Reviewing a restaurant is not something I take lightly. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the restaurant business I know that a critic’s account of a restaurant experience can affect an establishment’s reputation. Also, the fact that personal feelings toward dining out and food are so subjective, it sometimes seems futile to encapsulate a restaurant experience with one fell swoop of the pen. However, some of us who eat, and write, (and are completely obsessed with food) feel a certain obligation to share in our culinary adventures; to bring attention to the many remarkable chefs Montreal has to offer, and possibly help with that indelible question: where do we eat tonight?
The first restaurant up for review for The Examiner this year is Les Cons Servent. This casual, French bistro, located in the Petite-Patrie area of Montreal, is a hot spot with the young, professional bunch. An opened space with high ceilings, concrete walls and rustic, wood strip flooring, Les Cons can seat up to 60 people and did so on the night I was there; as Kool and the Gang would say, “there’s a party going on right here.”
The meal began with a small jar of toasted pecans. Presented in a small Mason jar, the salty, spicy nuts made me hungry for more. (The name, Les Con Servent, is a play on the French word “conserve” which in English translates to “preserves”. The pecans, along with various other preserves, from pickles to tomato sauce, are available for take out. It gets better, if you buy one of their preserves, you can also buy one of their privately imported wines to go.) Same goes for the bread, which came warm along side a challis of trendy, bistro butter.
The first entrée of puréed cod (brandade de morue, $9.00) was served with a mussel and liveche herb salad, which sat in a saffron rouille. The cod was flavourful and not over puréed, the rouille added just the right amount of richness. My dinner companion thought the salt in the cod became too pronounced with each bite. My entrée, a simple yet harmonious medley of pasta, oyster mushrooms,rapini, and shredded pork in a light, wine, pan sauce was delicious. The fazzoletti ($10.00) was perfectly seasoned, al dente, and assembled so that every ingredient, from the pork to the pasta, could be savoured on its own.
Of the two mains sampled, one was a hit while the other a let down. The grilled veal ($25.00), served with puréed squash, snail ragout, and some pickled veal tongue impressed. The snails imparted a unique flavour while the tart nature of the tongue balanced out the dish. The second plate, steak de cheval ($17.00), came rare just as requested, and while it did have a lot of flavour, its tough texture required too much chewing. (To be fair, the waiter did warn us that it was a firm piece of meat.) I like some bite to my steak and usually stay away from tender cuts completely void of flavour, but the required effort needed to eat this horse steak would surely lead to a Fabio-like jaw structure—and given the already striking resemblance between Fabio and myself, I didn’t feel the need to finish the steak.
On to the desserts—the dark chocolate terrine with peanut butter sauce, ($8.00) too sweet and cloying for my tastes, suited my dinner companion just fine. I’m more of a savoury dessert guy, so upon seeing bacon on the menu, it was pretty much a no-brainer: Fritters served with a caramel, butter sauce studded with bacon bits ($6.00). The crispiness of the fritters married well with the sweet and salty flavours; my only complaint would have to be that there wasn’t enough bacon, which I would have said even if there was enough. (But there really wasn’t.)
The convivial, brasserie atmosphere at Les Cons put me in the mood for a tall glass of blond ale ($7.00), while my companion opted for a glass of wine ($9.00). Co-owner Samuel Archambault played the part of sommelier, host and waiter professionally and with casual flair. (I showed up once without reservations during the Christmas season, Archambault and his staff shuffled a few tables and made room for us.) Along with the cheerful environment in the front of the house, Chef and co-owner Stelio Perombelon’s kitchen reflects a desire for creativity and experimentation, and I for one would happily re-visit Les Cons Servent and sample whatever future menu items the Chef sees fit to assemble.
Les Cons Servent, 5064 Papineau, Montreal. H2H 1V8. 514.523.8999