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The Pourcels in Montreal


Lesley C
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Last night the Pourcel brothers – Jacques and Laurent -- were in Montreal at a lovely little restaurant called Anise. In a tiny kitchen (by French standards) they cooked up a superb 9-course menu alongside chef Racha Bassoul.

The food didn’t knock my socks off. Instead, it slowly and carefully peeled them off. The flavours, plate – or glass – presentations, and ingredients were modern, intense and elegant. Best of all, the portions built up from amuse-size to generous and back down again for cheese and dessert -- a far cry from the dreaded Tetsuya/Trotter/Feenie school of amuse-sized Barbie doll food.

BTW, the cost was $110, or $150 with 5 glasses of wine (Americans, that’s about $70-$90 US!).

The menu:

Les petits cornets croustillants a la chair de crabe et tartare de saumon

Whimsical amuse made of tuile cornets, one filled with salmon tartare with black sesame seeds, the other with stone crab and a bit of pear puree with vanilla

Declinaison d’huitres aux pommes vertes: roules a la crème moutarde, granite au poivre de Szechuan

This was good fun. The pepper granite was served in a small glass with a raw oyster suspended in the middle. On the plate was another oyster rolled in a slice of smoked arctic char with batonnets of green apple, which was served with a mustard cream.

Raviole de bettrave au celery et figues noix de Saint-Jacques poelées

Amazing. A single, large ravioli made of al-dente beet slices and filled with julienned celery root and diced figs was surrounded by four seared scallops and a pool of slightly sweet beet vinaigrette.

Sur une purée de potimarron, l’émince de truffes fraiches, bouillon de volaille au jus de truffes

The best dish of the night. Served in a wide glass, this “soup” consisted of a sugar pumpkin and chestnut puree topped with slices of truffle and a few hazelnuts, with an intense, frothy and slightly creamy chicken bouillon infused with truffles poured on top. The only disappointment here was that the truffles (2 kg flown in from France for the dinner) didn’t pack much of a punch. But this dish was more about the velvety bouillon/pumpkin combo.

Pot-au-Feu, foie gras, facon Thai

Again, amazing. A huge piece of raw foie gras (from the Périgord) was served in a small glass bowl with hot beef bouillon infused with ginger and coriander poured on top. In the broth was a julienne of carrots, ginger, coriander root, and baby coriander sprouts. What I enjoyed here was the slightly spongy consistency of the poached foie gras, so different from the usual buttery terrine or crisp and pudding-like hot foie gras. And the ginger and coriander with the foie – Wow!

Filet de loup cuit au four, grosses asperges vertes, vinaigrette aux citrons confites.

Disappointing. The striped bass was beautiful, but they went overboard with the preserved lemon, which gave the dish a soapy taste.

Millefeuille craquant de pommes de terre et filet de pigeon roti, sa cuisse en civet, jus a l’amertume de cacao.

Very simple, elegant dish. A pigeon filet set on a mound of puréed celery root, topped with unusually thin, flat and golden potato chips. In between the chips was a spoonful of confit-style shredded meat. The sauce was intense, with hardly a taste of cocoa.

Brie de Meaux sur un brique de carottes legèrement épicé, jus de carottes

A slice of Brie drizzled with spiced carrot juice and honey. A triangle of brick filled with spiced carrot and a mound of mesclun drizzled with honey. Nice.

Salade de clémentines, parfait de dates aux épices, caramel a la crème.

Too sweet! Slices of clémentine set around a spiced purée of dates topped with a tuile, the whole swirled with caramel. My teeth are still aching.

All in all, a very impressive dinner. Everything was so light, after three and a half hours it was nice to walk away not feeling stuffed. The Pourcels were working side by side in the kitchen, looking very happy. Rumour is they want to open a restaurant in Montreal.

After this dinner, I certainly hope they do. :wub:

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Patrice, I look forward to your report.

The Pourcels were in town by request of Rasha Bassoul, who spent a week at the Jardin des Sens and fell in love with the place. Rumours are running fast and furious that they will open a restaurant here with the W hotel group in New York in the new Caisse de Depot complex. Of course, when asked, they denied any involvement in the project. But I have my sources... :cool:

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that menu sounds great,the pourcels are fresh,i hear they are opening,or looking to open in a new boutique hotel across from square victoria metro,but not so hi end,kind of like their maison blanche project in paris,its a trendy sort of place,old montreal might very well be a wonderous place in a couple of years

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Welcome dave mc! :smile:

My fear is that these guys have too much going on right now. I ate at the Compagnie des Comptoirs in Avignon last June and it was kind of shitty watered-down trendy stir fried bean sprouts meets seared dorade with a cherry tomato brochette on a square plate kind of crap. That's the last thing we need here in Montreal. I think when they do the Jardin des Sens cuisine like they did this week in Montreal, they're amazing. When they get into the lower end trendy stuff, their style kind of falls apart.

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I was at Anise yesterday with 4 friends who were really eager to taste the Pourcel's food.

-I wasn't particularly impressed by the amuses:

The small tuile cornets are done by everybody, this isn't the type of things I'm expecting from 3 stars chefs.

The salmon tartar and the crab salad were both OK.

-The second amuse, the duo of oysters didn't impressed me much.

I didn't liked the granité wich was to sweet for my taste to work with the oyster. The second one was better but nothing to impress me...

-Thing started to get much better after. The scallops were really nice. I really liked their beet ravioli wich is a play on the pineapple ravioli of their book. A quite complex and very interesting dishe.

-I really LIKED the next course. Between a soup and a thick purée, this glass packed a lot of interesting flavors and textures.

-The next dish was my favorite of the evening. A very impressive poached foie gras ,served with a beef consommé. Everything was perfect: the quite surprising spongy texture of the foie, the superb flavor of the consommé, the very interesting blendind of the foie and the thai herbs.

