Thursday, July 29, 2010

Restaurant Review - 'Le Margaux' ***‏

On an especially gloomy night, my dinner guests and
I ventured into a gastronomic feast, full of delicacies
and delights, at a new Park Avenue restaurant. Back in
2002, 'Le Margaux' was a 28-seat bistro set on a quiet
corner in the Plateau, whose chef and owner, Jerome
Chatenet, cooked up lovingly prepared and presented
French food served by his wife and co-owner, Corinne
Cauhapé. After the birth of their daughter, the couple
decided to have a go at country life in Magog, and Le
Margaux's tiny Villeneuve St. locale was taken over
by a different team.
Now, two years later, the duo is back with this quaint
42-seat space as well as an enticing menu sure to lure
locals, young diners and frugal gourmets. 'Le Margaux'
is a low-budget affair. It's decor consists of a few
prints, a bar, a rust-red banquette across one side of
the restaurant and several white linen-topped tables.
For those of us used to seeing eyebrow-raising restaurant
bills, Le Margaux's prices are a steal. But that doesn't
mean cheap ingredients.
There was asparagus, lamb, beef and duck and more duck.
Chatenet hails from Bordeaux, which not only explains
a love of our feathered friends, but a fine taste in wines.
Proof that fine wine wine doesn't always equal expensive
wine, 'Le Margaux' offers a short but well-chosen selection
of bottles, the priciest being a fabulous $52 Lalande de
Included with the menu is a first course of either soup
or salad. The delicious thick tomato potage swirled with
aromas, and the salad was also quite nice, a little more
seasoning than you might be use to, but just right. Of the
starters sampled, the goat cheese salad is a great choice.
The escargots inside a puffy pastry was delicious, not mushy.
The main event was a duck sampler (variations sur le canard)
that included a duck 'tapenade' (shreds of confit-style meat
mixed with olives), tender bits of preserved gizzard, slices
of smoked magret, and a foie-gras crème brûlée served in
a porcelain spoon. The same crème brûlée spoon was served
with most of the main courses, which included lamb, trout
with a layer of foie gras and duck. Tender and tasty.
Desserts were a great finish. The espressos was, for once,
at par with Italian bars. There was a rich chocolate triangle
in a delicious 'jus de framboise', finger-licking.
'Le Margaux' is a simple restaurant with no pretensions.
A place to have a great meal with an old friend, a no-fuss
lunch or a downright lovely dinner. Chapeau mes amis!

* Le Margaux cuisine française
5058 Park Avenue (Laurier)
Montréal, H2V 4G1
(514) 448-1598

Kabana Supper Club @ Quartier Dix30‏

The premiere party for Kabana Supper Club @ Dix 30
was the stuff of dreams. Food, wine, song, and wall-
to-wall babelisciousness. I felt very privileged to
have been included.
I also feel sorry for people who don't drink. They
wake up in the morning and that's the best they are
going to feel all day.
The hotly anticipated new restaurant, bar and lounge
from the boys at took Le Quartier Dix30 by
storm from the moment they opened their doors at the
beginning of October! It's the newest, most exciting
place to be on the South Shore. Kabana's got everything
you need for the perfect night!
Showcasing fantastic design by Internationally
renowned designer, Miguel Cancio (Cavalli Montreal,
Buddha Bar Paris, Man Ray New York & Paris), KABANA's
unique and sophisticated interior includes a striking
40 foot bar, 3,000 square feet of dining space and
three open gas fireplaces lining the staircase leading
to a spectacular mezzanine lounge.
Enormous totem poles surround the room and a world
class DJ spins the music! The Italian market fresh menu
is a collaboration of kitchen c.e.o.'s Rosario Guerreri,
Franco Gioffre and Nick D'Onofrio, known for their
success at Cavalli.
The place rocks! Filled to the gills with a strange
mix of older and younger. The music was fly and the
women were breathtaking. I almost stood up!

