Montreal's food critics don't typically spill too much ink on the city's supper clubs but it can be debated that the genre, bolstered by the likes of Flyjin, Soubois, and Jatoba, is in the throes of a resurgence, or, at the very least, a redefinition, with more of a focus on food and service. Amidst all of this, supper club pioneer Buonanotte has sought ways to stay relevant and reinvent itself—a task not unimpeded over the last decade by incessant road work on the Main, Office québécois de la langue française clampdowns (see Pastagate), onerous interference from bureaucrats and the police, and the closure of sister restaurant Globe in 2014.
Thierry Daraize doesn't get into much of this in his review of Buonanotte this week but is curious to know how the restaurant, after 24 years, "est toujours actif et résiste à la perte d’activités que ce secteur connaît pourtant depuis plusieurs années." The Journal de Montréal critic praises the spruced-up digs, changed since his last visit, and counsels less party-prone diners to get in and get out before the d.j.s take over and bottle service commences. In this regard, the new Buonanotte is much like the old Buonanotte.
But then the food comes and Daraize, who admits that he previously shunned supper clubs, takes note of positive changes. "[J]e constate que ces établissements ont vraiment fait des efforts pour se conformer aux attentes des clients. Le Buonanotte est dans cette mouvance et cela me rassure." Dishes that help turn the tide for the critic include beef and veal meatballs, and sausage with caramelized onions. It's all straightforward stuff but "parfaitement onctueuse" et "savoureux." The apex of the meal is probably Buonanotte's pizza. The critic is amazed by the crust and the simple, quality ingredients. It's subtle but exactly what a pizza should be. Two pastas come next. One, a spaghettini, is less than al dente but the other, which Daraize fails to name, is impeccable. Desserts falter a bit—Daraize would like more lemon curd in his beignet and a tiramisu is weak on the coffee.
Service at Buonanotte, often criticized, catches Daraize off guard, in a good way. Rather than stereotypical, scantily-clad, and perhaps less than knowledgeable, model waitresses (the Buona Dolls), the critic is "agréablement surpris de constater que, dans ce registre, justement, un compétant maître d’hôtel veille parfaitement au grain, alors que les serveuses sont aussi d’une grande efficacité." The verdict on the supper club veteran: a respectable three stars on five.