Posts Tagged ‘parsley’

Bar Mercuri
Type of cuisine: Contemporary Cosmopolitan cuisine (Informal/Casual)
Date and time of the events: May 28th 17:30
Addr: 645 Rue Wellington, Montréal, QC H3C
Phone: (514) 394-3444
URL: http://mercurimontreal.com/home/
IMPORTANT: They have two dining areas, a fine dining area as well as another part of the restaurant that they call ‘Bar Mercuri, the former obviously focusing on elaborate meals while the latter covering more casual fares (for eg, bistrot type). Current review is about the casual dining section.

One day after sampling their fine dining offerings (reviewed here), I went back to try the informal/casual part of the establishment (Bar Mercuri).

ImageThe dishes have less ingredients than their counterparts of the fine dining area (for eg, a listing of 4,5 ingredients as opposed to 8 or 9 for the formal fares). As it’s common nowadays at plenty of restaurants (L’Astrance, Eleven Madison Park) , you just see a listing of ingredients and the kitchen crafts  a dish around them.

BAR MERCURI, MONTREAL - TUNA TARTARE

 

 

 

 

Tartare of tuna, grapefruit, jalapeno $16 was enjoyable and refreshingly different from its classic versions. Sometimes I hear people stating that a ‘dish tastes of its season’ and upon eating what they are talking about I still would not get what they mean, but had someone told me that this tartare ‘tasted of spring’ I’d concede that they are right. I can’t recall having sampled in Montreal a tartare this much entrenched behind seasonality, with such fun aromatic lightness, reminiscent of anything that’s on its way of blooming (main characteristic of spring). For eg, the fresh acidity that was hitting my palate is of the sort that would come from a young lemon, growing up (blooming ;p). Last evening, the grapefruit clashed on my dish of crab but on this evening it combined so well with the tuna. The quality tuna did benefit from a judicious dimension of heat provided by the jalapeno, the seasoning flawless. I tend to be partial to bold/meaty/richly seasoned tartares, consequently my rating here seems not too high, but this tartare showcased a witty /lovely sense of seasonality that plenty of restaurants in town do not take time to focus on. I’d close my eyes, combine both the tuna and the grapefruit into one bite, engulf it and the next thing I’d be tempted to do would be to scream SPRING! Nice    6/10

BAR MERCURI, MONTREAL - OCTOPUS

 

 

 

 

 

Octopus, potatoes, mustard seed, parsley  $16- This was a very simple dish (basically grilled octopus and potatoes), which is normal as we are in a  casual dining context, and yet not many kitchen brigades are doing it this right: the octopus retaining enough firmness, a reminder of the natural condition of the seafood, its  marine freshness vibrant and appetizingly enhanced by nice grilling flavour. The seasoning exciting.  7/10

BAR MERCURI, MONTREAL - Pork loin milanese

 

 

Pork loin milanese, chinese broccoli, panko, marinated carrot, onions, papaya salad $23 – Again, a straightforward fare as expected in a casual dining context. The Pork loin milanese done exactly as it should, which is the classic way (except that they did add a bit of sesame seeds to the coating) , featuring proper crispy texture on the outside, the inside tender, the sourcing of the pork exemplary. They should mention the level of spiciness of the papaya salad, though, as the salad was super spicy. All in all, a classic simple casual dish done well and that they’ve thoughtfully enhance with interesting accompaniments. Those folks are really serious about the quality of their ingredient: even the papaya was of superb quality. 7/10

Pros:  Delivered as advertised, which means casual /informal cosmopolitan food. And delivered as it should. Done well,  with top quality ingredients.

Cons: They like the ‘tapas’  theme  which consists of offering several plates at the same time. It’s a fun idea but when you are alone, it’s not practical as the food gets obviously cold. Anyways, that was not a problem as they were really accomodating, but really, keep the ‘multiple-courses at once’ principle for couples or groups only.

Overall food rating: 7/10 By Montreal informal / casual dining standards, which means a meal of good standard.

Conclusion: It is refreshingly different from the hordes of Mtl bistrots  that keep doing the same stuff over and over. It’s the advantage of a Chef with a broader vision of the world of food. You ‘travel’ through his  dishes.

