Toque!

Regular readers will have noticed that I haven’t reviewed a restaurant in a while. The reason for that is simple: I haven’t been eating out at new places lately. Last Friday, I figured it was time to break that streak. It has been pretty hectic at work lately and I felt like the GF and I deserved a great meal. After a bit of deliberation I settled on Toque!, thinking that we couldn’t go wrong.

We went with the seven course tasting menu ($98 pp) and the discovery wine pairing ($65 pp).

Most reviews of the tasting menu at Toque! contain meticulous descriptions of each plate and an abundance of gushing. It seems many people have had great experiences at Toque! Unfortunately, mine was not so great, so there won’t be any gushing here and I don’t really feel like taking the time to try to describe the 14 ingredients in each plate. A summary rundown is in order though.

After the rutabaga mousse with cocoa butter amuse bouche the seven courses were as follows:

- Sea urchin with oyster and ginger water.
- Shrimp cocktail with a spice garnish, a bit of cocktail sauce and a mayo based sauce.
- Arctic char with a watermelon radish / snow crab salad (my girlfriend had the seared foie gras in place of this dish).
- Veal sweetbread with green garlic (some popcorn in there too).
- Beef tenderloin, with sea snails, garnished with green onions and some other vegetables.
- Blue cheese (Bleu d’auvergne) crumbles with whipped meringue.
- Lemon cake w/ caramelized white chocolate ice cream.

Of the eight courses listed above, the only ones that really impressed me were the shrimp cocktail and the foie gras. The shrimp were sweet and tender and the crispy, salty fried heads were a nice compliment. The foie gras was expertly seared, and served with toasted brioche, cumin salt and a nice chutney. The accompanying wine, an extra sweet white wine from Greece was a perfect compliment. The sea urchin was also interesting; salty and smokey, but not something I would order again. Unfortunately, the rest of the dishes did not live up to expectations.

The arctic char was nicely cooked – crisp on the outside and a bit translucent in the middle, but it had an odd burned flavour to it and not much else. The accompanying salad was an ordinary mix of vegetables and very fine shreds of snow crab.

The veal sweetbread was nice and crispy, but the dish overall was a bit salty. The addition of popcorn seemed contrived and awkward.

The beef tenderloin / snail dish was essentially the “main course” in this menu and it really fell flat for me. Three cubes of beef, grilled snails, some raw vegetable and a bit of couscous. Sure, the beef was nicely cooked and tender but it generally lacked flavour. As for the sea snails, this was actually the first time I had tried them, so I don’t have any frame of reference; but I’m pretty sure they were overcooked and under-seasoned (unless they are supposed to be rubbery and bland). The whole dish was just really disappointing.

The “cheese plate” was not strong. Bleu d’Auvergne is a middle of the road blue cheese from France, and the meringue was kind of weird. Meh. Ditto for the lemon cake dessert. It wasn’t horrible, but it was very normal.

Lastly, I should note that the bread was disgraceful. It was cold and stale  (the butter was also too cold). Shocking.

The wines were generally good, although my lack of appreciation of the food probably prevented me from truly enjoying the pairing experience. One that stood out was an Arianna Occhipinti from Sicily (Nero d’Avola and Frappato). It made such an impression on me that I am looking into getting a case through oenopole.ca, so the night wasn’t a complete write off.

So, here’s the deal – after tax and tip this meal for two came in at about $450. Price does matter, and at that price I think it’s reasonable to expect something really special. This meal was not special. It was just OK. Luckily, a good chunk of that $450 bill didn’t come directly out of my pocket (work perquisites and what not), so I wasn’t as bitter as I could have been. Nevertheless, I was left feeling like I had been had, falling right into a textbook tourist trap in my own town. Or maybe it was just an off night? Or maybe the tasting menu doesn’t compare to ordering a la carte? I mean, after all, everyone knows that Restaurant Toque! is one of Montreal’s culinary gems, right? And what do I really know? I’m just some dude. Either way, I won’t be back.

Price: Very expensive, as mentioned. Exact prices available on their website.
Rating: 2 – Meh, it’s OK.

Toqué! on Urbanspoon

Toque! – 900 Jean-Paul-Riopelle – 514.499.2084

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2 Responses to Toque!

  1. 514eats says:

    I fully agree with your review and opinion. I went once about 4 years ago and had the tasting menu with the wine option. While the overall experience was a good one (vibe, waiter, service…), our table was more-or-less disappointed with the food.

    We thought there was a bit of “trying too hard” with each course; infusing 5 or more different flavors into each dish’s main ingredient didn’t impress us.

    The biggest proof that the night was not memorable? I do not remember a single one of the seven courses, which is not a good sign.

    Maybe we’re just both regular dudes, and we don’t know any better :)

    • CCUinMTL says:

      Yeah. The service was good I guess (although I prefer more “warm” service) and the place itself is not bad to look at. But the meal just wasn’t good enough.

      Thanks for commenting!

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