By Andrea Doucet Donida
One step into the warm and sparkling new topaz colored restaurant space of the Ritz-Carlton, you feel like Maison Boulud has always belonged there, that it has finally found its home in Canada.
The lovely outdoor garden is still there, but the new adjacent glass-enclosed winter garden room has given it a second life, a beautiful space with solid yet elegant teak furniture, all hand made in Montreal by a local carpenter. This is where I had my first meal at Maison Boulud*, an enjoyable place to extend Montreal’s too short summer season for sure (this blog's co-author, Alexandra Forbes, wrote her own report on the restaurant, click here to read).
Inside, the room has some fun glass separations, which allows for the light to play around which creates an aura of jewel tones around us. It’s a very comfortable environment that makes you feel immediately at ease. Fire has a great role to play too; with a large, modern and dominant fireplace near the bar area as well as in the kitchen, a beautiful copper one that chef must enjoy having.
Speaking of the kitchen, it’s the first thing you see when entering the restaurant. I love it. It really places the importance of the food at the forefront, it sends a strong message. So walking to your table your appetite is already being stimulated by the desserts being prepared, the fire cooking up a storm and the 22 chefs, sous-chefs and cooks hard at work.
I was lucky enough to be dining with two of my friends and co-bloggers, Mayssam and Katerine, with a spare chair at our table that chef Daniel Boulud himself filled for part of our meal! What an honor and treat. Chef Daniel Boulud is a really fun, smiling and enjoyable person. He promises to be back often in his new Montreal home, because, well, he just loves Montreal! He comes here regularly anyway to spend time with his friends Normand Laprise of Toqué, and Martin Picard of Pied de Cochon to name just a few!
Now that I have tasted his food in both Daniel’s flagship restaurant in New York and in Maison Boulud, I can say that his food is what you’d expect from a high class restaurant: beautiful, impeccable even, it’s what I could describe as a classic French cuisine, but not traditional, definitely grounded in what today’s French cuisine is all about: fresh seasonal products and the most refined cooking techniques. It is not mind blowing or incredibly innovative, there are no magic tricks on the plate, but a very sure value (which is quite rare I must say).
A dish especially created for Maison Boulud is the Veal Filet and Sweetbread “Saltimboca” with Green Asparagus, Almond Potatoes, Prosciutto and Sage. It was also my favourite dish chosen that night. I have to mention also the perfect wine choice of our sommelier, Isabel Bordeleau (who was at the Local, where she worked with the great Elyse Lambert). She served me a glass of Italian Ruanera 2008, Cascina La Barbatella, Monferrato, from Northern Italy (Piedmonte), which had a similar light bitterness as an end note in harmony with the asparagus from the dish.
The dish that I least enjoyed was surprisingly the Suckling Pig (I love this dish usually), because some of the braised pig pieces were unfortunately to dry. But if you look at the picture below, you'll see that it was however tasty and a very interesting plate.
We also had the Beef Duo that was perfectly cooked and very tasty, beautiful plating that reminded me of desserts (well, most things in life remind me of dessert…!).
Finally, I have to mention the side dish of Crispy Artichokes, with aioli and Nipella (a wild mint from Southern Italy), an Aha moment!
Chef Boulud also presented to us his Corporate Pastry Chef, Éric Bertoia, who has been working with him for over 10 years and oversees all Boulud’s restaurant dessert menus. At Maison Boulud, there are 7 desserts, 3 of which are more fruit oriented, and 3 that are chocolate based plus a selection of ice cream and sorbet s as well as a cheese platter.
My two favourite desserts where the Vacherin Rhubarbe and the Chocolate Coulant with a liquid salty caramel, a classic Boulud dessert you can also enjoy in New York.
My favourite of the night: Vacherin Rhubarbe
Maison Boulud has opened, just in time for the Grand-Prix, and there are still some tweaking to be done here and there, but service and food are already up and running. Brunch will be served shortly, and that will definitely be something else to try, hopefully on a bright summer morning, out by the fountain, where the Ritz-Carlton tradition has been given a breath of fresh air with its new Maison Boulud.
Maison Boulud Team
Chef Daniel Boulud
Executive Chef Riccardo Bertolino
Pastry Executive Sous Chef Suyin Wong
General Manager Cyril Duport
Sommelier Isabel Bordeleau
Interior Design by Super Potato Co. Ltd. Tokyo (don't you just love the name?!)
Lunch à la carte (main courses $22 - $32) and prix fixe: two courses $32, three courses $40
Dinner à la carte (main courses $27 - $36)
Weekend Brunch à la carte – no information yet - menu to be determined
Wine list: an impressive 300 selections from $40 per bottle with a focus on the wines from Burgundy, The Rhöne Valley and North America. A good selection of wine per glass as well.
*all expenses of this meal courtesy of Maison Boulud.
Some other dishes we enjoyed at dinner:
Lovely Foie Gras Terrine, Rhubarb, Pistachio.
Grilled Octopus, Piquillos, Marcona Almond, Arugula
Not the table's favourite: Panisses, Piquillo Ketchup
Light and tasty Sheep's Milk Ricotta Ravioli
Beautiful Scallop, white asparagus and Morels Mushrooms
Refreshing Coffee Rocky Road Cardamome espuma, Coffe Gelato
Surprising and delicious Mid-Eastern inspired Strawberry and Orange Flower Dessert
Raspberry and Mango Dessert, good but not wow
Daring Limoncello and Hazelnut Dessert
Comforting, light, beautiful Madelaines
And here is an interview with chef Daniel Boulud, at the Montreal Ritz-Carlton, a few months before the opening of the restaurant: