Nov 19, 2010

Best Japanese restaurant in Montreal? Gaia, for members only!

One of the most difficult things for a São Paulo girl who's living in Montreal is to survive without any great sushi. This is definitely not a town for lovers of Japanese food! And of course when I say sushi I actually mean much more than simple niguiri: I just can't find any temakis that are made very fresh and handed over to me within a few seconds, for example, before the nori goes soggy and stretchy. Or any decent sashimi. Or... well, you get the idea.

No, I haven't explored every corner of the city looking for a decent Japanese joint, but yes, I've been to all the well-known ones, and only Jun I really makes the cut. Sad, but true.

Well, guess what: I discovered this week that there IS a decent Jap in town. It's called GAIA and... it's inside a members only club, Le 357!

No fair! Seriously.

I was lucky enough to score an invite thanks to Carlos Ferreira, owner of Ferreira Café, to a dinner where we were served a perfectly executed seven-course tasting menu, each one paired with a different sake or wine. Sake producer Yoshihisa Kanaya was in town especially for the evening (he spoke not one word of English, so his Canadian sales rep lady translated).

Photo: Melany Kuperman

His Takasago sakes were incredibly elegant and subtle and the man even CHANTED at the start of dinner! :o

Hard to keep a straight face....

I won't go into details of each dish, because, frankly, I wasn't there to work, but to enjoy a rare dinner of delectable sushi, sashimi, kobe beef and a soup that left us wanting to lick the bowl. 

Photo: Melany Kuperman

But here's the menu:

The sakes were stunning, especially the rare vintage that had 18 years of aging in vitrified barriques, and a beautiful amber tone. The Single Malt, though way too strong for me at that point in the night, had a gorgeous aroma and incredible depth. Overall, a stellar night.

For those curious to know more about Carlos Ferreira, he's actually in the La Presse newspaper today, taking about his club Le Club 357 and others of his Montreal addresses, with an accompanying video, below:

Nov 17, 2010

Lanvin at H&M, this Saturday November 20! Start your engines, boys and girls!

From the press release:

"H&M is proud to announce that its next designer collaboration will be with Lanvin, one of the most influential brands of the 21st century.

Designed by Lanvin’s artistic director Alber Elbaz, and menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver, the collection will go on sale on Saturday November 20 in Montreal.
“H&M approached us to collaborate, and see if we could translate the dream we created at Lanvin to a wider audience, not just a dress for less. I have said in the past that I would never do a mass-market collection, but what intrigued me was the idea of H&M going luxury rather than Lanvin going public. This has been an exceptional exercise, where two companies at opposite poles can work together because we share the same philosophy of bringing joy and beauty to men and women around the world”, says Alber Elbaz, artistic director of Lanvin.

Since joining Lanvin as artistic director in 2001, Alber Elbaz has transformed the Paris-based label, founded in 1889 by Jeanne Lanvin, into a fashion powerhouse bursting with ideas and creativity. Alber Elbaz has pioneered there some of the biggest trends of the past decade – ribbon, bows, pearls, raw edges, sumptuous colour and metallic embellishment among many others. Alber Elbaz has a mastery of cut and an instinct for cloth which leaves a very personal signature on his work, ensuring that all Lanvin clothes are instantly recognizable. Since the introduction of a new menswear line in 2006, Alber Elbaz has also transformed the male wardrobe, bringing a relaxed elegance to men’s clothing which is as special as the womenswear.

Here is the link to the look-book of the collection.

H&M Montreal

Opening hours
Mon - Fri 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Sat 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sun 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
1100 St. Catherine St. West at Peel St.
Montreal, QC H3B 1H4


Nov 15, 2010

Gordon Ramsay in Montreal! Chef will take over Rotisserie Laurier

To say I was surprised to read the news that chef Gordon Ramsay is opening something in Montreal, where I currently live, is an understatement.

I was floored, quite frankly.

Especially considering everything he’s had to deal with lately, including marriage troubles and debts to the banks. The last two hard blows have been the departure of key players Angela Hartnett (who now runs Murano restaurant independently) and father-in-law and CEO Chris Hutcheson from his Gordon Ramsay Holdings (GRH).

But aside from Gordon’s own issues, it seems strange to see such a boldface name land in Montreal, a city with few celebrity chefs, if any, and a small restaurant scene.

Fellow food writer and restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman, of Montreal’s daily paper The Gazette had the scoop:
“It could only be described as the most unexpected foodie news of 2010. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is taking over Montreal’s Rotisserie Laurier BBQ. With restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Florida, Ramsay, 44, already has a foothold in North America. Yet this unpretentious, family-style eatery will be his first foray into the Canadian restaurant scene.
The London-based Ramsay, whose empire now counts 25 establishments worldwide, visited the Laurier BBQ kitchens three weeks ago and is “so excited, you can’t imagine,” says his partner and the owner of the building, Danny Lavy. “This is not going to be a Michelin-starred restaurant project, but a platform for something to roll out.” Plans to expand the restaurant cross-country are already being discussed".

