Saturday, September 10, 2011

Laurier Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Montreal, worth the wait?

Laurier Gordon Ramsay restaurant
Most montrealers who gather around a table to relish a good meal and conversation with friends are most likely not star-truck by celebrity-run restaurants. They'll be going to a restaurant mainly to discover new dishes, new flavours, or to simply eat good food with great company. If you categorize yourself as one of the forementioned restaurant-trotters, Laurier Gordon Ramsay's new and hip restaurant might not be for you. On the other hand, if you are merely curious or, even more so, a loyal admirer of the 12 Michelin Star celebrity, and want to see what fuss Chef Ramsay has brought about one of the liveliest streets of Montreal's plateau area, then this family eatery is a must-try.

After reading so many mixed reviews on the newly vamped and hyped up establishment, from both longtime regulars and new customers of the new Rotisserie joint (formerly known as Rotisserie Laurier BBQ before its highly-publicized acquisition), I decided to go and judge for myself yesterday. It was a beautiful Friday evening and as clearly warned by reviewers, the place does fill up quickly at its dinner opening hour. If you beat rush hour traffic and can rapidly grab a parking spot to avoid the anticipated line up of people, you can get a table in no time. If you're a little late like we were, you'd be lucky to have a 45 minute wait. Otherwise, two hours is plenty of time for you to take a stroll around the area or to get into your social media frenzy with your iPhone. Luckily, the place is located in a groovy neighborhood filled with quaint boutiques and charming little cafés and restaurants. One of the hostesses was pleasant enough to let us know that we could walk around during our 45 minute wait but to make sure to come back at least 5 minutes before our table was ready. My friend and I were both getting very hungry, but thankfully the local stores quickly engaged our attention. In fact, we were enjoying our window shopping so much that we had lost track of time. We rushed back to the rotisserie before losing our spot and got back just in time.

*My views on Laurier Gordon Ramsay are purely objective and subject to the level of my hunger, which on a scale of 1 to 10 was 10! So I was hungry, but remained impartial*

First Impressions:
The entrance of the place is very crisp and clean with a european country flair. From afar, the white walls with the contrasting dark grey window frames and the huge metallic rooster on the roof top all stand out from the neighbouring buildings . In other words, you really can't miss it. Yet its 'Old-Montreal'-architect-style seems to blend seamlessly well with the rest of the street's decor.

The Staff:
An experienced restaurateur will have a good system in place to run the place smoothly and efficiently. The hostesses and waiters' professional demeanor immediately reflected the owner's engagement towards customers. They were all genuinely friendly and had a good knowledge of the menu. We were lucky to have a waiter with a good sense of humour. He started pronouncing too quickly an item on the menu by saying 'freakin' chicken, when his intention was to say fries and chicken. Hence, the reference of 'freakin' chicken in my tweets. What can I say, the effect of serving such lovely customers as ourselves! Although I couldn't help wondering how the employees were hand-picked by such a renowned temperamental individual. Was there an ad on the paper or a casting call? Being a foodie at heart, the restaurant business is still one of the few things I would really enjoy doing in my lifetime. Who knows what life has in store for any one of us!

apologies for the blur - old camera which I dropped a couple of times accidentally

The Food:
For a foodie always on the lookout for a new gourmet experience, the food has got to be extraordinary. In other words, it's the key ingredient to a successful restaurant. It needs to become a place where you would want to go back for more. I ordered the chicken. After all, it is a rotisserie. My friend ordered the smokey ribs.

Chicken, fries and sauce:
Pleasantly enough, I found the chicken to be well cooked and adequately seasoned. The skin was golden and crispy and the meat was well cooked, moist and juicy. Flavour wasn't missing, but my quarter chicken wasn't too salty either, which I liked. Unlike the reviews I read from longtime customers, I didn't find the fries nor the sauce to be too sweet. The fries were fresh and golden brown with a nice tinge of barbecue flavour, just like BBQ chips! That was a nice surprise! The sauce was actually excellent. Since it was my first time at that rotisserie, I have no comparison to make. BBQ sauces I've tasted in the past from other local rotisseries, like the popular St-Hubert or Swiss Chalet, are often too thick, gooey and salty. Laurier GR's sauce had a nice light velvety texture with a subtle tang. It's the sauce reviewers were raving about. In any respect, I very much enjoyed my meal but it didn't knock off my socks either.

