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Manitoba’s New Chef Simon Mathys Earns High Praise

Also: Chesterman for Tastet, Napoli pizza in the Plateau, and a trip to Gatineau

Simon Mathys with crew

Reviewing for the Gazette, Lesley Chesterman pays a visit to Manitoba since its induction of Simon Mathys as head chef of the operation. This follows what the critic deems a “Laloux period” at Manitoba, as this marks their fourth chef in less than five years — referring to the restaurant Laloux’s seemingly constant shift of chefs. Chef shuffles notwithstanding, Mathys has gained a reputation for turning restaurants around, and Chesterman feels the new arrival has largely benefitted the restaurant’s mission statement of forestry as a concept. Most of the “surf-and-turf” appetizers earned praise, from the raw salmon topped with whipped cream, fried potato and green alder to the marinated seal meat and clams with rutabaga, save for a plate of beets coated in chicken liver sauce; “the look wasn’t in any way pleasing, and second, the flavours were just plain weird, with the sweetness of the beet and the bitterness of the liver sauce at odds with each other.” The mains experienced a similar divided criticism, with the walleye (“What a fish!”) and duck magret (“Heaven”) wowing Chesterman, but the deer steak and piglet shank received misgivings due to an accompanying cream sauce and the meat itself, respectively. Desserts, however, appeared to have pleased the most, from the bûche cendrée cheese with rosehip and honey straight from the beehive to the sour cream cake which may be her “favourite dessert of 2017 so far.”

Save for a few wines on their list not being available during her meal, Chesterman deems Manitoba to be in good hands with Mathys. Three out of four stars. [Montreal Gazette]

Two hours and change away in Gatineau’s Val-Tétreau district, Ève Dumas pays a visit to and profiles the 11-seater restaurant Edgar, outfitted with a frontal vegetable garden brimming with produce. The city may not be the first destination which comes to mind for food in Québec, but Dumas marvels at chef Marysol Foucault’s ability to serve hundreds of brunches on weekends and sandwiches on a daily basis. Far from a matter of quantity over quality, the critic notes that the restaurant has only grown in popularity over time: Three-quarters of their patronage make the trek over the Ottawa River from Ontario to sample a menu which changes nigh-weekly; it’s a concept which isn’t easy to implement, she notes, but mainstays like the classic Dutch baby pancakes, ubiquitous eggs and the “beautiful assortment of desserts” alone make the trip noteworthy. [La Presse]

Up in the Plateau, critic Thierry Daraize settles in for a taste of Naples at Kesté (275 Avenue Fairmount Ouest), a trattoria specializing in the fried pie stylings of southern Italy. The atmosphere has instant appeal for the commentator, with its bright and high-ceilinged interior, lack of thumping music, and the authentic vibe which causes him to feel that any second “an Italian madre will walk out of the kitchen!” The restaurant is clearly geared towards families, especially when considering a 20-seater table he notes not once, but twice.

Environment aside, the food earns mostly favourable reviews. Appetizers like the parmiggiana di melenzane and their seafood pizza earned some of the highest praise, as does the grilled squid served on black Venice rice and the tagliolini with mushrooms and smoked cheese, though the portion sizes of the latter two “baffle” him slightly. It’s the sampling of Neapolitan fried white pizza that underwhelms Daraize; while giving him a satisfying feeling of abbiocco, its ricotta “has soaked the dough leaving a little too much moisture on the surface, and (is) not really pleasant to eat.” The critic’s woes with service in his visits to Montreal restaurants continue, as the staff seemed more occupied “with cleaning house instead of caring for clientele.” Three stars. [Le Journal de Montréal]

André Cornellier [via Le Club Chasse et Pêche’s Facebook]

In a surprising turn of criticism for Le Devoir, Lesley Chesterman has written up a glowing review of the classic Le Club Chasse et Pêche in lieu of Tastet. She deems a visit to this Michelin-studded restaurant “a rite of passage for any great gourmet” and “often underestimated”, especially now that Mélanie Blouin heads the kitchen’s savoury options and Masami Waki takes care of dessert; their sommelier Ray Manus is also worth mentioning, as ‘the Club’ has been consistently commended for its “well-targeted” wines.

In terms of Blouin’s side of the restaurant, sampled appetizers — the signature and “impeccable” pan-fried scallops, the “simple and sublime” tartare — all astounded Chesterman for their simplicity and panache, with their “luxurious” seared foie gras with pistachio purée and cherry coulis stealing that section of the show. For mains, it’s the halibut served with razor clams, stinging nettle and pea shoots which “seduced” the critic for its measured delicacy of flavours and textures. The generous portioning of a veal filet paired with a lobster comes equally recommended: “I dare anyone to not finish this plate, to even leave a pea behind.” The catch of day — trout served with asparagus, ramps and peaches — was her only hold-up in how she felt the pairings were better suited to meat than fish.

Masami Waki
Bénédicte Brocard [via Le Club Chasse et Pêche’s Facebook]

As for Waki’s desserts, her oft-ordered ‘bomb’ of praline tiles, hazelnut, chocolate and hazelnut cream was repeatedly ordered by surrounding diners for obviously delicious reasons, and Chesterman was no less pleased. However, the ‘stratum’ of maple parfait, red berry sauce and dark chocolate was equally worth mentioning for its “smooth and creamy texture, with maple being neither too bland or too strong.”

All told, the critic admits she might have preferred more artful presentations, “but that’s just the criticism talking. Only a naysayer would (intentionally) dig around for missteps.” Both efficient and authentic, the Club earns a walloping five out of five stars. [Le Devoir]


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