A week after Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman declared that chef Danny St-Pierre's Petite Maison needed some adjustments to get up to snuff, Thierry Daraize has arrived at a different verdict. The least anonymous food critic in the city gives the Mile End restaurant four stars on five in Le Journal de Montréal this week. Daraize admires St-Pierre's vision and pluck, and infers that the chef-owner could have chosen a much different path for his first Montreal restaurant (after Sherbrooke's Auguste, and a number of food media projects). St-Pierre "est dans l’action, il se met en danger avec humilité et savoir-faire," writes the critic.
Daraize loves Petite Maison's festive, basement ambiance — hard to pull off, he notes — and front-of-house service that is "Tellement gentil, serviable!" Most of the food the kitchen sends out scores. Daraize, never stingy with exclamation marks, uses four (and 12 in all!!!) to extol plates like roasted butternut squash with labneh ("On se régale vraiment!"), blood sausage with apple catsup ("un incontournable!"), and braised ham carbonara ("Bravo!"). Other wins include seared tuna with carrot-orange purée, and braised beef cheeks.
Petite Maison's desserts left Chesterman "longing for more," but Daraize strongly recommends a chocolate-hazelnut salted caramel tart, and a riff on a raspberry 'Passion Flakie'. While the critic thinks the restaurant has some strides to make in the wine department, rarely has Daraize seen "autant de qualité, de générosité et de plaisir pour un prix si modeste." Verdict: four stars on five. All told, a less extreme example of a hyped new restaurant polarizing the city's food critics than the recent, controversial case of Candide, but a contrast, worth investigating, perhaps, nonetheless.