Posts Tagged ‘montreal’

When it comes to food, I am fond of  french classics, in which regard the restaurant scene in Montreal is not bad at all. But 50% of the food that  I cook at home is french, these days, therefore I am not always enthused by the idea to eat  french food at restaurants. Except when I hear that the restaurant is cooking some french classics I do not have time to cook myself at home, on a regular basis, such as, in the case of Le Boulevardier, their dish of Lapin à la royale en croûte (which is labour-intensive, especially in my case, as  I tend to process everything from scratch, to the extent that I would do my own flour at home, if I could, Lol. ).

A long time reliable local foodie has informed me about the opening of Le Boulevardier in the posh Hotel Le Germain downtown Montreal. On the web page of Le Boulevardier, they mention that their Chef was the previous Chef at restaurant Lili.Co (Chef David Pellizzari), a restaurant that was known for its particularly creative recipes. I never tried Lili.Co (now closed), but I saw that they had one popular dish of the Lili.Co “era”  on the menu at Le Boulevardier and I was curious to try it ( Crème brulée aux pois verts ).

Le Boulevardier menu is inspired by  French brasseries.

 

Torchon de foie gras, gelée d’airelles, graines de moutarde marinées, cerfeuil, croûton de brioche – (Foie gras torchon, lingonberry jelly, marinated mustard seeds, chervil, brioche croûton). I love ordering foie gras au torchon  at a restaurant as it is  a very technical dish: a good sense of timing is important in cooking, true, and that is even more crucial when you make foie gras torchon. Then you have an array of cooking skills to master: the quality of your curing, poaching, seasoning. How you chill it. How good you are at controlling temperatures and mastering  textures, etc. Regarding this foie gras au torchon,  it was easy to see that every single step  involved in making it was  properly mastered (adequate timing in the processes of  the poaching, resting, etc), the creamy delicate texture nicely rendered, the seasoning judicious, the torchon of duck liver served cool as to accentuate the flavors. The flavors are fully developed which, again, is another reminder that they did not speed up the process and took all the time that was required (timing..timing..timing…an aspect that should never be overlooked in cooking, obviously – and they nailed it, here) to make this Foie gras au torchon (if one day, you stumble upon a Foie gras au torchon that has barely no flavour, think about what I just wrote. Of course, there are other factors that are behind the lack of taste of your foie gras au torchon, but a bad sense of timing will be  one of them). The quality of the duck liver was high. Every single component was there for a reason (mustard seeds marinated in a way that it added enjoyment to the overall dish, the brioche having a very enjoyable  soft crunch that went well with the foie gras, the lingonberry jelly was also another pertinent addition. 8/10

 

Crème brulée aux pois verts, boudin noir, fenouil mariné, radis  (Green pea crème brulée, black pudding, marinated fennel, radish)  – This was one of their fabled dishes at Lili.Co, the previous restaurant of the current Chef at Le Boulevardier. Traditionally, I rarely take pea-based dishes at restaurants unless they are offered as plain pea pods coming from a location that is known for the exceptional quality of its peas. If the pea pods  are transformed (for example, in this case, as a crème brulée), I  would generally not order the dish. I did an exception, here, given the popularity this dish had at Lili.Co and, I felt myself drawn to the potential  creativity behind it (I was curious about how the Chef would incorporate the black pudding, marinated fennel and  radish in that dish. The custard  was smooth and creamy as you  should  be looking for in a good crème brulée, its burnt  topping offering  the ideal  “resistance” (not soo soft, not too hard) to the utensil used to crack it while featuring a nice caramelized texture that was evenly browned, the overall having the  feel and taste of a crème brulée that was made using  a well judged  ratio of cream and eggs (not too eggy). Another creative dish (they all were creative) with complementary ingredients (this Chef combines lots of ingredients but the combinations happened to always be successful, a sign of great skills) that would fail in the hands of plenty of cooks. Bits of the black pudding covered the  burnt topping of the creme brulee, a thoughtful way of incorporating the black pudding in this dish.  Too bad the flavour of the pea was not expressive. Regardless, this was still a  superb dish. 8/10

 