Smokey Ribs:
My friend had given me a piece of the ribs she ordered. We were both disappointed. The meat was dry and didn't fall off the bones like it would from a nicely prepared set of ribs. The sauce was too sweet and didn't add any moisture. We wouldn't recommend it.

Though we were tempted to order it, we had no room! A fellow twitterer had recommended to try it as he had heard from friends that the poutine was excellent. Next time perhaps.

One of the shocking surprises of the evening was the way our waiter was notably straight-forward-honest with us when it came to recommending menu items. My friend and I were both ready to order the moka cake, which was highly rated and acclaimed by numerous local reviews. Fortunately, our waiter was dead-set serious when he described the moka cake as being very dry. It's in fact an old customer favorite from the original Rotisserie Laurier BBQ menu. As a new customer, I really appreciated the honest opinion and the fact that the new owner hadn't taken all away from the original menu just to keep the regulars coming. So instead, we both had the tarte tatin served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's GR's most popular recipe featured on Youtube, so I had to try it. If Gordon Ramsay ever comes across this posting, I must confess that my expectations of his cooking were positively turned around. Whenever I watch his quick recipe clips, I always have the feeling that he over seasons his meats or over sweetens his desserts. I was wrong. The tarte tatin was satisfyingly sweet and tangy, and the crust was pleasingly flaky. In addition, the crème de la crème of the dessert part was the Chef's signature scoop, the oval shaped ice cream scoop that I often see in his cooking clips. Has anyone ever noticed that? Being a fan of many different chefs, I felt excited to feel a six degrees of separation between one of them and myself!

The ambiance:
Modern, loungy, inviting, lively, family-oriented and very noisy. In fact, it's so noisy that I couldn't hear the music playing in the background. My friend must have the hearing of a dog, because she kept asking me if I remembered the songs that were playing. Apparently, it was all 80s music. Great place to have a fun evening with friends or family. Not recommended for a quiet romantic dinner.

The price:
Though my tweets may have mislead followers as I was slightly tipsy and suggested that the bill was too $$$, the food is reasonably priced for the name of the place. Portions are not overly abundant either. It's just right. Notwithstanding, a good roasted chicken can be enjoyed just as much at any other Montreal reputable local rotisseries, with a bit less stress on your wallet.

To cut to the chase, Laurier Gordon Ramsay's restaurant is a must-try place for star-struck fans and party-goers and is a fun experience for the curious minds. Keep in mind that this restaurant is family-style. So if you're looking for fine dining, this is not the place. In all honesty, good company makes your dining experience at Laurier GR more memorable than the food itself. Though I wouldn't bash it, unless I was one who really gets turned off by heavily marketed spots, my energy is more focused on scouting for more family-run restaurants.

What makes this place such an intriguing attraction in Monreal, is only one factor : Mr Gordon Ramsay himself. Having such world wide stature as Ramsay is sufficient to bring in a crowd to a new joint. In my opinion, 'location, location, location' can easily be disregarded. If his restaurant was located on Hochelaga street or at Pointe Saint-Charles, it would still attract a large crowd. As long as it's easily accessible, people will go. Only time will tell how long this place will be around.

This personal review may have enticed you to check out the place for yourself or to completely ignore it, I just hope you enjoyed reading it. If you need a second opinion on Laurier Gordon Ramsay, here is a review on a lunch experience by fellow blogger Jenn.

Bon appétit!


Jenn said...

Thanks for the link back.

Like you, I doubt we'll return anytime soon. Ramsay Laurier BBQ is a novelty in Montréal :)

Elizabeth of AsianinAmericamag said...

Great review! Just made me so hungry! Must visit this place next time we go to Montreal. Thanks for sharing!

QlinArt said...

Thx for the kind words! It's not bad at all.