Thierry Daraize, the maudlin food critic for Le Journal de Montréal, famously mugs for the camera with chefs, but his habit of gendering and stereotyping in reviews is far more damaging. In Daraize's world, ladies love tartare, and Vietnamese street food has the power to redeem an entire continent's cuisine, one pork and shrimp crêpe at a time. Two weeks ago the former chef wrote that a chic Old Montreal restaurant was a favourite with "la gent féminine", and recommended it for so-called 'girls' nights.'
This week it's more of the same from Daraize in his write-up of Chambre à Part, the spinoff from Plateau standby La Fabrique. Le Devoir critic Jean-Philippe Tastet regretted his dinner at Chambre à Part in late January, and ultimately panned the restaurant. Daraize has a much different experience: "Depuis quelques mois, ce sympathique restaurant, reconnu entre autres pour ses délicieux brunchs, a un petit frère. Je serais plutôt porté à dire une petite sœur, tellement ce nouveau restaurant nommé Chambre à part est coquet et féminin."
Pretty and feminine. Trademark Daraize. The critic writes that every aspect of his meal at Chambre à Part was delicious, and made with utmost care and professionalism. Things fell apart for Tastet when he visited the rue Saint-Denis restaurant, but Daraize loves the relaxed, intimate room, and most importantly, the food. Bison gravlax with sunchokes, mayonnaise, and puffed rice prompts an exuberant "Ouf! Ça part fort!", proving, once again, that few critics exclaim quite like Daraize. Two less successful plates (root vegetables with ricotta, and braised sweetbreads) are forgiven thanks to two standouts: medallions of beef with salsify, red wine, and Brussels sprouts, and flounder, with cabbage, mussels, potato, and clam juice. The fish is perfect, and "un des meilleurs plats dégustés cette année! Un pur bijou!"
Desserts put Daraize in a chirpy mood. One bite of a cranberry soufflé with maple butter elicits an ecstatic "Je suis aux anges!" A tarte Tatin is tasty too. There are kudos for Chambre à Part's reasonably-priced wine list, the house cocktails, and smooth service that "titillent les sens". Daraize hopes word-of-mouth gives the Plateau restaurant a boost. His four-star (on five) rave will undoubtedly help.