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Rabbit Angstrom

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  1. Could this be the best restaurant in Montreal? Hmm. Tough question. Yes, execution is flawless, and service is impeccable. (I can't comment on their wine list, though, as my health doesn't allow me to drink very much...) Yes, John Ledwell is inspired, and I believe he has a lot of freedom to create and to use the best ingredients - and I hear that money is no object, so that can't hurt... And I have already bestowed some well-deserved praise unto Bertrand's desserts elsewhere in this and other threads. I don't know anyone in this area code - or any area code close to the 514 - who works with chocolate better than Bertrand does... But THE best? Better than Les Chèvres? Ouch. 357C and Les Chèvres are very, very different propositions! Different approach, different clientele... Really, I am torn. But I do love Stelio's and Patrice's creativity... Les Chèvres is my go-to place in Montréal: it consistently leaves me - and my guests - elated! (I've been to Anise only once, so I wouldn't venture a full-fledged opinion, but I certainly believe it'd be a very strong contender as well...) Tell you what: if one of the critics on this board wants to have dinner with me any time soon, I'll take him or her to 357C, so he or she can review it. Just send me an email, and we'll arrange it: stephane.ethier3@sympatico.ca How does that sound? - Stéphane
  2. Hi all! Just a few words to report on my Easter brunch... I took my parents to 357C, where this year's theme - unsurprisingly but deliciously... - was chocolate! The cold buffet was simply perfect: Quebec lamb chops, lobster with a very nice curry mayonnaise, veal roast with a tuna sashimi and anchovies, their famous wild Columbia River salmon lox, Serrano ham with asparagus and parmesan, brandade, etc. This was followed by an excellent cauliflower soup, with cocoa jelly on a brioche croûton... Very subtle, and very nicely done. For the main course, I had the langoustines with the best vegetables tempura I had in a long, long time. My dad had the ricotta ravioli with Meyer lemon and mushrooms (can't remember which ones, sorry...). But they really hit it out of the park with my mom's dish: a fantastic pork rib with a mole poblano... Just great! Of course, a meal at 357C could not possibly be complete without a bit of Bertrand's magic... And he performs it best on the simplest desserts: for instance, I will remember today's chocolate macaroons for as long as I live... They had an almost ethereal quality, but they packed a LOT of punch, sugar-wise and chocolate-wise! A real sleeper of a dessert! And, needless to say, service was impeccable: discreet, efficient, and friendly... Now, if I could just muster enough of an appetite to try Bertrand's Easter eggs... Well, there's always tomorrow! - Stéphane
  3. I like Lesley's choice of words: an "adult" restaurant... A safe bet for when the relatives are in town - an older generation of relatives, at any rate. (Mind you, I took my parents - who aren't foodies by any measure - to Les Chèvres for my mom's birthday in December, and they were just... blown away by Stelio's and Patrice's wares. So, maybe one shouldn't underestimate anyone's capacity or willingness to explore... I *did* have to convince my dad that a meatless 12-course meal isn't a completely off-the-wall proposition in 21st century Montreal. But he did come around - was ecstatic, actually.) But "adult" should never mean "dusty", in my opinion. Da Vinci is certainly a very "adult" restaurant: not dusty. Les Caprices de Nicolas is also an "adult" restaurant, I think: definitely not dusty. And one could say that the Beaver Club is the epitome of the "adult" restaurant in Montreal: I've been told it's not dusty, but I haven't eaten there in years, so I can't tell... All this to say that so-called "adult" restaurants are often overlooked by foodies - amateurs and professionals alike, since we're always eager to discover the "new new thing" -, and therefore may have a tendency to rest on past laurels. Which might be the case at Les Halles. I'd have to try it for myself, though. Haven't been there in ages. - Stéphane
  4. I really wonder what Mr Beauchemin's other 6 choices were... unless he is sworn to secrecy, of course! And I want to congratulate Patrice and Stelio, whose nomination was entirely deserved, in my opinion: although I haven't tried the 8 ROC's winners, I can't imagine there being more than 10 new restaurants in Canada that could be rated above Les Chèvres... As for Cluny, well... I've been there a couple of times, and was unimpressed. I can eat that kind of food - decent sandwiches, tarragon chicken, etc. - at innumerable anonymous, hole-in-the-wall half-basement lunch shops downtown that never get mentioned in newspapers, let alone receive any kind of award. Reviving the Darling Foundry is a great and laudable idea, don't get me wrong, but I thought these awards were supposed to be given to restaurants, not architectural renewal projects. Mr McMillan: I'll take your cheeseburger any time for lunch over Cluny's wares (plus it's at walking distance from my office... none of that Cité du Multimédia daytime parking hell)! Diane Lemieux loved it too and asked me to tell you... Stéphane
  5. Lesley: Thanks for your comments on my earlier post! I'm sure someone was able to pass my message along to Bertrand... Your source's information about Friday's party was 100% accurate, by the way... It was an amazing celebration - food, wine, spirits, music and beautiful people... - for a most interesting club, I must say! Will be eating at Les Chèvres for the first time tonight. Am trying to manage my own expectations... Stéphane
  6. I was lucky enough to taste Bertrand's creations Friday night at 357C. Words fail me: I was simply... overjoyed! The wonders he does with panna cotta and tapioca... And the macaroons... And the pâtes de fruits... And the financier with raspberries... And the mignardises: just fabulous! Please stop me before I fork over 3500 dollars for a 357C membership! Or, come to think of it: no, don't stop me... although my bank manager might! I didn't have a chance to tell Bertrand how much I enjoyed his desserts, but if anyone on this board - hint, hint... - could pass the message on to him, j'en serais très reconnaissant! Ton enthousiasme était contagieux, Bertrand: à très bientôt, c'est sûr! By the way, since we're on the subject, I had the panna cotta with passion fruit and basil syrup at Brunoise a couple of weeks ago, and I must agree: it is a fantastic dessert! Next stop: Les Chèvres... Am v. anxious to give it a try! Stéphane
