It was a review that reverberated across the Montreal restaurant world. On September 5, 2013 Lesley Chesterman filed her first no-star review in a decade, and derided the Loews Hôtel Vogue's La Société Bistro as a "Toronto version of a Paris bistro. And a poor one at that." The write-up was so negative, in fact, that it prompted a swift PR response from the restaurant's owner-operator, Toronto's INK Entertainment group, led by Charles Khabouth (the same restaurant group at the centre of last summer's Weslodge sexual harrassment suit).
Worst restaurant experience in ages tonight. The lousy, million $$$ restaurant did not disappoint! Can't wait to write that one up! #Gold
— Lesley Chesterman (@lesleychestrman) September 4, 2013
La Société protested at the time of Chesterman's takedown that it "takes time to transition a concept to a new city. The person that wrote the review visited the restaurant not long after it opened." This last claim was incorrect—the Gazette review was published more than three months after La Société opened. The INK mouthpiece went on to add that the restaurant had no plans to change chefs. After a short-lived alliance with La Queue de Cheval owner Peter Morentzos, La Société's fortunes started to show hints of a turnaround when it hired Jean-Philippe Miron to beef up its kitchen a year ago. Late of Globe, Miron brought much-needed vigor and enthusiasm to the gig, and, perhaps most importantly, his own people.
The hire has paid off, Chesterman reports today. "You can see the influence of the now-defunct Globe on La Société's menu that, once a complete mess with starters and main courses intertwined, now features solid bistro classics as well as seafood platters and sharing plates of French faves like Dover sole and cassoulet. Promising!" Indeed. The critic's meal starts on a dull note, alas, with bland starters (squash soup, and Caesar salad). Mains redeem, happily, thanks to the likes of a pan-seared halibut pavé, a classic moules and (so-so) frites, and the star of the show, a pork chop with winter salad. "Not only was the pork succulent as all get out, the mix of flavours and textures worked together beautifully. Nice one, chef Miron!"
La Société backslides a bit with way-too-sweet desserts, but the bistro has made strides since Chesterman's last visit. Two stars, up from zero: "Two years ago La Société Bistro was a mess. And now? Not exactly the Bolshoi dancing Swan Lake, but no longer amateur hour either."