* Kabana Supper Club @ Quartier Dix30
6000, boul. de Rome - L.50
Brossard, J4Y 0B6

* Opening Party October 2009

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Restaurant Review - 'Globe Restaurant'‏

After a prolonged absence, I returned to a familiar place.
Saturday, prior to the Harry Connick Jr. show a the Montreal
Jazz Festival, I partook in a most splendid dining experience
on the Main. Due to some major road repair, not much of
a Main, but definitely worth the slight inconvenience.
On a summer's night, there's no missing the long series of
restaurants between Sherbrooke St. and Pine Ave. vying for
your attention. With all the action, eye candy and enticing
food, one wonders how to pick and choose. Is it the space with
the most cutting-edge decor? The restaurant, known for it's
solid cuisine? Or is it the hot spot that boasts the latest
celebrity sightings? With their comely waitresses, groovy
colour schemes, and up-to-the-minute menus, Globe has always
been considered 'hot' on all these fronts. While some of its
competitors have cuter waitresses and better chairs, Globe
always succeeded by offering the full package. For a while
the food wasn't up-to-par, until this night. A return to
what made Globe unique, the inventiveness of the cuisine.
There's a special connection, a bond, if you will, between
Globe and myself, along with my extended family. My nieces
have been celebrating their birthdays there, since turning
eighteen, with each inviting their respective entourages.
Then there's my Godchild, who at the tender age of 5, had
the then-chef prepare for her a special plate of pasta (not
on the menu). Which she always adored him for it and showed
it by showeing him with hugs and a kiss. He would always
take her their famous 'Tourte au Chocolat' to enjoy at the
bar, while I savored my cigar. You see children, once upon
a time, smoking, even a cigar, was tolerated at Globe. The
good old days!
The present kitchen c.e.o., Alex Rolland, who hails from
Rosalie and who interned under the great David McMillan,
has returned the Globe to its former glory and rightful
place above the fray of restaurants, bistros, and ristorantes,
all along the strip. Along with a new chef de cuisine,
comes a refreshed ambiance, a new look for the waitresses,
and the sense of a new beginning for this landmark eatery.
Due to time constraints we dined at 6:00, a first for me.
Sitting next to the large panoramic windows along the sidewalk,
in daylight, watching passers-by, ranging from both extremes
of the social spectrum, über-babes to street urchins. I was
transported back to a time when I was living in Puerto Vallarta.
On the main artery called Calle Guarez, which stretched from
one end of downtown to the other, facing the ocean, was one
of the more hip hot spots, Casablanca. We would always begin
our evenings there, before moving on to clubs and other
nightspots. This place had the same large windows, where you
would sit and have 'Nachos con Queso', with your Corona, and
watch passers-by, mostly tourists, scurrying to their destinations,
with their arms filled with bags, from neighboring merchants.
All the while, catching the final stages of the setting sun
into the Pacific ocean. The atmosphere was palpable, albeit
no sunset or ocean.
Globe's cuisine exploits organic and local produce to its
fullest. This kitchen lets the quality of ingredients do the
talking. In that sense, the 'Foie gras Spring roll' on a bed
of salad was sublime and best epitomizes what this restaurant
is all about, sophisticated simplicity. The 'Goat Cheese on
a Tomato confit' covered with slight shavings of pear, was
divine. 'Soft-shell Crab Carapace' was actually constructed
to resemble an actual crab. Very artistic. The 'Maigret de
Canard' pristine thin slivers of duck breast glazed, with
Juniper, perfectly seared on both sides. Every morsel is melting
and fresh. I abhor meat that's so rare and bloody, you expect
it to get up and walk away at any given moment.
The wine list is well-selected and our choice, a rather
intense purple-red wine, from Tuscany, features an exuberant
nose, exhaling perfumes of raspberry, pastry and eucalyptus.
Subtle aromas of cocoa and freshly ground black pepper, were
also present. Gorgeous waitresses, models and actresses-in-
waiting are practically a hallmark of Globe. Our waitress,
Jennifer, easily fits that description, with charm and
professionalism to spare. As the crowds prove, Globe remains
the perfect choice if you're up for the hullabaloo of the
St. Laurent scene.

