Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Carte Blanche

Hey guys! Back in November ...
*Record scratches*
- Did you say November?
- Yes I did.
- The hell took you so long?
- My mind was elsewhere.
- Yeah whatever.

Every year around that time many restaurants are participating in event named MTL À Table. The concept is simple : the participating restaurants suggest two or three Table d'hôte menus for a reduced price. The idea is to encourage people to discover new places or specialties specific to the place.

In 2014 we gave Decca 77 a try so in 2015 we decided to give Restaurant Carte Blanche a shot. Some of us don't drink ... and some do. When we got there, Khoa and I realized it was a BYOW and bolted to the nearest SAQ in the Gay Village to grab a bottle. We knew we were going to have kangaroo and lamb so we tried to choose wisely.

After running back like mad men in the snow we finally sat down in the restaurant while our friends gave us the look of disapproval. Fortunately the waitress hadn't taken their orders yet so we were safe. The light was really dim, perfect for a dinner between close friends or for at least a third date.

I really enjoyed how the glasses were personalized for the restaurant. It doesn't cost much money but sometimes investing in the small details can make a difference (restaurant owners take note).

And speaking of the little details, my friends made me take this picture of the salt and pepper shakers. Because apparently they are cute. I'm not sure how I feel about getting seasoning from the mouths of two small persons hugging though ...

We had a lot to choose from and thought it would only benefit us to go for different things so everyone could have a taste of everything. Honestly I'm just selfish and will go for whatever I like. My strategy is purely self oriented when it comes to food.

Some of us decided to go for a Yukon gold soup with wild mushrooms flavored with truffle.

Others went for the red tuna tartar with cilantro, white sesame seeds, and a light maple dressing. It was also served with a small spring mix salad on the side with Parmesan shavings.

And some of us (I'm one of them) decided to go for the foie gras and smoked duck magret sliders served on brioche buns.

These were all quite good as entrées. The quantities were not outrageous but we didn't feel like we were getting robbed either.

The soup was not too hearty, even quite light for a potato soup. The mushroom and truffle really gave some nice nutty notes to it. However the presentation could have been better. It looked a bit like they tried making something that would usually look plain look more interesting but instead the scattering of herbs and the checkers pattern with the cream didn't seem to want to work with each other.

The tartar tasted quite good and fresh even though it may have been a bit small even for an entrée. The salad however didn't match in terms of flavors with the tartar. Something with Asian flavors would have been more appropriate because of the cilantro, sesame, and maple dressing.

The foie gras sliders were a good choice. They were pan fried, maybe a tiny bit under cooked (but not enough to make a fuss about it). However I would have put a little bit less confit onions. Foie gras is delicious with any type of sweet but I still want the foie gras to be the main star. The smoked duck magret was also good, slightly ticker than what you may be used to find in pre-packaged form.

Then the mains came. This time we were a bit more impressed.

The most beautiful plate was definitely the mustard and rosemary braised lamb shank. There were roasted vegetables and a potato purée on the side.

Some of the carnivorous ones picked the grilled kangaroo filet served with a blueberry reduction. It also came with roasted beans, potatoes, carrot, and tomato.

The third choice was maple glazed salmon, sushi style. It also came with a side of roasted chopped vegetables tossed in a bit of oil.

The lamb shank was falling off the bone and the rosemary and mustard were actually an unexpectedly good combination of flavors. The vegetables were quite basic and I would have gone for micro roasted vegetables instead of the lone piece of carrot and the mashed potato.

The kangaroo filet had a very gamey flavor to it and was tougher to cut through and eat. We were kind of expecting this from such a muscular and active animal. The blueberry reduction was really good because it wasn't too sweet. The vegetables had the right crunch but their presentation was a bit sad looking.

The maple glazed salmon tasted really good and was moist, but the combination didn't quite physically hold together (Rio just ate them with his hands because they would fall apart). The presentation also was lacking something in the details.

For desserts, we were given two choices.

The first choice was a while chocolate mousse with maple crumble and fresh berries. It came in a very cute fitted lid jar.

The second choice were a trio of small desserts, which the waitress identified but I unfortunately can't remember them.

The mousse was both pleasing to the eyes and to the palate. The ones who chose it said it was the best part of the meal. Smooth, soft, simple yet good.

The trio of desserts was rather disappointing. I mean they weren't bad, but the plate chosen to present them simply wasn't the right one and didn't do them justice. Instead it make them weird to look at and to eat. They kind of fit together because there was some of a theme going on, but they didn't seem to work together as a trio, more like "I can't quite make up a choice so I'll just have what I can".

And so that was it for that night. We had a lot of fun, but each plate that was presented to us (except for the chocolate mousse) could have been improved, mostly visually. The food had great potential but the presentation and certain choices of sides didn't do justice to the main ingredients in the courses and didn't seem to complement them, but instead looked like they were there to fill a void because you can't serve an empty plate to a customer.

I've heard great things about that place so perhaps we weren't that lucky that night. However you could give it a try and let me know how it went for you. I just wish they put a little more thought into the choices of sides and the presentation of the dishes.
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