-I really didn't like the next dish very much. The preserved lemon flavor was VERY strong and unpleasant for my taste. I really wonder why this dish, wich would by more appreciated maybe in a bistro type of setting, was served in a degustation meal like yesterday.

-I also really liked the next dish. It was also quite complex and it worked very well woth the wine we were served. I personnaly likes the sauce, wich taste like a ''reworked'' civet sauce. My friends were wondering if the sauce could have been thicken with blood.

-I'm really TIRED of eating cheeses at the end of a meal with a small mound of mesclun. I think the small mound of salad could have benn ommitted and this dish would have been even better.

-I didn't knew what to expect for dessert. I had read Lesley review but, on the other side, I quite liked their book and it has some interesting desserts in it. I was maybe expecting it would have been better this evening. The flavors of dates worked very well with the clementines. But, like Lesley wrote, the parfait ( more like a type of mousse of spiced dates) was way too sweet for my taste. A dessert that could have been interesting as a pre-dessert but not as a main.

After a good meal we were again expecting some interesting mignardises like the french do so well. We recived each 2 mignardises wich were made, if I don't make a mistake, by the chef of Anise: half a dried arpicot with some chocolate on it and a very small nest of Katufi with some pistachios. I really wonder why the twins didn't take the time to serve us something more interesting than that.

We had a lot of fun and we had some really good food. I'm really grateful to Anise for having invited these chefs to Montreal and let us the chance to taste their very interesting cuisine!!!

Edited by Patrice (log)

Patrice Demers

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Interesting. :smile:

I really enjoyed the oyster amuse, but one of my dining companions also found the granite lacking, thinking it would have been better with a wine base. I'm not sure about that.

And yes, the cornets are rather passé, but I liked the tray they were served on. I also liked the mesclun because it was Mr. Daignault's wonderful mesclun, which I'm always happy to munch on (instead of the usual tasteless, crappy California mix). I completely forgot about the mignardises. I wonder why they bothered. Then again, for the price charged, I thought we were spoiled. That meal at the Jardin des Sens would have cost about three times as much.

There was a wonderful ambiance in the room. Everyone looked thrilled to be there and considering the Pourcels weren't in their own kitchen, I thought they did spectacularly well.

Patrice, did you get to talk to them after dinner? Did you see the kitchen setup?

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Like you said Lesley, we were really spoiled for the price we paid: foie gras, truffles, squab, scallops, oysters...

I didn't see the kitchen setup but, they came to our table after dinner. They seem really simple guys and they really seemed happy we enjoyed our meal.

Now I can't wait for the Montreal Highlight Festival... :wink:

Edited by Patrice (log)

Patrice Demers

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the pourcels (only laurent tho) came to school last year (ITHQ) to give a little demo. he made "bonbons de foie gras" which were little balls (a bit smaller than a golf ball) of foie gras wrapped in a potato string, deep fried. it was served on balsamic carmelized onions, pear purée and mache salad. it was kind of funky, but i found the deep fried foie gras was kind of overpowerd by the flavor or friture, like potato chips or fries. secondly, he made langoustine tails wrapped in a brick pastry with a herb (cant remember which one, but it may have been coriander), in a martini glass. in the glass was truffled butternut squash purée (very liquid, almost like a soup) and vanilla. (or was the vanilla in the pear purée of the foie gras dish?). in any case, i very much enjoyed having him come in and show us some new things. i think it was a great idea to have a chef from outside the school come in and show students of the culinary arts a few new ideas and techniques. if ITHQ were to have such demonstrations more often, i think the dedicated students would benefit greatly. i remember a classmate of mine asked mr. pourcel "what would you think of offering the students a course in food chemistry?" to which he replied, "well, sure, but we don't have to go overboard here" or something along those lines. one of my colleagues at school was pressing to get a food chem course offered to use in the cuisine detablissement program...

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

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riboflavinjoe -- I agree that the bonbons of foie gras are at best average. At Jardin des Sens, I sampled them and their presentation was not poor. In addition to the attributes you describe, this dish had a concentric, bulls-eye type swirl of burgundy-colored sauce. Sadly, the taste of the item was not impressive.

The idea of deep frying with some type of foie gras component is a good one. I haven't sampled a version taht has been properly executed, however. The deepfrying should be really done at the last minute. Marc Meneau's cromesqui de foie gras have a better conceptual foundation, but were still unattractive when sampled. I recently saw Meneau's receipe in a book on foie gras. The book contained a number of foie gras recipes, including one from Gagnaire. The book appeared overprice,d however. :hmmm:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone, it's been quite a while since my last time. I'm very impressed at the different opinions concerning that dinner. I also ate there and could say that the weakest things were unfortunately the techniques. I expect squab to be cooked on the carcass whenever i eat 3 stars. I also want more complex things than a carrot samosa and MESCLUN right out of the box with my cheese.Don't get me wrong, i recognize the effort made but i was a little ... maybe i expected too much. :blink:

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I wonder if the dinner was better on the tuesday night? My mesclun was Mr. Daignault's best. And I thought the squab was surprisingly lovely.

Let's not forget the price here either. $110 wouldn't get you past two courses in most three-star restos.

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  • 1 month later...

Cabrales, Pied de cochon crazy cook curse boy does a very strange foie gras tempura. Its basically 4 pieces of one cubic inch, flash fried. When served, it is forced on you immediately, hard on the outside and perfect liquid broth on the inside... very odd but very good. Any bogger piece would have been gross.

Fresh mesclun is one of the easiest produce to grow in the winter. I'm suprised all thes restaurants use that crappy California rubber stuff... what a sin. I have pousse de roquette all year around in the garage.

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