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JAS

Liverpool

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Excellent point... how often do you go back to the same restaurant weeks, months or years later, only to find the same menu... Producing a successful and often changing menu is tough work, and not typically the type of work load an exec chef would want to be continually experiencing. Creating 3-5 weekly specials seems the norm in the places that do provide some variation to their regular menu, but having a frequently changing menu is a job that can only be effectively pulled off by those with a passion for what they do, and are hands-on involved in the back end of the operation.

If for the food alone, LH has the ability to pull this off as long as the management and the folks in the kitchen maintain the spirit and quality.... (and in my opinion, pay attention to the salt).

Considering the fact that both JB and LH change the menu so often, I think it's only normal that not every dish can be a hit. For that reason I think they should be judged differently, and praised for taking risks. Too many Montreal restaurants play it safe. I understand why, but those seared scallops with lemon compote (not naming any names here) are getting pret-ty boring.


Veni. Vidi. Voro.

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There's another issue here and that is how long does a restaurant take to hit its stride. I thoroughly enjoyed Joe Beef when i first dined there but I think the food is quite different today (someone correct me if I'm wrong). It takes a while for a restaurant to settle, but here we are, all the critics and bloggers, jumping on these places just because they're new. If I weren't so desperate for new restaurants I'd wait a while to go, just to give them a chance to weed out the duds on the menu and fix the ventilation system :wink:.

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Excellent point... how  often do you go back to the same restaurant weeks, months or years later, only to find the same menu... Producing a successful and often changing menu is tough work, and not typically the type of work load an exec chef would want to be continually experiencing. Creating 3-5 weekly specials seems the norm in the places that do provide some variation to their regular menu, but having a frequently changing menu is a job that can only be effectively pulled off by those with a passion for what they do, and are hands-on involved in the back end of the operation.

Should a restaurant’s menu not adapt with the availability of fresh local ingredients? “Simple, fresh” seems to be the mantra, so it should naturally follow that chefs adapt to that – and what is available. Our distinct seasons are perfect for menu changes. I’ve found that climate does affect what I’m graving.

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I agree that JB and now LH represent a kind of thrilling "high-wire act" recreating their menu as often as they do and should be judged on those merits (if only by the locals who dine there often). But since I'm not a professional eater and not plagued with the very real problem of how to avoid a tired palate, and since I only get to that restaurant with the seared scallops with lemon compote maybe once or twice a year, then I look forward to seeing it on the card when I get there. There's a lot to be said for the beloved signature dish.

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True, but should that signature dish fester on the menu for ever? And what if the majority of the menu consists of signature dishes?

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True, but should that signature dish fester on the menu for ever? And what if the majority of the menu consists of signature dishes?

Good question. I think it would depend on if the dish really did fester. If the staff was sick of banging out the same thing every night and that tiredness somehow manifested itself in the food through shortcuts or inattention or what have you. I've never worked professionally in restaurant kitchen so it's very possible I'm not being realistic here. The only situation I can compare it to is that of an actor in a long running stage play. The challenge would be to keep it fresh and new to oneself in order to give one's audience the same wonderful experience night after night.

Of course if ALL of the dishes on the menu are "signature" in the sense of special, then probably none of them are. Then what you have is just a menu that never changes, a kitchen staff that probably isn't trying, and that, I agree, would be boring.

Then again, one hears of Asian street vendors who spend their entire lives perfecting and selling a single dish. But that's another topic for probably another board.


Edited by rcianci (log)

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Considering the fact that both JB and LH change the menu so often, I think it's only normal that not every dish can be a hit. For that reason I think they should be judged differently, and praised for taking risks.

I haven't eaten at either Joe Beef or Liverpool House, so I can't say whether or not the food is good at either of these establishments (except that I hear good things for both), but what you said here is such a lame excuse for not having good items on a menu. It's not like the chef is leaving this up to chance! These are his ideas and his execution of those ideas that he is presenting to the customer at both of these restaurants, so what arrives at the table is hopefully the best example of what he was thinking would be enjoyed by his customers. Would one willingly implement this idea, tell his staff of it, order the product, process all the ingredients, keep it in the limited fridge space (has to be fresh, remember?), and send it out to people paying top-dollar if he didn't have confidence in it being enjoyed?

Judge them differently because they try? Praise them for taking risks that don't pan out? Do we have participation ribbons in the restaurant business, now?

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I agree. You can praise a restaurant for taking risks, but if you judge that restaurant by different standards than other restaurants you've taken the meaning out of the word "risk". A dish that flops is a dish that flops no matter the restaurant's "concept". The customer is just as disappointed.