  7. More adventures in Poutine-land - and I don't mean Russia! I went up to Joliette with a friend of mine, two weeks ago, and we decided that lunchtime was the right time for a great poutine. I remembered visiting a grease emporium somewhat north of Joliette, a few years back, so we took the 131 North to Saint-Félix-de-Valois, in search of a decent poutine. Sure enough, there it was: the Repaire du Nord. Ordered the extra-large regular poutine. (Note: when I order poutine in a new spot, I never ask for extra cheese curds. That's my way of testing their sense of proportions. You get the proper fries-cheese-gravy ratio, and you're halfway there.) And it was truly excellent. The fries were crispy and gold-brown on the outside, not too slender, piping hot and wonderfully greasy - just as they should be. Very good cheese, quite tasty, just salty enough, in exactly the right amount, although the curds were a little small, in my opinion. You know what that means, of course: a larger surface of contact with the hot gravy causes the cheese to melt too fast. If your cheese isn't top-notch, you get runny poutine at the bottom of the plate, which is deemed to be cruel and unusual punishment in most democratic countries. Finally, hot, thick, brown gravy - obviously not the canned stuff: not too much of it, just perfect. Le Repaire du Nord's poutine comes close to Chez Bernard's, in Sainte-Madeleine. With larger curds of better cheese - it was a little bit blander than I like -, it would be a serious contender. Plus, there are no trucks speeding by your table, or wasps buzzing by your soft drink, as would be the case on the 116 in Sainte-Madeleine. Le Repaire has some very nice picnic tables, close to the main street - which is very quiet, I mean, this isn't La Catherine, right? -, in the heart of the village. (I know, it's in Saint-Félix-de-Valois, i.e. quite a long drive from downtown Montreal. Yeah, so what?) Speaking of Chez Bernard, I went back there last week, and it was still a fabulous poutine. Almost perfect, in fact. The cook did go a bit overboard, and ladled too much gravy onto the fries. But thanks to Chez Bernard's perfect curds that remained solid until the end, I didn't have to wolf down my plate. Phew. I'll be back very soon with another report! Stéphane
  8. fresco: indeed, I am a great fan of John Updike's novels... VivreManger: I certainly intend to do so, not only in the 514, but also in the 418 and the 819 (I could tell you about a wonderful chicken poutine - called a galvaude - I had at the Roulotte du Nord in Chibougamau, aaah...). Looking for the best poutine in Quebec has been a sort of Grail-like pursuit for me over the past few years, as a matter of fact! Lesley C: Thanks for your kind words! I have been lurking on this board for a while, and I think I'll definitely stick around... Rest assured, I do have many other food-related interests besides poutine... such as Danny Saint-Pierre's deconstructed Black Forest cake, at Derrière les Fagots, for instance! Absolutely loved it - man, this guy's got talent...
  9. I'm happy to report on the State of the Poutine Union in Montreal for my first post on this board... According to folk wisdom, there is no decent poutine to be had in the 514 area code. But regional allegiances sometimes cloud poutine lovers' better judgment: Abitibians swear by Chez Morasse Poutine (awful yet involuntary pun, as aptly-named Mr Conrad Morasse serves an excellent poutine in his Rouyn-Noranda restaurant); Grand-Mère folks praise Auger's poutine high and low, whereas Shawinigan people are prone to lionize Beauparlant's stuff. And let's not even talk about Quebec City denizens: Quebecers' undying affection for Chez Ashton's poutine remains a mystery to me... L'amour a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point. I for one am partial to Cantine Saint-Bernard's poutine, on Highway 116, in Sainte-Madeleine, near Saint-Hyacinthe. And there is a fantastic poutine to be had at the main crossing in Coaticook, just across the road from the local cheese curd factory. But there are also some excellent poutine-makers in Montreal, none of whom practice this fine art in chain or franchise restaurants... Some people have mentioned La Banquise, on Rachel Street, whose straight poutine is quite well-balanced. Resto du Village, on Wolfe Street, is also a choice destination, although their fries are not as good as they used to be. To this list, I would also add Ma'am Bolduc, on De Lorimier Street near Marie-Anne. And if you long for poutine when you're stuck in the West Island, you can always count on Chez Paiement, in Sainte-Geneviève, near Cégep Gérald-Godin, to satisfy your craving very nicely. I always find that the big question mark is the gravy... Fries, well, everyone knows how to make good fries, don't they - although practically no one bothers actually making them at most fast-food joints. Cheese - again, it could be a no-brainer. Martin Picard laid down the law very nicely on Josée Di Stasio's show when he explained that the curds must (1) be day-fresh and (2) SQUEAK under your teeth. For once, size does matter: most restaurants serve cheese curds that are too small, and therefore melt too fast. Poutine cheese must never, never be gooey. S-q-u-e-a-k-y. But gravy is where a poutine-maker can best express his or her creativity. Forget about the instant or canned stuff. Of course, the Pied de Cochon's foie gras appareil may not always be the most accessible option. Simplicity is often the best bet: any beef- or chicken-based gravy can do the trick. What's really critical, in my opinion, is (1) temperature (it's gotta be warm enough, but not too much, or the cheese will melt too fast) and (2) thickness/texture (it's gotta be thick). Watching your fries drown in watery gravy is a sad sight to behold at 3:30 a.m., when you haven't had any success on the singles market. But I digress. Anyway, I'm very anxious to take part on other discussions... I'm really impressed to see so many highly-regarded Montreal foodies on this board. It's a pleasure and an honour to share these premises with them!
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