Saturday, January 26, 2008

I just want to sit at the bar, dammit!

So, my second full day in Montreal consisted of a full day's work, with a momentary stop into a lunch place really close to the office. I can't remember the name of the place, nor could Marco, so that's too bad. It was good, but nothing to write home about, so I'll move on.

Marco suggested to me that I try a place called Le Garde-Manger for dinner, which translates to "The pantry." It was seafood, however, and I wasn't really feeling that. Plus, I just felt as though I should take advantage of the Happening Gourmand event. I looked for it, though, and couldn't find it anyway! So there you have it.

I went to Verses instead. My overall thought? I just want to sit at the bar, dammit! I walked in and saw the place was filled, but not packed. As a business traveler, I find that sitting at the bar is immensely more satisfying. You have the bartender to keep you entertained, whether by chatting or by watching. You also don't look so ridiculous as you might sitting at a table all by yourself.

Which is what the maitre d' insisted that I do. So, there I was, sitting at a tablecloth table, surrounded by couples. I even think I heard the guy at an adjacent table ask to his wife, Pourquoi est-elle manger seul? I turned to look at him, and he looked a little embarrassed. I don't think he knew I could understand a little french (note: that was a rough translation, I know).

For my appetizer, I chose the hazelnut crusted goat cheese, tomato tart, and sun dried tomato vinaigrette. It was good! It came with spinach leaves, so it was more of a salad, which was nice. The tart was a bit weird, but I enjoyed the cheese.

For my entree, I chose a medium-rare duck breast, served with sautéed oyster mushrooms, green beans and fresh grapes, with a single porcini ravioli, stuffed with foie gras, on the side. Thoughts? It was good. Not great. The duck breast still had a sizable amount of duck fat on it, which i wanted to remove, but I knew that it would enhance the flavor, so I left it on. Boy, that part was good. But the duck itself was very chewy. Is that how it is supposed to be? Not sure.

The star of that dish was the mushrooms. I'm not sure that I have ever had oyster mushrooms, but I couldn't get enough! Those were so great! The ravioli had a strange flavor to it. I'm not sure what it was. I've had fois gras before, so I am not sure that was it. Maybe the porcini? But I've had that too! Not sure.

Dessert was a molten chocolate cake, served with pistachio ice cream. This, frankly, was why I chose this restaurant. So, I was horrified to get my dessert so overcooked that it had the consistency of a muffin, not cake with chocolate pouring out the middle. NOT GOOD AT ALL. I should have sent it back, but when the server was chatting en francais with the adjacent table, I heard her say they had run out. Quel dammage.

So, overall rating? I didn't think it was that good. In total, my dish would ordinarily cost over $50CAN! Worth it? Um, no. How can you serve molten cake overcooked? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?

I will say, however, that the ambience was really nice. Had I been on a date, and not alone, I would have said it was romantic. And that was sitting out on the main floor area (there were other tables that were much more exclusive). If you look up, you can see several floors, which I assume is the hotel that adjoins the restaurant. Check out the photo, left--it's taken from one of those floors, looking down. Incidentally, I sat at the second table to the left.

Next time, I'll listen to my fellow Montrealans, and go to Garde-Manger.

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