Edited by rcianci (log)

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Actally, in my experience, a dish that flops is often tha menu classic that once tasted great and now tastes tired.

And yes I agree a good dish is a good dish and a flop is a flop, no matter how new or old.

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Actally, in my experience, a dish that flops is often tha menu classic that once tasted great and now tastes tired.

And yes I agree a good dish is a good dish and a flop is a flop, no matter how new or old.

It may taste "tired" to YOU, but I doubt it does to the people who come in and order it night after night. If people stopped ordering it, maybe it would disappear from the menu. If it consistently sells, and is enjoyed by those who order it, well does it really matter what a professional critic thinks?


"Bells will ring, ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting.... the bell... bing... 'moray" -John Daker

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Oh God what have I gotten myself into here...

Look Joe, it doesn't matter what I think. If you like it, you like it. More power to you. I'm not asking Gibby's to mix it up, but an argument could be made that an "innovative" restaurant should actually be innovative. And if chefs settled on things that merely "sold" they would all be serving filet mignon and creme brulee.

And as for those scallops with lemon compote, the ones I ate tasted miles better the first time I sampled them, which to me says that maybe someone in the kitchen is a little tired of making them.

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So, I've been to the unnamed restaurant with the seared scallop dish four times. I have had well over 20 courses there and tried over 30. The only repeat dishes that I have had are the oysters, under a different preparation, and the scallops because I ordered them a second time.

Looking at the menu at the unnamed restaurant right now, the scallops and risotto are dishes that have never left the menu. They are signatures. The oysters, surf and turf, and one of the fish dishes are also always on the menu but pretty different every time. Everything else is constantly changing and is essentially different from what I’ve had before. In talking with the staff at the restaurant, they are somewhat tied with the aforementioned signatures - they tried to take the risotto off the menu once and there was an incredible demand to bring it back. Given the recent restaurant carnage in Montreal, I hardly think that it is a prudent move for our unnamed friend to go taking these dishes off the menu.

Now, to throw a bit of a bone to the contrary, the menu at the restaurant is not quite a vibrant as it once was. The non-signature dishes could be a little more ambitious. But perhaps now is not the time to experiment.

True, but should that signature dish fester on the menu for ever? And what if the majority of the menu consists of signature dishes?

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And as for those scallops with lemon compote, the ones I ate tasted miles better the first time I sampled them, which to me says that maybe someone in the kitchen is a little tired of making them.

Have you eaten there only twice in the three years that it's been open?

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And if chefs settled on things that merely "sold" they would all be serving filet mignon and creme brulee.

Or a few signature dishes and changing up the rest of the menu, as the scallop-risotto restaurant tends to do. As Adrian said, the rest of the dishes do tend to change regularly. If people demand it, and get upset with you when you take it off the menu, you best put it back, don't you think?


"Bells will ring, ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting.... the bell... bing... 'moray" -John Daker

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No, I have eaten there many many times. It's a restaurant I enjoy greatly, with a chef I admire greatly. But that dish was better when they opened. Last time I had it there in the spring, it wasn't so hot. Even the sauce wasn't applied with the same amount of care.

I actually wrote a story about this topic so I know why chefs do it. I just think they could mix it up a bit. For example, the chef in question, had a signature dish at the last restaurant he opened. It was a wild mushroom tart and it was great. But he would change it around every so often to give it new life, and it worked.

I have spoken to this chef about this, I understand why he keeps it there, and respect his decision because he's a smart, super cool guy.

I said my bit and we have gotten so off topic here it hurts.

So back to Liverpool House....

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It's not just about having a signature dish. It's about having a cliché. As we were mentioning upthread, EVERY restaurant has seared scallops and molten chocolate cake. What I am saying is that it's unoriginal and shows a lack of creativity, playfulness, innovation... probably just because the dish sells and looks sophisticated.

If Martin Picard and Fred want to keep foie gras poutine and lobster spaghetti on their menus for ages, as long as they're done well, I have no problem with that. But I do find that Picard's molten chocolate cake is a huge cop-out.

Maybe a lot of people will find those seared scallops delicious, me included. It's just that there's something to be said against a restaurant that cherry picks (some would say copy or heavily borrow from) cliché dishes that are easy to pull off and look fancy, versus one that constantly reinvents itself and strives to make unusual ingredients delicious, uses whimsy and honors and transforms forgotten or little-known classics. It's a question of favoring those that truly have a craft, rather than a business.

As they say about clichés: the first person who compared a woman to a rose was genius. The second was an idiot.

