harsh comments on this place (I always read online reviews/comments on a place whenever I decide to visit it or revisit it), it was generally a matter of misunderstanding (For eg, diners assessing inaccurately textures and temperatures only because they basically are not familiar with what needs to be expected from certain type of food items based on some original French bistrots recipes – though, Au Cinquième Péché is not limited to French bistrot staples as they also cook North American bistrot food items). At least, with such a skilled kitchen, it can dazzle at times as proven on my last meal there (click here for that review ), and even on the evening of my visit, there is no doubt in my mind that I could have made better choices: the meat of Maitre Boucher Marchand du Bourg features on their menu in the form of a deluxe hamburger, the veal tongue / the sweetbreads (which have always been great here), the other daily offerings, etc.