Madre Review

January 10, 2008 at 10:37 am (Restaurant review)

Derek and I went to Madre last week, a contemporary latin fusion restaurant on the East Side of Montreal. The restaurant is pretty tiny, and we kept getting glimpses of the chef cooking in the kitchen, seemingly all alone. The space feels kind of like a long hallway, except there are pleasant Mexican-styled drawings on the walls.

Derek called ahead to make sure they could make me a vegetarian meal. They served me a celery root soup as a starter (the other option was a beet salad). The soup was surprisingly light, I almost think it was vegan. The soup was very simple, just tasted like pureed celery root. It was enhanced by the inclusion of some very flavorful and crisp diced cucumber, and some piquant red bell peppers. It was supposed to contain chorizo, which they left out for me, and that probably would have added a missing dimension. Derek had a “duck ceviche” which he loved, and even I agreed it looked interesting and delicious. The ceviche was seared duck marinated in a spicy amarillo pepper sauce (the bright yellow pepper sauce you get at a Peruvian store). It also had onions, parsnip puree, and roasted corn kernels (dried kernels that you use for popcorn). Definitely a winner. I’d like to try to make something similar (without the duck).

For the entree there was no vegetarian option so the chef made me a homey South-American inspired pasta dish. The dish was a large bowl of cavatelli (which were almost gnocci-like in their chewiness) in a pesto sauce, topped with a sunny side up egg, a bit of queso fresco, and a garnish of pickled beets. It was fine, the flavors went together, but it wasn’t exciting, and wouldn’t look forward to having it again. Derek’s main dish was tasty but not very inspiring.

For dessert there was only one option: a tres leches sponge cake, topped in a mango chutney and avocado ice cream. I liked the chutney but found the cake bland and the avocado ice cream was lacking in flavor (not salty or sweet enough). All in all, we had a similar overall experience to our meal at Laloux (not bad, but disappointing), but Madre’s modest decor and (lack of) atmosphere definitely suffered by comparison.

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Laloux Review

January 10, 2008 at 10:29 am (Restaurant review)

I’ve decided to branch out and include restaurant reviews in my blog. My main purpose for writing this blog has been to help me remember which recipes I’ve tried and how they turned out. It’s also hard for me to remember which restaurants I’ve been to and which dishes I liked; hence, the new section to this blog. I’m going to start with a review of Laloux, a contemporary French restaurant just a few blocks from me in Montreal.

I’ve been to Laloux twice now with Derek. The first time was last summer, and we both really liked it. The food was perfectly executed, and some of the dishes were inspired. We went again last week, and were quite disappointed. Derek was still infatuated with the desserts, but the rest of the meal was pretty dull. Certainly for a vegetarian, the options are slim and I would be hard-pressed to recommend it.

Some dishes of note: The first time we went, I ordered a green bean salad (not on the menu currently) which was simple but delicious–the vegetables were perfectly crisp, and there was an excellent balance of richness and vinegar, without being at all greasy. My entree, a pesto papardelle, was again simple but perfectly executed. The noodles were al dente, the pesto was fresh and flavorful, and it included plenty of perfectly cooked tasty vegetables. For such a common dish, I was surprisingly happy with it. This time we went, there was no vegetarian main on the menu, and the papardelle dish they gave me as a consolation was not in the same league as the previous papardelle. So far, the only non-dessert Derek had that he was terribly enthusiastic about was a scallop carpaccio appetizer, which is still on the menu.

Concerning the desserts, Derek loved all three of the ones that he tried: a chocolate pot-de-creme with caramel and salt, a pistachio shortbread with creamsicle sorbet and cream, and a somewhat bizarre dessert consisting of pecan ice cream, quince jelly, old cheddar, and butter cookies. He felt the last one, while scattershot, was an ingenious reinvention of the “cheese platter” (with nuts, jam, cookies, and cheese). Anyway, he would suggest that you go to Laloux just for the desserts and share a bunch of them (or better yet, to Pop!, the casual wine bar next door, which shares much of Laloux’s menu, including the desserts). Personally, I think the desserts veer too far in the direction of “playful and innovative” at the expense of coherence of flavor, but I can see what he likes about them.

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