This past January, the critic for Le Journal de Montréal, Thierry Daraize, wrote effusively about Balsam Inn. Sarah Musgrave was also a fan and wrote, also in January: "Cozy on all fronts, Balsam Inn is the perfect spot for a winter’s eve — or day." Now, thanks to her long-anticipated La Presse review of the bar-cum-gastropub from Dominion Square Tavern, it looks like Marie-Claude Lortie concurs with her peers.
The critic definitely thinks, like Musgrave, that Balsam Inn "is the perfect spot for a winter’s eve." In fact, this kind of amounts to Lortie's beef with the kitchen—the food is too autumnal, apparently. "Trop peu d'options légères dans un menu résolument plus automnal que printanier ou estival." Yet, for those not altogether fond of rabbit food, the 18 and over Balsam Inn is a boon, hints the critic. Notable plates from the handsome, beautifully-designed restaurant include smoked herring with potato salad and cornichons, an ample antipasto plate, and tuna confit with rapini.
Lortie's praise is subtle—an "on aime" here, a "joli plat" there—but the tone skews positive. Special kudos for Balsam Inn's lineup of naan-and-pizza-like flatbreads, described as "moelleux et réconfortant." On to dessert, a white chocolate brownie "parfait pour les amateurs de desserts costauds à la nord-américaine." Add inventive cocktails and efficient service to the mix and Balsam Inn wins Lortie over. The critic would definitely return: "L'univers hipster version centre-ville. Réussi."
Update, Monday, September 14, 10:00 a.m.: Balsam Inn chef Eric Dupuis took to the restaurant's Facebook page over the weekend to politely address Lortie's criticism that his menu suffers from a dearth of lighter options (in all honesty, they seem plentiful in this photo gallery). The restaurant promptly sponsored Dupuis' post, and by extension, Lortie's review. Here's the text, translated:
Thank you for the beautiful article in La Presse! We wish to mention to you that for summer we offer plates like beef tartare, lobster salad and cold tomato consommé, lamb chops and courgette salad with mint, buffalo yogurt and cucumber with oregano, to name a few. Moreover, we have created some warmer plates for autumn. We await your arrival!