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Jul 27, 2010 03:41 PM

La Montee (St Laurent)

Disclaimer: This is going to be a low quality review - just getting that out of the way upfront. I am a bit hesitant but I was requested by a fellow CH member to post it anyway as the new location for La Montee hasn't gotten many reviews yet. I recently lost the usage of my dominant hand so I no longer make notes when dining solo and I was a bit tipsy when the meal began (they were booked and only had reservations for 10pm so I had a few drinks in me already). The entire experience is more than a little fuzzy, hence my reservations. /End DIsclaimer, here we go:

This way my first time at La Montee since the move to St Laurent/Laurirer-Fairmount in Mile End (the previous location of Bouchonne). Having had wonderful experiences at the downtown location I had no worries and was comfortable enough to basically order from the hip. I felt like sampling a variety of items as the menu was 75% seafood (which I have been craving as of late) and because I stuck with all meat dishes on my last visit. So after a quick glance at the chalkboard I started with a simple "6 oysters and one each of all the items on the snack menu", figuring I would see how that went and how full I was before deciding on an app, 2 apps, app + main or whatever. Maybe this was my problem? Maybe the snack menu is not meant to be eaten in its entirety at one sitting? Regardless, I did not find the majority of the items to be enjoyable.

oysters - Soft nose, moderately plump with a briny taste. Not a delicate oyster but not bad at all. The problem was that they were not shucked properly, nearly half were still partially attached to the shell. I didn't check my first one so I ended up in a slightly less than graceful pose with a mouth full of liquor and the oyster meat half way past my lips holding on for dear life. The oysters came with a shot glass of sweet orange-garlic sauce but I took a pinky taste and steered clear.

shrimp stick - The battered and deep fried shrimp stick was definitely the most enjoyable item of the evening. It was served stuck in a glass half full of a mayo-based sauce with a pleasing nutty curry-ish flavor, thankfully the sauce was good. It stood up well to the deep fried decapod and the decapod was plump enough to handle the breading and frying while remaining moist and flavorful.

salmon? - Honestly I don't remember what this was. It was some sort of fish (I think salmon) and some sort of chopped veggies plopped into another large pool of mayo sauce, except this sauce just tasted like straight mayo out of the jar. Maybe they threw in a pinch of herbs for the look but it didn't make a difference. It completely masked all the other ingredients and had me contemplating an extremely sharp white wine, statim.

white tuna ceviche - The only dish whose name I remember explicitly because the fish was definitely not white tuna. I suspect this is made in batches and left to sit as the meat had lost all natural firmness against the tooth and distinct flavor. Shaved carrots and crisp greens placed on top (I don't know this vegetable but it was very tasty, looked like tiny asparagus heads) with two pieces of fish underneath bathing in the citrus marinade spotted with diced red peppers. Not horrible but I would not order it again.

something else on top of an orange colored sauce? - By now I was just about poisoned with mayonnaise in a waking-coma. I can't even recall if this was fish or meat. It came with some veggies or salad and was dropped into a pool of orange colored mayo-based sauce. I'm really sorry but at this point I wasn't paying attention at all and just wanted to run to Jun-I to get some clean, fresh sashimi goodness to balance the onslaught of mayonnaise.

I had planned on ordering more but given the starters, I thought it best to cut my losses and head to Jun-I to complete the evening. Service was a bit substandard throughout the meal (note that it was busy and every table was booked), the waiter let out an audible sigh when I requested a slightly dryer glass of wine to go with my oysters (the first was way too sweet) and proceeded to serve the second taste in the same glass. Really? The same glass? All pours of the evening were generous in size. Also, I received no bread basket. I didn't want any bread but still, it was a lax in service as the table to either side of me received some. They were parties of 2 and 6 respectively and I was only 1 but I expect the same standard of service when dining out. I requested the bill from the girl that had been bringing my plates (but was not the original waiter that took my order and had been serving me wine), waited 15 minutes and was finally told by my original waiter to come and pay at the register up front. I was in such a rush to get out and make it to Jun-I before closing (and slightly drunken with mayonnaise and wine) that I miscalculated the tip and left the place over 30% when I declined the change (arg). Realized as soon as I stepped outside to light a cigarette. At least Junichi saved the evening and hooked me up with a nice arrangement of solid sashimi as usual :)