* Globe Restaurant
3455 St.Laurent Blvd.
(514) 284-3823

* Reviewed July 5, 2007

Monday, July 26, 2010

Michael Bublé @ Montreal Jazz Festival

Every pop star owes something to his predecessors, and Michael
Bublé is no exception. Admittedly, the holy trinity to whom he
pays homage, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, isn't
quite what you'd expect of a 29 year old pop idol, particularly
one whose female fans are fond of screaming, 'We love you Michael!'
or 'Take it off!' But the strangest thing about Bublé's debt to
the past is how little it feels like nostalgia.
When the Vancouver-born singer took the stage at Place des Arts,
to a sold-out show, to launch the 26th Montreal International
Jazz Festival, it was not as some swivel-hipped savior of swing,
but rather as a charming young pop star who just happens to prefer
big-band brass to screaming guitars. He never tried to be cool and
that made him totally hot! If all you know are his recordings on
disc, his shtick seems to be singing pop songs as if rock 'n' roll
never happened, conjuring some parallel universe in which Queen's
'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' was a swing tune and the Beatles'
'Can't Buy Me Love' bore the stamp not of George Martin but of
Count Basie's arranger.
He does that on stage, too, but the impact is completely different.
For one thing, he dispenses with the jazz fetishism that weighs
down most retro-swing acts. While it's easy to catch echoes of
his heroes in Bublé's set, his performance never smacks of
impersonation. Somehow, he manages to take on the likes of 'Come
Fly With Me' and convey its punchy, finger-snapping charm without
falling into the Sinatra emulation. His Elvis bits, particularly
the cocked hips and rakish silhouette, were simply playful.
The artist Bublé most clearly recalls is everyman crooner Bing
Crosby. Just as Crosby cultivated the image of an easy-going,
average guy who just happened to be able to sing, Bublé’s mellifluous
delivery is so effortless and unaffected that it's easy not to
notice how much power his voice actually has (the last verse of
'A Song for You', was audible from the back of the hall without
a microphone).
It doesn't hurt that Bublé is funny. Not only was his between-
songs banter full of self-deprecating wit. (He joked that he was
happy to hear fans scream, 'I love you Michael!' 'I know that next
week it'll be, 'I love you Clay Aiken!') But he slipped in some
good musical gags as well, mocking the pop operatic 'Il Divo' with
a vocal impression that was more Jim Nabors than Placindo Domingo.
In short, it was the kind of performance that would turn even
a casual listener into a fan.

* Reviewed July 2, 2005

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

'Dave Brubeck Quartet'‏ @ Montreal Jazz Festival

The Montreal International Jazz Festival closed with a giant,
who's been playing here for the past 25 years. He might be
85, but Dave Brubeck hasn't settled into complacency. Sure,
he still obliges fans by playing his two best-known songs,
'Blue Rondo' and 'Take Five', in the roughly 80 shows he
does a year. 'It doesn't bother me,' the jazz pianist has
said, in his gravely voice. 'Why should it? Did Duke Ellington
quit playing 'Take the A Train?' How stupid can you be when
you have sold-out concerts all over the world, and they want
to hear 'Blue Rondo and Take Five'. If you don't play it
would be impolite.'

The 'Dave Brubeck Quartet' was created in 1951, but before
that, it was a trio. The trio had won a new combo of the
year in Downbeat and Metronome. Which actually started with
the octet, between 1946 and 1949, then came the trio, which
evolved into the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Brubeck has watched with bemusement as 'Time Out', which
includes those two aforementioned tracks, has played a see-saw
game over the years with Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' as the
biggest-selling jazz album of all time. Coincidentally, both
were released in 1959. There's a thornier issue of hip credibility.
For many jazz snobs, Brubeck's West Coast cool jazz, however
ubiquitous it became, should never be mentioned in the same
breath as the groundbreaking work of the unimpeachably cool
and mysterious Davis.

