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Le Devoir 2010 Best Restaurants: 1. Piment Rouge, 2. Jun-I, 3. Gandhi, 4. Renoir, 5. Europea...

Le Devoir (food critic Philippe Mollé) just published their top 12 restaurants for 2010 in today’s paper. Interesting mix of restaurants:

1. Le Piment Rouge [score 9/10]
2. Jun-I [8/10]
3. Gandhi [8/10]
4. Renoir [7.5/10]
5. Europea, [7.5/10]
6. Portus Calle [7/10]
7. Le Vieux St Gabriel [score 7/10]
8. Niji [6.5/10]
9. DNA [6.5/10]
10. Le Tire-Bouchon [6/10]
11. Bistro Cocagne [6/10]
12. Les Trois Petits Bouchons [5.5/10]

Link to the full article: http://www.ledevoir.com/loisirs/resta...

Mollé’s comments on his evaluation criteria for this article: “Évaluer un restaurant n'est pas simple ni facile. Différents critères sont pris en considération et l'évaluation se fait parfois sur plusieurs mois, avec plus d'une visite au restaurant. Ces critères vont de l'ambiance (musique, décor, éclairage, style) au mobilier et aux ustensiles, en passant par la propreté, la manière dont la table est dressée, le service, la carte des vins, les vins offerts au verre et, bien sûr, la qualité des mets servis en fonction du rapport qualité/prix. Les critères évalués diffèrent selon le genre de restaurant visité (gastronomique, bistro...) et selon qu'on y mange le midi ou le soir. Voici mes 12 meilleurs restos, choisis parmi une palette de grande qualité.”

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  1. I won't comment on the list, to each is own (and I mostly agree with this one), but the scoring is kind of weird.

    Does it mean that most of the other restaurants he (or they if done by a group of people) did not even have a 50% score ?

    just wonderin'

    2 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      I'm guessing it might be like the star or number rating system used by many food critics. For example, Lesley Chesterman: 4/4 = excellent, 3/4 = very good, 2/4 = good, 1/4 = fair, 0/4 = crap. So I think that a 50% score (2/4) is still "good" and not "failure" like getting a 50% grade in school. Or he could just be ranking among the top 12, and while all are excellent, Piment Rouge scores the highest (90%), Trois Petits Bouchons scores the lowest (55%), but the lowest on the list is still a top 12 restaurant in the city.

      1. re: Maximilien

        I would guess that the ratings are relative to each other. The ratings indicate then that Piment Rouge is almost twice as good as Les Trois Petits Bouchon. Although if this is the intended meaning and Piment Rouge is the reference point for best restaurant of the year, it should have been assigned a 10.

        Otherwise if the ratings are actually not relative to each other and are the ratings against ALL restaurants in Montreal, I would hate to be Mr. Molle! If the twelth best restaurant in a city with 1000's only deserves 5.5 stars then I would hate to be a restaurant critic.

      2. Very curious how relatively rare Piment Rouge is mentioned on this board for reccos, faves etc.
        What does this mean?

        2 Replies
        1. re: extrabrocolli

          Le Piment Rouge recently went through a complete overhaul. Its previous incarnation was not very popular with Montreal hounds. I haven't read or heard anything about the new Piment Rouge appart from Mollé's review in Le Devoir.

          1. re: extrabrocolli

            Piment Rouge's website says that this is their 3rd major concept update since they opened in 1980. IMO, they have always been a good restaurant that is especially popular with the power-lunch and business crowd, but now they've pushed back into the high gastronomic realm. Over the summer, they gutted and renovated the entire restaurant and switched out most of their chefs. I heard (not confirmed) that they recruited three or four top Chinese chefs of various specializations from big name restaurants in Hong Kong and Shanghai, including one from Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons, the only Michelin three-star Chinese restaurant in the world. The new menu items I've tried have been very good - complex combination of flavours, rich sauces, unusual recipes and ingredients, and beautiful presentation.

          2. I don't do a lot of fine dining, so I don't have much to say about this list. Except that it's great to see a top 10 list of Montreal restaurants without, AFAIK, a single place that serves pulled-pork.

            1. Has anyone been to Gandhi before?

              I just visited their website and am truly excited and surprised it's evaded me for so long. I've never read it mentioned before on this forum. Anyways, it's nice and refreshing to see a list without all the usual suspects. I think I may be going to Ghandi for dinner tonight!

