The first time Lesley Chesterman reviewed Lili Co. at its original Plateau address, it was at the bold request of co-owners Catherine Draws and chef David Pellizzari. Two and a half stars later, the gamble paid off for the restaurateur couple. Today the Gazette critic does the restaurant a half star better: "A superb restaurant is influenced in equal parts by the front of house as what’s going on behind that swinging kitchen door. This week’s restaurant, Lili Co., is a perfect example of just that," begins Chesterman in her write-up of the relocated Lili Co. in Mile End.
The best approach at the "innovative, verging on experimental" restaurant is to "put yourself in [chef] Pellizzari’s hands." Enter Draws. Simply put, Chesterman is a fan: "It’s not just that she knew her menu so well. That’s a given. But what drew me to Draws was her composed and elegant manner. She somehow managed to make you feel like you didn’t want to be eating at any other restaurant that night."
So Lili Co. nails it on the service front. What about the food? Chesterman begins with the lamb testicle, sliced thin, fried, and served with aioli, radish, and honey. Fabulous and "Montreal's most erotic experience since Lili St. Cyr." Other winners include wild garlic scapes with shaved Parmesan, sorrel and nasturtiums; yakitori-style deer brochettes; tomato salad with fish roe; and taglietelle with morels with blanched sedum, fromage frais cream and rapini pesto. A dish of beef sirloin and lobster is a "skilled makeover" of classic surf and turf. Deer medallions with béarnaise, fried zucchini flowers and blanched sea pea leaves is "devoured in no time." There are few missteps from this kitchen.
Even if Lili Co.'s apple pie with aged cheddar, hot maple syrup, pepper and foie gras feels more like a winter dish, desserts impress. Chesterman likes the grilled rhubarb with sliced 'cotton candy' grapes, strawberry brunoise and toasted homemade marshmallows, and loves a doughnut served with banana cream, coffee buttercream and cinnamon sugar. Throw in the smart wine list and the result is three stars on four for your front-runner for best new Montreal restaurant of 2015.