In the post-quartet years, Brubeck has focused largely on
composition, writing and performing. A nine-minute score to
accompany Pope John Paul II's 1987 entrance to San Francisco's
Candlestick Park is a career highlight. Contributing to a
section of the unfinished C Minor Mass by Mozart is another.
He's recently written five new pieces for the Monterey Jazz
Festival. He says he derives equal enjoyment from composing
and improvising, insisting the two are not opposed. 'There's
very little difference in improvisation as a jazz musician
and what you do as a composer,' he's said. 'You're improvising
as you write it down.'
In spite of the Dupuytren's Contraction that sometimes flares
up and affects his fingers, Brubeck's still having trouble
getting those 80 concerts down to 40. If that means his current
quartet, featuring drummer Randy Jones, Bobby Militello on
alto sax and flute and bassist Michael Moore, must play that
many more versions of 'Take Five', so be it. 'You don't play
it,' he says, 'You play off it. It's different every night.'

* Reviewed July 8, 2006

Show Review 'Stirred by Sting'‏‏

Last night was a strange mix of old-timers and spirituality,
which was fitting. Sting himself has built his brand on
feel-good world music that aspires to spirituality, but
cannot be identified as belonging to any particular group
in his multicultural musical casserole. For urban hippies,
like myself, for the hour and a half that he took the stage,
the former Police singer entertained and charmed the fans
with songs that spanned his career, from his recent CD
'Sacred Love' to everyone's favorite 'Roxanne'.

Dressed very casual, with the loose white collar and
cuffs out of the tight-fitting sweater. Sting is in
remarkable shape, a look legions of female fans in
attendance appeared to appreciate.

He began the set strumming a giant bass for 'Walking on
the Moon', but quickly followed that trip into the past
with the new 'Send Your Love'. A dance number lifted beyond
club-floor mediocrity by a lifting guitar line and Spanish-
influenced drumming, the song was accompanied by projected
images of dancers from around the world, Bollywood heroines
and heroes followed by women twirling in spectacular Chinese
red silk dresses. The global world theme resurfaced several
times during the show, such as during 'Desert Rose', the much
remixed dance hit that borrows from Arabic music, and on
the playful and delightful 'Stolen Car'. It was a non-stop
eclectic drunken visual stupor. 'Fragile', 'An Englishman
in New York' all classics with beautiful projected images,
it was all very spiritual.

A note about the opening act, 'Chris Botti', a trumpeter
from the jazz school of 'Miles Davis'(the father of cool!).
He did an homage to Miles' 'Happy Valentine' made the ladies
in the front rows squeal. I enjoyed him so much I got an
autographed CD at the intermission. All in all, it was one
very pleasing outing.

* Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but
by the moments that take our breath away.

Show Review 'k.d. lang'

'Twenty years in the music business and it all boils down
to a medley'. That was k.d. lang, joking with the crowd
at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, before belting
out a stirring rendition of 'Constant Craving', her most
famous hit.
K.d. lang has a voice that can only be described as an
irrepressible force of nature. It's easy to forget just
how powerful her pipes are, when you've become accustomed
to hearing her Grammy Award-winning torch songs and country-
pop medleys wafting through restaurants and shopping malls
across the land.

Anyone who ever saw the rockabilly chanteuse back in her
early days, when she'd blow the roof off a smoky little joint
wearing sawed off cowboy boots and white wedding dress, can
tell you that she possesses a wild rapture that's capable of
much more than just pretty medleys. And rapture is exactly
what Lang delivered at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Several
times interrupted by ecstatic standing ovations and shouted
pledges of undying love from her fans.
Originally from Consort, Alberta, a tiny speck of a town
near Red Deer, lang moved to Vancouver after college in the
mid-eighties, where she was discovered and signed her first
record deal.

