The food critic for the Gazette provides a refresher this week on Le Margaux, "a very French restaurant" from Jérôme Chatenet and Corinne Cauhapé. Originally on Villeneuve, in the space that now houses Monsieur B, the couple relocated to the Townships for a spell and returned to the city in 2006. A decade on, Le Margaux is a bring-your-own-wine (the restaurant made the switch three years ago), and a dependable one at that, affirms Lesley Chesterman. The food's not cutting-edge, and there are repeated elements throughout, not to mention "slate plates, Mason jars, zigzagged sauces." But, the critic adds, "it’s hard to knock this level of enthusiasm."
Problems at Le Margaux the last time two times Chesterman reviewed it, most recently in September 2010, included a kitchen that felt obstinately rooted in its French bistro identity, and wonky service. "[T]here sure was something about Le Margaux that once again made me think I had maybe hit it on one of those so-called off nights. But this time I won't lose sleep over it. One off-night years ago left me scratching my head, but the second may just explain the first." Rough stuff. Five and a half years on Le Margaux hasn't necessarily changed — the menu's still larded with snails, foie gras, and duck — but the kitchen's technique is strong and service has markedly improved.
To start, Chesterman recommends the foie gras trio, onion soup, and the frogs' legs. All classic and somewhat predictable, yes, but, in the foie's case, "each element was well done and delicious." The kitchen executes mains like duck magret, sweetbreads, and a veal chop well, but gets into trouble with too many duplicated garnishes and accompaniments (foie gras and mashed potatoes, namely) and an insipid brown sauce. "As good as it all was, there was a shiny brown sauce served on all these plates — including the fish — that tasted more or less the same. Had it been a terrific sauce I wouldn’t have cared about the repeats, but this sauce was on the sweet side sweet and I’m thinking enhanced with soy sauce."
Desserts are a hit, luckily, from praline profiteroles to a tonka bean crème brûlée. With a good bottle of wine, which Le Margaux's food deserves, the busy Mile End restaurant is a solid, affordable bet, concludes Chesterman. And yet, "with two menus on offer, perhaps the kitchen has overextended itself, especially on busy nights." Two and a half stars on four.