What does the path of a cooking show contestant look like? For Les chefs! finalist Hakim Chajar, several stints at renowned kitchens and TV shows were followed by higher-profile stops at Laurea and Chambre à Part. With both restaurants shutting down prematurely, it felt as though the promising chef never realized his full potential.
It wasn't long before Mr. Chajar resurfaced in mid-2017 with a more personal and low-key project, setting his sights on under-the-radar Pointe-Saint-Charles. Having heard of the young talent so much, I decided to visit Miel with a friend for lunch on this mild Thursday.
Walking in we immediately caught sight of Hakim manning the stove in the open kitchen overlooking the dining area, which was full for the lunch service. The small, two-room space gives off a warm and intimate vibe with the use of wood, sofas and exposed brick walls. Throw in roughly-finished tables, attractive plates and 70s R&B/soul tunes for an extra dose of character.
The limited lunch menu makes it hard to narrow down Miel's cuisine, but from what I've gathered it's seasonal fare with elements of French and Moroccan – Hakim's background. A burger, pasta dish, steak and fish come in table d'hôte format preceded by a soup or salad; a couple additions and dessert come at an extra cost.
I thought I heard our waitress mention curry in the soup of the day but there was no hint of spice. The medium/creamy consistency was right on though.
A beautiful medley of earthy, peppery and tart tastes were given a royal treatment of textures from a homemade ricotta puree and crunchy pistachios.
A basic salad and decent fries accompanied a pulled pork burger oozing with mildly-spicy sauce. While the bun satisfied, we thought the piglet shreds could have used more flavour.
There was a little too much on the plate between the mushrooms, potatoes, parsnip puree and red wine jus, but overall it worked; the short rib was tender and cooked to perfection.
tagged: TABLE D'HÔTE
Our waitress for the afternoon was friendly and efficient. Orders were taken in promptly, dishes arrived at a good pace and glasses were refilled in a timely manner.
If I were to nitpick, I would have liked her to point out that the salad included in the prix-fixe menu, the extra one ordered and the one served with our burger were more-or-less similar. Had we known, we would have modified our order, for the sake of diversity.
After conquering the TV world and embarking on a couple of short-lived ventures, Mr. Chajar seems to have found his calling with a smaller-scaler neighborhood restaurant. And while I realize a fine dining destination does not usually put its best foot forward during lunch service, I saw enough to get me excited for a return visit at night.
From the accolades received and the buzz Miel is generating, the young chef is clearly on the right path; Pointe-Saint-Charles' first and only gastronomie restaurant is sure to "stick" around for a while.
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
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.