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In the press
“ Laloux… je t’aime. ”
Fine Dining: Laloux
Despite a seemingly revolving door of chefs, one of the city’s best destinations offers gorgeous setting and spiffy food
By Lesley Chesterman, Gazette Fine-Dining Critic
Laloux's lineup (from left): Geneviève Hamel (maitre d'), Marie-Ève Savard Brulotte (sommelière), Fanny Alaizeau (manager-maitre d'), Jonathan Lapierre-Réhayem (chef) and Stéphanie Labelle (chef de pâtisserie) are continuing the restaurant's tradition of delectable food and great service.
Photograph by: Dave Sidaway, THE GAZETTE
MONTREAL - As anyone who reads this column regularly is aware, Laloux has been written up often. This is my sixth review of this establishment, and considering the frequency at which the chefs come and go – averaging a new one every two years – chances are I'll be back again.
This was hardly the case in the restaurant's early days. After the initial chef, Philippe Laloux (for whom the restaurant was named), departed after less than a year, the second chef, André Besson, remained for almost 17.
Of the 25 years Laloux has been a darling of sophisticated Montreal diners, the Besson years stood out to me as the most magnificent. Though his elegant cuisine evolved little over the years, when dishes like his tourte de gibier and foie de veau à la vinaigre de framboise were on the menu, Laloux seemed the epitome of fine French dining. Coupled with the restaurant's outstanding wine list, chock full of private imports before anyone knew what the term meant, dinner here was a guaranteed treat.
And there has always been the setting itself. Entering this beautiful dining room – with its pale bright yellow walls and dark-green-framed mirrors, which loom over white-linen-topped tables – is always a thrill. No contest, this is my favourite dining room in Montreal. Chefs may change at Laloux, but the decor does not, and for that I am eternally grateful.
When Besson left and various chefs were hired to rethink the concept, scathing reviews followed. Yet soon after, the dynamic chef duo of Danny St-Pierre and pastry chef Patrice Demers were brought on board, followed by a bevy of other talented cooks and pastry chefs including Marc-André Jetté, Eric Gonzales, Seth Gabrielse and Michelle Marek.
When Gabrielse and Marek exited stage left for the SAT Foodlab last fall, I feared for Laloux all over again. And when I heard the terrific maitre d' Francis Archambault was also leaving for Daniel Boulud's coming restaurant at the Ritz, I was downright worried. Amid the changes behind the stoves, Archambault had been the one consistent factor in the dining room. With him gone, could Laloux maintain its magic?
The new chef is Jonathan Lapierre-Réhayem, and having reviewed his food at the now-defunct La Montée de Lait, I knew what to expect. Despite the many highs of that meal, I felt his food was trying too hard; it was fussy. Lapierre-Réhayem started at Laloux last fall, and I have been hoping he finds his groove – one less convoluted.
I entered Laloux, or should I say re-entered Laloux, fearing the worst. And you know what? I need not have worried. Laloux is still a great restaurant. It's not the same restaurant as in the Besson days or the St-Pierre days, or any of the other former chef days, but there is such a great level of friendliness and good intentions that I was happy for the four lovely hours I dined there. And you know what else? Lapierre-Rehayem's food has relaxed greatly and is just as filled with joy and love as that of Laloux's previous chefs. It's not all perfect, but, gosh, there is a heck of a lot to like here.
After an amuse-bouche featuring a raw scallop paired with cucumber jelly served with a small glass of Austrian gruner veltliner by the oh-so-sharp sommelière Marie-Ève Savard-Brulotte, we jumped right into the starters. The first was a large marrow bone. Served with green apple, kohlrabi and a juniper crumble, the unctuous marrow was perfectly poached, and the acidity of the apple and bitterness of the juniper uplifted the richness of the dish, with the crumble and kohlrabi slices providing a much-need bit of crunch. I also enjoyed the beef tartare. The outside of the beef filet was first grilled to boost the flavour, and then chopped, seasoned, mixed with tiny croutons and served with some marinated mustard seeds, cherry tomatoes and a buttermilk dressing. Not only gorgeous to look at, this dish was also delicious tasting, with several textures and flavours at play. Nice.
My only slight hesitation was with an appetizer made up of a hemp seed-sprinkled pastry square paired with a fried quail's egg, caramelized onion purée, seared king eryngii mushrooms and homemade ricotta. The prettiest dish of the evening, this mélange of ingredients didn't quite come together. Everything was good, mind you, but I felt there was an element lacking to tie it all together.