Lang hardly looked nervous as she strode onto the stage
in bare feet and a kimono-style jacket, bowed down to the
crowd and dove into a soaring rendition of 'Don't Smoke in
Bed'. She mixes material from her 20-year career with songs
from her latest CD release, July 27 'Hymns of the 49th
Parallel'. Which include 'After the Goldrush' by Neil Young
and 'Hallelulah' by Leonard Cohen, instilling them both with
a pure, simple reverence that lifts these classics into
a whole new stratosphere.
The performance was so powerful lang overwhelmed the
orchestra, in this case the MSO, which barely could be
heard over her voice. Along with her longtime band of
keyboard player, bassist and steel guitarist.
Lang is a playful and political as ever. A devout buddhist,
her trademark exuberance is now combined with a Zen-like
calm that must come from a very peaceful place inside.

By the end of the night, the spellbound audience certainly
walked out breathless, shaking and many in desperate need
of a cigarette, having witnessed one of the most emotionally
rousing concerts in a while. I wasn't a big fan prior to
the Jazz Festival, but all that has changed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chef David Adjey @ Globe Restaurant‏

Outside the sun is setting, inside the mellow rhythm of
Bryan Ferry, playing in the background, gives a sense of
electricity in the air. The smells, emanating from the
kitchen, were intoxicating and the lovely ladies had this
bounce in their step. To fans of Food Network staple,
'Restaurant Makeover', this was a real treat, Chef David
Adjey prepare your dinner was very surreal. I was told,
by someone in the know, that the large majority of the
reservations came from women. Not surprising, this lanky,
good looking (according to Bombshell), blonde and blue-eyed
culinary master was very gracious and mingled with everyone.
The customers seemed as grateful to be there, has he was
of being so honoured. The sound and fury of the patrons
was a tell-tale of the mood among the diners, who were out
in droves, on an otherwise uneventful Wednesday night.
I know from, friends in the restaurant business, that's
their night off.
It was six courses of pure delight to your palate. Our
wine selection a 'Malbec Flechas de Los Andes Rothschild
Mendoza'. A purplish red, full-bodied Shiraz, with a medium
nose exuding fruity aromas. Offering a slight acidity and
fleshy tannins. The extravaganza began with Grouper, which
is a very delicate and moist white fish. Wrapped in banana
leaf, placed on a bed of cubed yellow peppers, along with
slices of pink grapefruit and purple potatoes. Sophisticated
Next came a sublime breaded potato salad in a lobster
bisque, very tart. The third starter, in a dish with three
compartments, cool, warm and hot. Consisted of various
vegetables and a hardy slab of hot and spicy, seared tuna.
Then it was on to Ancho Rabbit, again served in a dish with
two separate sections. One had a Pozole Poblano Stew and
on the other Espanzote-Hominy Ensalada. Then came pristine
thin strands of Smoky Entrecôte (strip steak), with one bite
Caesar and a Clam vinaigrette. Every morsel melting and fresh.
Finally, the 'piece de resistance', our dessert was 'Les
Trois Chocolats'. White, Milk and Dark chocolate whipped to
a frenzied mousse. Utterly sinful. It was a 'Menu de
dégustation' (tasting menu), but by the time you had your
sixth course, you were very satisfied.
Gorgeous waitresses, models and actresses-in-waiting
are practically a hallmark of Globe. Our waitress, Nathalie,
a Peruvian Goddess, easily fits that description, with charm
and professionalism to spare.

