257 Prince St / cross St.Ottawa
Ratings: 4 Chef Hats
Cost : Approx. $78.00 per person, including 2 bottles of wine( the cost split between 4 persons) (tip not included)
Le Serpent, is the urbanite’s dream of an Italian Style Cosmopolitan Bistro/Brasserie located in the Darling Foundry in Cite du Multimedia. Run and co owned by three infamous names on Montreal’s food dining scene, Chef Michele Mercuri ( Bronte & XO), Claude Pelletier and Hubert Marsolais of Club Chasse et Peche and Le Filet.
Even before its opening on December 31,2013, this restaurant was creating a real buzz among the local foodies and one does not have to wonder why, as their All Clad reputation follows them wherever they go in Montreal’s inner foodie heaven circles. Being the ultimate foodie, I wanted to experience and write about some recently opened restaurants that are being considered as some of Montreal’s coolest and hippest hangouts at the moment. I have been reviewing some pretty antiquated places and I wanted some new blood to write about. So for the next 8 weeks, I have booked reservations to some of the newer restaurants that have opened in town, and some others that have been on the top of my wish list.
The easiest way to locate Le Serpent on Prince street is to find the black and white spiraling barber shop pole on the side of the building. Is it a euphemism or symbolic, but probably representing the twisting and spiraling motion of a snake thus so apropos named the restaurant.
Inside you will find a long narrow room with a minimalistic chic industrial decor, painted white walls, high ceilings and surrounding windows that in the daytime send in enough rays of sunshine and brightness to make a blind man see. A long black and white marble bar dons the entrance; filled with neighboring 5 à 7 work crowd of young urban chic thirty something’s enjoying a little R’ N’ R at the end of their day.
As I passed the bar area to be seated, I took a peek at the kitchen through an open wall only to discover a high tech dream kitchen that was impeccably clean and organized. I saw an endless long silver stainless steel counter and the kitchen staff focused on the task at hand. I was in awe. I would really love to work here I thought.
The menu at Le Serpent is divided into raw and cooked appetizers, pastas, risottos, fish and meats. There’s also a section called “à la broche” (rotisserie) that changes daily. Desserts are made by the pastry chef Masami Waki (Club Chasse et Pêche and Le Filet.) The wine list contains reasonably priced bottles or wines by the glass chosen by head sommelier Philippe Boisvert. He has included many private imports and biodynamic wines. The waiter who served us was quite knowledgable and gave a good rendition when we asked him about a particular wine on the menu that was from the Vatican , well versed in the types of wine served here he helped guide us to a few exceptional bottles of red wine both at under $ 40.00 each.
My friend the Indian Goddess started with an entrée of the confit of Arctic char at $ 14.00, topped with fennel / fennel pollen and granny smith apple garnish. The fish looked a little too raw for my liking and I was a little skeptical to try it but I liked the softness and the flavor combination, with the crispy sweetness of apple and anise flavor of the fennel, a great combination together.
It felt like it was a small introduction and sampling of what is expected if ordering items from the raw section of the menu called “crudi”. Not sampled this time around but noticed it as it sat on adjacent table, it consists of three items at $ 18.00, Sea Urchin, with thin strips of lardo (a salumi made of pig fat), bacon jam, on a toasted brioche, Striped bass, with a grapefruit ginger jelly, fennel pollen and Mackerel, with crushed lemon, almonds, dried olives. The presentation looked like a work of art and I was told in the inner foodie circles that this is Chef Michele Mercuri, signature piece; he loves to assemble an array of items on one plate. His special touch is found in the freshness of the seafood and its combinations. The Big Cheese, who had been there, previously told me that the sea urchin must be eaten in one bite to get the maximum effect of the combinations of flavor and texture. A definite must try the next time.
For her main meal the Indian Goddess had a large portion of Agnolotti-Pasta dumplings with chestnuts, braised rabbit, broccoli, and orange confit at $ 16 or $ 24. Perfect pockets of pasta and pieces of tender rabbit made this dish just divine. For dessert she had the Crostata, with citrus salad, glazed kumquat, crème fraiche and espresso to top her meal.
The Big cheese had a special green salad made just for her and the risotto with Lobster (not enough pieces of lobster as after we all dipped for a taste of her dish, there were hardly any left for her), mixed in with risotto were yellow beets, basil, and mascarpone at $23. For dessert she ordered the Masami Style tiramisu with fresh espresso at $ 11. Not the typical Tiramisu, she thought but I found it different and divinely decadent.
Frenchie and I shared an entrée of the foie gras parfait, on top a bed of quince purée, Balsamic jelly, and salty crumble of hazelnuts at $ 16. The foie gras was small shaped tourchon but with its accompaniments made it absolutely delectable. We also ordered bread, two pieces of homemade Foccacia to have with our foie gras, but much to our surprise it was not a plain foccacia but topped with vegetables and onion slivers, just like Italian homemade pizza.
Frenchie, being the typical Frenchie would have preferred a baguette or baguette crisp to go with his foie gras. He feels that this is the best way to eat foie gras and really did not like the Foccacia.
He also despises restaurants that do not serve bread and charge you for it. This is a topic of discussion for another write-up.
For mains we had the daily special for two which was composed of two braised short ribs (26 oz) on a creamy bed of polenta and rapini. The meat was falling off the bone tender but too fatty; nonetheless we devoured it within seconds. We opted for cheese platter as dessert and just settled with a short espresso perfectly brewed with the right bitterness and kick to complete our meal.
At Le Serpent you will find all of Chef Mercuri signature dishes with perfect food combinations showcasing his masterful talent to fullest extent.
From the onset of our arrival we found everything was timed to perfection and masterfully planned.
The ambiance, the decor, the reception , our hostess was über friendly and accommodating, making us feel very welcome from the onset. The staff consisting of mostly young, good looking yet experienced but professionally friendly waiters and waitresses were on their toes. Our waiter had a special sparkle in his eye and you can see he took pride in his job. I found him to be very down to earth and not at all pretentious; especially with my lack of knowledge about the wines.
Upon our departure we found the front entrance or bar area swarming to the brim with the late young dinning crowd ready to pack in more than just food. So busy it was I found myself fighting the crowd to the vestiaire to get my coat. Once outside it was just as busy as I saw groups of people congregated in front of building either talking or smoking. We said our nightly farewells and it was then that I understood the level of popularity that Le Serpent has become in less than 4 months.
We will be back!