What I think, weeks later: Successful contemporary casual dining offerings. Chef Joe Mercuri mixing his base in  Italian cookery with twists from all around the world. As ever with food, the more you know, the more accurate you are in your appreciation of the food, so a better understanding of casual mediterranean flavors will bring you a long way. Doing the same with other International casual fares will serve you even be better.

 

 

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Restaurant Mercuri
Type of cuisine: Contemporary Cosmopolitan cuisine (Fine dining)
Date and time of the events: May 27th 18:00
Addr: 645 Rue Wellington, Montréal, QC H3C
Phone: (514) 394-3444
URL: http://mercurimontreal.com/home/
IMPORTANT: They have two dining areas, a fine dining area as well as another part of the restaurant that they call ‘bar Mercuri, the former obviously focusing on elaborate meals while the latter covering more casual fares (for eg, bistrot type). Current review is about my fine dining meal.

RESTAURANT MERCURI, MONTREAL2The Mercuri family is one of Montreal’s most talented families of Italian Chefs. Michelle is now working at Restaurant Le Serpent and his cousin  Joe has opened restaurant Mercuri.

Before heading there, I read couple of reviews on Joe’s new establishment. The review that intrigued me the most is one of a local food journalist who praised  most of Joe’s creative creations, but found the wine offerings pedestrian, and was less impressed by some of the desserts as well as the venison (cerf de boileau).  That journalist as well as other foodies have complained about that venison being too gamey in taste.  On my visit I wanted to try that venison, but they had beef instead. I was also going to try the desserts but I ate too much savouries, so that will be for another occasion.

Upon entering the room, I knew I was in Joe Mercuri’s world: I do not know him in person, but if you remember Bronté (his last restaurant), then you’ll notice  that Joe’s soft spot for highly stylish contemporary and colorful décor remains intact . A simple visit on their web page sets the mood for the elaborate contemporary interior design  that awaits (in the fine dining section). When you enter, you have the fine dining area on your right (with his beautiful bar that will remind a bit of L’Atelier Robuchon / I sat at that bar) and a   casual dining section (which decor is less flashy) right in front of you.

On to the food:
Joe and Michelle are the few rare Chefs in Montreal who incorporate well a considerable quantity of ingredients in their courses. On average, it’s oftently  about 8,9 ingredients. For a traditionalist foodie like me, huge fan  of classic menus of 2 to 3 ingredients, no more, there is only one way out for this kind of complex combinations and it’s called SKILLS. Skills,  both Joe and Michelle have plenty of that.

Chef Joe Mercuri international influence is clear:  there are oriental as well as pan-european and even latin american influences on his menu.

 

RESTAURANT MERCURI, MONTREAL - SNOW CRAB

 

Snow crab, grapefruit jelly, macadamia nuts, yogurt, galanga mousse $21
The snow crab was of superb quality, but that is sourcing, not cooking skills because honestly, at the art of juxtaposing or combining the right ingredients, this was a failure: as expected, the grapefruit clashed severely with the crab. Neither the mousse nor the yogurt added any cohesion to the main ingredient (the crab)  in terms of palatable enjoyment. Yes, the galanga mousse was perfect, yes each individual element was of impeccable quality, but  such contemporary dish is a hit only when the ‘sum of all parts’ impresses by either a dazzling juxtaposition or combination of ingredients, which was far from being the case on this instance. Chef Joe Mercuri was present but I doubt he made this dish. This is  a list of ingredients that sounds over the top BUT Chefs like  Joe Mercuri can make the miracle happen.  OBVIOUSLY, that is why I highly regard him. Whoever assembled this dish needs to stick to classical cooking, contemporary  cooking is not his/her thing. I admire great sourcing, but I pay to enjoy what you can do with those superb ingredients! 5/10

RESTAURANT MERCURI, MONTREAL - ABALONE

 

 

 

