Every town has its celeb chefs, and Montreal is no different, even if they're few. The clique is made up of Normand Laprise (Toqué!), Chuck Hughes (Garde Manger), Dave McMillan (Joe Beef), Martin Picard (Au Pied de Cochon) and.... Louis-François Marcotte of Le Local.
I had never heard of Marcotte, I confess - only been living here for 15. years, after all.... - and I certainly did not like his Le Local, which I always found loud, pretentious and very weak in the food department.
But a food critic can't be prejudiced, right? So off I went to try out Marcotte's new restaurant, Le Hangar, opened just over a week ago in a part of town between Downtown and Old Montreal called Griffintown.
Right off the bat, I loved the décor. Sexy, dimly-lit, exposed brick walls, warehouse aesthetic (it was, actually, a warehouse in the past). A long metal beam in the center of the room was shipped in from New York's Ground Zero.
Marcotte, of course, was nowhere to be seen. A sort of very québecois version of Jamie Oliver (think earring, unbutonned shirts, spiky hair), he's too famous to cook, I gather. He married a TV and radio celeb, Patricia Paquin, and they recently had a baby boy...
Turns out the guy who actually does the cooking, youngster Mike Diamond, has a very sure hand. I hadn't really expected much and had been nibbling at several hors d'oeuvres at a previous wine tasting, so I only ordered a couple of appetizers, but wow, did they surprise me!
The bruschetta (which changes toppings nightly, I'm told) was deliciously thin and crunchy, topped with asparagus spears and cipollini. The polenta, oh-so-creamy-and-velvety, was laced with smoked tomatoes. Very nice.
I enjoyed sitting at the small bar which faces the open-kitchen:
... and even found room for dessert: a not-too-sweet, firm-yet-smooth bread pudding with a properly boozy rum'n'raisin ice cream:
I liked it so much I went back again the following day.
But both sea bass with asparagus and the mushroom risotto, even if very déjà vu, were perfectly prepared:
Overall, great (if unoriginal) food, great space, great crowd. Love it, and will be back soon!
Le Hangar: rua Wellington, 1011, tel. (1-514) 878-2112