Hidden near the end of William Street in Little Burgundy – a stretch commonly but mistakenly referred to as Griffintown – is a practically-invisible restaurant. Without so much as a streetside logo or a window revealing a dining room, Le Fantôme may be Montreal's hardest restaurant to spot. Its success, however, is not as shrouded in secrecy. The three-year-old eatery has earned itself a couple of rave reviews all while remaining below the radar.
Le Fantôme puts forth a grave, somber ambiance with dim lighting, dark tones and candlesticks. The deep industrial space ending with a bar and open kitchen is sparsely decorated, save for large wall-hung large paintings. So narrow is the dining room that a patron could not squeeze his way between two tables and actually knocked one down, shattering the glassware atop of it all across the floor next to my feet; awkward!
The tasting-menu-only offering leans towards market-driven French cuisine. At $50 for five courses – even considering the small-ish portions – your money is well spent. A few extras are available – giving you some sort of control over your meal – such as an extra main dish, a pre-dessert course – which I opted for – and finally a wine-pairing option.
As with the food, drink selections are laser-focused with a handful of cocktails, spirits and carefully-chosen wines. Oh, and the homemade bread served with house-churned pine salt butter was sublime!
Raviolis-of-sorts made of butternut squash with a nutty filling. They tasted nice, but their bedding of crushed nuts went to waste.
A clump of Quebec tuna cassoulet was a tad too fishy tasting, but exemplified the spirit of rich, comforting autumn cooking.
Another quintessential, hearty fall dish featuring chewy/springy egg noodle blobs and fall-off-the-bone oxtail morsels drenched in a red wine jus.
A filet of Icelandic cod and ratte potatoes were smothered in decadent beurre blanc. Three lonely Quebec clams sat on the side and felt out of place.
Award-winning Louis d'Or cheese – served alongside vegan crackers and a fruit/pistachio spread – was formed into rondelles almost too thin to fully appreciate.
My wife and I were greeted by co-owner/maître d' Kabir Kapoor; it's not every day you see a principal on site at a restaurant after a few years of operation, especially when they've recently opened a second venture – the brand-new Pastel. Our waitress, while soft spoken and barely audible, was skilled and knowledgeable. If I had to nitpick, I thought our wine-by-the-glass pourings were a tad paltry.
From floor general Mr. Kapoor's presence and the brigade of chefs' calm professionalism on display to the affordable, comforting kitchen fare, Le Fantôme has positioned itself as a reliable locals' haunt – no pun intended. On a personal note, I'm not sure I've seen enough to arrive at a final verdict; some dishes excelled, others pas plus que ça.
The eerie setting might be a fit with Halloween right around the corner, but the creative yet unpretentious food evokes more of a Casper the friendly (neighborhood) ghost.
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $50
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.