Lapin à la royale en croûte, boudin noir, foie gras, laitue, cameline, huile de truffe  (Rabbit à la royale en croûte, black pudding, foie gras, lettuce, camelina, truffle oil). Every 2 years, around this time of the year, I love going to France to  enjoy the Lièvre à la royale (Wild Hare A La Royale). Traditionally, I prefer wild hare to rabbit, but I do not think you can find a Wild Hare A La Royale  in a restaurant of Quebec. As  I will not be able to go to France, this season, and since nothing gets close to the Wild Hare A La Royale dish  in Montreal,  the Rabbit à la royale en croûte (a rabbit à la royale wrapped in a puff pastry)  did fit the bill. Their Lapin à la royale en croûte  would have been a benchmark dish, for me,  had its pastry displaying an attractive sheen (do not get me wrong, it was not unattractive neither) and the fat (from the foie gras component, obviously)  remained distinct in the crust,  but the flaky crust was competently rendered, it had an enticing buttery fragrance to it, and every single component of this dish tasted great (the lettuce lightly but exquisitely seasoned, both the meat and the  puree expressing exciting rich flavours).  8/10

 

Ris de veau, rabiole, sucrine, puree de mais, vinaigrette au beurre de noisette (sweetbread, white turnip, little gem, corn puree, hazelnut butter vinaigrette.  As with every single dish I had on that evening, the sweetbread was competently prepared and cooked. This is Chef and a kitchen brigade with lots of skills and experience, therefore the only reason I was a bit less taken by this dish had nothing to do with them, it had to do with a personal preference: I love when sweetbread is a bit more caramelized  (which was not the case, here). But objectively, yes, both the sweetbread  and  its accompaniments  were  executed properly and everything was genuinely delicious  (I love that when you eat food and realize that those who are cooking it have a great palate, which was the case here).   7/10

 

Pieuvre laquée au citron, riz noir au safran, légumes à la barigoule, olive noire (lemon glazed octopus, black rice with saffron, vegetable barigoule, black olive – tender octopus with lovely  complex taste sensations  consisting of the acidity of the lemon, the delicate subtle  and enjoyable bitter taste coming from the char grilling process as well as the use of lemon  — here is the perfect example of a situation where a bit of well judged bitterness adds to the enjoyment of a dish).  There was also a very subtle hint of  sweetness to be felt, as well as, naturally, a bit of smokiness (due to the grilling, obviously). Again, all pertinent additions to the enjoyment of that octopus. It takes some serious skills to take taste sensations that could easily clash when used together and turn them into this  harmonious affair that I was enjoying. 9/10

Rounded off the meal with two classic french desserts   that I hold near and dear to my heart: a chocolate mousse and a paris-brest. Usually, I do not like ordering such classics at a restaurant as I already have one or two pastry shops  that do them extremely well for me, here in Montreal, at, of course, lower cost. But I wanted to see how competent  their classic French desserts were at Le Boulevardier.

 

Chocolate mousse – Light, smooth and airy in consistency, covered by a layer of crème fouettée with bits of raspberries. As there are many variations on a chocolate mousse, we all have our personal preferences.  I prefer my chocolate mousse with nothing else, but this had the crème fouettée atop. I prefer it with a more intense chocolate flavour, but this had a less intense chocolate flavour. I tend to prefer a darker colour, for the chocolate mousse, which was not the case of this mousse. Eventhough this  was not the type of chocolate mousse that I prefer, there was still nothing wrong with their rendition of the chocolate mousse (Who knows – perhaps  a chocolate mousse like this one that they did would be way more popular, in this day and age, than the sort of chocolate mousse that I was looking for) as their idea was  to add more enjoyment to it (the crème fouettée, the bits of raspberries)  and they were successful at doing that (which is why my rating of this dessert will be high). Regardless of my personal preferences, what matters, here,  is that the eggs and the chocolate were of prime quality (as it was the case with all the ingredients they have been using all along this meal), the dessert delicious, the mousse well made. 8/10

 

Another well made dessert was their Paris-Brest which praline mousseline cream had enticing  praline flavours at the fore, a perfected creamy texture, the sugar input is carefully measured so that the delicious sweet taste sensation  of the cake is not compromised while avoiding the use of too much sugar. This  choux pastry  was hard to fault and you could see that it was made by a pastry team that did respect the classic recipe while thinking out of the box as in the nice touch of caramel on the side. And instead of decorating the choux pastry with flaked almonds, as it is traditionally the case, the almonds served as accompaniments to the caramel. To a distracted eye, this may sound like nothing, but people who are genuinely passionate about food  tend to appreciate such things as it reveals some ‘wit’ on the part of the cook. 8/10

Pros: Food that is both nice to look at, but also fun to eat, with creative touches.

