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Christophe report


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Christophe

1187 Van Horne Avenue, Montreal QC / (514) 270-0850

4-course dinner: $45-60 (Canadian)

Christophe is the most expensive BYOB in town. Montreal has many wonderful BYOBs. Most of them offer meals at around $30/person. Every BYOB restaurant that we had tried had some great and some so-so dishes. We went to Christophe in the hopes that it would be more consistent since its prices are $50-60 person. Unfortunately, the food was no better than at Poisson Rouge or Les Heritiers and definitely not worth its price. The bread in the basket was a day old. The fish soup was poorly seasoned and didn’t taste good. The stuffed cabbage swimming in it did not make it any better. The salad of marinated salmon, scallops, and avocado was delicious. Foie gras “crème brûlée” was a rich and creamy mousse with a caramelized sugar crust. It was decadently delicious, but the pate could use more foie grass and less cream to make the flavor more pronounced. The lobster ravioli were sad. The filling tasted too processed, the pasta dough was mushy (I think they used wonton wrappers instead of real pasta dough). The dish was topped with lifeless and bland spinach that tasted like something that was frozen and then microwaved. The lobster sauce lacked clarity of flavor. It tasted as if 10 different ingredients were simmered in a pot until they turned into one big “blah”. Our other main dish of sweetbreads with lobster, chanterelles, truffled potato and asparagus had only one good part – truffled potato. The chef at Christophe often uses expensive ingredients, but the results are often disappointing. The chocolate cake with a liquid center was an outrageously good end to an otherwise disappointing meal.

Montreal Restaurant Reviews

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Actually, you're wrong to say Christophe is the priciest BYOW in town.  A L'Os is more expensive.

That's not the only error yelenarennie has made, either. In the Anise review, she complains about a $58 "cheap bottle of Beaujolais." The bottle in question is the top cuvée (La Rochelle) from one of the top producers (Domaine de Vissoux) in the top Beaujolais appellation (Moulin-à-Vent). Given the standard 100% markup, that bottle would retail for $29 — right in line with what a top MàV goes for these days. When called on that gaffe on Chowhound, she said that Anise's list contains "almost no bottles under $60." Actually there are 12 (not counting half-bottles). She also claims that "most BYOs offer meals at around $30 per person." Maybe if you go to Casa Grec or L'Académie, but most decent BYOs are in the $35 to $45 range and it's plenty easy to break the $50 or even $60 mark. Her website says that Pâtisserie de Gascogne has two stores in Montreal, when it has four. Christophe's bread was a day old, she baldly states; no, it's bought fresh every day.

Even more disturbing than the inaccuracies are the insinuations. Anise is a rip-off, when her only complaints were that she found the food uneven and the wines not to her liking? (Rip off per Webster's: rob, cheat, defraud, steal.) And that's some parting shot: if only their food and wine were as good as their restrooms. (What a great image to leave readers with, and such an accurate summary of the overall Anise experience.) Readers of the Christophe review could well be forgiven for coming away with the impression that the chef uses frozen, microwaved vegetables and has a haphazard approach ("as if 10 different ingredients were simmered in a pot until they turned into one big blah"), when in fact the vegetables are purchased fresh daily and the maligned sauce is nothing more than a reduction of the shells cooked with a vanilla bean and enriched with tomalley butter. Indeed, Christophe was one of the city's market-driven pioneers and his cooking is as pure as it is precise.

My issue isn't with yelenarennie's opinions of the meals she ate but with the factual errors, insinuations and defamatory hyperbole. Moreover, she has seen fit to publicly trash two excellent restaurants on the basis of a single experience. And she's arranged it so that now, if an eGulleter wants to post a glowing report about a meal at Christophe, s/he'll have to do so under a thread subtitled "not worth the high prices."

Do I sound POed? Guess I am. Have calmed down considerably since reading the reviews on Friday, though. :smile:

Edited by carswell (log)
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To be fair, I found the jist of her posts on both Anise and Christophe to relate more to the financial value. Anise is expensive and this lady, an American tourist no less, found she got poor value for the price paid. Is she right? Its up to each individual egulleter to decide. This probably explains why she loved Brunoise so much, fantastic food for an excellent value.

I'm afraid you might have scared her away Carswell so this debate might end here.

Maybe she got her facts wrong and maybe she doesn't know a Beaujolais from a Chateaux Margaux. Not everyone, including myself, is a master of food and wine. If fact, I would venture to say that this would be true for the majority of the population and hence, dare I say, the majority of clients who frequent restos. I agree that some of her language and contentions (day old bread) is probably off, but I take it with a grain of salt. Even the top tables have off days. Even Lesley gets it wrong sometimes! :)

I was reading the Voir write up on Europea and someone commented that the $60.00 tasting menu which the writer describes as "an excellent value" is the food budget for many families. When restos get such hype and the bills for 2 get well over $100.00 per person expectations generally get let down. I would sympathise with them if they felt "cheated" to a point, especially if the meal was "the one big dinner out of the year".