The story ran yesterday and was frantically tweeted and retweeted and posted on Facebook walls by dumbfounded Montrealers.

Apparently, Ramsay’s Montreal rotisserie will even have a biergarten on the rooftop! And a menu of salads, ribs and hamburgers!

To put things into context: Rotisserie Laurier BBQ is an old-fashioned roast-chicken-and-chicken-noodle-soup family restaurant that had seen better days, but still brings back fond memories to many Montrealers.

A foodie friend asked me, incredulous:
“Did you see that ? Crazy !!! Rotisserie Laurier is MY childhood/teenage/parenthood restaurant.
So much of my life happened there ! Now Gordon Ramsay is taking over?!!???”

Partner Danny Lavy says in The Gazette that while they don’t want to mess with a place with so much history, they plan on making it “more of a hip place”.

Oh my.

Last time I remember him messing with a beloved classic – by installing his ex-right-hand-gal Angela Harnett in the kitchen of the Connaught’s Grill and giving the menu an Italian makeover, years ago, it was a disaster!

Although I truly don’t know what to make of this puzzling move on Ramsay’s part, I am eagerly awaiting the opening, slated for February. Stay tuned…

Nov 5, 2010

Chef Charlie Trotter is in Montreal! He's the star chef at posh benefit soirée tomorrow

My friend Carlos Ferreira isn't exactly the kind of man who volunteers information. The owner of Ferreira Café, one of Montreal's top restaurants (perenially full, always fun and happening) is, as always, involved with one of Montreal's biggest benefit dinners. Marino Tavares, chef at Ferreira Café, will cook alongside other boldface names tomorrow night at a super posh benefit dinner called La Vittoria, which raises money for the Fondation du Cancer du Sein du Québec.

He knows I'm a hard-core foodie. He knows I write about restaurants and chefs, all the time. Yet he was mum. Didn't say a word about the fact that Charlie Trotter was coming to town - I only found out thanks to my friend Melany Kuperman, who is going to the party. In fact, as is de rigueur when it comes to these things attended by la crème de la crème, nobody really has said much about the glitzy event. All very hush-hush.

But a reporter will die a reporter, so.... I yanked the information out of mr. Ferreira and found out that chef Charlie Trotter is already in town: he arrived this afternoon. He's having dinner at Toqué restaurant right now, in fact.

I will try to interview the chef for The Montreal Buzz, and will keep you all posted. In the meantime, check out the chef lineup for the big soirée - impressive!

I'm especially looking forward to checking out the interaction between the chefs behind the scenes. Charles-Antoine Crête is hilarious, Martin Picard is his old buddy, and most of the chefs are alumns of Normand Laprise, of Toqué, the honoree. Should be a VERY fun night!

Nov 1, 2010

New Le Hangar restaurant, by chef Louis-François Marcotte: casual and fun

Every town has its celeb chefs, and Montreal is no different, even if they're few. The clique is made up of Normand Laprise (Toqué!), Chuck Hughes (Garde Manger), Dave McMillan (Joe Beef), Martin Picard (Au Pied de Cochon) and.... Louis-François Marcotte of Le Local.
I had never heard of Marcotte, I confess - only been living here for 15. years, after all.... - and I certainly did not like his Le Local, which I always found loud, pretentious and very weak in the food department.
But a food critic can't be prejudiced, right? So off I went to try out Marcotte's new restaurant, Le Hangar, opened just over a week ago in a part of town between Downtown and Old Montreal called Griffintown.

Right off the bat, I loved the décor. Sexy, dimly-lit, exposed brick walls, warehouse aesthetic (it was, actually, a warehouse in the past). A long metal beam in the center of the room was shipped in from New York's Ground Zero.

Marcotte, of course, was nowhere to be seen. A sort of very québecois version of Jamie Oliver (think earring, unbutonned shirts, spiky hair), he's too famous to cook, I gather. He married a TV and radio celeb, Patricia Paquin, and they recently had a baby boy... 

Turns out the guy who actually does the cooking, youngster Mike Diamond, has a very sure hand. I hadn't really expected much and had been nibbling at several hors d'oeuvres at a previous wine tasting, so I only ordered a couple of appetizers, but wow, did they surprise me!

The bruschetta (which changes toppings nightly, I'm told) was deliciously thin and crunchy, topped with asparagus spears and cipollini. The polenta, oh-so-creamy-and-velvety, was laced with smoked tomatoes. Very nice.

I enjoyed sitting at the small bar which faces the open-kitchen:

... and even found room for dessert: a not-too-sweet, firm-yet-smooth bread pudding with a properly boozy rum'n'raisin ice cream:

I liked it so much I went back again the following day. 

My appetizer was a miss: nice golden and crisp onion ring but unpleasantly bitter fish escabeche.

But both sea bass with asparagus and the mushroom risotto, even if very déjà vu, were perfectly prepared:

Overall, great (if unoriginal) food, great space, great crowd. Love it, and will be back soon!

Le Hangar: rua Wellington, 1011, tel. (1-514) 878-2112