Cons: As it is pretty much the case at most of the  latest newly opened restaurants, here and abroad, portions of food are not considerable. And it is not cheap.

 

Bottom line: A  stylishly designed restaurant with a good deal of assured cooking skills and obvious creativity coming from the kitchen. Many ambitious kitchen brigades  would fail at making a good use of  the amount of  ingredients found in the majority of  the dishes that I was eating.  The menu I was perusing on the evening of my visit was carefully created  to “satiate”  both the adventurous (the  original combination of  ingredients of some of their dishes) as well as  the one looking for something classic and comforting. Either way, they did  not forget that food should always be pleasurable in the first place. The genuine classic french flavours were always there, delivered with pep (certainly not tasting of tired old world food). The service at  Le Boulevardier was exactly as we came to expect from the  better restaurants of Montreal: excellent. This was an  overall  dining experience of quality and being there was certainly enjoyable. Le Boulevardier; Addr: 2050 rue Mansfield, Montreal, Quebec H3A1Y9; URL: 514-985-6072; URL: https://leboulevardierrestaurant.com

 

 

Baguette Brochette is, according to what its owners have conveyed to the medias, a sandwich place inspired by a style of sandwich from the Ivory Coast. I opted for beef  as my protein of choice for my sandwich (baguette filet de boeuf).

Unusually for a sandwich shop in Montreal, they have their own branded juices. I picked the pineapple/ ginger juice, two of the many tropical ingredients that I grew up on and that I hold near and dear to my heart. This was not as « exclusive » as a juice of pineapple and ginger that you would have made at home. Definitely not your typical boldly flavoured juices found on the  streets of the African continent. But the flavours had a nice balance, the natural piquancy of the ginger being present enough to say ‘hey, it is there!’. Typical balanced/measured flavours you came to expect from a fine commercial juice, only here it is made in a smaller quantity and it is available just at the sandwicherie for now.

The sandwich came with what the staff introduced as their homemade chips of plantains   and potatoes, which were fine: nice crisp, the health conscious spirit in evidence (the  salt was not overbearing, the chips not greasy, etc). Nothing taking away from their respective tastes. Virtually identical, in taste and texture, to your typical commercially sold quality chips of   plaintains and potatoes.

The sandwich featured a fine baguette bread, their homemade salad of cabbage/tomatoes/ and spicy sauce (the spicy homemade sauce looked and felt a bit – a bit I said — like their African take on the mayo/sriracha mix).

Overall, this was a pleasant sandwich, using, by the standards of a sandwich shop in Montreal, fine ingredients, the seasoning enjoyable, the flavours are balanced and refined (as opposed to the bold flavours of its incarnations on an African street).

This was exactly how I would have imagined an African-inspired sandwicherie that has a (mostly) western clientele to cater to  (We are on Le Plateau) but that knows that if it plays it too safe, the western clientele won’t feel transported somewhere else, so it delivers a bit of spice here and there, not too fragrant, but present enough for the western clientele to get a sense of exotism. The African looking for the bold flavours of the African sandwich he grew up on, will probably not be moved,  and that  was my case, but this is a fine sandwicherie doing whatever it has to do  correctly. Baguette Brochette; Addr: 3800 St Denis St, Montreal, Quebec H2W 2M2; Phone: (514) 844-7246; URL: http://baguettebrochette.com

 

 

Régine Café is one of the most-talked-about brunch spots of Montreal.  It did not take long for me to realize how popular this restaurant is, as lengthy queues began to form before opening time on the saturday I went there.

I ordered their  “Champi” – pictured above (poached eggs atop some bread and a piece of Mamirolle cheese, a side of sautéed mushrooms with sage).

