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Critic: Tentative Thumbs Up For 2 Montreal Department Store Restaurants

While another critic finds fine Filipino fare

Steven Lee/Supplied

Montreal Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman has a double-whammy of reviews, checking out two in-store café-restaurants at department store Holt Renfrew and fashion hub Ssense. First up is the effectively-unnamed Ssense Café, owned by the store but run by Le Fantôme owners Kabir Kapoor and Jason Morris. Chesterman appreciates the rather outré bunker-like space of the top-floor café, but elsewhere there are some flaws, even if the enterprise still holds promise. Cold-pressed juices get a nod, though the lone server making them seems stretched thin. Food-wise, a shrimp salad with peas, celery, sprouts, and a mayo-esque dressing is the star; but a radicchio salad is overwhelmingly bitter, and a shakshuka with tomato and tomatillo sauces is deemed “blah”. Desserts — a cheesecake and rice pudding filled choux bun go a long way towards salvaging the café — two stars, but Chesterman seems hopeful it can improve.

Over at Holt Renfrew, Chesterman gives an appropriately raised eyebrow to Colette Grand Café for being a Toronto import that focuses on French classics, but finds things to like — and she’s much warmer than when La Presse gave an oddball review a few weeks back. One of those things is not the “hospitality group beverage program” wine list with its steep prices, nor is the fact that the space hasn’t really been renovated from the old Holt Café format. But there’s a warm reception for the food: a salad with bacon, apple, avocado, grapes, quinoa, and walnuts is nicely brought together with blue cheese, and a simple chicken panini with fior di latte, tomato, and aioli pesto “hits the right notes”, though Chesterman notes that the menu, while good, is not terribly edgy or surprising. Two stars. [Montreal Gazette]

Stephane Lavoie/Eater Montreal

At Le Devoir, there’s a new critic on duty this week, as Laurence Michèle Dufour heads to Griffintown Filipino resto Junior. It’s a neatly refreshing experience: the menu is well-explained by the servers, and while the opener of a green mango salad with tomato and turnip-like jicama is a little heavy on the shrimp paste, but everything else does well, from honey-garlic ribs (buto buto) to garlicky, peanutty lumpiang sariwa, a crepe filled with vegetables and tofu. Yet the star is stewy chicken adobo, cooked in garlic, soy, ginger, and coconut — yet no-nonsense desserts like a cassava cake are a comforting epilogue. Three and a half stars. [Le Devoir]

Crux/Facebook

Lastly, La Presse critic Marie-Claude Lortie is at oh-so-healthy-and-Instagrammable salad and smoothie spot Crux, in Brossard’s Dix30 mall. Amidst the “cures”, “detoxes” and “boosts“, Lortie still likes it, but with reservations. A juice loaded with orange, apple, cranberry, ginger, and lemon is “frankly delicious”, regardless of any nebulous health claims; ditto for a smoothie of dates, peanut butter, and almond milk. The more solid foods are hit-and-miss: Lortie doesn’t love a Caesar wrap, and is confused as to why Crux (among many other places) insists on heating sandwiches with leafy greens, rendering them rather flaccid. It’s nothing terrible though — just be sure to avoid anything with vanilla protein powder, Lortie notes: it has the flavour profile of a taxi. [La Presse]

Ssense Montréal (Café)

418 Rue Saint-Sulpice (5th floor), Montréal, QC H2Y 2V5 (514) 289 1906 Visit Website

Junior

1964 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Le Sud-Ouest, QC H3J 1M8 (514) 667-0728 Visit Website

Colette Grand Café

1300 Rue Sherbrooke O, Montréal, QC H3G 1H9 (514) 842-5111 Visit Website

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