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I would hardly call the seared scallop dish at CC&P a cliche or a rip off - for most of us, when we first tried it, it was truly inspired. The unilateral sear matched with citrus and anise flavour represented the quality of ingredient and clarity of flavour that CC&P became known for. I also think that the seared scallops at CC&P may be partially responsible for the fact that they are on every menu in Montreal now.

Having a signature dish on a menu should be a good thing. Often with restaurants that constantly change their menu, there are a large number of misses and ill thought out plates. It a long time to perfect a plate. A signature dish should be an anchor of consistency that represents the restaurant at its best. If the scallops are no longer doing this, then perhaps there is a problem. Most of the world's top restaurants have dishes that remain on the menu indefinitely, I don't see why Montreal's best restaurants should be any different. Now, the molton chocolate cake is a different. Unlike the poutine, it says nothing about what Picard's restaurant is.

It's not just about having a signature dish. It's about having a cliché. As we were mentioning upthread, EVERY restaurant has seared scallops and molten chocolate cake. What I am saying is that it's unoriginal and shows a lack of creativity, playfulness, innovation... probably just because the dish sells and looks sophisticated.

If Martin Picard and Fred want to keep foie gras poutine and lobster spaghetti on their menus for ages, as long as they're done well, I have no problem with that. But I do find that Picard's molten chocolate cake is a huge cop-out.

Maybe a lot of people will find those seared scallops delicious, me included. It's just that there's something to be said against a restaurant that cherry picks (some would say copy or heavily borrow from) cliché dishes that are easy to pull off and look fancy, versus one that constantly reinvents itself and strives to make unusual ingredients delicious, uses whimsy and honors and transforms forgotten or little-known classics. It's a question of favoring those that truly have a craft, rather than a business.

As they say about clichés: the first person who compared a woman to a rose was genius. The second was an idiot.

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I don't think we're thinking very differently. As I said, nothing against signature dishes that stay on the menu.

My peeve is just cliché dishes, that's all.

In CC&P's case, if they are the pionneers of seared scallops, then kudos to them!

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Pioneer's of that dish? I don't think so. But I'd have to look back to see. Might make a good topic for a story. :wink:

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I don't mean to say that they invented the seared scallop, but I do seem to recall that shortly after CC&P opened seared scallops were everywhere in Montreal. It's like braised pork belly in NYC now, but I don't know who to blame it on.

Pioneer's of that dish? I don't think so. But I'd have to look back to see. Might make a good topic for a story.  :wink:

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I was wondering if anyone out there could help me with this question. Did David Macmillan open a new Italian restaurant called Liverpool? And, if so, how long is it going to be before Lesley C. names him the greatest Italian chef in this city?

The answer to my original question is...two months. Ta Da! Can hardly wait for David' s next, Gazette ordained, three star sushi restaurant. Followed immediately by his next, three star masterpiece, Punjabi restaurant.

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I believe that in a small circled society, as is Montreal's culinary scene, it is very difficult for Lesley to do her job unbiasly. We are not in New York. We are not talking about Ruth Reichl nor is this the Michelin Guide. JAS was simply stating that a chef, who lets not forget does a great job cooking up his comfort food and who has had his training at Sooke Harbour House and a disciple of James Maguire, all of a sudden would venture to open an italian restaurant. I understand that Liverpool House as Leslie mentioned, is more Jamie Oliver than an Italian restaurant, but this is where the dilemma lies. How does a chef with no formal training nor any experience in an italian restaurant, pick up a few Jamie Oliver or a Gennaro Contaldo book and open a restaurant. Surely a difficult task for anyone. I feel for young chefs and restaurateurs that spend the last 2 years in Naples refining the making of an original Pizza (Bottega). Maybe he should have invested in a couple of books at Nicholas Hoare. Trust me i am all for venturing into other projects and Fred Morin and co have every right to, but bigger chefs and/or restaurateurs have failed but for some reason there were doubts that Lesley C would give them a fair review. This is where the skepticism began and lo and behold, voila 3 stars! Two months worth of experience making homemade gnocchi's (and we are not talking Grandma's recipe here) and no mention of: "nice effort, keep it up i am sure you will get the hang of it". Believe who you want to believe but some credibility will instill when we start seeing the chou-chou's of Montreal culinary get some come-uppance.

Thank you all for your valuable time.

LM

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I don't agree (but I bet you figured I would say that :wink: ).