The food is carefully plated, a feature that is enough for the nearby crowd of Le Plateau to fall in love with a breakfast / brunch restaurant …  but at least, Régine Café does a bit more than just the plating: the soft-boiled egg was precisely executed, the mushrooms timely sautéed, the seasoning well judged (nothing was over or underseasoned). A display of  fine produce, and properly –rather than dazzling – made food.

 

I also ordered their scotch egg, but  it  did not have the  tender sausage meat layer of the  best renditions I  tasted elsewhere. Furthermore, the crumb was short of the savoury depth I came to expect from the better scotch eggs.

The food did not blow me away and, for my money, I prefer the brunch at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (downtown Montreal),  but Régine Café does what it takes to deserve its local popularity (a thoughtfully conceived menu, friendly service and overall great ambience). Overall rating for the food (6 /10 – Nothing to write home about, but certainly well made), Service (8 /10 – Classy service that reminds us that we have some of the better waiters and waitresses of this globe), Ambience (9/ 10 – it is always fun and bustling at RC in a  civilized way, which is a positive thing,  for sure) Régine Café Addr: 1840 Rue Beaubien Est, Montréal, QC Phone: (514) 903-0676 URL: http://www.reginecafe.ca

 

Pamika Brasserie Thai – Pursued with another major local opening, Pamika, a  Thai-inspired restaurant that is already one of the most popular  restaurants  in Montreal. There, on a 1st visit, I ordered their beef salad made of grilled flank steak, their seafood Tom Kha soup (the broth made of coconut milk, lemongrass and galangal), as well as  their  red curry seafood  which is made of kaffir leaves, basil, coconut milk, red peppers, calamaris and shrimps). Every single dish was eventful, featuring vibrant colors, enticing textures, judicious seasoning and superbly well balanced  genuine Thai  flavors.

At handling, and cooking  seafood, they seem to have an edge on plenty of ambitious local restaurants. The Gaeng Daeng (red curry) obviously made of  a high quality curry paste. On a second visit, I was less taken by the green curry/chicken/winter melon/Thai eggplant/coconut milk/basil , the Yellow curry/chicken thighs/potatoes/coconut milk as well as the Thai satay chicken skewers   but that was because of personal taste (sometimes, for Thai food,  I just prefer the old fashion rustic bold mom-and-pop Thai flavors + there are some Thai regional ways of making sauces that I prefer more than others and I tend to be partial to  charcoal grilled satay) and not for a lack of skills as they all  were competently executed and were tasty.

A special of the day, on my second visit, consisted of a starter of marinated pork in lemon grass (picture above), the pork finished on a grill. That starter looked simple, but that is the sign of a great kitchen brigade: it makes everything it does look so simple. Not many kitchen brigades are capable to deliver such a perfected starter as most would either under or over season it, others would grill it too long or not enoughly long killing the  delicious  flavor of the meat  in the process, some would cook it well but serve it at the wrong moment which would reduce their work to a non happening. Behind that superlative starter  there was a great deal of technical mastery (timing of its cooking, timing of its serving,  superb work of its marinade —lemongrass is a tricky ingredient for marinades as you really need to know what you are doing with it or else it will make your food pass as punishment —  which is not given to all cooks, btw,  a precise balance of the flavors, again …not an  ability that all cooks happen to be gifted with).

The signs of the skills of this kitchen continued to be on display in their flawless  condiments and sauces. Traditional Thai desserts may be perceived as basic to most western eyes and palates, but they remain enjoyable:  I tried the Khao neow ma muang (sticky rice with mango) as well as  the Thai tapioca pudding.  The mango of the Khao neow ma muang may not come from Thailand, but the kitchen picked a ripe mango of fine quality,  the sticky texture of the rice properly rendered, the warm coconut cream a benchmark of its kind.  Both desserts were  well executed, their respective   Thai flavor profiles in evidence.

Here is an example of a talented kitchen brigade that is not hiding behind the fear of having to cook what its patrons  want it to cook. Instead, it is cooking what it is supposed to cook, pulling off  Thai flavors that are as genuine as they get in Montreal (which they manage to keep at the forefront even when they add their own  twists here and there).