I hope more people post their personal experiences at different tables around the city, its been very slow at work lately and I love the distractions!

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Even Lesley gets it wrong sometimes! :)

:shock: Hey!

Well, I'm sure I do, so please let me know when it happens.

As for the restaurant report, if this woman is American, I can't believe she would find these prices expensive. Unless, of course, her U.S. dining options are restricted to places like the Olive Garden. :hmmm:

I'm with carswell on this. I think it's irresponsible to post a restaurant review that negative unless all your facts are rock solid.

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On topic:

Yelena: What made you think the bread was a day old? Did you talk t your waiter?

I normally avoid BYOBs, I've had some bad meals (perhaps my choice of wine wasn't ideal for the place) and some great ones but its not my thing. Maybe a website that had suggestions for possible bottles would change my mind. I find that improper wine can ruin a meal.

Off Topic:

I agree that some of Yelena's (Helen?) reviews were a little odd (maybe she wants to be a resto critic), but they're her opinion. Her facts are a little off and that's my biggest contention. She doesn't use qualifiers, but makes bold statements. It can be misleading, but the astute reader would know that these are opinions/conjecture/personal experience.

But, they're her opinion. If Yelena gets it wrong, then address it. I'm sure she'd be glad to hear it. If she thought that the bread was a day old, it tells me that she wasn't happy. From a previous post, it seems like she was planning one big meal on her trip and Anise was chosen. It seems like she likes it but it didn't live up to the hype.

I agree that it can be vexatious to see someone rip a (beloved?) resto, but that's what these boards are for. If there's an honest mistake (or a wrong attitude) the other readers/writers should correct/guide and if all else fails the admins ban.

I've said it in the past, a lot of people don't have the luxury of visiting a place multiple times, or dine out very often. So, if their first impression is an unhappy one, it will most probably be their last (and they'll tell their friends).

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Work will keep me from extended discussion of this for the rest of the day — unfortunately, because the questions raised are interesting ones — but I'll chime in now with the following.

Poke around Yelena's website (hyperlinked at the end of all her reviews) and you'll find reviews of several Montreal restaurants as well as establishments in Boston, the Northeast U.S. and France. You'll also learn that she teaches cooking and that her husband is something of a wine geek. She is someone who knows a thing or two about food and wine.

ABG, I agree that her basic complaint about Christophe and Anise is that they don't provide sufficient bang for the buck. But it's a big leap from saying Anise offers poor value to calling it a rip-off. The first is an opinion, the second verges on slander ("the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another's reputation" –Webster's 11th). That's the crux of my problem with her posts.

Lesley, I think her issue is not the price in comparison to U.S. restaurants but rather in comparison to other Montreal restaurants (Anise vs. Toqué!, Christophe vs. Le Poisson Rouge or Les Héritiers).

Yes, we should all take everything we read with the proverbial grain of sodium chloride, especially when, as Lesley points out, there's a disconnect between the detail of the report (Anise: outstanding décor; good to excellent food; pricy wines; and, one assumes because she doesn't knock it, the usual polished service) and the bottom line (bitter disappointment; restrooms are the best thing about the place; it leaves you feeling ripped off). But, hey guys, not everybody does. Someone has already replied to Yelena's Chowhound posting of the Anise review by thanking her and saying that, despite hearing many good things about the restaurant, she's struck it from her list. Negative reviews resonate louder and longer than positive ones and they can do harm. That's why it's incumbent on negative reviewers to make sure they've got it right, especially when they're prone to hyperbole and generalizations and especially especially when they're going to publish the review widely (Yelena's are currently on two boards I'm aware of and presumably will be posted on her Montreal Restaurant Reviews site, which btw comes up pretty often in Google searches).

The issue of reviewing on the basis of a single visit is a thorny one, since even the best places sometimes have off nights. (The converse — even some bad places have on nights — is probably true too, eh?) It's one of the reasons I don't post many reviews but limit myself to comments and reccos. Yelena's reports wouldn't have provoked such a strong reaction if she had got her facts straight, been a bit more circumspect and published them as, say, a single "how I spent my Montreal vacation" type post. But they're presented as reviews and pretty damning ones at that.

As to scaring Yelena away, I hope not. I bit my tongue for two days before posting for fear of lashing out. But she's made some misleading statements, very harsh criticisms and sweeping claims that don't jibe with my experience, and I have no compunction about asking her to defend them.

Edited by carswell (log)
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I agree with carswell,a one time good/bad opinion must be digested with a little

sodium chloride.

It was decadently delicious, but the pate could use more foie grass and less cream to make the flavor more pronounced
The lobster ravioli were sad. The filling tasted too processed, the pasta dough was mushy (I think they used wonton wrappers instead of real pasta dough).
The lobster sauce lacked clarity of flavor. It tasted as if 10 different ingredients were simmered in a pot until they turned into one big “blah”.