* Restaurant Globe
3455 St. Laurent Blvd.,
Montréal 514.284.3823

Monday, July 19, 2010

Restaurant Review - 'Joe Beef' ****‏

The name conjures up a steakhouse, but actually there's history
behind 'Joe Beef'. The name is in fact that of Charles McKiernan,
a legendary 19th century Montreal innkeeper and working-class
hero who offered food and shelter at his Old Montreal tavern
(the building still stands at the corner of de la Commune and
de Calière). Stragglers, longshoreman, beggars and outcasts
were admitted to Joe Beef's Canteen in exchange for a bit of
light labor. 'Joe Beef' was a man of the people.'
After many months of anticipation and waiting for the right
occasion and companions, we ventured forth. We were not
disappointed; it's everything you thought it would be and more.
The place, itself, isn't 'tres chic', coming from Globe and
Rosalie, you would have expected something else. But the reason
one goes, isn't for fancy decor, place settings and cutlery,
it's for the gastronomic explosion. And we exploded!
Dinner at Joe Beef is like being at a dinner party, so tight
are the tables, so genial is the vibe. You chit-chat with
strangers in the next tables, very easily. Swapping stories
and enjoying more than a few giggles with our friends, as you
would at a dinner party. Your host to this shindig is none
other than Montreal's most personable chef, David McMillan,
who co-owns with two old friends, Frederic Morin (also from
the Globe, who was away in Europe) and manager Allison Cunningham.
Opened for a year or so, Joe Beef has generated so much buzz,
that it's the envy of any restaurateur.
How did this trio come together? After a decade cooking for
the 'branché' and other celebs at Globe and Rosalie, McMillan
and Morin had had their fill. Ready to kiss the restaurant
business good-bye, they decided instead to take over their
neighborhood hangout, a little café on Notre Dame. But this
time there would be strict rules. The restaurant would have
to be small, and would only be open for dinner, five days
a week. McMillan and Morin would cook only what they wanted
and the menu would change daily. The wine list would be small,
but interesting.
They decided to look to the past for inspiration. The first
was the name and the second glance backward is the menu. Oysters
were a staple in McKiernan's day and are a favorite of both
chefs. Joe Beef sells a good 4,000 east-and-west-coast oysters
weekly, imported directly for the restaurant. So we indulged,
and partook of 3 dozens served on an expansive tray topped
with crushed ice. One of the starters, 'Parfait de Foie Gras',
served with pain rustique, is highly recommended. McMillan
will come over with homemade jam for you to spread. Mussles,
which according to my companion, were finger-licking delicious.
Though this food is far from flashy, I can't think of much
tasted here that I didn't thoroughly enjoy.
By main-course time, we were stuffed, and the crowds pick
up. They're preparing for the second seating, which is 9:30.
We meet a restaurateur, from one of the finer eateries in
Little Italy. He confessed curiosity got him to come and see
what the fuss was about. By the end of the dinner he smiled
and gave me a nod, of pure contentment. The 'Lapin Farcie'
with something only McMillan could pull off, sliced hot-dogs
toppings. My friend's steak, served with these delicious
circular fries, was mouth-watering, cooked just right, and
not too rare. The other fabulous dish were these cutlets topped
with mounds of scallops. Unbelievable! Desserts are another
sinful chef-d'oeuvre. I think 'Joe Beef' would have approved.
After all, that's why his legend is still with us a century
later. Like these young restaurateurs, he did it his way.

* Restaurant Joe Beef ****
2491, rue Notre Dame O. @ Atwater
Little Burgundy, H3J 1N6
(514) 935-6504

Andretti Wines @ Cavalli‏

Friday, before the Grand Prix de Montreal, I had the
distinct pleasure, nay, the privilege of experiencing
a succulent and savoury afternoon escapade. An endorphin-
induced diversion of culinary delights and flavourful
wine-tasting @ Ristorante Cavalli.

'In wine there is wisdom, In beer there is freedom,
In water there is bacteria.' ~ Ben Franklin

With Bombshell in tow, we were granted access to a world
of enthusiasts, lovers the grape and connoisseurs of the
liqueur of the Gods. Headed by a group of very astute and
generous corporate executives including one very delicious
lady-about-town Madame Ambassadeur.

The group who organized this tasting of several superb
vintages was 'Kruger Wines and Spirits' (
and its c.e.o., a very warm and friendly gentleman, named
Steve Sinodinos, who was the epitome of a world-class
chief-executive, his trusted aide-de-camp Ms. Rachael Sirois

and Carmelo, sommelier at Cavalli. I'm sure I have forgotten
some names but such is life.

The winemaker in question was 'Andretti Winery'. Founded
in 1996 by Mario Andretti (one and the same - Grand Prix
driver extraordinaire) and his longtime friend, Joe Antonini,
former Chairman & CEO of Kmart Coporation.