It will always be delusional to expect Thai food to taste exactly the same as in Thailand , this far away from Thailand (obviously, to do so, you would need every single ingredient to come from Thailand and shipped to you in a blink of an eye after being  harvested, and not long after, it will inevitably cost an arm to eat there  and the restaurant will go bankrupt), and this is not your old fashion (heavy sauces, bold) type of Thai food (the genuine Thai flavors are there, though, which is what matters), but Pamika is an elite  ethnic restaurant  in Montreal  right now.  Seems like Montreal has an an all rounder, here  (service and overall dining experience are good, quality ingredients and cooking are on display). Pamika Brasserie Thai, Addr: 901 Sherbrooke East, Montreal, Phone: (514) 508-9444 URL: http://pamika.ca

 

 Gyu-Kaku is a  Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku) chain with over 600 locations in Japan as well as abroad. It has now a restaurant  in Montreal on Crescent street, in between Ste Catherine and Rene Levesque (closer to the corner of Ste Catherine).

 

I tried a Gya-Kaku the last time I was in Tokyo, as well as one of  their branches located in NYC. Gyu-Kaku Montreal has a tasteful dark wood / grey walls  interior decor, almost chic for a table top grilling restaurant, but that is standard for a Gyu-Kaku, and superb friendly service.

 

I will go straight to what you need to know:  Gya-Kaku is, in Montreal, the best table top grilling restaurant in town right now. How come? They use the best meat  and the best marinades you will find at a table top grilling restaurant in Montreal.

I ordered the Harami miso skirt steak as well as the Bistro hanger steak. Both are  miso-marinated and  will be crowd pleasers. I also ordered the Kalbi short rib, which, for my taste, has always been   less ‘festive’ than the Harami miso skirt steak/Bistro hanger steak, but that is a matter of personal taste (lots of people love it) and again, Gyu-Kaku is offering one of  great quality.

Was everything perfect? NO! The chicken karaage was not in the league of Nozy‘s (as explained here, I always keep the comparison “local”, meaning that I compare Japanese food items in Montreal to other Japanese food items in..Montreal) but it was  fine, and  I  am not a fan of  the spicy kalbi ramen.  That said,  a Yakiniku IS a Japanese Bbq restaurant, so if you are going there for ramen, then you may as well start the trend of going to the  hospital to shop for clothes, attend a wedding expecting a birthday party, etc. A nonsense what I just wrote? You are right: it would be a NONSENSE to head to a Yakiniku for your fix of ramen.

I hope Gyu-Kaku keeps its Yakiniku in Montreal to the serious Yakiniku level I found on the evening of my visit. This has the potential to work really well as we have an important local community of young Asians in Montreal and Yakiniku is one thing they love. In facts, the Yakiniku was not empty when I was there. Just ensure you know the difference between Japanese Vs Korean BBQ as to avoid inaccurate expectations and , consequently, inaccurate judgement, as well as grossly ignorant statements such as “why should I go to a restaurant to cook my own food”.

Some may find it a little far-fetched  to call a table top grilling restaurant one of the best restaurants in Montreal, especially a chain restaurant, but Montreal is NOT a destination city for restaurants (to the contrary of what our local tourism authorities and their annoying endless web of  friendly food bloggers and food journalists are working hard on trying to make you believe) and, at the end of the count, Gya-Kaku has the edge on anything that’s doing table top grilling meat in town. As such, and at what it is delivering (it is a Yakiniku, therefore I am talking about its table top grilling meats, NOT its non-table-top grilling food, obviously),  it is one of the best restaurants  in Montreal.  Gyu-Kaku Gyu-Kaku, Addr: 1255 Crescent St, Montreal. Phone (514) 866-8808

ACCORDING TO THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE,   THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED PERMANENTLY —THIS REVIEW IS KEPT ONLINE FOR HISTORICAL REFERENCE.

