The term BYOW (bring your own wine) does not evoke the greatest dining memories to us. Traditionally associated with mediocre, generic eateries à la Prince Arthur and Duluth, several more ambitious restaurants have popped up in the last decade, such as À l'Os, Grenadine and Le Pégase, to name a few. Joining these ranks in 2012 is Le Smoking Vallée, which didn't leave its mark on us when we first tried it then.
Located along the ever-changing stretch of Notre Dame west of Atwater, Le Smoking Vallée feels like a quaint bistro de quartier. The dark ceiling sits atop a minimalistic interior featuring thick maple tables and a mural showcasing the Saint-Henri skyline.
The concise, handwritten chalk menu lists bistro classics such as smoked salmon and steak-frites (which we recall from two years ago) along with seasonal dishes using local ingredients such as Matane shrimp and lobster. There's a 5-course table d'hôte option, which we declined and opted to go à la carte.
"betteraves, poires, chèvre". We couldn't ask for more from this dish. Everything was there from the fatty salmon to the fresh beets and the crunchy pears. We truly enjoyed the melange of flavors and textures.
"oeuf poché, cresson, truffe". Throw a poached egg on anything and we're happy as clams. We loved the idea of this dish, but it wasn't executed to our liking; the watercress got warm and the dough wasn't flaky enough, making it hard to cut through.
"asperges, cheddar". The risotto was nicely-cooked while the chopped asparagus added some texture. Regrettably, the shrimp felt absent and the dish as a whole fell flat. Thankfully, the red onion confit made things a little interesting.
"frites, sauce espagnole". Although the meat was perfectly cooked to order and flavorful, the fries were almost soggy and the sauce was bland. The coleslaw, while adding tang and crunch, was a little too sweet for our taste.
"fraises du Québec". We can dip pretty much anything in butterscotch and it would be an instant hit. Tonight was no different. Creamy and rich, with an explosion of flavor from the fresh strawberries, this was indeed a perfect dessert.
"mousse au chocolat blanc, fraises du Québec, basilic, citron". Another amazing dessert, once again showcasing Quebec strawberries, pitting them up against crunchy pistachios with an added sharpness from the basil leaf.
Service tonight was friendly but a little slow. We were tended to by two different staff members, one of which was on the amateurish side; long absences, missing utensils, slightly awkward… Not the end of the world considering the caliber of the place, but we had to mention it.
Decent, well-priced food and lacklustre service combined for a run-of-the-mill bistro experience tonight. The desserts stole the show thanks in large part to those local strawberries. We have no problem recommending Le Smoking Vallée to Saint-Henri dwellers with a sweet tooth looking for a quiet, dependable BYOW option.
tagged: PLAN B.
Price per person: $35.50
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.