Restaurant Review: A pedigreed chef dishes out dull and confusing Canadiana at Montgomery’s


Steamed eggplant with caramelized whey at Montgomery’s

Image: CJ Baek

When restaurants charge for bread, I get irritated. I’ve learned to handle my emotions as this act of un-hospitality becomes more common. But butter? Guy Rawlings’ new restaurant, Montgomery’s, charges $2 for a small breadbasket and $4 for their snazzier butter.

If it were great butter, I might have been mollified. But I, a lifelong lover of butterfat and dare I say a connoisseur of the beloved fat, find this $4 butter meh.

I want to adore this restaurant. Guy Rawlings’ pedigree is sterling. Most recently he was operations manager at the esteemed Bar Isabel and Bar Raval, and long before that he was sous chef at Il Mulino on Eglinton, when it was great, and pastry chef at Celestin when it was great.

Rawlings first came to my attention in 2010 when he was chef at Brockton General, where his cooking was superlative. Breathtaking. Inventive and controlled.

So when Rawlings went out on his own and back into the kitchen with his wife Kim in the front, I started to salivate. Late this past summer they opened Montgomery’s. The open kitchen at the front is all energy and pop, and the two rooms, both front and back, are simple and yet charmingly renovated by the husband and wife team. Their menu is Canadiana locavore.

As for the execution, methinks Mr. Rawlings may have been too long absent from the kitchen.

Raw salmon with cucumber and special vinegar is small chunks of unadorned salmon with cucumber, not-very special vinegar, and smaller chunks of something white and unexciting.

We ask the server what it is and she says it’s pressed cucumber seeds. Ho-hum. Cooked lettuce in broth. Sounds good. The server says it’s great. She says it’s beef, pork and chicken broth. We find some cooked and some not-cooked romaine lettuce on it. The broth is in desperate need of salt, but once salted it remains charmless.

The tapas-style menu also offers steamed artichoke with verjus butter. The artichokes, which are indeed very fresh, have been undercooked, so that they’re well nigh impossible to eat. Dragging one’s teeth along the leaves produces little flesh.

Chef also steams new potatoes with cured roe and Brie de Meaux. While the artichokes were edible, this item is appalling. A largish pile of potatoes sits under pale beige glop so bland as to be unpleasant.

Similarly unfortunate is lakefish with beurre blanc and dill. Putting a piece of white fish on a white plate with white sauce and three small sprigs of dill is not a good visual choice. It looks blah and tastes it too.

The only glimpse of the star who cooked at Brockton General is in the marinated mussels with purslane — a green herb, both sour and salty, it gives the mussels a complex depth which combines brilliantly with the sharp marinade that flavours them. This is the old Guy Rawlings coming through!

But what to make of the rest of it? Where is the artiste who knocked it out of the park night after night at Brockton General?

Note: After this review went to press for our October print issue, Montgomery's has moved from lunch and dinner service to dinner service only.

Montgomery’s, 996 Queen St. W., $80 dinner for two

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Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine. Follow her on Twitter @JoanneKates.

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