The best and worst of Taste MTL

Our round-up of this week’s featured restaurant menus

The third annual Taste MTL week is upon us—from Oct. 30 until Nov. 9, some of Montreal’s most revered and creative restaurants offer tasting menus at either $19, $29, or $39, allowing even the most frugal of us to dine like Kings and Queens. Here are some of our favourite and least favourite of this year’s offerings.

La Société – $29 – 9/10
by Sara Baron-Goodman

Photo by Sara Baron-Goodman

This new French-style bistro, attached to Hotel Leows Vogue, promises to transport patrons to Paris while never straying from the heart of Montreal. Its creative take on classic Continental dishes could certainly impress even Parisian standards.

I started with the octopus terrine, garnished with chorizo and piperade (a concoction made from peppers and tomato). The octopus was tender and flavourful, and the chorizo and piperade gave the dish a nice Spanish zest. The portion was small, but the flavour was big. My dining partners both tried the spiced pumpkin soup appetizer, which was deliciously rich and creamy, and served piping hot.

Next, I had the roasted squab served with butternut squash puree, wild mushroom ragout, and a pinot noir reduction. This was my first experience with squab, and while the flavour was nice, there wasn’t enough meat on this bird’s bones for my liking. The velvety butternut squash and meaty mushrooms, all drizzled in the decadent pinot noir reduction, more than made up for what was lacking in the squab. The combination was rich and absolutely heavenly.

For dessert, I opted for the pain perdu, served over warm creme anglaise, and topped with foie gras ice cream, salted caramel bits and pistachios. After the first bite, I was seeing stars in the best possible way. My friend had the orange-infused “mega macaron,” which was equally superb.

A special shoutout goes to the beautifully-crafted cocktails at La Société, which were not included in the tasting menu but definitely worth the extra investment.

La Société is located at 1415 de la Montagne St.

Laika – $19 – 6.5/10
by Sara Baron-Goodman

Photo by Sara Baron-Goodman

A hipster staple on St-Laurent Blvd., Laika is part lounge, part café, part restaurant. Its Taste MTL menu was creative in theory, with hints of Asian-inspiration, but nothing memorable in practice.

I started with the ricotta crostini with chanterelle mushrooms, garnished with arugula. It was good, with the earthy mushrooms balancing the lightness of the ricotta, but the crostini was a little soggy. I’ve made a better version at home. My friends started with the lobster bisque, which was thick, creamy, and extremely rich.

We each decided to order a different one of the three main courses offered, so we could all try everything. I had the seared tuna, drizzled with sunflower oil and served with pickled red onions and roasted potatoes. The tuna was slightly too well-done, and could have benefitted from a sauce with a little more oomph. The potatoes and onions were more flavourful than the fish.

One of my friends ordered the beef bavette, which was served atop a cold edamame and rice salad. The meat was tender and cooked nicely, and the salad was interesting but would have been nicer served warm. It somehow just didn’t quite go with the hearty meat.

A third friend had the risotto with roasted carrots, radicchio, and green apple. This was by far the best dish of the night. The apple and radicchio added an unexpected burst of flavour to the risotto, balancing out the richness of the dish with a fresh fruity punch.

For dessert, I had the orange crème brulée. The top was perfectly torched and the crème was nice and fluffy, but the orange flavour was slightly too overpowering for the dish, and made it all a bit too sweet. My friends had the cheesecake, served with wild berry coulis. It was a nice, classic dessert. Good, but ultimately nothing earth-shattering.

Laika is located at 4040 St-Laurent Blvd.

Taverne F par Ferreira – $29 – 7.5/10
by Frederic T. Muckle

Photo by Frederic T. Muckle

Named after its well-known Portuguese chef Carlos Ferreira, the Taverne F offers Mediterranean delicacies to its customers. Thriving on tapas-style small portions and numerous plates, the Taverne F’s Taste MTL menu was designed for people willing to share. This may be a horrifying thought for Joey Tribbiani and like-minded individuals, but for groups of friends willing to try out a variety of plates, the formula works beautifully.

Still, it seemed that the menu, including grilled octopus, cod cakes, and Alentejana-style pork with clams among other things, was more focused on its variety than on the quality of the individual plates. Don’t get me wrong, the food was good and the experience was really enjoyable. The restaurant looks good, the service was fine and the general atmosphere was nice. They even had a screen showing you the kitchen, Big Brother-style. However, nothing was impressive. For such a well-known restaurant, one would hope that the food would be wonderful, not just good.

It may be that an efficient marketing campaign makes us think that such an establishment lives up to higher standards, but in the end, the Taverne F Taste MTL experience was pleasant for people who like to share, but not much more than that.

Taverne F par Ferreira is situated at 1485 Jeanne-Mance St.

L’Alexia – 29$ – 9/10
by Frederic T. Muckle

You probably don’t know about L’Alexia. Hell, I did not even know about this place, situated at 1021 Fleury St., north of our wonderful city, before randomly choosing it from the numerous participants of Taste MTL. Proximity notwithstanding, L’Alexia is one restaurant you really want to try out.

With its simple yet elegant ambiance, L’Alexia offers a somewhat modest menu for Taste MTL, including food inspired by the Mediterranean regions of Greece, Portugal and Italy. In its simplicity, L’Alexia provides delicious plates that are all about the little details.

From fresh fish served with homemade pesto to lamb cooked with coffee and black garlic, its Taste MTL menu has something for every kind of customer (except maybe for the vegetarians). Adding to the pleasurable experience, was the fact that the staff was kind and attentive to our needs. Sarah, our delightful waitress, was obviously very busy but still managed to make us feel welcome and comfortable.

The only thing that could be considered a negative point was the fact that it was a bit too hot in the restaurant. I guess it is bound to happen when you get a relatively small establishment fully packed with hungry customers.

You have probably never heard of L’Alexia—you would probably never just walk in on a whim—nonetheless, you definitely need to overlook your cocooning winter habits and venture to Fleury St. to discover this hidden gem. You won’t regret the little expedition.

L’Alexia is situated at 1021 Fleury St.

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