The critic for Le Journal de Montréal is a self-confessed softie for a restaurant that assumes the personality of its owner and/or chef. Aren't we all. Ensconced at the bar at Gus, Thierry Daraize takes the room's pulse, and swiftly concludes that chef David Ferguson's Little Italy eatery is just such a place. A fan of Ferguson's last restaurant, Le Jolifou, the critic notes that the chef is "un véritable expert et amoureux des épices et des piments qui fait une cuisine du Sud-ouest américain, avec aussi des accents mexicains."
Gus is simple, casual, and it almost feels like you're on holiday when you're in the restaurant. Ferguson, clad in a straw hat, flits from table to table, chats up customers, and still manages to jump behind the counter to take command of the stoves. Décor and ambiance, check. Then there's this passage from Daraize, about the neighbourhood. See if you can spot where it gets weird.
Petit restaurant dans le quartier italien. Pourtant, lorsque je me dirigeais à pied vers le restaurant, il y avait un petit groupe de Mexicains qui échangeait et prenait une cerveza... C’était très drôle!
Translation: "Little restaurant in Little Italy. Yet when I walked on foot towards the restaurant, there was a small group of Mexicans in conversation, drinking beer ... It was very funny!" Hmmm.
But on to Ferguson's food. There are big, punchy plates on offer at Gus, like a copious, cold octopus and squid salad. The texture of the squid is a bit tough, and the seafood not warm as expected, but the dish is flavourful. Shrimps with corn, tamarind, and curry prove to be the most successful dish ("Vraiment très bon!"). Daraize follows starters with a hefty, Southwestern-spiced pork chop with mashed potatoes; Cornish hen with a mole sauce; and a small casserole of grilled vegetables. Daraize is stingy with his accounts—no surprise for regular observers of his column—but seems to like it all well enough. The chop is "bien grillé, voire noirci comme on l’aime et pourtant, bien rosé en son centre", the side of veg "très bons aussi", and the bird "bien faite et très savoureuse."
Desserts at Gus, strawberry shortcake and chocolate cake, are predictably home-style and without pretension. Like Ferguson, who himself serves the customers at the bar, and who charms Daraize with his desire to "bien parler le français plus facilement." The critic's final verdict on Gus: three stars on five.