Tucked away from plain sight in a repurposed Little Burgundy church's rectory is a highly-conceptual restaurant helmed by a chef with a vision. After a notable stint at the bygone Van Horne's kitchen, followed by a transient period of pop-ups, chef John Winter Russell eventually opened Candide in 2015.
His passion project, which draws on the locavore doctrine, has managed to split the city's critics right down the middle. For my second dinner here, I joined a birthday party of seven on the restaurant's patio overlooking the quiet residential alleyway behind the church.
tagged: CATCH SOME SUN
Candide's mission of sustainability starts with its design, which features furniture made of recycled wood from the former church's pews. While the dining room is attractive with its modern feel and open kitchen, it was understandably empty tonight; Montrealers will gladly forego a dim interior for a chance to sit outdoors. And despite the torrential rains we got hit with, the choice was a no-brainer.
Chef Russell's menu is as local and thematic as it gets. All ingredients used are regional, seasonal and carefully sourced – several of which from the herb planters surrounding the restaurant's own terrace. Cocktails are all made with Quebec spirits, while the local beer lineup will set you back $14 to $34 per bottle. As for wine, a handful of Quebec grapes are followed by a longer international list.
Food-wise, the only option is a four-course tasting menu priced at $57, with two mains to pick from and the choice of cheese versus dessert to end. An extra appetizer can be added for an additional $6. The fare, which emphasizes vegetables while casting animal products in a supporting role, is soigné yet approachable. The use of leaves and florals follows the Nordic school of foraging.
Grilled asparagus, peas in a crab reduction and roasted cauliflower with emulsified mussels were perfectly executed and seasoned. The remaining dishes did not add enough to balance the dominant earthy flavours; the cheese course consisting of creamy Jersey Royal stuffed in squash blossom and peppered with blue basil leaves had a particularly pungent taste which ended my meal on a sour note.
"beach peas, crab"
"camerise, blue basil"
Our friendly and savvy waitress did a fine job of describing the tasting menu. Despite the latter's limited options, a substitution request was accommodated without hesitation. She also suggested two great wines to pair up with our starters and main dishes.
And although portions are small – as they tend to be at an establishment of this caliber – our bread baskets kept replenishing without us asking. Finally, chef Russel made his presence felt by personally serving and explaining certain plates. All in all, service here is sharp and on top of things.
tagged: WE AIM TO PLEASE
Reviewing a restaurant this ambitious comes with its set of challenges. On the one hand, I can applaud the drive for sustainability; on the other, the taste of greens and wilderness did not mesh well on every plate. Granted, the food and overall proposition are quite recherché and sophisticated, but in the end I spent over $100 a head on a meal mostly revolving around – let's be candid – commonplace veggies.
Hate it or love it, chef Russell's venture is a game changer in the "local" movement; but ultimately, it's not for everyone.
tagged: PLAN B.
Price per person: $57
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.