During the recent MLK weekend, my wife Jun and I traveled to Montreal for a quick trip with my college friend and his French Canadian girlfriend who is from the area. We had a fun time in the city, although it was not always easy to navigate around when the weather was sub-zero and the snow was almost constantly falling. For our culinary journey, I had very high expectations for Montreal’s diverse scene, especially Toqué which had long been considered one of the best fine dining establishments in the city for its ingredient-driven philosophy and marriage of French and Canadian traditions. Our traveling companions could not arrive at the city until late Friday night, so it was just Jun and I who ended up dining at the restaurant for dinner. Was Toqué a game-changer? It certainly is a pretty good restaurant, but I also confess that there were some puzzling moments throughout our meal too.
The restaurant has both a la carte and seven course tasting menu options (at CAD 142 per person), and of course we went with the latter to fully explore what the kitchen has to offer. Each dish was meticulously prepared with beautiful plating, and a lot of them were delicious but some of them posed “what if?” questions. Yes, the sea urchin that came with ricotta cheese, marinated white asparagus, yuzu gel and green onion was delicious, but what if we had something a little more crunchy than shortbread as a nice contrast to uni’s soft texture? The foie gras which came with clementine confit was also well-done in terms of texture and didn’t feel too greasy, but we both agreed that it could’ve been a really fantastic dish had it come out a little warmer. On the other hand, the roasted trout with chanterelle mushroom and daikon shoots was quite outstanding thanks to the way peach puree gave an extra dimension in flavor to the fish.
The last two savory courses was a head scratcher as well. How often do you see a restaurant serve two similar meats in a row such as quail and squab? After the quail (which was accompanied by Brussels sprouts and oyster mushroom, and was a little too salty from the combination of fir salt and Bordelaise sauce) was finished, Jun and I were expecting something like a beef or maybe a fish. Instead, we got a squab that came with roasted cipollini onions, roasted peppers and carrot accompanied by puree of shiitake mushroom and black garlic. The squab was very competently cooked to give the kind of texture you would look from this meat, but we were nonetheless confused why the kitchen would think to have a poultry feast to end the savory courses. After a delightful palate cleanser of grapefruit and gin cream along with ice cream meringue, we both immensely enjoyed the final dessert of chocolate cake and wild strawberry sorbet. The spongy texture of the chocolate cake worked beautifully with the refreshing sensation of strawberry sorbet. At least for me, it was the best dish of the night.
Getting a reservation at Toqué could be challenging especially on prime time during the weekend, although the dining room was not quite full during our meal on a Friday evening. The dining room, perhaps because of dim light, felt surprisingly a little dated for my taste but the service of the staff was quite nice, and there is a large wine list from all over the country to choose from to complement your meal. Oddly, we were only able to get a written menu of dishes in French which, for a restaurant with global appeal such as Toqué, was somewhat surprisingly despite where the fact that the restaurant is located in the part of Canada where French is more ubiquitous than English. Toqué offers a very nice fine-dining experience but maybe our visit in the middle of deep winter (it was the coldest week in Montreal when we had visited) limited the range of ingredients that the kitchen was able to use, hence a curious succession of quail and squab. I guess I expected a much more memorable experience.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 900, place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, Montreal, Quebec H2Z 2B2, Canada
Telephone: (514) 499-2084