The first review for American chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Montreal restaurant Marcus is in, and it’s not good — but it’s also not bad. In her second review, new Montreal Gazette critic Joanna Fox shows that she’s not here to rubber-stamp local restaurants with softball reviews. Fox certainly finds things to like — the restaurant’s aesthetic (courtesy of Montreal designer Zebulon Perron) is stunning (“Everything is impressive”), and the wine list, straddling rich people options and some affordable bottles, gets an early nod too. But as the night wears on, it’s decidedly mixed: “food and service were all over the place”, writes Fox.
Seafood options fare best, it seems — a salmon tartare draws big props, and at a secondary lunch-time visit, robata-cooked salmon belly, shrimp on brioche, and a Niçoise all get easy thumbs-up. Yet, a number of dishes fall flat or have notable flaws, from a “dry” endive salad to chicken yakitori with a “cloying”, sweet sauce. Some also don’t seem to make total sense to Fox: the Cornish hen is tender but its pea and carrot accompaniments feel “chicken dinner-ish”, and a steak (while excellent on the meat side) is confusingly accompanied by very non-seasonal scalloped potatoes. Service also has problems — on one of two visits, the food takes an hour to arrive, and the server doesn’t seem to be able to explain the dishes much. A clubby vibe with ultra-loud music also detracts from the experience. In short, Fox says there’s potential here, but Marcus isn’t fully living up to it. Two stars. [Montreal Gazette]
In other recent reviews, Toqué owner Normand Laprise’s newest venture Beau Mont impressed Le Devoir critic Laurence Michèle Dufour — hitting the right balance between fancy Toqué and casual Brasserie T, the dishes are simply presented and highlight local ingredients with flair — the service is also stellar, and wine list good, if a little expensive. Four stars.
Dufour was also first to visit the city’s sole Acadian restaurant, Le Fricot — its comforting guédilles and fried chicken get a three star thumbs up, although there are some minor missteps. Also earning Dufour’s stamp of approval have been the reborn H4C in St-Henri (four stars), and ten-year-old Plateau institution Chez Victoire (three stars). [Le Devoir]
Over at La Presse, more newcomers have drawn warm reviews of late — the newest outpost of bakery La Bête à Pain, up in Laval, earns praise from critic Marie-Claude Lortie for its mix of refined baked goods and simple, flavourful plates, even if the by-the-highway location isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. Lastly, Village vegan restaurant Tendresse draws plenty of compliments from critic Iris Gagnon-Paradis: it’s “vegan but not granola”, she writes, with a casual, rounded menu running from gazpacho to satay tofu, interesting cocktails, and a classy environment. Desserts are the weak point, but Tendresse is still a great bet, writes Gagnon-Paradis. [La Presse]