3610 Wellington, Verdun | Tel. 514.768.4224
t's simple and it's chic and it's become more pricey since the foodies have discovered it. Here's a basic concept: start a catering service that focuses on fresh food, well prepared with a bent toward the familiar i.e., à la française. Then broaden your base with a small neighbourhood
restaurant: an old building in a non-descript neighbourhood, high ceilings, tin roof, open kitchen and an eager staff.
The food is good and inventive. We had starters of steak tartare and an intriguing melange of shredded beef and cheddar cheese deep fried. Each
portion was the size of a couple of tablespoons. There was also a tasty rutabaga soup with a dollop of yoghurt and a swirl of an apple cider reduction. The sweet and bitter in this dish work together nicely. This is comfort food. The mains
included these two starters, with others such as the ubiquitous foie - duck liver - (does every restaurant now serve this?) extra. The mains range in price from $27 to $38. There is a tasting menu for $50, provided everyone at the
table orders this. It includes an appetizer, main course, cheese course featuring Quebec cheese (mignon de Charlevoix the night we were there), dessert plate with samples of everything and coffee.
We stayed with the regular menu and tried the duck with polenta and some jammy caramelised clementines, local lamb with portions of the loin
and rib served atop a parsnip mash, and veal cheeks which had been stewed to a divine succulence.
These were good, but if you sense hesitation, you're right. Something is missing here. The dishes, as you can see in the photos, are fairly small portions for the price. The duck was too rare and the citrus flavour had to be pushed onto the meat to get the full flavour impact. The polenta was grainy. Everything tasted as if had been prepared separately without a real sense of how it would work together. Similarly, the lamb was bleu for the loin cut, actually cold at the centre and the ribs were well done. The veal cheeks were excellent. It's hard to miss with this dish if you let it cook long enough at a low heat. This is great peasant food as opposed to the other manufactured and composed dishes. In fact, it may be with the earthier dishes such as the rutabaga soup and veal cheeks that Simpléchic has its soul, only it is set on getting to a more refined level. In other words, a potentially great restaurant with an emphasis on simple that has wandered off the road into chic.
The desserts were similarly good but not exciting. A crème brulé tasting of cardamom, a chocolate volcano, and a warm whiskey infused
date cake served with a crusting of pistachios and good almond-vanilla ice cream.
Simpléchic has a following and, with room for a few dozen people, reservations are recommended. It's hard to find a restaurant this good in Verdun (but relatively easy in the plateau and downtown Montreal). The place is attractive and the staff keen. The wine list is well chosen, leaning strongly to France with some good choices imported only for the restaurant.
Bottom line: would we come here again? Well, if you're paying I'm glad to be your guest. It's certainly worth going to if you are in the neighbourhood; but, all things considered, there are lots of other places that I want to try before I go back. -- Reviewed by Barry Lazar