Thierry Daraize raved about Le Fantôme last week in Le Journal de Montréal. The restaurant's sophomore review from Lesley Chesterman, who dined at Le Fantôme, coincidentally, at the same time as her Journal counterpart, reserves even more kudos for the market cuisine, small plate-centric spot from Kabir Kapoor and chef Jason Morris. Even better, the Gazette critic bothers to name the duo and run down their impressive bona fides—something Daraize bewilderingly failed to do in his write-up (his paper actually ran a photo, unnamed, of Kapoor and Morris).
Accolades from food critics don't get better than this one from Chesterman: "Open but one month, Le Fantôme is one of the most exciting restaurants I’ve dined at in ages. Here, all the energy is focused on the plate." Boom. Introductory winners from Morris include tempura garlic scapes, a carpaccio of nectarines and heirloom tomatoes, and endive salad with blue cheese sauce ("every morsel was perfect"). Starters are greedily lapped up.
Don't skip Le Fantôme's beef tartare, exhorts Chesterman. The dish of the night features a twist on what is so often a tired afterthought: "Morris sears the beef before chopping it, and spreads it on a plate along with tiny squares of potato (described as micro hash browns), grapefruit oil and a raw quail’s egg." It's evocative of what the critic loves best about tartare, yet taken to the "next level with a wacky presentation and new flourishes to make it memorable." This motif plays out with other dishes like a deluxe peanut butter and jelly sandwich with foie gras on brioche (Daraize was a big fan of this one as well), and a "killer creation" of lasagna made with "thin slices of marinated celery root that are layered with a light tomato sauce and a Parmesan cream" and then blowtorched. "Wow," writes Chesterman.
The likely epiphany of the night for the former pastry chef turned critic is that desserts manage to maintain the "the high level and creativity of the savoury plates." That's an unusual remark from Chesterman. Get the crumble-topped blueberry compote with white chocolate and curry, the malted ice cream sandwich, and the almond milk cream with phyllo and strawberry sorbet. Service at Le Fantôme, led by Kapoor, is faultless, and the wine list "well-priced and enticing." With so much talk about Montreal's restaurant glut, the Gazette critic writes in conclusion that you can never have too many good restaurants. "Le Fantôme proves that a talented chef backed by a solid team can experience success almost instantaneously." Three stars on four for the new Griffintown restaurant.