Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bistro Lustucru, 5159 Ave du Parc

"Mustang Sally" playing in the background while I'm eating steak tartare? Now I know I'm in the right place!

A recent glowing review in the Gazette prompted me to give this place a shot and it was bang on. I'll get to the minor letdowns later on. The place itself is very attractive: Deep and narrow, low lighting, cozy banquettes and comfy seats, with various types of seating to accommodate "soupers de filles", couples and large families alike. There is also a long bar facing the semi-open kitchen, and a visible raw bar where tartares, carpaccios and oyster dishes are assembled. And now the food!

I would have been fine just munching on the perfect baguette and salted butter(!), but meat was on my mind. The name Lustucru implies raw goodies, and this place delivers. I know tartare, I was raised on it, so don't try to impress me by adding all kinds of stupid crap like truffle oil. This one was on the creamy side, richer than the traditional style, but oh so tasty. Very finely minced, not ground, expertly seasoned, fresh and a tad zingy. Delightful on crunchy croutons, and the trail of superfluous spicy mayo (there's that zing!) was promptly wiped away with my side order of salty fries. How the hell did they get fresh potatoes to taste like McDo's fries? But better!?
Raw appetizers are cleverly served on slate tiles, and aside my scoop of beef were 6 slivers of trout gravlax, toped with tiny spoonfuls of delicate roe. The fish was on the smoky side though, not quite like the marinated salmon I love so, with an almost candied look and mouthfeel, and mighty flavorful. The oily/salty combo was tempered by a lovely, fresh, crunchy side of coleslaw.
Grar's smaller slate presented a lovely scallop and beet carpaccio, ever an apt pairing. The ultra fresh scallop slivers slid on the tongue. Heaven!

While the cru offerings are a fixture, appetizers and main courses are announced on three large blackboards and propose seasonal dishes. Grar opted for the Chaudree de la mer, rather a stew than a chowder, and oh so aromatic. Notes of fennel, citrus and tarragon in a slightly creamy oceanic broth (begging for some of that bread) was the foundation for one expertly seared giant scallop, several mussels and clams, and a generous hunk of red snapper. Well done! Having ordered 2 raw options, I restrained myself to an appetizer as a main: a wild mushroom and Riopelle cheese turnover with butternut squash "butter". The dough was delightfully flaky, the filling mushroomy indeed, and the squash puree added a comforting sweet touch. All very lovely.

This place is a winner, hands down. I'll definitely go back, in fact I threatened our charming waiter to come back with a gang of girlfriends, a challenge he took up valiantly. Plus I missed out on the crazy deserts this time. This a pleasant bistro all-in-all, higher on the price scale, but quite reasonable considering quality, presentation and care.

Hickups: Absence of a dish I had looked forward to (beet ravioli with goat cheese sauce), discontinued that day and not yet removed from the website. Not being offered black pepper, though the mill sat visibly at the edge of the bar. A kitchen mix-up causing us to wait longer for our mains. Something should have been offered to make up for that, even just a coffee or after-dinner drink. Had the food been sub-par, there would have been a scene, but it was all worth it anyway.

Until next week, Cheers!

Friday, November 26, 2010


My partner and I treat ourselves to a night out every week to enjoy a kid-free meal. Enjoy is the key word. Last week's overpriced and mediocre meal at L'Assommoir inspired us to write a blog chronicling our weekly forays around the Mile-End/Plateau/Outremont hub. We are not professional critics, but were raised in food-loving Euro-Canadian homes and do have educated palates. Our main criteria is a good price/quality ratio. Save yourself some disappointment and follow us before heading out, or read on for the love of good indulgences!

Nat and Grar