For months now, Montreal's food cognoscenti have heralded the successful return of chef Stelio Perombelon. That seems even truer now thanks to another rave for M.Mme — the new Mile End wine bar that wooed Perombelon from hiatus — from Le Devoir's Jean-Philippe Tastet. Principals Asbed and Sevan Istanboulian, the owners of Toi, Moi & Café next door, hired old design partners Sergio Dimarco and Nirmala Ferrao (of boutique firm Dimarco Ferrao) to make the Laurier space over. The result is stunning, writes Tastet, and, happily, the service has improved with time. And while a lot of the focus has been on the Istanboulians' prodigious wine cellar and brigade of sommeliers, it's the kitchen that grabs the critic's notice.
Tastet, then, agrees with two of the city's other critics, Marie-Claude Lortie and Lesley Chesterman, both of whom had a crack at M.Mme first. Lortie, in La Presse this past February, wrote that Perombelon was back at full force. Chesterman gave the wine bar a modest two and a half stars on four, but praised the "gastronomic-restaurant fancy" food: "When the plates hit the table, my eyes lit up. Beautiful!"
Perombelon shines when he plays it festive, and tones down the cheffy act, Tastet remarks. Hamachi crudo with radish, curry oil, and citrus amounts to "une introduction parfaite." From here the table moves on to four plates that are "élégantes, raffinées, délicieuses." Wild halibut with beluga lentil purée, beer vinegar, coriander, and jalapeño comes with a puffy mousse of marine essence, suspended like a cloud. Yellowfin tuna, seared, and served with lardons, elderberry, and smoked potatoes, showcases the chef's mastery and talent. Next, two carnivore-centric plates "à se rouler par terre": roast piglet loin, white carrots, sesame paste, mustard seeds, and cured ham shavings; and seared beef, cèpes mash, pommes dauphines, and red wine reduction. Sublime, beams Tastet.
Desserts are a strength of M.Mme's kitchen (kudos to pâtissier Valentin Rouyé). Tastet judges three to be "parfait", echoing, if not also surpassing, the exuberance of his counterparts at La Presse and the Gazette. As a wine bar, M.Mme is on the maximalist, and opulent end of the spectrum, the critic observes. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. All in all, it's a glowing, and emphatic endorsement of the Mile End newcomer.