Restaurant XO –Hotel St-James
355 St Jacques St. O
Chef Hats: 3
Cost: $ 154.73
This place has been on my bucket list for so long now that I had given up hope of ever getting a chance to dine there. Meanwhile, the hotel has also changed their executive chef many times since it opening that I feel it has fallen into obscurity. Amid the plethora of business suits and skirts who seem to be the only ones frequenting it lately on their business luncheons, Restaurant XO is very quiet on any given evening. We do not hear anymore about the great tea service they once offered or that it was once considered the best place to dine in Montreal. One thing that still comes to mind is the impressive elegance and sophistication of The St James Hotel and its reputation.
Le Restaurant XO is the hotel’s prestigious Salle à Manger and it is very opulently decorated in a modern baroque style. Housed in a former Bankers Hall it exudes refinement with is floor to ceiling white columns, two level mezzanine seating area, glass stained windows, black wrought iron railings and crystal chandeliers. It exudes richness and class. It is still the place to go for a special occasion or to really impress your partner or date. It stands alone in comparison to other Montreal hotels when it comes to hotel dining in an old world charm. Very European in feel, it is the epitome of era gone by with its white glove service and silver flatware and very professional service.
To some it may seem intimidating or downright snobbish, but rest assured you can meet just anybody here, ranging from all age groups and walks of life. This evening we saw a few couples young and old, elegantly dressed in long flowing dresses and tuxedos ,a dining group sitting on the mezzanine level and girlfriends sitting at the bar enjoying martinis. On a regular night it will cost you a few hundred dollars to dine here at minimum, but my suggestion is that during November you can attend or make reservations for The Montreal à Table event that will put you back about the cost of going to any regular Montreal restaurant; granted you don’t order a very expensive wine, which they have an extensive list of here claiming from the worlds’ best wine cellars. That being said, it is an experience that any Montrealer must regal in at least once in their lifetime.
For dinner, the restaurant has two menus: the bar menu (yes it has small bar) which serves delicious snacks that can be shared among friends, and the full evening menu which offers a selection of delectable, seasonal dishes. Tonight we sampled the tasting menu for this special occasion at $41.00 each. We ordered two glasses of Rosé wine from Sonoma California, which was light and refreshing.
For Starters we were brought a amuse bouche of mousse de foie gras, with confit de fruits and onions and two crostini. A perfect teaser and start to the meal; foie gras is my proverbial favorite and a common practice for me to order it when I see it on the menu. The Amuse bouche was the perfect start. I loved the sweetness of the confit paired with the mousse of foie gras. It was done well here.
For the second course we sampled a squash apple soup with Goose liver Pastrami on rye crostini with Quebec Cheese and an heirloom beet salad, with pomegranate, goat cheese and pecans. The soup was a mixture of squash and sweet flavors of the apple. It was delicious; the goose liver pastrami on crostini with cheese was a good compliment to the sweetness of the soup. The beet salad was also another winner and a good representation of a Quebec classic.
The main meals fell flat with Salmon confit with buckwheat puree and 3 clams for an extra $5.00. This came with a broth of beef consommé that really did nothing for the meal, other than make it soupy. The Grain Fed chicken with carrots and vegetables was another disappointment. There was nothing oomph or outstanding about the flavor of the chicken. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and tasty but it was too simple of a dish for such a grand dame of a place.
For dessert we had a Maple crème brulee with a chai tea poached pear which was lovely and a tarte citron verrine with marshmallow cream cheese which was divine.
The desserts were redeeming, but not enough to raise the bar on the meal as a whole. The surroundings were beautiful, serene, classy and inviting and truly an eye pleaser. We truly enjoyed our evening and glad to be here, we would fully recommend this restaurant for any occasion. The staff was friendly and attentive, the service was impeccable and professional making this experience all the more memorable, and Chef Julien Robillard’s talent definitely shine in this setting. Not all can be perfect and we noticed that others seemed to be enjoying the food. I would have loved if the meal would have been consistent throughout, but then I am very discriminating set the bar very high on a place like this. Sometimes décor isn’t everything.