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Oct 11, 2009 01:02 PM

La Salle a Manger sucks!

Went as a foursome to La Salle a Manger on Mont Royal ( last night and was very disappointed. Firstly they sat us at the front of the restaurant, where they have an Applebee's-esque hostess stand. Besides being a bit on the tacky side, the placement of the stand proved very distracting since the baseball capped maitre'd hung out all night chatting with the wait staff and his friends that kept coming in.

On the plus side, the dining room is pretty spectacular, with orange-y bare filament bulbs for light, and reclaimed wood tables, as well as an exposed kitchen. As we settled in, preparing to ignore the hip-hop host, we hoped for the best. Unfortunately, waiting 20 minutes to receive aperitifs, and bread did not bode well for the rest of the evening. Looking around the rest of the dining room one saw many necks craning for a glimpse of their server. By my count there were, including the host, 5 front of house staff members working. When we sat down, there were no more than 10 tables, so the delay, and lack attentive service was mystifying.

Then there's the food. I had read a review that said the sweetbreads at La Salle a Manger were the best in the city. What a joke. These sweetbreads were an undercooked mess, full of sinewy filament, and tasting organ-y and slick in the mouth, the exact opposite of what a crispy, meaty sweetbread should be. I've eaten sweetbreads all over the city, and these were easily the worst. I left a good size chunk that was visibly undercooked on my plate, but no-one bothered to ask if there was a problem. Sigh...My wife had the scallop ceviche, which was pleasantly tart, and quite fresh, so it wasn't all bad.

The mains were a mixed bag as well. We didn't really know what we were ordering, since our server didn't bother to tell us about any of the dishes, or the specials. The menu is fairly light on details, so I didn't really know how the rabbit leg was prepared, and when I asked for details, I got "oh, it's a rabbit leg...", as if she was either too uninterested to describe the preparation, or didn't know.

Ultimately, all the dishes seemed to rely heavily on cubed bacon for the flavor, though the rabbit leg (which came stuffed with a very mushy chorizo paste, sitting on a bed of baked beans!), was 'ok', it certainly wasn't anything to write home about. My wife ordered what turned out to be a pork chop, though on the menu it had some more flowery name that didn't indicate this - not suprisingly the server didn't say anything. So, she didn't really expect what she received (though again, we didn't know what to expect anyway), but it was, while a little on the dry side, an adequately cooked pork chop, with a nice side of bok-choy.

Finally, after sitting around for another 15 minutes, with a thimbleful of water and wine each, that we were preserving lest we never see our server again (at one point I made eye contact with another server who was polishing cutlery in the back, to no avail) I finally stopped our server, somewhat curtly asking if we might see a dessert list, and order coffee. She snapped that they didn't have a dessert menu, and pointed me 180 degrees to the back of the dining room where their dessert specials were written on the wall. Guess I would have seen that if I had eyes in the back of my head.

We decided to cut our losses and bail. Of course it took another 10 minutes for anyone to grab the credit cards off the table. In the end, the server confronted me at the door, presumably because of the poor tip I left, asking if she had offended me in some way. Pretty unbelievable that they can provide such lackluster service, and not even know it. She was genuinely surprised!

Beware the allure of the dining room; the service is brutal, and the food overrated at La Salle a Manger!

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  1. Did you explain why you left a poor tip? What was her response?

    2 Replies
    1. re: hungryann

      Ya, i told her the service was slow, and inattentive, but she wasn't actually interested in fixing anything, she was calling me out because *she* was offended. Pretty unbelievable actually that they would think it appropriate to have a guest answer for a poor tip.

      Bookends suggestion to sit at the bar is probably a good one - treat the place as a casual night out, and you might have a better time - not me though, i won't be going back anytime soon (I'll stick to l'Inconnu, still the best place of that ilk around)

      1. re: BobaHoTep

        Ha ha typical Montreal. Attitude problems + an undermotivated kitchen staff trying to pull off dishes above their station = hard fail.

