Le Grain de Sel earned the #1 rating on Tripadvisor out of 2,406 restaurants in Montreal and has outstanding reviews. Their website claims to take you on a culinary journey by drawing on taste inspirations from the four corners of the world and incorporating them into Quebec’s seasonal Cuisine. My girlfriend and I took a 30 minute drive to the eastern end of Montreal to eat at the number one rated restaurant in our city that has been actively serving patrons for the last ten years.
Once inside, you’ll find a small French-style bistro with a limited menu that offers some very promising classic French cuisine. They start you off with 5 different condiments; homemade Salsa, a honey mustard, sweet relish, coarse salt, and pepper. I didn’t end up using any of the first three, just the salt and pepper.
When the amuse-bouche came out I was left in suspense because all I could gather was that it’s a small deep fried ball but I couldn’t be sure as to what was inside. When I asked, I was told that it was “a mix of fish.” It definitely didn’t amuse my mouth. It tasted bland, and the breading was too rough and didn’t dissolve well while chewing. The cabbage beneath tasted stale as well. Wikipedia describes an amuse-bouche to be “served as an excitement of taste buds both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking.” It did not deliver that excitement, but it did offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach.
My girlfriend’s cream of tomato soup tasted as bland as the amuse-bouche. It was so weak in flavor that I would have rather had a Campbell’s soup. Perhaps it was the canned tomatoes that they used, or it needed some serious seasoning, maybe adding some Thyme would have brought it to life, who knows. Fennel, one of the primary ingredients of Absinthe, is a very flavorful herb and should have offered a fresh twist to the soup but I couldn’t even taste it once it was mixed in. Then there was a tablespoon of sour cream slapped into it and it did absolutely nothing but change the color of the soup to a lighter one. It really failed to deliver anything noteworthy. Although the presentation was appealing, it’s taste was not worth $7.
For my appetizer, I had the calamari salad, which I was told was slow-cooked for hours to tenderize the seafood. It was a mix of deep fried and steamed calamari, size u-10. The dish came out and it looked great, it was served in a sauce made from nuts, peppers, and oil from Spain called Romesco. The taste of the squid on its own was good, but it wasn’t anything special because I kept feeling that the salad beneath it was lacking something, maybe a lemon on the side. I guess they thought the sauce would suffice but it was very bland and didn’t offer a good enough accompaniment to the squid. It was also 10 dollars and quite a small portion. I had simple plain calamari with a nice marinara and a side of lemons for a couple dollars cheaper many of times and the portion was always bigger and the taste was much better. Again I say that this salad wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t as good as you’d think a top rated Montreal restaurant would serve.
For my main dish, I had the roasted black cod, to which my server said would melt in my mouth. The fish was very tender, but like the calamari and tomato soup it lacked any real flavor. It was served on a bed of barley that was drowning in oil and salt. It was so overpowering, and that’s why the cod had little to no taste. The asparagus did nothing for me.
My girlfriend ordered the hanger steak done medium, but it came out medium rare, and much more on the rare side. Before she sent it back, I tried some and I thought it was alright (I like medium rare), but nothing close to what their website advocates; “a unique taste experience, your taste buds will come alive.” I do believe this statement can be true, as I’ve had steaks that have done this for me (Capital Grille, Peter Luger, Ball & Chain Grill) but not this one. Shortly after, the waiter returned with the very same steak but this time we smelled a horrible burnt scent even before it was placed on the table. The hanger was all blackened, the smell was awful and then the taste was as bad as it smelled so she didn’t eat it after trying the first bite. The fries however, were very good after a little bit of salt and pepper.
At this point, we didn’t want to try their dessert, we just wanted out, so I asked for the check. We explained to our waiter about the steak and he apologized and offered a drink or a dessert but why pay 18 dollars for a 6 dollar drink/dessert? The bill came and we were charged for the steak in full. I explained to him that it wasn’t really fair to us as it was burnt terribly and not eaten. He reluctantly brought the chef out who then apologized sincerely and then refunded the 18 dollars. In conclusion I got to try a fair amount of food at this restaurant between our two appetizers, the amuse-bouche, and the mains, and I am very disappointed for spending 72 dollars here. The food looks much better than it tastes (minus the steak). The fries that were served with the steak were good but other than that, there is nothing for me here that I can say I really enjoyed. There are far better and cheaper places to spend my money in Montreal, and way too many restaurants that I think deserve to be #1 before this. I see others love this restaurant. There are other restaurants that I love that I am sure people don’t. It is all a matter of opinion, and I stated mine.
Restaurant Le Grain De Sel:
2375 Saint-Catherine St. East, Montreal, QC H2K-2J5 T:514-522-5105
JarredReviews is my personal weblog. The opinions and experiences represent my own. If you read that I didn’t particularly enjoy a meal or restaurant, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it and see for yourself. Restaurants can have an off day, people make mistakes, we’re all human. My writing is mainly so that you can find out about great restaurants that you may have not heard about, and also to give you an idea of what I enjoyed that you can experience for yourself. Food reviewing is very subjective and you must take this into account and use your discretion when reading any review; If I have had a bad experience somewhere, do not let that stop you to try the restaurant for yourself.