That didn’t take long: Elena, the new casual pizza (and more) restaurant from two Nora Gray owners, earned its review this week. And the Notre-Dame West destination of the moment scores big from Le Devoir critic Jean-Philippe Tastet. It’s arguably a little early for a write-up with the restaurant only open for about three weeks — the critics tend to wait over a month to visit newcomers to allow them to settle in, although given Elena’s well-seasoned owners, it seems like the restaurant might not have needed many opening-month tweaks. Tastet even addresses this, noting that his visit doesn’t seem premature.
The critic finds plenty of bonne humeur to appreciate at Elena, with plenty of kind words for the food. Pizzas have a “fine” base and are perfectly cooked — the margherita is well-balanced, while the bianco comes with a generous topping of pancetta. While pizza is billed as the main attraction at Elena, the pasta fares very well — the rigatoni alla norma with eggplant, tomato, garlic, and sweet-sour agrodolce keeps things simple, yet is a testament to the cooking talent of chefs Janice Tiefenbach and Emma Cardarelli. Really, it doesn’t seem like just a pizza destination, as the wood-fired rabbit and bream dishes equally get stamps of approval. Tastet’s one gripe? The noise level is somewhat excessive, yet it’s a walloping four stars all up. [Le Devoir]
At the Montreal Gazette, critic Lesley Chesterman isn’t enjoying herself quite as much — she’s at Fieldstone, the creative Mile End restaurant open on the Main since September. And while earlier critics were fans of the food with its touches of Cambodian and Mexican cuisines, it’s not for Chesterman, although she concedes that “it’s not my cup of tea”, noting that when chefs are creating dishes that have no precedent, critics may have to lean on personal taste in their assessments. There’s things Chesterman likes: a martini with tropical mangosteen, and fairly-priced, well-matched wine earn nods. Yet the food is mixed: a fried kimchi-cactus dumpling is “delicious”, and ditto for a scallop dish with annatto seed oil, smoked turnip foam and dill. Yet roasted carrots with hemp-ricotta are interesting without being memorable, and the odd flavour mix on a duck magret dish (coffee, anchovy, acidic berries) is “off-putting”. A pork belly dish with spicy chocolate sauce also flops, mostly due to excessive salting. Chesterman also doesn’t love the super-serious vibe of both the service and the decor, giving Fieldstone her second one star review in two weeks. [Montreal Gazette]
Things are better for critic Marie-Claude Lortie at La Presse: she visits the more dining-oriented offshoot of Plateau patisserie Rhubarbe, Comptoir Rhubarbe, which opened up in mid-2017. In a twist, Lortie starts by writing up dessert, a salted caramel tart — she’d order it another three times if she could: it’s smooth but crispy, with a myriad of nuts; “a gift from heaven”. As for the other dishes, it’s a festival of thumbs-up. The flavours are delicate (in a good way) rather than brash, even with bold flavours like a stuffed onion (with feta and broccoli), which she applauds for being a vegetarian dish that isn’t trying to be a meat-substitute, while baked cod with barley risotto is cooked to have just a little crispness, with an ideal hint of umami via some parmesan. Lortie would go back. [La Presse]
Finally, there’s no review this week in Le Journal de Montréal — critic Thierry Daraize has left the building, and it looks like the newspaper may have ditched restaurant reviews entirely.