Montréal Plaza, the much-ballyhooed new restaurant from Charles-Antoine Crête, Cheryl Johnson, and Sébastien Blanchette, is doing a lot of things right, affirms the food critic for La Presse. The Zébulon Perron designed space (in, let's be honest, the unlikeliest of locations, Plaza Saint-Hubert), the faultless service, the crackling atmosphere — Plaza has a lot of elements going for it. "Est-ce pour cela, peut-être, que les plats ne remplissent pas tous la mission de nous émerveiller autant qu'on l'aimerait ?," wonders Marie-Claude Lortie in her review this week.
The critic makes it clear from the outset that Plaza has all the ingredients to be a superb restaurant. The influence of Toqué!, Crête's longtime employer, is evident in the kitchen's emphasis and flair with quality products. This comes to the fore with dishes like a winter's salad with cabbage, celeriac, Parmesan, and bread crumbs. A neo-rustic whelks bourguignon, served vintage escargot style, is kitschy retro fun.
A total dud follows, however, in the crêpe-like omelette à la plancha, topped with mussels, sausage slices, button mushrooms, nori powder, green onions, mayonnaise, and blood orange caramel. Disconcerting, writes Lortie. And $22 to boot. The last main to hit the table is sea bass with eggplant caviar, grilled onions, and grapefruit jam. This, too, prompts troubling questions. Namely: Why isn't the cooking more precise? Why is the presentation so dated? Why am I paying $32 for this dish?
Desserts are better, to Lortie's great relief. Specifically, "le dessert aux fruits croustillant, qui répond à la fois à l'envie de se régaler généreusement et de savourer l'expertise des techniciens en cuisine." In fact, the critic concludes, Plaza would be perfect if all its dishes followed this vein of technical precision and clean, fresh flavours. The verdict: Lortie will be back, but not anytime soon.