'Andretti Winery' is dedicated to celebrating the Italian
lifestyle, complete with the finest wines produced anywhere
in the world. Blessed with premium grapes grown in the most
acclaimed valley in California, 'Andretti Winery' produces
an array of wines that - like Mario Andretti himself - are
second to none.

The finest things in life are often hidden away and
that's the case with the award-winning 'Andretti Winery'.
Nestled alongside a quiet country lane in the heart
of the legendary Napa Valley, 'Andretti Winery' exudes
Old World Charm as it whisks wine lovers back in time
to a slower pace of life.

'Honor the Past, to Shape the Future.' Modeled after
a rambling Italian village, the winery conjures up the
boyhood home of its namesake, Mario Andretti, the finest
race car driver of all time.

'Wine is bottled poetry.' ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

* Andretti Winery
4162 Big Ranch Road,
Napa, California

* Observed June 11th, 2010

Restaurant Review - 'Otto' ***‏

If there was a Montreal restaurant for celeb-spotting,
'Otto' would be it. There was a Bruce Willis sighting,
while in town looking to buy Mirabel airport for a movie
production facility. The branché eatery of the ever-swank
W Hotel is packed with guys who look like record producers
and gorgeous young ladies, the majority of whom on this
frigid Friday night are sporting tight jeans, mini skirts,
stilettos and tiny tops. There's plenty here to marvel at.
No surprise the W Hotel slogan is 'Welcome to Wonderland'.
Designed by architect Miguel Cancio, the visionary behind
the uber-trendy Buddha Bar and Man Ray in Paris, and Montreal's
Med Grill and Cavalli, 'Otto' is all eye candy. Multi-colour
stripes, black on blondy wood. Long, cone-shaped chandeliers
hang in a row, leading to curved banquettes framed in what
looks like giant bubble wrap paper, which is actually sea
shells were installed by personal from Mexico for a modest
800$ a sq. foot. Loud music, from David Bowie to Elvis Costello,
pulsates in the background, especially at the bar near the
entrance. Votive candles flicker throughout the low-lit space,
which makes the room feel more like a nightclub than a luxury
restaurant. Considering the prices, luxury is the name of the
game at 'Otto'.
The foodie in me is perplexed. In a restaurant this trendy
I would expect something like funky finger food. The hotel
literature describes the cuisine as Italian fusion, like the
décor, Otto’s menu is a fusion of styles. There's a little
Italian, some French, and a dabble of Middle Eastern, with
a number of upscale ingredients assembled into wonderful dishes.
With a starter set at 32$, a main dish at 60$ and a wine list
with stiff markups, 'Otto' is one of the, if not the, most
expensive restaurants in town. More power to them, if they
offer the best food and service in town, and all this eye-candy,
to boot.
One appetizer, ceviche of marinated tuna with peppers and
citrus fruit, poblano salad, cucumbers, tosaka and coca beans,
garnished with leeks, and fried tofu. Then therewas the Angus
beef tartare, a thin disk of minced meat with a green-onion
sauce, remoulade and Japanese mustard, the whole topped with
caper berries, poached quail's eggs and cubes of avocado. What
struck me was the dish's texture, with the hard-boiled egg topping
the meat, and interplay of spicy and neutral bites with a hint
of truffle oil. Was I blown away! The filet, topped with a foie
gras flan and Béarnaise, and served with a Madeira and truffle
sauce. Jerusalem artichokes and a touch of dark chocolate, was
another case of luxury. The meat, rare and flavorful, was the
highlight of the plate.
Score one for the kitchen, plate presentations are stunning.
Score two, ingredients are topnotch. Service was courteous,
professional, as expected, and our server, a beautiful and very
exotic Moroccan woman, who was as hot as the patrons, was like
that little bit extra. She fits right in this place, like part
of the decor & ambience. Bravo, boys!

* Otto Ristorante + Bar @ W Hotel
901 Square Victoria
Viger & St.Antoine & McGill
Edifice Caisse De Dépot
Montreal, H2Z 1R1
(514) 395-3183 Pasquale Ruffolo