The year in Montreal gastronomy ends on a positive note, mostly, for Lesley Chesterman. The Gazette critic files her last review of 2014 and bestows two and a half stars on Lea.
The relatively new Spanish and Portuguese-ish Westmount restaurant from the owners of Grinder and Hachoir endures pointed criticisms before flattery, however. Chesterman singles out management's bizarre, sexist website copy ("Picture Lea restaurant as this tall striking blonde") in particular.
I will spare you the rest of the cheesy sexist copy that fortunately I did not see before setting foot in this two-month-old restaurant. Why spin doctors and PR types bother with that kind of social media crapola is beyond me, especially because Lea is a restaurant that doesn’t need the hype.
Despite the jumpy service and noisy room, the Zébulon Perron digs impress. And then chef Matt Doyle's kale salad arrives.
I also adored the kale salad. Though I winced at the sight of out-of-season corn on this menu (for that matter, asparagus too), the salad was scrumptious. What appeared to be nothing more than chopped kale and corn kernels dressed with a shallot-spiked vinaigrette, this salad really worked. Chef Doyle, I want the recipe!
The salad is the kitchen's acme dish. Others, while far from perfect, go over well enough. Calamari with pickled potatoes are "a treat." Potato and chorizo croquettes and a main of braised lamb shoulder win some plaudits. And Chesterman even commends the desserts (cinnamon donuts and orange crème catalane).
Still, Lea, and other restaurants, can do better.
But Lea is a new restaurant with potential. Right now it’s not especially "unique, modern and audacious," but it’s good. In 2015, here’s hoping that ambitious restaurants like this just keep getting better.