I am not sure if it was just an off night or if this is what the loveable La Montee has turned into. Maybe the plater just had a super heavy sauce hand this evening and the items were meant to have a drop of mayo instead of 3 tablespoons? Maybe the usual oyster shucker called in sick and a bus boy who had never even seen an oyster before had to stand in? Maybe they asked him to make the ceviche too and he was so overwhelmed shucking oysters and bussing tables that he ignored the recipe and made a bucketful at once, remembering how his grandfather used to do it in the old days? Anything is possible and this evening could have been an anomaly. After leaving the Plateau for the larger space downtown, failing to turn the business they expected, cannibalizing the sister restaurant Bouchonne just to keep La Montee open in name (and cutting a lot of jobs in the process), one would think they are on relatively thin ice. Sitting here with nostalgia of the old restaurant, I would like to be able to give them another shot and try other items from the menu. Unfortunately, I have a very limited amount of time left in Montreal and many meals I wish to fit in. In light of all the food and service issues I experienced at the Mile End location, I will not be returning.

Restaurant La Montee De Lait
5171 Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T1M1, CA

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  1. Thanks for the review, dd_ss.

    Since the brain-dead mapping software doesn't get it (or much else) right, here's the contact info:

    La Montée de Lait
    5171 Saint-Laurent
    514 273-8846

    Maybe some CH moderator can correct the autolink so it doesn't lead people to the wrong address. Or to the Mile End Bar, which seems to be autolinked to whenever its neighbourhood is mentioned.

    Sorry to say your meal sounds more like the meal I had during my only visit (could never bring myself to return) to the St-Laurent Bouchonné than the generally excellent fare at the downtown La Montée. The Gazoo's fine dining "critic" gave the new place a rave review recently, though, of course, she's known to at least some of the staff.

    The green vegetable you had might have been so-called wild asparagus, which actually isn't asparagus at all.

    2 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      We fixed the address and phone number for La Montée de Lait and added the website. Any member of Chowhound is free to edit restaurant listings if they see any updates to be made; clicking the restaurant name will bring you to the edit screen. You can also use the report button to report a bad auto-link and we are glad to fix it. Thanks for your help.

      1. re: carswell

        I'm not familiar with the Gazoo but I have read many overly positive, almost gushing reviews for average places in publications here. Maybe it's just a Montreal thing? It's generally not like this in New York.

        I never made it to Bouchonne before it was absorbed but I was always sad about that, considering it was regularly reviewed as one of the top wine bars in Montreal. Possibly another case of over-hyped mediocrity?

        I think those wild/bath asparagus are the mystery vegetable! Quite tasty. As I am not familiar with the item I can't say if they were served raw or lightly blanched but they were fresh, crunchy and delicious. Definitely stole the spotlight from the lifeless fish in the ceviche. I will have to try and source some.

      2. Thanks for responding to my request for a review. Really detailed considering you lost the use of your dominant hand. Unfortunate that it was so bad.

        1 Reply
        1. re: souschef

          Sure no problem, happy to contribute. Lol sorry to mention the hand twice, I just copied and pasted that part of my post warning of a sub-standard review from the thread where you asked me originally and I was reluctant. It's only been a month and I'm still getting used to it. Seems to be my go-to excuse these days! It's not so much the hand's fault for the crappy review as it is the alcohol's, even with two functioning grabbers I probably wouldn't have been in the mood to bust out a pen and journal :)

        2. That is really odd. I went there a few weeks ago with my friends and we had a wonderful experience! Service was amazing and they didn't mind that we chatted for over 30 minutes (we had a friend that was late) before we ordered. Since we didn't know our wines that well, they suggested a great red wine (i can't remember for the life of me). Unfortunately I don't remember what we had anymore (i vaguely remember tuna, beef tartar, osco busco, bison and something else), but we all enjoyed our meal.

          1. Sorry to hear about your meal. I have been there twice since Montee moved in and had excellent service and food both times. The server was well versed in the wines and gave good suggestions to go with the food. I will be going back.

            1. On Sunday evening, after downing a glass or two of Alzipratu's Corse Calvi red at the oenople birthday party, I made a beeline for Magpie, only to find it closed. Wandering down St-Laurent, there weren't many places both open and appealing. Indian or Thai? Yeahbut those are restaurants I don't like soloing at. Plus, having begun the evening imbibing a lovely wine, I was in the mood for more of the same. I scoped out BU but it was empty, populated only by a waiter and a cook. That left the resto formerly known as Bouchonné, where I'd not dined since it became La Montée de Lait. What's more, they were more than half full, meaning I could get a walk-in seat and not worry about keeping the kitchen open to serve a one-top.

