Feb 14, 2011

Le Filet restaurant by Hubert Marsolais and Claude Pelletier: délicieux!

So I got an email with the above message, and... guess what I did... 
On Sunday, I was there, one of the very first Montrealers to try out what  promises to be the next talk-of-the-town. 
I can't say it was love at first sight... not a big fan of apparent cinder blocks, nor of the mix of oversize marine photography and gold'n'silver walls...

But then we sat down and let the chefs send us pretty much everything on the menu. And... wow. Or rather, WOW. Seriously solid cooking. More detailed descriptions to follow shortly, but here's what we tried, in a nutshell:

Cavatelli with foie gras

Escargot tartelette

Scallop, pork shank, mousseline-style polenta

Surf'n'turf: lobster, breaded sweetbreads, eggplant purée

Omble de Gaspé (char) with sorrel, clams and beans.

Heavenly golden and crisp black cod with celeryroot purée and chorizo "croutons"

The only sort of boring thing: a hard-to-identify rillette (mackerel, it turns out)

Delightfully colourful and multi-textured "salad" of scallops, avocado mash and fun ultra crispy beet "crunchies".

Le Filet: 219 Mount-Royal West, tel. (514) 360-6060

Feb 2, 2011

Chef Roberta Sudbrack, one of Brazil's best, in Montreal for the Highlights Festival

I am so proud and excited that my fellow countrywoman, Roberta Sudbrack, is coming to Montreal - she'll definitely be one of the Highlights Festival's biggest stars. She'll cook at Ferreira Café on the nights of February 24 and 25 - both already sold out! (Read more about Ferreira Café here)

As many know, this year, Montreal's winter festival will focus on women. In the gastronomic side of things, this means the city will be filled with women chefs and winemakers, each cooking at a different restaurant.

Sudbrack is one of the boldface names, alongside  Anne-Sophie Pic —the only female chef in France with three Michelin stars—who agreed to preside over the event.

The description of chef Sudbrack on the official Festival website is very far from ideal, so let me explain, in a few words, who she is. Chef Sudbrack is one of the five top chefs in Brazil, and used to be the personal chef of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brasília, Brazil's capital.

Today she lives in Rio and is chef-owner of her eponymous restaurant, consistently rated one of the best in town (alongside Claude Troisgros's Olympe, in the same district, and Fasano's Al Mare).

Chef Sudbrack writes for Gula, a food magazine, and is also a huge Twitter celebrity, tweeting live to her many thousands of followers from her kitchen every night, describing things as they arrive, go into the ovens, hit the frying pans, etc., with exceptional lyricism.

Although my last dinner at Roberta Sudbrack had one or two details that needed correcting, it did hit very high notes and was one of the best I've had in Rio. Here is the report I wrote at the time:

Until I went for dinner at Roberta Sudbrack's restaurant, I hadn't fully understood what all the fuss was about. The city is not known for its gastronomic scene as São Paulo is, and I was a bit skeptical. But... what a dinner! The only thing that ever came close, in Rio, was dinner at Claude Troisgros' Olympe with the man himself, but then again... how could it not be great, right?
But back to Roberta Sudbrack: the girl is one hell of a cook!

Dinner started with amazing breads, warm from the oven, the best butter and perfect little gougères, warm fluffy pastry clouds.

Our tasting menu started with her signature okra "caviar": the seeds mimic that ploc-ploc mouthfeel. Alongside, shrimp, brunoise of tomato and a generous drizzle of an outstading olive oil.

The same incredible oil was present in the next dish, tuna in a very light confit (chef says she doesn't do it sous vide, but simply does a quick version of the traditional confit mehod, using olive oil). The paper thin toasted bread gave the ensemble the needed crunch.


Then came a very delicate broth made with lagostim shells, in a bowl similar to those used by Brazilian indians. In it came mushrooms and fat morsels of lagostim (a small cousin of the lobster). Uncannily light and complex, each individual flavour alive and whole.

The main course had been pre-ordered by food lover and blogger Constance Escobar. Suckling pig with ever-so-tender flesh and a golden, crisp crust.

As a side, an impossibly silky portion of mashed potatoes, Robuchon style. An aside: to see a full report of this same dinner on Constance's blog, please
click here.
We were content - very content - but still hungry for more.
I'm a bit ashamed to confess that I asked for seconds of our first dessert, the best banana ice cream I've ever had. It's made with the ripest bananas Roberta can find - their peels full of black spots already - and nothing more, not even sugar. Banana in its purest possible guise.

The second dessert had, of course, to be an anti-climax. It was a donut-style pastry dusted with sugar and paired with crème anglaise. Good, not great.
And what could I possibly say about the mignardises? Beautiful, dainty, delicious. Candied marmelo (a Brazilian fruit), chocolate candies that tasted of an old childhood treat called Kri. Brigadeiro, another childhood favourite, in a spoon. Mignardises comfort-chics.

It was a perfect dinner. Perfect company, perfect food, perfect wine (Chassagne Montrachet Vielles Vignes 2005, Pillot, Bourgogne, app. US$ 130/bottle).

Roberta Sudbrack: Av. Lineu de Paula Machado, 916, Jardim Botânico, tel. (21) 3874-0139