Provisions has divided critics since it opened last August in the former Le Van Horne in Outremont. Thierry Daraize gave the market cuisine restaurant a rare four and a half stars on five in Le Journal de Montréal in late October. Lesley Chesterman, however, was less enthused with the kitchen's "spur-of-the-moment cuisine" (two and a half stars on four) in the Gazette. Yet another food writer said Provisions authored her most memorable meal of 2015. This week, Ariane Krol, who does spot duty for Marie-Claude Lortie in La Presse, falls somewhere in the middle in her assessment of the restaurant.
Chefs Pablo Rojas and Hakim Rahal are masters of improv, hints Krol: "les ingrédients sont éparpillés comme s'ils tombaient du ciel, à la mode du moment." Diners don't decide much at Provisions; it's five-course prix fixe or bust. Control freaks be forewarned, Krol hints. "Une fois les allergies et autres évitements alimentaires écartés, vous n'aurez plus rien à décider."
When the formula works, it does so gamely. A starter with Latin American accents ("purée d'herbes, de fines tranches de piment chili et des feuilles de coriandre") is just the kind of food you want to this time of year. A dish of octopus and aubergine purée is served cold, and is less compatible with the season: "En janvier, elle nous a laissés de glace." Turnips seem out of place next to scallops on a subsequent course, but Provisions' guinea hen is a treat. "Une poitrine tendre présentant une belle croûte caramélisée, de la chair de cuisse confite qui se défait comme un effiloché fondant."
Expectedly, desserts preserve the experimental, whimsical tone. In a more memorable example, a plate is transformed into a playful vehicle for dollops of white chocolate pudding, coffee cream, and shortbread. Krol is less enthralled with a sea buckthorn sorbet, but, on balance, is won over by the tidy 28-seater. Sure, the dégustation formula is not her preferred format, but a return visit is in the cards. "Chouette expérience pour qui accepte de se prêter au jeu," Krol concludes.