It’s been a month since Pub Sir Joseph closed its doors to restructure itself, having found that the shift in focus towards more drinks than food wasn’t working out, and neither was the café-by-day arrangement. Now, under the guidance of Simon Desrosiers and his partners Flavie Forest (Laurie Raphaël, Le Vestiaire) and the chef Samuel Sauvé-Lamothe to reimagine the menu, the venue now rides again as the restaurant Radicelle, and is slowly finding its footing.
Sir Joseph’s closure was testament to the power that critics can still hold over a city’s restaurant landscape. “I tried to run the place as a pub, slowly moving it forward to be more appropriate to its environment,” Desrosiers tells Eater. During this transitional period, however, La Presse critic Iris Gagnon-Paradis had paid a visit that yielded a not-so-favourable review. She had expected to see more from the menu, “more balanced dishes, with better control and (a more refined visual presentation” she wrote in her criticism last May. This marked an end to Sir Joseph, Desrosiers explains. “It was not such a bad review, but it was catastrophic for my old chef (Mark Gutenkunst) and he left after that.”
Following the departure of the old chef, Desrosiers had to create an entirely new approach for the establishment that would build from past mistakes. “There were too many mistakes made before,” adds Desroisiers. “Then I found Samuel, and that was the beginning of our new project. It wasn’t a terrible restaurant before, and that review wasn’t fully negative,” he notes with optimism. “Radicelle is a newborn, and that’s the good news.”
‘Newborn’ seems to be the most appropriate term, as there’s little to none of Sir Joseph to be found in Radicelle. “Everything is going to be different; what we had before wasn’t what people were asking for. People in the Plateau are turning more to fresh vegetables, (market cuisine) from Quebec, so the concept is really all about farm-to-table,” the co-owner notes.
The new resto’s menu is split into two cards: On one side there’s a steadier bistro selection that’s laden with proteins, like a hanger steak with garlic flower chimichurri, grilled octopus, bone marrow, or tartare. On the other is a seasonal menu that follows changes in fresh produce.
That’s where Sauvé-Lamothe comes in. His menu is the culmination of his experiences abroad in South Africa as well as in restaurants in Montreal (Laurie Raphaël most recently, and the defunct L’Autre Version). “My plan was to be seasonal, and I like the nordic vibe in Quebec,” the chef explains. “I like to go to the market, and be inspired by the product that I see there. I want the product to be the star of the plate, not to be overcomplicated, and not having so garnish that the essence of the plate is lost. It can be technical at times, but always well-made.” The winter menu will work in some preserves and fermentation, as well as local meat, but will still aim to focus on vegetables as much as possible to keep prices affordable.
As for the bar component? Desrosiers says that’s still a focus, though it’s not quite as strictly regional as the dishes from Sauvé-Lamothe. With a wine list reinvigorated with natural wines and more classic choices like a straightforward Sauvignon Blanc, guns from the province, and new head bartender to be hired this week, it sounds like this transformational period for Radicelle isn’t over just yet.