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Adrian3891

Now that Brunoise is dead...

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Having been away from the city for the better part of a year and a half, with four visits back, I’ve been stunned by recent developments. Anise closed weeks after a spectacular meal there (the best I had in three visits), Area closed, Les Chevres closed, and now Brunoise is dead. Think about that, four top restaurants, including the one that Zagat rated as having the best food in town.

I was at Toque! last weekend and the food was better than ever. At $109 the tasting menu is a steal. Worse meals at major restaurants in other cities will cost at least $50 more and yet the room was hardly jammed on a Friday night (to wit, inferior meals at Splendido, Susur, WD-50, and Citronelle have cost far more). On the Opinionated About Dining survey, La Chronique, Bronte, and Joe Beef are among the most infrequently rated restaurants on the continent (I’ll hope this is because Francophone foodies are plugged in to different resources, but I doubt this). Two of the top five restaurants in the city and what was once the hottest restaurant in town can't even get enough votes. In every other city, restaurants of comprable standing have already qualified. Is Montreal incapable of sustaining fine dining or even “luxury” bistros? Does anyone care? There are even a lack of fine-dining posts on this board.

I worry about restaurants like Liverpool House. I love Joe Beef and PDC and Liverpool House, which I have not been to, seems to be following in this tradition. Which I guess should be great, but I can’t help but feel that this style of restaurant is no longer exciting. Yes the food is good and the ingredients are fresh, but too large portions of sloppily plated comfort food just can’t get me worked up. Hopefully, Liverpool’s success isn’t at Brunoise’s expense.

So what is going on? Is the golden age of the last couple of years over? What’s new and exciting? La Porte looked interesting when I walked by, is it any good (they’re serving squab, which should be awesome)? What about Duel? It sounds like a gimmick, but maybe it's good. Or maybe we can talk about what good restaurant is going to fold next. My money’s on Cocagne.

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Interesting question. It has been way to long since I have been in Montreal and I miss the food there. Though I can't really say that this is the reason I haven't been back (mine is really just one of being otherwise busy and not making the time to get there), I doubt the renewed strength of the Canadian dollar against the US can't be helping matters. First, there is less of an incentive for bargain hunting Americans to cross the border and second is the converse. Canadians are flocking to the US compared to recent years. Both aspects take business away from Montreal restaurants, especially at the higher end.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Sure Zagat is no measure of quality, but that doesn't change the fact that Zagat is probably the most used dining resource by tourists. If someone can supply me with a long, or even short, list of other restaurants rated number one in their city by Zagat that have closed the year after being rated as such due to a lack of business, I will cede the point.

zagat raitings... enough said. There has been a nice list of openings.

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Plenty of places can open, but when some of the finer places in town can't stay open or become marginalized that is cause for concern.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Quick reply to this because i don't have much time right now.

Give it a year. A lot is changing in the city. But the future looks bright in Montreal, if only becuase of the number of talented young cooks coming up the ranks. I can give you a dozen names of talented up-and-comers. Can you say the same for Toronto or Vancouver?

I was at Europea last week and every seat was filled on a week night. The week before I was at Nuances and it was packed, and a few weeks before that Bronte was doing good business also. Fine-dining is not finished in this city.

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Quick reply to this because i don't have much time right now.

Give it a year. A lot is changing in the city. But the future looks bright in Montreal, if only becuase of the number of talented young cooks coming up the ranks. I can give you a dozen names of talented up-and-comers. Can you say the same for Toronto or Vancouver?

I was at Europea last week and every seat was filled on a week night. The week before I was at Nuances and it was packed, and a few weeks before that Bronte was doing good business also. Fine-dining is not finished in this city.

This is certainly good to her!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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First of all, I am not sure if you would appreciate that my money was on you to loose your business. Second of all, you are speaking like a tourist, who claims to embrace the city but seem to rely on Zagat entries (y'en a une criss de gang qui se foutent de Zagat, honnêtement)... Furthermore, on same numbers, you blabber on about the business going down... Again, not sure. If toursists came to Montreal so much for food, they'd be less crap restos around major hotels (and less peep shows for that matter). I'm sorry, but tourists walking est of St-Denis are a few, most because they have seen Bourdain going to APDC, that's about it.

Now because I only have time to go out on week nights I can tell you that: Always packed, M on Masson, Laloux for lunch at full dinner price, Cafe Feirrera 24-7, Decca, Bistro Biainvile, Les Trois Petits Cochon, La Montee de Lait, le guarde manger.

New in town, Stellio has opened les conserves, where you can take out a Mason jar and a private import in a bag... Bistro Beaver Hall from the fun folks of Europea, le bistro... Trinity (cashland), Madre, Fauvert, Le Diner, Le Vallier, La Porte is indeed pretty nice (was it in Zagat ?), Duel should be interesting, it is after all the kid from Yuzu, Le Valois, Daniel Vezina will be working at the Z in the Germain just like Gonzales works at Sainte James, Anise is now Bazar and it was almost full on a Tuesday, Wilson looks like it's gold plated... Of course the dollar might be an issue, quite frankly I rarely have the chance to have private dinner at Toqué, I can see why they would adapt to a more touristic cleintele and lower their pricing, why not, everybody wins.

There is a lack of fine dinning posts in this site because most posts have this Gazoo feel to them, there is some flaw about having English only boards in a French speaking city. So be it.


Edited by identifiler (log)

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Brunoise demise was due to the increase in the last few years of great neighborhood places that offer great food at Brunoise's price point or cheaper. A few of these are mentioned upthread. Plus they opened a second restaurant near the Bell Center. They simply looked at the numbers and closed the less profitable of their two operations.

