NOTE: I’ve just replaced some of the pictures with the amazing photographs that victor took. huge thanks to him for letting me use them!
l My foodie friend Victor, owner of the Random Cuisine recipe blog, was gracious enough to take me out to one of the newest buzz restaurants of the year in Montreal, opening at around late Nov/Dec of 2010.
We had a 5:30 PM reservation and were the only ones in the restaurant. The space was open, with a bar on the side and a partially open kitchen in the back. The menu had about 6 choices per main course and just as limited a selection for the appetizers. Main courses started at $23 and went up to about $35ish. I chose the mackerel and Victor chose the guinea fowl.
Two generous portions of mackerel came on a bed of mushrooms, carrots, shallots and beef ravioli, all in a honey/lemon sauce. I liked it much more than the guinea fowl. The mackerel was moist and cooked well, with the skin being perfectly crispy. The veggies weren’t anything special. The sauce was too strongly flavored, and definitely dominated the dish and overshadowed the quality of the mackerel. The beef ravioli was cooked al dente, and the beef filling was average. The ravioli was more of a filler to compensate for the smaller portions of food, but wasn’t bad. Flavors of the meat in the ravioli and the sauce that everything was in were the most distinct. the sauce did give the dish an almost delicately sweet flavor, but choices made in preparation made it half of what it could’ve been.
The guinea fowl meat flavoring was a bit too bland and it was a little on the dry side. The accompanying black truffle paste and the pasta it was served on were very good though. The paste was amazing, a strong almost musky flavor, deep and just barely bordering on overpowering. The pasta/vegetable shreds brought to mind asian noodles. Slightly crunchy and wet from its dressing. Once again, the main star of the dish was seriously lacking.
Desserts on the other hand, were much more exciting.
We both split the green and the pot de crème
The Green was a multi layered bowl of green apple cubes, flavored ice, yogurt and pistachios. It was refreshingly tart and sweet. If you’ve been to Newtown for desserts, the Green is very much like some of their signature desserts (one of the chefs is from Newtown), with just a touch of molecular gastronomy. With both desserts, you had to dig your spoon all the way to the bottom to get a bit of each layer for a mouthful of palate-pleasing flavors. The pot de crème I like a bit less, but like the main entrees, only one individual element outshone the rest. The creams were overtaken by the perfection of the cookie/chocolate biscuit crumb layer.
There is a delicacy with everything we ordered that I appreciated and portions weren’t as meager as I had heard them to be. But dishes weren’t very well balanced. High quality existed in the dishes, but sadly only in individual parts of a dish, which did more to distract from the entire dish itself rather than elevate the dish as a whole. They were all half realized ideas with the exception of the Green dessert, which was the only one that was good based on its entire composition.
A main entrée and a dessert came to about $40.
Les 400 Coups is a place that isn’t really trying anything different and new, and seems to just be another one of many “new canadian cuisine” restaurants that’s just putting a “hip and modern” mask on a tiring trend. For the value, you can definitely get better quality and execution for the same price. If you go, go for the dessert, which does definitely deserve its $10 price tag.
One warning about going is that the address pulls up the wrong directions on google maps and takes you to to 400 rue Notre Dame Ouest instead of Est. Take the Orange line to Champs de Mars and it’s a short walk down Bonsecours towards Vieux Montreal.
400 Rue Notre Dame Est