The food critic for the Gazette admits this week that she was skeptical when word came that Montreal's most anticipated new restaurant would be in an arcaded strip mall replete with bridal shops. "As a dining destination, Plaza St-Hubert is about as sexy as a cheese sandwich," writes Lesley Chesterman. "I recall eating in that huge, gloomy space five years ago, thinking how depressing it was." The question then: can the magnetic trio of chef Charles-Antoine Crête, chef Cheryl Johnson, and designer Zébulon Perron successfully rebrand the former bistro L’Étoile?
Mission done, declares Chesterman. From décor to service to food, Plaza is "pretty fabulous." Crête and Johnson's menu of veg-centric small plates, for the most part, is a whimsical departure from Toqué!, the restaurant that put Crête on the map. To wit, Chesterman enjoys baloney cannelloni, Vietnamese-style duck "confrit", and a brilliantly textured and "sophisticated" salmon tartare. A potato dish with sour cream, mint, dill, tobiko, chives, haskap, and loganberries misses the mark, but deep-fried Brussels on the stalk, generously loaded with mayonnaise and Parmesan, nails it. Roasted fennel with pink grapefruit, and a "gorgeous" plate of walleye with a smoked cream sauce, sautéed matsutakes, and parsnip chips maintain the momentum.
Plaza's desserts don't let Chesterman down. A buckthorn berry meringue tart is "wonderful", and while apple crumble with a sweet-clover crème anglaise may be more satisfactory for breakfast, a third dessert, white chocolate mousse with rhubarb purée, strawberry sorbet, and strawberry meringue "charmed me silly." The final verdict on Montréal Plaza from the Gazette critic: three stars on four. In a year that has produced inordinate raves, the review is easily one of Chesterman's best of 2015. For an exclusive look inside Montréal Plaza, see here