The other day my husband cracked out the Babbo cookbook and made the recipe for gnocchi. Now I've had a lot of gnocchi (I even had the gnocchi at Babbo) and I gotta say, these were some pretty damn good gnocchi. Is he not allowed to make good gnocchi because he's French and he only made them once? Hell no! Good food is good food, no matter who makes it and for how long. Are an Italian grandmother's gnocchi automatically good because she's been making them for years? Hell no! I've had some pretty awful Italian food made by Italian grandmothers. Does one have to earn the right to cook outside one's realm? No way. FYI, last time I heard, the majority of the staff at Milos were far from Greek.

Also, last time I had pizza at Bottega it was soggy. The pizza at my local pizzaoile is better. Does the pizza at bottega get an automatic pass because the oven was flown in from Naples? No. And wait a minute, Bottega is hardly struggling.

As for doing my job unbiasly and the chou chous getting some come-uppance, you're talking to the person who gave Au Pied de Cochon two stars, dropped Toque! to three and a half when they changed locations, and gave Les Caprices two and a half stars before it closed. I sure didn't make any "friends" doing that.

And as for Liverpool House, hell, I liked it. It's different. It's fun. My food was good. Was I supposed to say I didn't like it even though I did? And though I may be "friendly" with McMillan, he's not enough of a friend for me to compromise my integrity by saying his restaurant is good if it isn't. If you ask me, the La Presse review was more positive than mine.

I could understand all this angst if Liverpool weren't a good restaurant. But it is, and it's doing very well (and was before I reviewed it), and that seems to be rubbing some people the wrong way.

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Following your lead last night my wife and i cracked open the French Laundry book and made the Pacific Moi with Fresh Soybeans , Scallion and Radish Salad, and Soy-Temple Orange Glaze...I gotta say that was a pretty good piece of fish. I guess i stand corrected. Mr. Keller has nothing on me. I jest.

I find it difficult to apprehend how someone can state, that a few cracks at recipes out of a book, and bingo your gnocchi's are better than many grandma's who have been doing it for generations. I may have misunderstood the Ratatouille moment in the Disney movie, but i believe it was an ode to all grandmothers simple recipes and how no book in the world can teach you how simple food can be made, but that's just me!

There are words that you hear in a kitchen all the time: " Do it again!", surely a testament to how important it is to hone your skills in a kitchen before you make that perfect tomato sauce or demi-glace or just a simple soft boiled egg. Time spent cooking practicing, tooling with the recipe, learning from our predecessors is of the utmost importance. Today i am learning that someone's 1 day worth of experience is just as noteworthy as a generation worth of experience. Hence the Ratatouille experience.

As for the success of Milos are we forgetting that Milos is an ingredient based cuisine. I remember reading about Costas's trips to Fulton Market some 20 years ago when we in Montreal had no fish selection whatsoever, and how he refrigerated his van and made numerous trips down the I-87, how today, he has licences to fish in Marocco and Greece. Maybe today there arent many greeks in the kitchen but to dismiss all the work that has been done til now would be offensive to many. May i also add that he is probably the lone Montrealer to have a very acclaimed and successful restaurant in NYC.

As for our other francophone chou-chous:

1- Did Matin Picard become legendary after Bourdain acclaimed him and made him part of the 50 best chef's in the world or was he just forgotten in Montreal prior to that. I believe many people revisited their opinions on APDC when Mr. Bourdain gave him the blessing of all blessings.

2- A Nicholas Jongleux-less Caprices may have deserved a drop, unfortunately we lost a great chef and i will leave him out of the debate. Dan Medelsy is a great food connaisseur and he will be the first and certainly not the last to tell you that to replace a chef of that stature is very difficult.

3- Was the half star that Toque lost based on the relocation and the fact that he found himself in a completely different arena? Should we have given him sometime to get acclimated in his new digs? Maybe, because last i noticed he was back to a 4 star restaurant.

4-As far as Bottega is concerned the son of the original owners of Il Mulino spent two years making pizza in Naples and today he makes sure he makes every single pie. They did not simply fly in an oven from Sorrento. His success is today gratifying his efforts and the background his family has given him through the years.

Finally, i would like to encourage some anonymity when reviewing a restaurant (Reichl). Let's see a restaurant bang out good food on a chef's day-off or when he is enjoying a fine Bordeaux at the bar with a few friends. It is certainly a different ball game when everyone in the room knows that a food critic is in the room. Anyone who has been part of that experience can attest that the restaurant is working on all cylinders when Mme Keller walks in. Maybe all restaurants should have the same benefit.

Once again i respectfully submit my opinion and appreciate the time of all who spent a few minutes reading this.

A pleasant evening to all. My haterade Kir is awaiting.

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