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I don't know what you mean by a "Gazoo feel"? If by that you mean English, why not start a French blog? Or maybe there is one, or several.

(If that's a jab in my direction, so be it. But I always felt it made more sense for a restaurant critic to post on boards like this than remain silent in some Ivory Tower.)

As for your post, I'm surprised to see your list. A lot of restaurants there aren't doing as well as you may think. I'm sure -- in fact I know -- a lot of Montreal chef owners aren't making a dime in this business.

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That was not a jab in your direction one bit. As for the list, I may not know half of the folks who own some of these restos but I know the other half and on average, all of them are complaining, some of them while driving import race cars. I, myself, claim to not be making a dime, after sending my 4 kids to private school. Maybe I am like the half you know, we just can't balance a budget if our life counted on it (god knows there are tons of owners like that).

I have a collegue who just returned from Calgary this week. I am sure owners there are millionaires, the menu was high priced, the food was sub par, the wine list was outrageous and they sold 600$ bottles often... Thank god this is not the scene I want to see.

I`ll stop blabbering on about the restaurant and start having some food like I did before. From memory, the very day this site got a huge drop was because of this type of thread.

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A lot of the comments above seem to be evidence to my point. What we have seen in the last year has been the failure or down-scaling of some of the most innovative and highly acclaimed chef driven restaurants in Montreal. That Racha Bassoul decided to convert Anise into a bistro or that the Brunoise boys decided to focus on their brasserie is exactly the issue. The chef-driven restaurants really seem to be struggling.

The reason I mentoined Cocagne upthread is not to criticise but to illustrate my concern. As I have said many times, Cocagne is a fantastic restaurant. It serves food that is a stark contrast to what is served at PDC, Joe Beef, Garde Manger and the other large portion, comfort food restaurants that seem to be so popular right now. I have also never seen it full.

It's good to hear that Bronte is full - I enjoyed my experience there. I've never been to Nuances or Europea, but it seems that they are less important to the city than Anise. Anise was doing food that was acclaimed all over the continent (Gourmet and The New York Times to give two). I'm sure that Nuances is excellent, I have never been, but I doubt that it is the kind of exciting, personal, food that Anise was. So why can Nuances or Europea thrive while Anise, Chevres, and Area can't? I don't have the answer to this.

Also, I lived in Montreal for four years and visit now about twice a year. I have never even seen the Montreal version of Zagat. I think I read that Brunoise was the top rated restaurant in the guide on this board. I was citing it to illustrate the point that Brunoise was not a restaurant acclaimed by the minority on Egullet - it was popularly regarded (all Zagat is is a popularity constest) as one of the best restaurants in town. It's a minor point - the major one still remains.

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Actually it's an important topic. And yes, I know chefs that closed shop who straight out said they could cook but they couldn't manage their money.

Then there are others who can manage money, but say the work is too hard for the little they make. I'll buy that. Chefs don't make a lot of money in this city so the question is, how long can the passion keep them going?

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It's funny, today I wrote down some restaurant recommendations for a friend of my brother's who's coming to MTL for New Year's, and then I reviewed my 6 choices: APC, Liverpool House, Joe Beef, Club C&P, Garde Manger, l'Express.

All of them are pretty casual, 4 of them specialize in big-plate no-fuss food, served informally to dressed-down customers. None of that stuff we usually associate with fine dining, such as a relatively hushed ambiance, discreet and fine-tuned service, careful dish presentation.

I agree with many that have posted here and elsewhere: Montreal is more and more a city for casual dining. The more dressed-up, ambitious restaurants that try to serve tasting menus showcasing a chef's creations, with attention to presentation, seem to be struggling to stay afloat and, in many cases, closing (Anise, Chevres, Brunoise etc). I find the city so different from my native Sao Paulo, where the old-style fine dining restaurant is alive and well, and where people seem to relish getting very dressed-up and having candlelit dinners at fancy places with rich decor, fine china, refined cuisine and waiters in black suits. I love that sort of experience and I miss it in MTL (sure, I've been to Toqué a couple of times, but still).

That being said, does anyone know where all the Brunoise staff have ended up?


Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

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In addition to ownership of course, I assume some the Brunoise staff is at Brasserie Brunoise across from the Bell Centre.

Personally I think the reason the "casual quality" restaurants in Montreal get so much pub - especially here in this forum - is that they represent the best of what the city has to offer right now. Or is that just the bias of those of us who frequent eGullet?

Despite my love of Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Au Pied de Cochon, I disagree that Montreal is more and more about casual dining. Brontë, Le Club Chasse et Pêche and Nuances - to name a few of the best - are alive and well. And hotel restaurants like Renoir, Aix and yes, The Beaver Club, still have that air of sophistication about them, despite recent efforts to draw a wider range of clientele.

Heck, a friend of mine had a business dinner in the wine cellar at Rib 'n' Reef last week and told me it was one of the best meals he ever had in the city ... a throwback experience with professional table-side service to boot.

And they may be in Laval but Le Mitoyen and Derrière Les Fagots are two other examples of fine dining establishments that are more substance than style. But if you like style, Bice and Cavalli still pack them in too.

I think all this casual restaurant trend talk is overblown. Do I think our best and most enjoyable restaurants are of this ilk at present? Yes.

But Montreal has room for everyone. This forum represents a tiny minority of viewpoints. I still know a lot of people who want to dress up, hit the town and go to Moishe's or Queue de Cheval for a fat steak.

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