The Brasserie is the newest limb on the voltronic eatery that is The Reluctant Chef.
In addition to The Vinyl Room bar downstairs with records to spin, small plates, and a speakeasy style, and the Reluctant Chef original concept five course tasting menu served in the room above, there is now a newly re-decorated space upstairs serving “French comfort food.”
The look and feel of the new space is certainly comforting. Like the Vinyl Room, they have somehow captured a very specific feeling without a gauche themed look. The matte white chandeliers, sourced by local talent at Sam Design, and the one wall of white subway tiles in a den of burgundy, gilt framed mirrors, and heritage mantels, brought me right back to a cold, wet, and completely magical Montreal weekend last winter. It feels intimate and chic. The acoustics are decent even with every table filled and chattering.
At the soft opening in late January, they had cassoulet, a dish that is classically almost a parody of French farmhouse cooking where hearty does not mean simple with its meats-cooked-in-meats-cooked-in-beans blueprint. Here it was true to that essence of simple-not-simple with braised white beans rich with the flavour of foie gras.
The arancini, another appetizer, though not French, fit right in with heavy and heady ingredients (squid ink risotto) that came together to achieve the emotional balm of a grandparent’s spaghetti and meatballs.
For mains I tried both their duck and the house sausage. The sides with both were good balances of comfort food texture and date-night flavours (black lentil and leek fricasse, potato rosti, and sour cherries that popped in your mouth like cranberries). The main courses did not fully escape the trend in this town of over-salting a good thing, but the duck meat was very handily cooked and memorably satisfying for a carnivore’s fix.
All the textures throughout the meal were unimpeachable. The frites were perfectly soft inside and crisp outside though as small and delicate as toothpicks. I’d love to have them to go in a little wax paper bag so I could give in to the urge to throw them into my maw by the handful.
The beer listings were not exceptional. They had the standard Quidi Vidi products alongside some imports, but the cocktails were good and add to downtown’s offerings. Death in the Afternoon and Black Velvet both feature Cava (a sparkling Spanish wine) mixed with absinthe or stout, respectively. The Lumière features gin with elderflower and chartreuse and I am looking forward to trying it on my next visit along with the “Spicy Dark n’ Foggy” which adds “thai chilies and local berries” to the rum and ginger beer base.
The mains were priced well (~20-30) with shareably large portions and, as the range of dishes was wide (and this establishment has always gotten high marks for accommodating individual customer requests), the Brasserie is poised to be a great Happy Hour gathering spot that remains distinct from the other pub-style alternatives.
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