Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
While Montreal has its coterie of local star chefs enjoying success, their international counterparts have not all faired well here. Whereas we once counted operations involving Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Joël Robuchon, today we are only left with Maison Boulud and Marcus (Samuelsson). What both of those have in common is their attachment to luxury hotels.
The latter, part of the Four Seasons Hotel, opened with a bang in 2019 and has since been a hotspot with the jet-set crowd. Today I was invited here to check out their newly-introduced power lunch, which suggests a two-course formula for $45 and promised in under an hour, a boon to business folks.
Much has been written about this third-floor restaurant with its veranda-style extension and its unique setting, including in my previous review (link here). Given the large dining space, it is not surprising to find only half of the tables taken on a Tuesday afternoon. Patrons today seemed of the office type, enjoying the sunlight-drenched room on their lunch break.
Although primarily a seafood restaurant, Marcus' table d'hôte provides four options for each of the starter and main dish, with equal representation among meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian options. A main with either a starter or dessert goes for $45, while the three-course variant is marked at $55.
For those wanting to splurge, à-la-carte items from the ocean abound from oysters, scallops and sashimi to seafood towers combining a bit of everything. While these food prices have unfortunately become commonplace at establishments of this caliber, I cannot say the same about the ticker prices for drinks here.
Wines by the glass go for $19 to $50, while signature cocktails fall between $22 and $30. I understand a name such as Marcus at the Four Seasons commands elegance and premium prices, but these are just prohibitive numbers. You're basically looking at a $100 lunch if you're not lucky enough to be invited such as myself.
On the plus side, the food was simply excellent! One would perhaps expect fussy, overworked dishes given the pedigree behind the kitchen; but in actuality, everything served was minimalistic and relied more on execution than on artifice and elaborate presentations.
A tataki starter featured perfectly-seared, thick-cut tuna slices, balanced with an olive oil-balsamic dressing and garnished with nori and onions for texture. A chicken breast could not have been cooked better and sat on top of silky, pillowy knobs of polenta gnocchi. I often look down on chicken in favor of beef or shellfish, but this dish proved me wrong.
That said, the filet mignon order was exquisite as well. Expertly-cooked meat was enhanced with compound butter and served with scrumptious European-style fries. Desserts also impressed with their lightness and mastery; and did not need the gold leaves to make an extra statement.
In the four years since Marcus has opened, I have been to it four times including today. The first two visits – for brunch and dinner – did not meet my high expectations considering the names behind the restaurant. The following two – both for lunch – completely reversed my perception.
The kitchen's output shows expertise in execution mixed with a degree of focus and restraint. Whether or not chef Marcus himself shows up to work the ovens – which is doubtful – the brigade here is deserving of his name.
In closing, I found myself reflecting on the key to success and longevity for Montreal restaurants backed by foreign star chefs. Operating under the umbrella of a recognizable hotel surely helps, but the food and ambiance at Marcus are enough of a draw regardless – at least for those who can afford it.
Price per person: $45
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.