Gut check review this week for Luc Laroche and Paul Soucie, the owners of the huge Le Richmond Marché Italien. The duo behind the bygone, troubled Misto in the Plateau, and Le Richmond in Griffintown, have a lot to digest in the wake of Lesley Chesterman's severe, one-star review in the Gazette. Laroche and Soucie opened the 6,000-square-foot Le Richmond Marché Italien, a kind of hybrid gourmet store and bistro, next to supper club Le Richmond almost a year ago. The two Richmonds were hyped as "a seamless blend of the present and the past, their contemporary decor a nod to the heyday of the historic district they call home." Laroche remarked, of the Marché Italien: "It’s a lifestyle."
A lifestyle, perhaps, but one restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman soundly rejects. Astute social media followers of Chesterman knew a tough review was imminent. The critic shared a photo of a Caesar salad last week with the caption: "The perils of restaurant reviewing. BTW, it's a Caesar salad. $12 too [eyeroll emoji]." That sad Caesar salad, it turns out, was at Le Richmond Marché Italien.
Chesterman notes a couple of positives at the splashy Griffintown restaurant. First, "three delicious and not-too-heavy meatballs bathed in a vibrant tomato sauce." A lasagna is good enough, and "Oscar-worthy compared to everything else on the table." Other than that, it's a borderline disaster from Le Richmond Marché Italien. Completely off-trend, the restaurant's wines are procured from one big agency, and lack "anything in the way of a personal touch." A plate of calamari, lukewarm, earns an "Eesh." And that Caesar salad "ranks among the worst."
Main courses continue the streak of "Italian classics gone bad." A saffron risotto misses the mark by a mile; a pizza comes with "tasteless sausage bits scattered over a burnt crust"; and a dish of orecchiette has "a puddle of water at the bottom of the plate." Desserts improve the critic's mood, but just barely. Even then, the restaurant's cannoli taste stale, and a crème brûlée's caramel is "thick enough to crack a molar." This is just clueless, indifferent Italian cuisine, Chesterman writes in conclusion. "Montreal’s Italian cuisine is finally something to get excited about. But this kind of slapdash rendition does nothing to further the cause."
In light of Chesterman's pan of Le Richmond Marché Italien, it's worth reflecting on the food critic's review of Le Richmond in 2014, which on the whole, wasn't much better. In a two-star write-up, Chesterman observed that "the perfection of the chow isn't necessarily [Laporte and Soucie's] priority. At my first dinner, a smiley young girl sitting beside me kept asking how my food was. 'Good,' I kept saying, before finally turning around and asking about her food. 'Oh, I'm not really eating anything,' she said, 'I'm here to have fun.'"