Bleu Raisin - Still good ?
I have to make a quick decision for dinner tomorrow night - was thinking of Bleu Raisin, which I've never been to. It had many raves on this board about a year ago, but i'm not finding anything recent. Did anyone try it recently ? Is it still rave-worthy ?
Was there a couple of weeks ago; still excellent.
The six-course tasting menu @$49 (more for certain choices) is good value and a very satisfying meal.
Here's what I can remember of the tasting menu (it's a little sketchy in places, sorry -- and some of it may have changed already for all I know):
- amuse: confit duck gizzard w/ rillettes (I want to say pork, may have been duck)
- a seafood course with a small serving of soup (lobster bisque?), a small skewer of hot-smoked salmon (saumon boucané) and smoked salmon "cake"
- foie gras au torchon (1 small round -- perfect amount IMHO). I believe there is an option to take the pan-seared foie gras for a supplement.
- a small dish of wild mushrooms and escargots in a cream sauce
- a main course - choice of elk filet mignon, a lobster dish, pork loin chop w/ polenta, probably one or two more, can't remember. If the pork is still on the menu, it was the standout among the dishes we tried (and the chop is huge -- the "tasting menu" portions are only small for 5 of 6 courses; the main course is full size).
- dessert - still serving the famous cheesecake; portion has shrunk but you won't mind after everything else. I think there was also a crème brûlée and a chocolate option
The tasting menu covers a good amount of what's on the blackboard, but there were a couple of dishes not offered with the tasting menu, including at least two mains: sweetbreads, and magret de canard (sorry, don't remember anything about preparations).
Bread was notably good, and if I'm not mistaken it's homemade.
A friend of mine went a couple of weeks ago and had Bleu Raisin do omakase. He's been raving about their liver dish ever since though he did mention that everything else was fine too. So, seems that food's okay and there wasn't anything that crashed and burned against the wines they brought along.
Took advantage of a Groupon deal for Bleu Raisin and took my SO out for supper. We went for the 6 courses tasting menu, which was 4 small apps, a main and dessert.
The meal started with some "petites bouchées" : a salmon gravlax on endive, a duck gésier, and rillettes. We asked for bread at this point, since we hadn't yet received any. Anyhow, the bouchées were a good start.
And then the wait started. Apparently the kitchen was so in the weeds, they were beyond the back 40.
We finally got the 2nd app, a bite of fois gras, that came with a bit of lightly cooked strawberry, and a minuscule amount of caramelized noisettes.
More waiting. Finally the 3rd app showed up: a white shrimp deglazed with a (rice?) vinegar and served on a yellow beet salad finally appeared. It was supposed to be spiced with coriander, but that looked like black sesame to me. Shrimp was overcooked and slightly bitter.
At this point almost 90 minutes had passed and we were starting to feel irked. At least the 4th appetizer, a tartare of elk with a ras al hanout oil and a herbed labneh appeared only 15 minutes after that. There was a nice herbed garnish, overall it was good, but the kitchen's habit of painting the garnishes or dribbling them in homeopathic amounts on large plates made it hard to appreciate the flavours. I don't like having to scrape up a long smear of labneh to get a hint of a taste.
And we finally got our main courses about 2h15 later after we got there.
I had the râble de lapin stuffed with chorizo, Bouc Émissaire cheese and something else I forget. It came with a polenta flavoured with red pepper and pimenton. The rabbit was somewhat dry (well, it IS rabbit) and not very flavourful, despite the goat cheese that overwhelmed everything. The polenta started out okay but I quickly tired of it (bitter?). Vegetables were an afterthought: 2 green beans, 2 asparagus spears, a tiny pattypan squash and a half a minuscule roasted pepper. My dish was on the wrong side of warm.
SO had the croustillant d'agneau, which was stewed lamb in a crispy rice pancake, served with aubergine mousseline and the same afterthought vegetables. It was underwhelming and bland. The mousseline was good though. I would have reached for the salt, had there been a shaker on the table.
At this point, we were fed up, and hoped dessert would be better. I got the chocolate flour-less cake (nobody can screw up chocolate cake), and he got the 'Rose Blanche' cheesecake, with caramelized maple. I liked mine, he was not particularly enthused with his. Not enough caramel, I guess, and he said the blueberries it came with clashed with the cheesecake.
When we asked for our bill, we did inquire if they were understaffed that night because 3 hours was way too long for this meal, and we found out that the head chef had taken ill early that evening and so the kitchen was indeed badly in the weeds. But the waiters only found out much later what had happened. It would have been nice if someone had explained that they were having problems and why. There were only two waiters on the floor and perhaps two cooks in the back and at least 20 tables occupied. Not a good situation.
But beyond that technical glitch, we felt that while the menu looks good on paper, the results aren't what one would hope for. Perhaps too ambitious? Trying too hard?
On the upside, the accent is on local products (lots of the meats had regional provenances noted), lots of local cheeses used in the dishes, and some hits of fresh produce. However, most dishes never quite melded. Also it was all heavy, meat-centric dishes, foie gras, rillettes, cheeses, and some game fish. It struck me that this looked mostly like a winter menu with just a few attempts to "summerfy" it (a bit of summer fruits here, a few exotic fresh herbs there). Toward the end, I was was hankering for something fresher, simpler, and more in tune with the summer season.
So while there is a nice terrasse out front, the food is perhaps more appropriate for fall and winter.
It's a shame they were having trouble. I've only been in fall/winter the last few years (and the food has been much as you describe, only well-paced and generally well-executed), so didn't realize they don't do more interesting things with vegetables in the summer. That's too bad.
I finally went a few weeks ago for the first time. I didn't suffer your long wait, but like you I was very much underwhelmed by the food, especially after all the raves I'd read here. Service was amateurish, the room crowded and very noisy. With many restos in Montreal offering the same type of food but much better executed, I very much doubt that I will be back.