              PS - Portus Calle looks amazing too: another one I wasn't familiar with!

              And Le Vieux St Gabriel looks like an excellent choice and dinner option for Dec. 24/25 to be added to the ongoing thread of recommended places.

              5 Replies
              1. re: OliverB

                The atmosphere at Gandhi is certainly different--and much more subdued--than the atmospheres at the Parc-Extension Indian restaurants. We used to have a tradition of wandering around Old Montréal on a December night when the holiday lights were up, and slipping into Gandhi afterwards for a warming Indian dinner was a nice end to the chilly winter's stroll. Last time I was there was about a year ago; I remember it being decent but not particularly memorable, the service distracted.

                I haven't been to Portus Calle recently, so I can't really judge it, but I've had some good tapas there in the past. Obviously it's considerably more sleek and upscale than many of the Plateau Portuguese restaurants, without being super-fancy.

                It is interesting that the list covers a few places not typically raved about on Chowhound. Fun to get people's impressions of some of the lesser-mentioned ones.

                1. re: vermontrealer

                  i am glad to see le renoir up there especially for a hotel restaurant,...for valentines the meal was inspired and they gave flowers, had henna artist on hand and I see for new years they are doing a masquerade party, most hotels get sort of dead on holidays but they really try to stand out, and the service is wonderful

                  1. re: vermontrealer

                    @ OliverB: I've eaten there several times over the past few years and am yet to be disappointed. As vermontrealer mentions, the atmosphere is a touch more subdued than your typical Indian resto. The decor is spartan, with just a few tasteful accents of Indian artwork gracing the walls. As Indian restaurants go, Ghandi is a very elegant and refined space.

                    The menu is long, but pretty straightforward, consisting of about twenty or so entree items, tandoori and biryani dishes, a good choice of curries to which you can add your protein of choice, and a wide selection of accompaniments. So far everything I've eaten there has been great, but standouts have been the chicken korma, saag paneer, onion bhajis, and naan bread. Prices are reasonable IMO. You can expect to drop about 30 dollars per head for a good meal.

                    As for the service, every time I've gone it's been warm and friendly. You can expect to be recognized and warmly greeted after just a few times eating there. All in all, a great place that I'd highly recommend to anyone.

                    1. re: MonsieurMangetout

                      Thanks so much Mangetout,

                      I will make a point of visiting one night this week. I've been looking for a higher end Indian restaurant since I came back from NY this summer and was knocked out by Tamarind! I haven't been able to find anything similar in our city but this looks and sounds like a fabulous place and your description is really enticing! I love the atmosphere and decor of the room also, from what I've seen online. Thanks again!

                  2. re: OliverB

                    Portus Calle has been a great disappointment the last 2 of 3 times we were there......primarily from a service point of view. While we really enjoyed the initial visit, we will not go back!

                  3. I am disapointed that North Americanized Chinese food and Japanese food is on this list in the first three spots. I have taken Asians to the frist two restaurants who were actually incredibly disapointed. I haven't been to Gandhi, but perhaps that makes three. Renoir's new chef from France gets my vote-he is surely a great chef with great use of local ingredients. I have not been to most of the rest, but I will check this reviewer out. Maybe he knows western cuisine. I don't know about his taste in Asian cuisine. I doubt if you see many Asians in those first three restaurants. He might find some great Chinese and Japanese in New York that is really authentic.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: foodlovergeneral

                      I can't really comment on whether or not these places should be at the top of the best Montreal restaurants list (I wouldn't put them there myself)... However, this list isn't an authenticity competition either. Clearly many of the other non-asian restaurants like DNA, 3PB, etc. aren't authentic either: these put an North America/Quebecois spin on French cooking. However, good food is good food. If it stayed stagnant then I think we'd all get pretty bored.
                      Holding these restaurants to a standard of giving you what you expect seems a bit unfair. Maybe this reviewer doesn't know asian cuisine, but if he likes it then I'm not sure what else can be expected. I can think of many examples of restaurants I know to be inauthentic or even technically unimpressive that I really like. Sometimes logic and knowledge gets trumped by the tongue.

                      1. re: Fintastic

                        Excellent points. I too love food and it often defies logic. I do so admire traditional skills, however. Japanese, Chinese, Quebecois, French. That's just my opinion. I do like it when a highly skilled chef tries non-traditional; that can be phenomenal. But if I am a reviewer, I would get to know the cuisine I am reviewing. If it's fusion, don't call it Chinese, or Mexican. Call it what it is.