The same local foodie who did notify me about the recent opening of Tsukuyomi (visited and reviewed here) has also mentioned  that another Japanese  eatery   opened its doors on Avenue du Parc, not far from the corner of Avenue St Viateur.  The name is Cocoro (Addr: 5407 Park Ave, Montreal, Phone:514-303-0332 ).  I checked the web to see if there is any mention of this, online, but no serious/reliable online source has yet mentioned its existence as of the day of my 1st visit (Thursday Aug 17th 2017), with the only two pertinent online mentions of this restaurant being the restaurant’s Google profile and its facebook page,  so I went to find out.

Cocoro all black interior has the looks of a  simple bistro.  It also has a terrace that was not open on the day  of my visit. When you push open their glass door, you are immediately welcomed by a noren. The waitstaff explained that they do not have their alcohol license yet, but  that  it is coming soon.

Remembering the superb and genuinely Japanese donburi   as well as chicken karaage I had at Nozy — which are reviewed here (easily the most “genuinely Japanese” of any donburi and chicken karaage I had in Montreal), I wanted to see how they would fare under Cocoro’s roof.

I started my meal with their Tokyo ramen, which broth is made of  pork and chicken  (the noodles that are used are of the  thin wavy sort), light and yet  flavorful. For those in the know (people who  made ramen at a serious level for a long time), it was evident that lots of skills went into that broth (well judge timing, superb sense of seasoning, great work of the  flavor, etc).  The  waitress explained that the Japanese Chef (born and trained in Tokyo) has just arrived from Japan around 1 month ago and it shows: the seasoning of his broth was as genuinely bold as it is the case with most bowls of tokyo style ramen in Japan, with the necessary kick of salt present (I am insisting on this because lots of food journalists and food  reviewers do inaccurately report saltiness as a fault. They just do not know when saltiness is a lack of judgement and where it should be expected. Saltiness may be the pet peeve of the health-conscious world but culinary-wise, salt is what makes certain dishes great. It is therefore important to remind people that for certain types of ramen, a certain level of  saltiness is required. You take that away, your ramen will be something  else. I mean, if all you can taste in a broth of this quality is just salt, then you have some homework to do before talking about ramen: go, spend years enjoying ramen across Japan, then come back and see if  you are now  able to differentiate “necessary kick of saltiness” from the “oversalty”).  For a ramen bowl in Montreal, this was  impressive as  not one single detail was  spared: the yolk of the egg had the wet-appearing center that a serious ramen fan will look for as it helps the egg melting with the broth, an aspect that’s important as it just makes the ramen tasting better, the texture of the chāshū  チャーシュー  was the best I ever saw in Montreal ,  the noodles were precisely cooked to aldente doneness, the use of   julienne strips of the white  part of a Japanese leek (Shira Negi)– which they did use as a topping for the ramen —  is rare at our local ramenyas.  One benchmark bowl by LOCAL ramen standards. 10/10

Chicken karaage was another demonstration of the great sense of seasoning of the Chef. This time, the seasoning intentionally not strong (there is not just 1 way to make and season chicken karaage and this example was one legit version of a chicken karaage), but well balanced, with a quip, though: some pieces of chicken had a surface that was tough to tear apart. Given the skills on display during this meal and the ensuing one, I would not lose a sleep over that quip, as anyone familiar with advanced Japanese cooking techniques would not fail to observe that the Chef karaage technique is on point (again, regardless of that quip). The only limitation, for this  Chef, will come from the quality of our poultry (it is not bad, and Cocoro is using quality poultry, but it is not as great as the poultry in Japan) – but that is not the problem if this kitchen.