    2. I have been to la salle a manger twice. I agree the room itself is one of the major draws of this place. However both times I really enjoyed the food. I was there 2 weekends ago, and shared the duck for two, the bruschetta and salmon tartare. The bruschetta was really really tasty, beautiful tomatoes and delicious charred bread. The duck was perfectly prepared, and the waitress even sliced the whole duck for us as its a bit messy. You should have stayed for desert, as our lime/almond tart was very tasty.

      However I do agree the service is a bit lacking. I understand it's a casual, very laidback resto, however the staff veer somewhat on unprofessional and brisk. I think next time I go I would want to sit at the bar.

      1. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience. I've been once, just after it opened, and had a very good meal, but I do agree, sometimes it's hard to get the attention of the wait staff. It seems like the quality of the cuisine changes depends on who's running the kitchen. The owners should look into correcting these very simple oversights; it seems odd given that Reservoir, their other casual resto / brasserie, has very attentive service and fuller menus.

        1. I think you're being a bit harsh. Some of the food is really stunning. The problem is that they're just not consistent.

          On the evidence of my main course last night, I'd give La Salle a Manger six stars. The lacquered duck with pan seared Foie Gras here was one of the most startling, best excecuted, most imaginative dishes I've had in ages. The duck and the foie gras were served over a series of daintily cooked and differently flavored vegetables, making each bite just slightly different from the last. It was a tour de force of seasonings, tastes, textures, each delicate, each perfectly judged. This is what fancy restaurant food SHOULD be like.

          My wife's vegetarian entrée of pumpkin cake was on that level too. Impossibly light, dreamy really, set off against perfectly poached apple and caramelized onions under a lovely melted local cheese. Sheer delight.

          So, it's a great restaurant, right?

          Not quite, because this came directly after a disastrously misjudged Seafood Started containing two or three lovely bits alongside an Extremely Spicy scallop ceviche which made it impossible to taste anything else on the plate!

          And it came directly before a platter of simply inexcusable cheeses, still cold from the fridge, insipid and boring.

          The more I think of it, the angrier I get. How could a chef talented enough to make a main course like that even consider serving cold cheese that tastes like it was made by Kraft? How could a chef imaginative and careful enough to make that pumpkin cake put a soul destroying ceviche on a platter alongside a delicately spiced bit of squid?! It makes no sense!

          It really makes me sad, because some of the dishes at La Salle a Manger are absolute show stoppers. But I can't recommend this place. When a bill for two comes to $200, you need to trust a chef to take good care of you from the appetizer right through to the desert.

          Going to La Salle à Manger is more like going out with an abusive bastard that treats you wonderfully one day and beats the hell out of you the next. It's not right.

          1. I went to Salle à Manger yesterday with my girlfriend and another couple and we had a spectacular evening. Aperitifs, salmon tartare, cerf rouge carpaccio, seafood antipasti followed by the duck for 2 and the côte de boeuf for 2. The sommelier suggested 2 excellent wines to go with that. We skipped the dessert because we were stuffed.

            The service was friendly with us and the food was simply excellent, from start to finish.
            Salle à Manger now respectfully deserves a place alongside PDC and Club Chasse et Pêche in our favorite restaurants list.

            The reservation was for 6h30 and when I asked for the time later on, it was already 9h45. I could not believe how time went fast ! It's probably because I was in good company and we were enjoying ourselves, having interesting discussions. I guess it would have felt much longer if we were just "sitting around", starring at our glasses of water and focusing on stupid details to nitpick about.

            When I was a little kid, my mother always said that I should be polite and say "I don't like it" instead of "It sucks". Something you don't like does not automatically sucks for everyone... and the original post is a perfect example.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Lowrent

              I completely concur! I just went with some of my friends for a fantastic meal. the service was above exceptional and one of the waiters even took the time to provide us with a free wine tasting when I couldn't decide what would go best with the canard jambonneau. we were at the restaurant until past 12am because we just couldn't imagine leaving! Next time I really want to try one of the dishes to share, none of my friends were up for the task that night!