As a chef I would need to ask Helen a few more questions to find some

clarity in her meaning.

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It was decadently delicious, but the pate could use more foie grass and less cream to make the flavor more pronounced
The lobster ravioli were sad. The filling tasted too processed, the pasta dough was mushy (I think they used wonton wrappers instead of real pasta dough).

I don't know what she means by "pate," either. Is it an accentless pâté? Does Christophe use pâté de foie gras to make his crème brûlée au foie gras?!

Agreed that "tasted too processed" is so vague as to be meaningless. She may be right about the wonton wrappers, though; the kitchen doesn't have space for a pasta machine.

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That's basically my point carswell.

One might conclude that wonton wrappers are far too chewy/rubbery

for that application,certainly not mushy.Is it possible the filling was intended to be of a mousse consistancy?If the sauce tasted like 10 ingredients,sublime as it might

have been,a few of the ingredients should have been fairly obvious.How much more foie % wise would have made the dish even more delicious,or would too

much foie and less cream take away from the "brulee" mouthfeel,and actually

be a deterent.Just a couple of points I liked to make,is all.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, I know this thread started off as a report on Christophe, but couldn't help but notice a lot of mention of Anise. I have to admit that I'm compelled to write this post in response to the negative review posted by Yelenarennie. I just dined at Anise for the first time about three weeks ago on my first trip to Montreal. Since then, I've been fantasizing about both the city and the meal at Anise.

I had actually made reservations at Anise and Toque for the same night, but decided to cancel the Toque reservations and go with Anise (and boy am I happy)! I have to admit that when I arrived at the restaurant and saw nearly an empty house (it was a Wednesday night granted), I was a little worried whether I had made the right decision. But, we were promptly seated, quite cordially, and attened to promptly. Nice. As far as the meal is concerned, we (my girlfriend and I) decided to both go with the 9 course 'Surf' tasting menu. I recently checked the Anise website and the posted menu for that particular tasting is what is up there now. The market fish being Grouper, which was perfectly done. Unfortunately, it has been 3 weeks and I have since forgotten the exactitudes of the deserts we were served (both were chocolate based; one being a mousse and the other more cake-like). At $10 Canadian per course, I hardly felt ripped off. Have to admit, though, that the wine pairing for $50 more was a little much (I thought not worth it, so I didn't go for it). We ended up getting two bottles of white for $40 each (again, no feelings of being ripped off). And, who knows why, but our waiter gave us both a glass of banyuls with the final desert. Great way to end a great meal.

As for any critiques of Anise, they are minute and I'm sure based only within my own particularities. Such as, I wish I was more bilingual becuase our waiter, while quite able to speak english, seemed to be able to describe the dishes in much better detail in french. Also, I asked him to turn the stereo up (just slightly though)! It was way too soft and hushed for me. I felt that a place like Anise shouldn't be so mellow and quiet as to have no energy. That's just my own feeling. Finally, call me crazy, but I could have actually gone for smaller portions. With 9 courses, we were barely able to finish it all and I have to agree with Thomas Keller's theory of diminuishing (sp?) returns. There's another critique against Anise being little bang for the buck.

Edited by el maki (log)
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  • 2 months later...

After hearing many things about Christophe, we've decided to give it a try last saturday.

I personnally like the experience: the service was very good, the food was very rafiné and fresh. High quality.

On the not-so-bright part of things: I have to agree with yelereannie title saying it's not worth it. Understand me: the quality was great, but the quantity wasn't there. Also, for 60$ (menu dégustation), I think it's a tad overprice (I understand that the components of each meal were pricy, but still)... Also, the uptairs dining room is noisy and not as nice as the one on street level. I had similar experiences at other places in Montréal (Colombes comes to mind) for a bit less money.

In my book, Christophe would still make the top list of Mtl-BYOW (with Colombe) a notch over the cream-and-butter enthusiatic Les infidèles, Yoyo and Le petit resto (those are the Mtl-BYOW I've been so far in my young but eventful life).

But my all-time coup-de-coeur BYOW would be La table Tourigny in Magog and Les Saveurs Oubliés in Les Éboulements (they're in a class of their own and for less money than Christophe). Coincidence that both are out of Montreal? I don't think so: tourism a getting more rafine every year on the country side, restaurant are getting better for less money (well, in many cases) since they're not in the city. I can imagine in a near future eating-out in Montreal only for very specific dishes (oriental cuisine comes to mind or specific gastronomical experiences) and going out of the city for better bang for your bucks modern-quebec cuisine. But I disgress... A bientôt,

Salomon

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I forgot to mention... You can get most of Christophe dishes to go. They sell the prepared meal on Bernard (other side of the street close to Mikado) for about half the price. Been to both: will go back for out-of-this-world prepared meal, not so sure as far as the actual restaurant is concern... A bientot,

Salomon

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