              Let's start with the positive: the food and wines were excellent.

              Despite not having eaten lunch, I wasn't starving, so I ordered two appetizers and a dessert.

              First to hit the table was the "pancake de brandade," a biscuit-sized round of salt cod and potato purée that looked to have been pan-fried: a thin, crisp, brown exterior and a creamy interior. Atop it was perched a perfectly poached duck egg, which added another kind of creaminess. The generous dollop of hollandaise seemed more like a herby tartar sauce; its tangy flavour was welcome but the creamy texture risked pushing the dish into overload. Salvation came in the form of a shock of micro frisée in a sharp, light dressing that cut through the richness and lifted the other flavours. The mini cutting board on which the dish was served was attractive but not very practical, as the ideally runny yolk headed straight for the edge and required quick knife work to avoid spillage. This went nicely with a Graves from Graville Lacoste, though I couldn't help thinking that a white Côtes du Rhône or Côtes de Provence would have been even better.

              Next up was a cassolette of squid and shrimp with fennel cream: more complex than advertised as it included fennel cooked two more ways (confit and nearly raw) and a piece of white fish (cod?) at the bottom of the bowl. Wonderfully aromatic (the waiter and a party across the aisle commented on how appetizing it smelled) with layers of mellow flavour, the fennels melting and crisp, the seafood pristine and perfectly cooked: the best dish I've encountered in a restaurant in ages. The wine pairing, Gérard Boulay's idiosyncratic but delicious Sancerre, proved better than I expected it to be.

              Dessert was three rounds of strawberry gelée (beautiful in appearance, texture and taste), a quenelle-shaped scoop of strawberry ice cream (silky and redolent of the fruit), two piles of fragrant fraises des bois and tiny blueberries (a little overwhelmed by a drizzle of floral-fruity syrup), and an incongruous scatter of crushed nougat or brittle. The waiter suggested a "half glass" of late-harvest Gewurztraminer as an accompaniment; the wine was quite sweet and tasty enough on its own but not a stellar match for the dish.

              Total bill, with taxes and tip: a little shy of $90.

              Not cheap and not great QPR, especially in light of the following:
              - The greeting and initial service were perfunctory and unsmiling. The situation improved only slightly over the course of the meal.
              - I was asked whether I wanted tap water or sparkling and then not brought any.
              - The baguette was good but the butter was rock hard.
              - The waiter was not forthcoming with details of the dishes and seemed nonplussed by questions about the order dishes should be served in and which wines would go with which dishes.
              - When first dish was served, I asked if I could have some water. The waiter -- the same as before -- inquired whether I wanted tap water or sparkling.
              - I overheard the waiter telling the diners at another table that the Loire doesn't make much red wine.
              - The waiter told me that the Graville Lacoste was Sauvignon with a little Sémillon, when it's the other way around.
              - Unless I misread, the menu said my dessert came with chocolate scones; they were AWOL.
              - The late-harvest Gewurz that the waiter recommended a "half glass" of was listed on the blackboard as being $14 with no mention of glass size (one assumes it would be a full glass, like every other wine on the blackboard). The pour was indeed a half glass. The wine was $14 on the bill.
              - The wine-by-the-glass selection was small and surprisingly redundant: of the six whites, two were Sauvignon Blancs (a Sancerre and a Pouilly Fumé) and one was a Sauvignony blend.
              - While it's purely a question of personal preference, I've decided I don't much care for the decor, especially the high-backed banquettes in their current claustrophobic configuration. As Cole Porter once sang, "Don't fence me in."

              A friend who went recently chimes in with the following: "I think the chef is talented and his food superlative, but the front of house has a cheap and thoughtless feel. The service was inattentive and uncoordinated. We finally flagged a bus boy to tell him we needed wine; we hadn't had a wine list at the table, and the neighbouring table was squeezed in so tight that I couldn't get out to grab one. So, I had to make a snap decision on wine with our plates cooling on the table. Yes, I know I sound ridiculous but... that can't happen when you're charging $30 a plate. It always was difficult to get bread at their restaurants but service was good and they hired smart people. Something changed about the time Bouchonné moved and the wine agency started up."

              Friend has sworn never to return. I won't go that far but will feel obliged to steel myself against indifferent service and keep an eye peeled for gouging. Sad really, when I'd rather be simply enjoying myself.