Izakayas, alt diners, and next-gen casse-croûtes are all having a moment in Montreal but don't be so quick to pronounce the death of fine dining in the city. Take Laurie Raphaël. The critic for Le Devoir visits the restaurant that opened in Hôtel Le Germain in 2007 and likes what Daniel Vézina has done with the place. "En cuisine, Daniel Vézina est le leader spirituel, Hakim Rahal est chef de cuisine. Un très beau duo," writes Jean-Philippe Tastet. The critic doesn't mention that Rahal has since taken leave from Laurie Raphaël to open Provisions in the former Van Horne in Outremont. But no matter. "Tout ici est très chic. Service impeccable et assiettes soignées."
Over the course of two visits for lunch and dinner, Vézina's brigade wows Tastet. There's a lot of finely executed precision to admire in the likes of a deer tartare, a sous-vide and raw carrot salad with olive oil and carrot vinaigrette, compressed, grilled radicchio, and apricot purée with black tea, daisy buds, and shallots. "On pourrait difficilement demander mieux en matière d’équilibre et de saveurs calculées." The kitchen handles deluxe proteins well, such as short ribs from the Laroche farm. "Son excellent travail en amont permet au chef de pleinement exprimer le sien en aval, cuisson et accompagnements qui évitent de divertir, mais contribuent bien davantage à mettre en valeur la viande."
Tastet concludes the rave with kind words for the restaurant's stellar desserts and sophisticated wine list. Don't be deluded—prices are steep but Laurie Raphaël covers all the fine dining bases, asserts the critic. Maison Boulud is not the only hotel restaurant game in town, in other words.