Main courses did pretty well, though, the best being the calf's liver. This luxurious "foie" was served in three thick slices, with an accompaniment of roasted-garlic polenta, carrots and bresaola. The liver was superb, as was the velvety polenta. The carrots were good and the shiny brown sauce beneath it all was a success. The leathery bresaola didn't have much of a purpose on this plate, but I was too taken with the liver to care. A scrumptious dish, and for $18 a steal.
I also enjoyed the duck, a duo of magret and a brined and roasted duck leg described on the menu as a "jambonneau," which actually did have a ham-like colour, texture and even flavour. The breast was pink and only slightly chewy, and the braised endive, white bean purée and sautéed rice lettuce (laitue de riz, which looks a lot like romaine) all played along nicely.
However, the third main course left me wanting. Surrounding a delectable filet of pickerel (doré du lac), the elements here included cherry tomatoes, Nordic shrimp, bitter greens and homemade ketchup. This was the only dish that reminded me of the overkill I had experienced in Lapierre-Rehayem's food of the past. There were at least one or two items that added nothing to the dish, and the ketchup was too strong for such delicate fish. Keep the bitter greens ... add a more elegant sauce ... ditch the tomatoes ... whatever. Just resist the temptation to crowd the bejesus out of it all.
Before dessert, I couldn't resist a few slices of cheese to polish off the delicious Sicilian Sp 68 by Arianna Occhipinti sold for a reasonable $49. Laloux has always done the cheese course well, and two of the three Quebec cheeses we sampled were new to me, which is always a treat to discover.
And speaking of treats, dessert is not to be missed. Pastry chef Stéphanie Labelle, best known as the owner of the superb Plateau pastry shop Rhubarbe, makes desserts that are copious, bold in flavour and simple in style.
Served with a pitcher of caramel sauce, her profiteroles are filled with swirls of light custard cream and surrounded by a macadamia nut crumble. What's not to like?
I also relished her chocolate dessert, made up of a chocolate meringue dome filled with a light chocolate mousse and passion fruit. The only off note here is a wasabi ice cream, which overwhelmed all the other flavours.
The last dessert, a mix of poppyseed cake, lemon cream, lemon jelly and white chocolate crumble, could use something red (fraises des bois?) in the presentation to brighten it up. As is, the pallid yellow-and-white colour scheme verges on depressing, and shouldn't dessert be fun?
One thing that surprised me about dinner at Laloux was that the room wasn't full. That should change. Laloux offers excellent service (our waiter, Martin, was swell), a superb selection of well-priced wines, a gorgeous setting and some pretty spiffy food. And prices are more reasonable than ever.
Sure, there are newer restaurants out there to explore. But I also like to support the city's older restaurants, which work hard to keep things fresh. There's no denying Laloux management may be hogging reviewers' attention by changing chefs so often. A couple of grumbling chefs have even whispered to me that this may indeed be a brilliant ploy.
Well, ploy, shmoy. I will always be happy to return to this restaurant. Simply put: Laloux ... je t'aime.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
THE GAZETTE, MAY 2012
New chef, new menu. Same class.
Laloux séduit encore, à l'aube de ses 25 ans.
Laloux n’est pas un resto « branché »: pas de cuisine ouverte, de musique lounge ni de serveur tatoué. Le décor est aussi simple. Les murs blancs, rehaussés de miroirs aux cadres boisés, créent une atmosphère chaleureuse. Ce qui bouge ici? Ce sont les chefs. Depuis 2006, ils défilent en cuisine: Danny St-Pierre et Patrice Demers, Marc-André Jetté, Éric Gonzalez puis Seth Gabrielse. Ce dernier étant parti ouvrir le Foodlab à la SAT, c’est Jonathan Lapierre-Réhayem qui officie désormais en cuisine. Un jeune talent qui nous arrive de La Montée de lait, récemment fermé.