Talking about the quality of the ingredients in Montreal: the owner came to say hello to every client and when she dropped by my table, she said she would like, at some point in the future, to start importing ingredients  from Tokyo’s  Tsukiji market,  wagyu from Japan, etc. I appreciate her ambition but let us  be clear about this: the Montreal foodie scene is not ready for that. I gather that by reading my blog you may think that I dislike our local restaurant scene, and  that it was all logical that I would suggest that our local foodie scene is not ready for superb Japanese ingredients flown in from Japan, but thinking  that way is wrong: I am an untiring  advocate of the best aspects of our foodie scene in a way that I have always bragged about our smoked meat, poutine, cheesecakes.  They are the best in the world. Classic Quebecois cuisine is amazing, and I never miss an opportunity to mention that. In the heydays of Martin Juneau at la Montee, I did not hesitate to notice that he was (BACK THEN) up there with the very best Chefs of this globe. I did the same thing when Martin Picard was cooking. It was also the case for Hughes Dufour (Hughes is still an active Chef and he is now a star  in the competitive and  real world class foodie destination of New York), Jean-Francois Belair when he was working at le Marly and another world class Chef, Chef  Jean-Paul Giroux (who used to be at Cuisine et Dependance). Even today, there are still  local Chefs of which, I keep saying that, in their prime, they are are capable of world class cooking:  Michele Mercuri (Le Serpent), Olivier De Montigny (La Chronique), Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly  (Marconi) . So, NO…I do not dislike our foodie scene. What I cannot stand is the bullshit that surrounds this foodie scene: selling  Montreal as a foodie destination when any serious foodie knows that  it is everything you want..but  NOT  a proper foodie destination. Let us talk between  adults, here: Montreal, you managed to  convince San Pellegrino’s listing of the  top restaurants of the globe that an eatery selling lobster spaghetti should be in its top 100. You are certainly a hero  on the marketing aspect, a big zero foodie-wise. Marketing is important, but what makes a foodie destination serious is its ability of having an effective restaurant scene which performance can justify what is advertised  (which are what Paris/Tokyo/New York/London are about). Montreal has a restaurant and foodie scene that is, in general, at the opposite end  of what is promoted as evidenced by the never ending number of cooks who are more interested by opening restaurants to simply make a buck (when all you do is to parade on TV and you leave your restaurants in the hands of poorly trained cooks, that is the only thought that comes to mind, obviously), cooks who are celebrated as geniuses when the so-called geniuses do not even know how to season their food, etc. When Chef Belair was at le Marly and Michele Mercuri at XO Le Restaurant, they were both cooking world class food, but the Montreal foodie scene never knew what that meant… – Anyways, I like Montreal and do believe that when you like something, you have to be honest about it. And that is what I am doing. And to be honest, the great fish of the Tsukiji market +  best wagyu of Japan ..that  is not a good idea in the context of Montreal because the only two local restaurants that are selling the best fish and red meat from abroad are not “mainstream” restaurants, they cater to a “niche” of people driving luxurious cars and smoking expensive cigars… that is the only way they could “survive” in the context of the Montreal restaurant scene because the local foodie scene does not know how to appreciate that.

Back to the main topic, my meal at Cocoro. Impressed by the skills on display during my initial meal, I went back the following evening (there are currently just 4 food items on their menu. The 4 food items that are reviewed in my post. The staff explained that there will be  more items, soon,  in September):

Kaisen Donburi (sashimi rice bowl) is easy … right? Just rice, some pieces of raw seafood, some salmon roe, some basic toppings. Those in the know, those who really  did it, those people  know that is not that easy. Well, it is easy to make an ordinary bowl of rice, for sure. A bit more difficult to find Chefs who pull this  off brilliantly. What I was having was one of the best Kaisen Donburi I ever had in Montreal, the Chef’s skills so evident in the superbly well executed savory tamago (even in Tokyo, it does not always  look that refined and appealing to the eyes…)  he did cut in small pieces, dices  of fresh quality squid, salmon, tuna revealing great knife skills and lots of finesse in the overall execution. The rice was also tasty, which is not always the case at plenty of  Japanese restaurants across  North America.  This was a reminder that simple food like this can dazzle….only in skilled hands.  Even the accompanying sweet soya was of nice quality. Beautiful skills! 9/10

I also ordered their udon made in a mix of  bechamel sauce / dashi bouillon, a Franco Japanese offering that is right now trendy in Tokyo. You have your  proper classic French Bechamel, not as rich as your old school French bechamel sauce,  therefore “lightened”  and that works well with the dashi bouillon. In the dish, there were also some morsels of quality chicken that were cooked not too tender, not too firm (for proper chew).  As it was the case during the two meals, the attention to details was remarkable (the doneness of the noodles always well timed so that it is never mushy, never too hard, the noodles always holding well to their respective sauces or broths, the timing of the cooked vegetables was also well mastered, resulting in  vegetables of vivid textures/colors..not a common feature at our local restaurants). A successful dish 8/10

Overall food rating: 8/10 A TRUELY skilled Chef who masters the fundamentals of cooking well (salty where it has to, tasting mild or strong exactly where need be, great sense of timing, great sense of textures/temperatures/colors, great palate, etc).