Abalone, egg yolk, miso, truffle, shitake mushrooms, purée of celeriac $17 – The shitake having fabulous taste (go and ask most Chefs in town how come they can’t make shitake tasting this good??) , the abalone (the mushroom, not the seafood)  sautéed properly, and indeed it almost emulates the texture of tenderized abalone as well as getting as close as a vegetable can get to the seafood of the same name, the superb ingredients continue to be the highlight of this meal, and it’s clear that this kitchen knows how to cook  (the really nice purée of celeriac and superb shitake taste).  It takes balls to serve such a simple dish (basically grilled mushrooms with an egg yolk and a purée of celeriac), but it succeeded in its intent to showcase the quality abalone mushroom and as simple as it might look, virtually no restaurants in Montreal has thought about offering a mushroom-centric dish like this one. I am not saying that it was special, I am just stating that it was thoughtful in light of what is found on the Montreal restaurant scene.  Fans of Mushrooms will found this to be a really good dish, the produce of top quality. 7/10

RESTAURANT MERCURI, MONTREAL - Pappardelle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pappardelle, rabbit, porcini, madeira, parsley, carrot emulsion $21 – The homemade pasta flawless, with nice firm bite, the rabbit nicely braised and tasting good, the sauce exciting (well calibrated mix of veal stock and madeira wine). This was a superb dish (great work of both the taste and textures), probably cooked by Chef Mercuri himself (certainly at the heights of his talent and not far from the amazing pasta dishes he was cooking at Bronté). Excellent 9/10

Encouraged by the superb Pappardelle and remembering how good Chef Joe Mercuri can be at cooking Italian fares, I concluded the meal with:
RESTAURANT MERCURI, MONTREAL - RISOTTO

 

 

 

Risotto, english peas, stracchino, fried zucchini $31 – The rice timely cooked to the bite, the peas of great quality, the overall pleasant  but not as flawless as his cousin’s risotti:  Michelle is cooking far better risotti (than this one I was sampling) at Le Serpent.  Furthermore, the quantity was laughably meagre for a $31 dish of risotto. Good but not great 6/10

Service: Pro. Some of the front house managers and staff have past experience in big restaurants, some having even worked at Bronté before.

PROS: Oh Pappardelle, sei bella!

CONS: The snow crab dish, not the crab  since it was a top quality crab, but what was surrounding it.

Overall food rating: By finest fine dining standards in Montreal, I  find a 7/10  reasonable on the back of that excellent  pappardelle, flawless purée of celeriac, exciting shitake.  It takes great skills to make shitake that exciting + that thoughtful abalone dish was not short of interest.  Even my pet peeve, the snow crab dish, featured a highlight that plenty of restaurants in Montreal fail to deliver this well:  a spectacular galanga mousse, though that dish needs to be assessed in its entirety and that is where the mousse was long forgotten, alas.  They just need to avoid the sort of  ‘ confusion on a plate” that was found at the heart of that snow crab dish (my review of that dish has everything you need to know)  as well as the ridiculous small portion of that risotto.  If the peas is what makes that dish so $$$, they were indeed of superb quality (better than the average peas found on most tables in town ), then  find a less costly alternative…risotti should  not cost an arm and it should not be served in such small quantity especially when it features among the main courses!

Conclusion: Chef Joe Mercuri is a superb Chef (At Bronté, I remember dishes varying in between 8/10 and 10/10,
nothing below + at Rosalie he also impressed with  casual cooking that really stood out), but this meal did not pay full justice to his talent. It’s a brand new table, though, so it would be unfair to jump to hasty conclusions.  I went back one day later to eat at the casual dining area (Bar Mercuri) — reviewed here.

What  think weeks later:  As ever, opinions about food are ‘blurred’ by personal experiences and other factors that are out of the control of a kitchen (for eg, expectations based on what the Chef has cooked in the past) , which is why this whole thang (of submitting a judgement)  is obviously subjective.  The reason I  am reflecting on the later reminder is because I would be curious to hear about someone who has never sampled Chef Joe Mercuri’s past dazzling fares at Bronté or, at some point, at  Rosalie. The ratings might surely be very different from mine. My appreciation of this meal  was largely influenced by the expectations that Chef Joe Mercuri’s past dazzling food have set with the Pappardelle getting close to those  standards, the snow crab distancing itself from them. But you have a brilliant Chef, present where he needs to be, so I am confident that the general experience will feature  more highs than relative lows .