Sticking solely to the Gazette this week, Lesley Chesterman seeks out the midday menus of not one but two restaurants, the Spanish tapas restaurant Tapeo in Villeray and the cobblestoned charm of L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel in Old Montreal.
“Justin Trudeau can’t eat everywhere, but if he could, I’d tell him to check out Tapeo — especially at lunch, when this Villeray restaurant is hopping,” Chesterman opined. Rightfully so, as this establishment remains as one of the premiere tapas restaurants to withstand the test of time and passing trends, thriving on its chef Marie-Fleur St-Pierre’s inspired travels to Spain for research. In keeping with the season, the critic begins her meal here a gazpacho whose “consistency was perfect”, and a scallop ceviche in a gin and tonic marinade which brings “freshness to an appetizer all too often soaked in citrus.” Topping that with chicken thighs that were “moist and crisp-skinned” with “perfect” roasted potatoes and a paella that was “excellent, with moist rice, fresh seafood and just enough spice”, Chesterman insists that the restaurant’s Basque cake is must-eat for following up the meal. Despite mention of perfection, the critic gives Tapeo three out of four stars. Where the remaining star was lost isn’t clear; there’s not a single hesitation to this review’s praise.
For her second review, L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel wasn’t as lucky. Noting that this restaurant has felt like more of a winter affair to her despite their terrasse, the critic visits to try their summery lunch menu, put together by sous-chef Nongyao Truadmakkha and entitled “Parfums d’Orient” to foreshadow its Thai offerings. “With so much French bistro fare in the neighbourhood, a Thai menu seems a winning move,” she writes, but the excitement stops short there. Her tom yum soup was “hardly as complex as the real deal” for its light flavours, as opposed to the spicy and aromatic flavours it’s synonymous with; the vermicelli salad with cukes, ribboned carrot, red pepper and mint was “lacklustre”; the chicken satay was “lukewarm” and the golden purses of chicken and shrimp had a sauce that was “off-puttingly potent and unbalanced.” None-too-pleased criticisms were found in the mains as well, as both the lemongrass bavette and General Yao chicken both had sauces “overbearingly salty” and “overshadowing the meat, respectively. “Thank heavens for the red curry chicken,” she notes, finally arriving at a dish with some satisfaction, and ending it with desserts which made for the best part of her meal; a lining that appears to be both silver and sweet. One out four stars. [Montreal Gazette]
After a three-hour drive up the St. Lawrence to Saint-Pierre, Catherine Ferland pays a visit to La Monnaguette, a summer restaurant belonging to the cassis makers Cassis Monna & Filles by Île d'Orléans. It’s picturesque spot, with a terrasse that looks out over fields of flowers and currants, and the bridge to the island.
Given the establishment’s long history in viticulture, the critic gushes over the selection of drinks to be had, and finds no less praise for the food. After pleasing appetizers of a half-plate of local cheese served with blackcurrant jelly and an apple-pear-currant marmalade, in addition to their popcorn chicken served with a blackcurrant honey, Ferland finds comfort in a duck confit poutine topped with a wine sauce made from Le Capiteux. “The blackcurrant asserts itself in the sumptuous jam which fills the duck. It is divine,” she writes. The pulled pork sandwich in currant wine and served on ciabatta also receives mention, though without praise or disdain.
Ferland notes that the menu, which “highlights the many possibilities of cassis”, may not be for everyone in how that may come off as limited to some. Then again, if you’re going to make the road trip northward to a blackcurrant farm that specializes in food and drink specific to their crops, what do you expect? Four out of five stars. [Le Devoir]
As summer rolls around, the team at La Presse begins to seek out the restaurants of greater Montreal. Hence, Marie-Claude Lortie finds herself at Oregon in Laval’s Sainte-Rose district. In a neighbourhood that once had an abundance of greasy foodstuffs and commercial strips, the critic is happy to find an establishment that is “modern and creative”, with servers “who know what to say when asked about wines or the sourcing of their food.” A good start, to say the least.
After glasses of white and chablis with oysters that evoked images of “a holiday by the sea,” Lortie tucks in. From her dishes of a pork dumpling in sour broth with algae and shimeji mushrooms to raw scallops with strawberry and rhubarb; the skewered duck hearts with daikon, eggplant and oyster mushroom to Matane shrimps on a bed of panna cotta with milk of asparagus and tomato sauce; nothing seemed to displease the enchanted critic. Only the desserts seemed to break the spell, as the tiramisu “doesn’t have the delicacy expected” of it and the churros weren’t “crunchy enough.”
At the heart of Lortie’s misgivings are the ventilation of the kitchen in relation to the dining area. “It's a big problem,” she writes in a conflicted aside, “which is unfortunate because it's open and frying and grilling fish, meat and other delicious but fragrant products.” However, that issue seems a trifle to her as she grabbed seats at the common table on the terrace. With the fresh air, the ambiance of the restaurant and the conviviality of the service, she finds it important to note she “totally forgot that we are actually in the heart of the asphalted parking lot Laval. A great feat.” [La Presse]
This week, Thierry Daraize sets out for a good bowl of ramen; unfortunately, he feels that a visit to Ichifuku on downtown’s Ste. Catherine strip wasn’t worth the trip. Popularity there might be apparent through the patrons that come for a price point, but he recalls from the outset that a friend told him it’s not the best in the city. “Why didn’t I listen to her?” he wonders.
The critic found several faults with the restaurant shortly after arriving, beginning with the staff; while they cordially shouted irasshaimase! upon arriving, once Daraize began to ask questions about the menu, “goodbye to the atmosphere, and their smiles disappear” and ultimately found them “condescending”. In terms of the menu, he found the ramen — the chicken-based shoyu and megaton options — to be meals unto themselves that “pass” in the satisfaction department, but other dishes were not so lucky; the gyoza in particular may have been good, had it not been for the “thick dough” they’re made from and the spices and seasonings which overpower their contents. What’s more, their fried chicken was “a disaster” for its soft and “reheated” texture.
Of course, Ichifuku’s main focus of ramen was without complaints, but without sparkling recommendation as well. “I felt I was at a Japanese fast food restaurant,” Daraize notes, not feeling that the staff cared for the customers enough; an odd distinction to make, as the restaurant doesn’t stray far from the atypical pit stop-style ramen shops found in Japan, ones that don’t aim to do much beyond feeding their customers a meal on the go. Two stars. [Le Journal de Montréal]
- All Week in Reviews coverage [EMTL]