Les chefs du Laloux ont la bougeotte, mais la carte ne déroute pas pour autant les habitués. Les classiques sont encore là: assiette de charcuteries maison, tartare de boeuf, foie gras, filet de boeuf, saumon, ris de veau… Mais tout est dans l’art d’apprêter ces bons produits! Notre nouveau chef impose son style. Le tartare de boeuf, par exemple, parfaitement coupé, est étonnamment saisi (très légèrement toutefois) puis décoré d’armillaires « miel » marinés (de savoureux champignons), d’une émulsion d’ail noir (un ail fermenté) et de tranches de mimolette. Équilibré, gracieux et parfumé. Il propose aussi une nouvelle version de l’oeuf en meurette: un oeuf de cane mariné au vin rouge, accompagné d’une salade de betteraves au bacon. Le jaune coule: sa couleur vive tranche avec le légume mauve. L’effet de contraste est tout aussi beau que savoureux.
En plat, l’assiette de filet de boeuf (de la Ferme Eumatimi) est impeccable. La viande est de grande qualité, tendre et cuite comme demandé. Elle est accompagnée d’oignons en soubise, d’une échalote française confite, de pommes de terre « kipfler » (style rattes) confites et d’une sauce au genièvre douce. Note au chef: l’oignon vert rôti, sur le dessus, est filandreux et immangeable. Les tagliatelles maison sont parfaites, arrondies d’une crème fumée, de petits morceaux de chou-fleur rôtis et d’un trait d’huile de truffe – pour une fois – pas trop envahissant.
La plus belle assiette? Un magret de canard finement tranché flanqué d’un « jambonneau » de canard (une cuisse cuite façon jambon fumé, tendre et délectable) avec des spätzles à l’aneth, salsifis et crème sure à la moutarde de Meaux. Bravo.
La nouvelle pâtissière, Stéphanie Labelle (de la Pâtisserie Rhubarbe), et son assistante, Mélanie Gervais, sont des pros. À essayer absolument, cette oeuvre esthétique consacrée… à l’arachide dont la saveur est partout: dans les petits gâteaux (des dacquoises, sorte de meringue) recouverts d’une fine tranche de chocolat et même dans la crème glacée. Autre bon dessert: un parfait glacé aromatisé au chocolat Manjari, servi avec moelleux au chocolat, poire pochée et sorbet poire.
Les poissons bien traités et soigneusement sélectionnés selon les exigeants critères d’Ocean Wise, garantissant des pêches durables. Belle (et encore trop rare) initiative. Il faut aussi souligner le talent du sommelier David Vincent: ses accords mets et vins sont d’une précision redoutable.
VOIR, NOVEMBRE 2011
"At LALOUX restaurant, in Montreal, one
encounters just as many ardent lovers declaring
their devotion to each other as one does artists
or politicians discreetly settled in […]
With Chef Seth Gabrielse, this restaurant makes
feeding happy customers its personal mission
LE DEVOIR, APRIL 2010
"One of Montreal’s most appealing Parisian-style
bistros, this cozy spot delivers traditional bistro
fare in a crisp, white-tableclothed environment.
In addition to an excellent steak frites, you
can sample hearty dishes like mushroom and herb
casserole or seafood risotto with leeks and spinach.
Polish it all off with a classic French dessert
such as chocolate pot de crème"
GUIDE (MOBIL TRAVEL OIL) 2010
The Gold for LALOUX!
LALOUX has earned the gold
for best Bistro in Quebec!
Red Carpet Contest for Nappes blanches, MAY 2009
Stars all 'round for LALOUX!
JOURNAL DE MONTRÉAL,
On the web
"A cuisine with feeling
at LALOUX restaurant"
FOOD BLOG -- CHÂTELAINE, FEBRUARY 2010
"No affectations, a beautiful big airy space,
refined French cuisine, a large selection of wines
and reasonable prices for an upscale restaurant."
Pat White, PATWHITE.COM,
for their wine pairing
and fabulous tasting menu"
"If the way to his heart is his stomach, then
treat him to a dinner he'll never forget. Renowned
for their wine pairing and fabulous tasting menu,
they can create a special evening to your specs"
«La serveuse hyper chaleureuse et attentionnée,
la sommelière m'a enivrée avec la
description de ses vins. Mignon et très
simple comme endroit. J'avoue voir été
agréablement surprise de découvrir
un petit resto très simple dans son décor,
mais à la fois fort chic!»
PUNKURBAIN, DÉCEMBRE 2008
is a real gem."
"Excellent atmosphere and service, and fantastic
food. Perfect choice for a special night out!
11 FEB 2009
GO LIST 2008
FOOD & WINE,
LA PRESSE, AVRIL
de cœur 2007»
LA PRESSE, DÉCEMBRE
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