Tasting menus can be scary to some people. Will I like all the dishes served to me? Why can’t I just order what I want? Or more importantly, do I trust the chef enough to fully guide my restaurant experience? Fundamentally that is the question when confronted with a tasting menu. Personally, I think the tasting menu is a great way to evaluate a restaurant as it should technically be what the chef wishes to serve you. If you don’t like the tasting menu then I suspect the restaurant will not be for you. In Montreal, a few recent restaurants have decided to go only tasting menu – a bold choice but one that certainly can be interesting. One of these is Le Fantome. A relatively new restaurant located in Griffintown, Le Fantome has received plenty of rave reviews since their opening and actually switched to an only-tasting menu option sometime after their opening. Given their close proximity to my place, it was a perfect date night spot for my girlfriend and I a few weeks ago.
Hidden on William street, Le Fantome is very unassuming from the outside. In fact, you’re likely to miss it when you drive by. The narrow room is sparsely lit decorated only with abstract paintings from chef Jason Morris’s great- grandfather. Not my style artistically but it goes create a nice intimate setting. Noise level was relatively high when we arrived but decreased nicely as the night went on. As our table was not ready, manager Kabir Kapoor provided us with a couple of glasses of white wine for our troubles. That level of quality service continued throughout the night. Very attentive and friendly.
Once we were sitting, we were provided a menu with both a small or large tasting menu to choose from. The menu simply listed the primary ingredient of each dish. The rest was explained by our wait staff as we received each dish. I went for the larger tasting menu which was comprised of 7 plates and 2 desserts.
First was a simple amuse bouche of blackberries with foie de volaille. A nice combination of sweet and richness.
Our second course was a beet salad with creme fraiche, almonds, pistachios and graham crackers. This course let us know that we would be in good hands on this night. The beets were fresh and sliced thinly. The richness of the creme fraiche paired so well with the beets. The nuts brought a little crunch and the addition of the graham crackers added a extra hint of sweetness. A wonderfully balanced dish.
Third course was a raisin and blueberry salad with black liquorice. Pretty simple overall. I was surprised at how the black liquorice came through but there wasn’t much to get excited about here otherwise.
The fourth dish was a beef tartar with red peppers, olive oil and elephant garlic shavings. Served in strips, the beef was nice and tender. The dish has good kick to it – reminded me as a stir-fry from a flavour profile. I honestly didn’t pick up the garlic very much. The sweetness of the red pepper was more noticeable.
The next course was a little more unique – Popcorn risotto. A very creamy risotto with actual popcorn mixed in. A cool textural play and the popcorn brought a nice buttery flavour to the dish. I honestly found the risotto itself lacking any punch without the popcorn flavour-wise though.
The next dish was salmon lightly poached with kombucha spices, crispy skin, basil and lemon puree. Pardon the bad photographer for the shoddy picture – doesn’t do its presentation service. My girlfriend didn’t enjoy the almost raw texture but I found it interesting. The basil and the puree were the big flavour providers though. The spices didn’t do much for me.
The seventh dish was a standout for me: Chicken breast and thigh with salsa verde and chicken jus. Loved the chicken two ways – the deep fried thigh had a great crunch to it. The salsa verde was fresh and flavourful. The chicken jus was rich and smooth. Great showcase of execution and technique.
Now…. Le Fantome offers another dish which you can add to your tasting for a great fee. It is the dish that they are know for early in their existence: a PBJ and foie gras sandwich on toasted brioche. Of course I needed to try it! Just amazing – if you don’t like foie gras, it won’t work for you. For the rest of us though, such a great combination – the buttery brioche, the rich sliver of foie gras, the sweet jam and the smooth peanut butter. I simply wish I could have had more!
Dessert-wise, we got to try 4 different ones as the shorter tasting (which my girlfriend took) had 2 different desserts than mine. First was a raspberry sorbet sandwich. Loved the strong berry taste and the smooth sorbet texture.
Second was pear with whipped mascarpone. Our favorite dessert of the night. So simple and yet so effective. Whipping the mascarpone lighten the texture and that richness was perfect with the sweet pear.
Third was Corn Creme Caramel. Loved the texture of the creme caramel and how the use of corn subtly changed the flavour. However, the burnt caramel sauce didn’t work for either of us. It felt too burnt and left a taste that lacked the sweetness we wanted.
The final dessert was a pair of Jade Orange candies. A bit-sized hit of nice orange flavour. No complaints here.
Le Fantôme’s tasting menu spoke of a refined and well-executed cuisine focused on the market that is able to have some fun at the same time. I very much enjoyed the experience of following chef Morris’ inspirations and seeing where he and his staff would take us. A excellent date night all-around and that was all that mattered. Thanks to chef Morris and Kabir. Pleasure having you in the neighbourhood.
514 846 1832