Do the same merry-go-round group of restaurants and chefs get disproportionate love in Montreal? The critic for the Montreal Gazette infers that this could well be the case, and a habit she herself is guilt of, in her rave review of Mile End's Il Pagliaccio. The Laurier restaurant from Manuel Silva is well under the hotness radar (a Facebook page and website would help pull the place from relative obscurity) but that needs to change, asserts Lesley Chesterman. "One bite in and I knew this restaurant had raised its game a notch."
Winners range from eggplant parmesan (from whence that stellar first bite came) and onion tarte Tatin, to a gorgeous "pasta dish featuring thick tubes of al-dente pasta dressed with nothing more than sliced prosciutto, peas and a buttery sauce enhanced with a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table." Il Pagliaccio's gnocchi is "a treat" but pappardelle con ragu fails to hit the mark quite as decisively. But then the meat courses hit the table and it's redemption time. Liver with polenta is pitch perfect and Gaspor pork chops "devoured right down to the last bits on the bone."
Add simple, quality desserts and a "sharp, food friendly" wine list and Il Pagliaccio deserves some notice. "[T]he cooking is beyond reproach, the ambience is relaxed, and if your meal here (because as my friend rightly said, you really have to go) is as fantastic as mine, all your senses are sure to be stimulated." This is arguably Chesterman's review of the year: three and a half stars on four.