APDC - Emperors new clothes?
Hey, so this is something that i've been thinking about for a while. Putting local pride aside, is APDC all it's cracked up to be?
Years ago, when the place first opened the food/style created a huge shift in the Montreal food scene. No nonsense yet high cost foodstuffs used, styled "à la bonne franquette," and of course Martin's huge personality was a draw as well. But after going a few times, and confirmed after a recent trip with some out of towners who really wanted to go, i'm left with the impression that this place is more overpriced and less interesting than people tend to admit (on the board at least).
One of my dinner dates ordered a daily special and when it arrived was a soufflé dish (you know the ones that you could feed 4/6ppl with) of layered potatoes and some braised meat. the sheer size of the thing was ridiculous (for all the US bashing re:large sizes, we sometimes tend to be unreflective of our own gluttony); the price was about $40 (why not half the size and the price?!) and the dish had but one unvarying flavour throughout. boring.
I've obviously not tasted every dish on the menu, but i've gone through a lot of the meat dishes and they do tend to dull the pallet after a few bits, no? I guess the seafood platter is an exception...
Anyway, i was wondering what other people though of this. From lurking and reading suggestions i know people here like to recommend this place but isn't there more interesting places of people to eat than APDC? somewhere where foie gras is not obscured by a cup of demi-glace dumped all over a mountain of meat?
My beef with this place is not the ambiance, the people, or the vibe, nor what it's done to help put Montreal of the food-map. it's just that it doesn't seem to be evolving, it's a cliché. The food is expensive and unoriginal.
i actually like Joe Beef for a few reasons i find it differs a lot from APDC
1- They serve vegetables. I'm not vegan/vegetarian and i like meat a lot. but i also think balance/contrast of flavours and textures are really important when eating. Vegetables tend to do both of these quite well; also variety makes tends to "highlight" every element of a dish. Unique meat/gravy/mashed potatoes/mushrooms is not interesting pallet-wise.
2- Their menu changes with the seasons much much more than APDC. Sure they have daily specials, and i get that people like to go back a relive/re-eat special dishes (like every time i go to Babbo i eat the black pasta w/ rock shrimp and i would probably cry if they took it off the menu).
Right, it's obviously not my kind of place anymore. it caters, among other to be sure, to tourists and those "epic-meal-time" types that think that excess and bacon (for the poor) foie-gras for the rich is some kind of magical ingredient. But my question was more: am i the only one thinking this; what are other people's perception of this place a decade or so after opening...
I also really do not enjoy apdc. My favorite fois GRAS dish has to be at the filet, it is grated cold over hot pasta. I don't like restaurants that just add and add ingredients with no rhyme or reason. Hated the fact that at joe beef they added pork products to every seafood dish. Let great ingredients shine on their own. Gluttony is not always a good thing.
I understand where you're coming from, but here are a few of my thoughts:
a) I actually find the prices to be fairly reasonable for the portion sizes. Its one of the few places of this calibre where I can drink+dine for $60 and still come out full and not feeling like a cheapskate. Granted that some dishes are tremendously expensive (i.e. the fois gras duo), but given the grade of meat used it's not so outrageous.
b) I think that as you've implied, the uniqueness of APDC has been diluted a bit as so many other restaurants in Montreal and elsewhere have followed their model. Its unoriginal because it was so successful at innovating a decade ago, but that's hardly a reason for it to be reinvented. Moreover, if they did I imagine it would incite a small coup by angry diners.
c) I agree that some dishes are not as great as others. I don't particularly care for the Duck in a Can, boudin+foie tarte (if that's still a single dish), the pied de cochon, PDC's cut, or even the tartare, but really their shortcomings are as you've suggested: sheer excess. But this is the mantra of the place - sharing isn't just a suggestion but a necessity. Other than bringing dishes to the table one at a time (a la Maison Publique and Kazu), how else do you really encourage people to share with their dining companions? With this in mind, trying to eat most APDC dishes as one's private main course is not advisable, so criticizing the restaurant for this openly advertised approach is not particularly fair. If one goes as a couple or alone (where division of dishes is less possible), the servers are great at recommending more manageable menu items (i.e. the appetizers, melting pot, plogue, etc).
I have only been once and did find it a bit much in terms of portion size, richness, and foie gras everything. Nine times out of ten, I would prefer a few bites of something amazing to a giant plateful of fatty, meaty sameness. But for the tenth time, APDC fills the bill perfectly! However, I think it does remain somewhat original and unique in the food & experience it offers; there are not many places (in Montreal or elsewhere) offering the same thing. Also, for me, it is not important for restaurants to evolve, necessarily. If they find their niche, something they do well & that there is a demand for, then why not keep doing it? I will say that one of my dining companions had a beet salad & salmon tartare and both were delicious & not huge/ fatty/ meaty; so there are other options, even though most people seem to go there looking for huge/ fatty/ meaty. Whether it is an "interesting" place to eat, I think, really depends on your particular experiences, expectations & preferences.