Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: Despite Appearances Le Claremont Café Disappoints

Le Claremont is about appearances, a nice place, in a nice neighbourhood, uber friendly service staff, visually appealing food with romantic table settings and ambiance. Despite the perfect formula and exterior veneer the food tastes like it was made by people more concerned with appearances rather than taste.

Located at the border of Westmount and N.D.G. (5032 Sherbrooke West) the restaurant offers convenient dining for people living in both neighborhoods. If Westmount and N.D.G. are Anglo-Quebec enclaves then the food plays true to the stereotype that English people eat bad, boring and bland food (blango-food) despite the restaurant's claims as an "eclectic, urban, bistro." Overall the food was well presented but fell short in the taste department and reminded me of bad pub food from Ontario.  

We started with 2 appetizers, the food is not cheap at the Le Claremont but they make up for this with the size of their portions. We selected the calamari ($9) and the baked Brie ($14). We tend to prefer quality versus quantity with our food and Le Claremont could learn from this credo. The dishes are listed as appetizers but offer copious sustenance for two people.

Baked Brie
The Brie, hockey puck in size, had grill marks on the outside and could have been cooked just few seconds longer for the centre to achieve maximum ooziness. A small detail but where the dish really missed the mark was was with the accompanying bread (rusks) and fruit. The rusks were taken from a loaf that was shaped like baguette but tasted like plain old white bread. The bread tasted like President's Choice or the Our Compliments line of supermarket baguette. These breads taste bland and dry, even before toasting, despite being made that day and in house. The fruit selection to accompany the cheese was impressive, consisting of strawberries, sliced pear and fresh figs but the fruit was bland because it did tasted hard and unripe. The garnish on the cheese was chives and it seems odd to serve an ingredient that tastes like onion with fruit.

Fried Squid
The calamari were good, then again just about everything tastes good when it has been deep fried, a nice big bowl of golden rings with only one of the coveted tentacled bites. The dipping sauce was a very peppery ailoli and one of the highlights of the meal.

The Leaning Burger of Claremont
Feeling stuffed we decided to share the signature "Claremont burger" that consisted of pancetta and Swiss cheese. Staying true to their concept the BIG burger platter looked appetizing but fell short of being tasty. 

The taste that lies beneath
The patty was too big and thick to be any good, perfectly cooked it was really just a big ball of meat that seemed under seasoned and dry. The bottom of our bun was wet and soggy, so much so that it fell apart and this left me perplexed because the meat was dry so where did all this liquid come from? Because the burger was so big and the fact it was falling apart, maybe because we were in Westmount we were supposed to use a knife and fork, we tasted the individual components so there was no place to hide with the ingredients. When we ate the complete burger we noticed a very crispy bacon taste, we thought this was the pancetta but it must have been the charring on the burger because the pancetta was really bad and tasted overwhelmingly of salt and bad luncheon meat. Overall the big ball of tasteless meat with soggy bun and weird salad dressing on the lettuce was disappointing because it clocks in at $17.

The winner on the plate was the fries, judging from the calamari, the deep fryer seems to be the star of the kitchen at Le Claremont. The fries were a crispy allumette cut, skins on with  and nice dark color. 

Despite the food there was redemption found in the drama of the dining room. The dinning room itself could use a little touching up. The faded velour on the seats seem to have worn out their welcome and look like they contain a multitude of dirty little secrets. At our table we overheard great gossip about Westmount's upper-crust and this made for great dinner theatre. Delinquent youth, divorce were just a few of the juicy topics we overheard. The rest we will not get into. Despite their appearance some of these people are leading rather sad lives, perhaps even more so because they seemed to be enjoying this food. 

At Le Claremont everything looks like it should be good but the food is lacking in the flavour department. The combination of chives with fruit proves our point. Although this might seem like just a small detail this is most important aspect of cooking and this is where Le Claremont really needs to focus their attention. 

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