Bottom line: Culinary-wise I now have two “preferred” Japanese eateries in Montreal. Cocoro and Nozy. Eventhough the Japanese presence is more serious than it used to be,  on our local restaurant scene, Nozy and Cocoro are, right now, among the rare restaurants that seem to deliver the flavors that will get you, in Montreal,  as close as it’s possible to the motherland (which is not a light  feature when you consider  that you are located at 10,383 kms away from it).

What I think days later: Let us see how Montreal will react to yet another good Chef. Are we going to pursue with that bad habit of trying to alter what others have been doing successfully for ages (Yes, Montreal, you know what I mean by that! Some  local Japanese eateries  were great   and you started complaining about the bold genuine flavors of  their  food. They  did adapt to you and  were not the  same anymore!!). So if one day this Chef is not who he  is anymore , you will have just our laughable clueless foodie scene to blame. And to the Montreal foodie scene, I have this to add:  you should start ditching your  “it is too good to be true” mentality as that is making your foodie scene “tasting bland” btw!!! … In Tokyo, Paris, London, New York, they think  that “it can truely always be consistently great”, no wonder why they are world  class foodie destinations! Mind you, they have the “collective” mindset to make that happen …and you do not!!!

Knowing my profound  admiration  for  Japanese food, a local foodie friend has notified me about the recent opening of two Japanese eateries in Montreal and I went trying both: Tsukuyomi (current review) was visited on Wednesday Aug 16   and I did dine at  Cocoro (reviewed here) on Thursday Aug 17.

Tsukuyomi (Addr: 5207 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC Phone:  514-273-8886) is located on St Laurent Street, almost at the  corner of Fairmount. They are essentially making ramen : a veggie tonkotsu Pork bone broth + veggie topping), Chashu tonkotsu (Porkbone broth + braised pork belly topping), which is what I picked, a chicken tonkotsu (Pork bone broth + boiled chicken topping) as well as a Vegan ramen (Vegan broth + vegetable topping). Each bowl costing $13. Sides are Edamame (salted green soya beans) $3,  a daily Vegan salad $4, Goma-ae boiled spinach with sesame sauce 4$, Tokowasa wasabi flavored octopus with nori seaweed 4$, Mini Chashu Don (Braised pork on top of the rice), steamed rice $2.  They also have Sapporo/La fin du monde beers as well as Kocha Japanese milk tea/Matcha honey green tea/Ramune Japanese soda/Sencha green tea.

The   woody  interior mimics faithfully the North American idea of a casual Japanese eatery, and   there are seats with partial views on the opened kitchen.

What I ate:

Takowasa – Wasabi flavored octopus with nori seaweed. Pieces of octopus marinated in a sugar/wasabi mixture. Had the wasabi be of the “grated stem”  type  (which you will NOT  find at a  restaurant in Montreal, this would have been a hit. Alas, as expected, the wasabi paste found in Montreal, which was used here, is way too pungent to complement the flavor of octopus.

Pork bones based Tonkotsu ramen was   second to the one at Yokato Yokabai, with a broth that was not  as deep and complex in flavor as I wished, but certainly pleasant with some Ok  chashu and semi firm boiled egg yolk that I , as well as plenty of ramen fans, prefers with a wet-appearing center (which I was missing, here) for the simple reason that it tastes better when it melts with the soup (the main reason why ramen has an egg in it). Still, I prefer this ramen than what you will get at most   ramenyas  in town.

Overall food rating: 6/10 (Categ: ramenya in Montreal) The Chef is Japanese and it shows: the food has genuine Japanese flavor. That said, he should use better judgement (true, the wasabi marinated octopus is a great idea, but if you do not have the right wasabi, do not insist on it…).  I will go back as it remains one of the rare bowls of ramen I liked  in Montreal (behind Cocoro / Ramen Misoya / Yokato Yokabai).