                        1. re: foodlovergeneral

                          I wonder if he'll do a list for 2011.

                      2. re: foodlovergeneral

                        Piment Rouge imports their ingredients and their chef's ;)

                        I don't know that I would call it americanized. I would call it refined contemporary chinese.

                        1. re: BarackHObama

                          Here's what my wife (Chinese) says: "They flavors are Canadianized-too garlicky, too sweet, too fatty. A lack of sensitivity to the ingredients themselves. They used broccoli over and over again throughout many of the dishes, which is not even a Chinese ingredient. There was some xiao bai cai, but there are so many other Chinese vegetables. The "cumin lamb" was not as nice as real western Chinese style lamb. Too much sauce on all the dishes. It comports with Canadian/Americanized Chinese food in which the sense need to be overwhelmed". Szichuanese food is overwhelming, but it is done in a very precise and elegant and balanced way. It didn't feel high end compared to traditional Chinese restaurants. They are probably catering to their clientele."

                          Your idea of "REFINED CONTEMPORARY CHINESE" exists in Hong Kong and Shanghai. It's much more elegant and precise. There's even "contemporary chinese" in New York and Toronto that are quite excellent. But this, at best, could be called "fusion" not "Chinese". Have you been to real Chinese restaurants (Not Quebec Chinese)?

                          1. re: foodlovergeneral

                            have you been since they replaced their kitchen staff?

                            1. re: BarackHObama

                              I was there several months ago. When did they replace their staff?

                        2. re: foodlovergeneral

                          I agree with Fintastic that authenticity should not be a big judging point for a restaurant's quality. Top French restaurants use Asian sauces - I had fish poached in yuzu citrus sauce at Daniel in NYC. And the best Chinese restaurants now also use western ingredients - Tang Court in Hong Kong has French truffles in their dim sum and clotted cream in their desserts. So how do you truly define what is "real" Chinese food - real for whom?

                          Le Piment Rouge is always a favorite when I visit Montreal. Most of the menu is very close in style and quality to what you would get at the best Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia. The menu also has some North American style Chinese dishes which are also very good with their rich sauces, and IMO do not detract from the quality of the overall experience. From my perspective as a frequent visitor to Montreal, I can see why your food critic ranked Le Piment Rouge as a top restaurant in the city because while Montreal has so many French (or North American style French) restaurants that are unique and special to Montreal, the city also has certain restaurants like Le Piment Rouge that serve cuisines that may not be unique to Montreal, but are nevertheless noteworthy because they are very good compared to similar style restaurants elsewhere in the world.

                          1. re: DeniseB

                            I would be interested in trying this resto, deniseB do you have some dishes to recommend?

                            1. re: mangoannie

                              From my recent visits, here are some items on their menu that I think are very good:

                              Seafood tofu soup
                              Firecracker jumbo shrimp dumpling with kohlrabi salad
                              Spicy Szechuan peppercorn soup with egg noodles
                              Grilled Gobi rack of lamb with Xin Jiang spices
                              Filet Mignon stir fried Beijing style with cloves of garlic
                              Shredded beef with fresh mango
                              Sauteed chicken with sun dried Sichuan peppers in house sauce
                              Pan fried skate fish with lemon coriander sauce
                              Sea bass in black bean sauce
                              Garlic shrimp (has crispy chili and garlic chips, ginger and other spices)
                              Eggplant in garlic sauce

                              Also, I don't see it on their menu on their website, so it must be a regular daily special item - whole grey sole that is served with its fish fillets stir fried with Chinese XO sauce (small bits of dried seafood and spices) and the bone rack is deep fried into a basket. This is a great dish too. I've seen this exact dish at one of the Michelin stars Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. The slow braised whole baby abalone with shitake mushrooms is also very good, but I would get that only if it's a business dinner (expensive small dish) and I'm trying to impress important guests.

                              Hope this helps.

                              1. re: DeniseB

                                does it help? well my mouth is watering already and because of the chicken/fish suggestions I know someone who will enjoy going with me! many thanks!

                                1. re: mangoannie

                                  If you do go, please report back mangoannie! I have not been but the mixed reports have not convinced me that it would offer better food or QPR than the Sichuan restaurants around Guy-Concordia. However, some of the dishes that DeniseB describes do sound tantalising (and unavailable at the other restaurants!)

                        3. I think the list for 2011 will be in this weekend edition of le devoir