With all the restaurant openings taking place, my "to try" list is lengthening at an alarming rate. Some entries will never see the light of day – I do only have one lifetime after all – except when someone else suggests them. Such was the case on this rainy Monday, as a friend of mine picked the Plateau's Chasse-Galerie for our dinner date.
Having opened on Saint-Denis Street two years ago, just as the popular thoroughfare's long construction project came to an end, this modern eatery has managed to please critics all while remaining under the radar.
tagged: OPEN ON MONDAY
I normally do not pry into the rationale behind restaurant names, but this one had me intrigued. It turns out the "chasse-galerie" is a flying canoe appearing in a Quebecois folk tale about a group of lumberjacks that cut a deal with the devil.
Failure to follow the latter's rule meant his possession of their souls; how somber, yet somehow fitting with the sub-basement, low-ceiling setting featuring dim lights and dark hues. It's not all grave though; the empty-ish dining room got busy later at night, at which point the music volume went up and switched to bass-y R&B tunes.
The Plateau tenant proposes a short menu of nouveau French/Quebecois creations showcasing local, seasonal ingredients. The lines are blurry between starters and mains, but all dishes are really tiny and quite pricey considering. Everything is soigné with lots of jellied, emulsified and powdered ingredients; all served in dramatic ceramic bowls.
Our meal was preceded by an amuse-bouche of duck prosciutto, dried scallop chip and black olive gelée. And as serious as it sounds so far, there is in fact a certain touch of playfulness: signature cocktails with whimsical names such as bien-être social, a couple orders in the shape of popsicles and even a bowl served upside down!
A spoonful of lobster salad wrapped in cucumber with a side of apple/corn relish in a lobster bisque base. Skillful? Yes. Good? Yes. Worth $18? Not so sure.
Sautéed oyster mushrooms topped with creamy potato puree, a brown butter emulsion and trompette mushroom shavings; rich, earthy and delightful.
A morsel of beautifully-browned halibut sat next to a couple asparagus spears and whipped peas. Nice, but the fish could have used more moisture inside.
A two-bite cube of deliciously-fatty short rib alongside a leek puree and – count them – one halved baby potato and one confit cipollini onion. Thrifty much?
A mildly-sweet dessert consisting of a blood orange/mascarpone tart topped with vanilla ice cream and a smear of rhubarb coulis to the side.
An uber-tarty and citrusy creamsicle with a busy side arsenal comprising vanilla, passion fruit and cardamom. This one's lip-puckering good!
The staff tonight was attentive, knowledgeable and sharp; matching the kitchen's ingenuity and mastery. Our waiter – not the friendliest character but I'm not complaining – was adept at detailing the vague dish descriptions typical of nouvelle cuisine menus. We were also assisted on the wine-by-the-glass front with pretty good recommendations for pairings from a sommelier.
The two-year-old restaurant excels at juxtaposing sophisticated gastronomy against a laidback, unpretentious atmosphere. And while there is much to love about its food which is elaborate without being overly fussy, I was less taken by the peewee portions compared to the sticker price.
Not to sound cheap, but I cannot justify dishing out $100 for myself alone on food and two drinks only to walk out still hungry. With that being said, Chasse-Galerie is one step ahead of its mediocre neighbors across this stretch of Saint-Denis which has seen days both better and worse.
tagged: PLAN B.
Price per person: $37
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.