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Habanera Stumbles on Cuban Eats Downtown

But Kitchenette’s new(ish) owners are smooth operators.

Meet La Habanera, a Spectacular New Cuban Restaurant in Downtown Montreal

The Montreal Gazette’s Lesley Chesterman stopped by Cuban restaurant Habanera, from the group behind downtown taqueria Escondite, and was left cold in spite of the tropical vibes. The review isn’t brutal, it’s much more of a “meh” tone. A not-well-filled empanada earns a comparison to a McCain pizza pocket, tamarind beef brochettes are super-salty, and “piña” pork ribs are at dessert-level sweetness. There are bright spots in the rum-soaked shrimp, chicken tacos, and certain cocktails. Chesterman concludes that Habanera is lacking confidence, and seems to indicate that there’s still hope, but she signs off with this zinger comparing Habanera to the homeland of its cuisine: “What a terrific place! Too bad about the food.” 1 star. [Montreal Gazette]

Over at Le Devoir, critic Jean-Philippe Tastet drops by Kitchenette, across from the CBC, for its first review since Icehouse owner Nick Hodge divested himself of the Tex-Mex restaurant a few years back. The restaurant has flipped pretty solidly towards modern takes on French cuisine, and Tastet is thoroughly approving. From scallop carpaccio to trout gravlax with lemon and wasabi gravlax, the entrées are faultless, and ditto the mains—he offers particular praise to the perfectly cooked beef with crispy polenta and five-spice sauce on a surf ‘n’ turf dish. Desserts and wine also hit high notes; while it doesn’t hit the absolute heights of a fully-blown Tastet rave, with nothing negative to be said, it’s almost a mystery as to why he only awards three-and-a-half stars. [Le Devoir]

At Le Journal de Montréal, Thierry Daraize sticks to the suburbs for a second consecutive week, as he is thoroughly impressed by French food with Quebecois touches at Le Coureur des Bois in Belœil, near Mont-Saint-Hilaire. Their “hot pintade” reinvention of the hot chicken sandwich with a foie gras sauce is a key exemplar of success and creativity, but really, all meat-based dishes are a success here in Daraize’s opinion. Half a star is shaved off for desserts that are decent but not terribly original. Four-and-a-half stars. [Le Journal de Montréal]

Kitchenette

1351 René-Levesque Est, Montréal, Canada H2L 2M1 514 527 1016 Visit Website

La Habanera

1216 Union, Montreal, Quebec H3B 3C4 (514) 375-5355 Visit Website

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