Montreal, Quebec – Le Bremner

Restaurant: Le Bremner
Cuisine: Seafood/French/Canadian/Eclectic
Last visited:
November 12, 2011
Location: 
Montreal, QC (Old Montreal)
Address: 361 St. Paul East
Nearby subway stop: Champ-de-Mars
Price Range: 
$30-50+

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4.5-5
Service: 4 (sit at the bar)
Ambiance: 4.5
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Since July 2011
  • Chef/Owner Chuck Hughes
  • Celebrity chef restaurant
  • Sister to Garde Manger
  • Casual fine dining
  • French-Canadian bistro
  • Specializes in seafood
  • Raw menu available
  • Large and creative menu
  • Hidden underground gem
  • Sophisticated/lively
  • Wine/cocktail bar
  • Reservations recommended
  • Mon-Sat: 6pm-late
  • Kitchen closes at 11pm

**Recommendations: Kimchi Snow Crab, Lobster Toast Au Gratin

Le Bremner was plan B because Garde-Manger was fully booked months in advance. Both are celebrity chef Chuck Hughes’ restaurants from Food Network’s Chuck’s Day Off. Almost everyone knows about Garde-Manger and I had many recommendations for it, but I think it was fate that I ended up at Le Bremner. I guess I can’t really say since I haven’t tried Garde-Manger, but trusted food enthusiasts say Le Bremner is the better choice. In a way Garde-Manger is “yesterday’s news”, and since Le Bremner just opened in July 2011, it’s one of the hottest restaurants to hit Montreal.

“If Hughes’ restaurants were women, Garde would be a red-lipped blonde wearing a Mackage leather jacket toting a Louis Vuitton; Le Bremner would be the fresh-faced brunette in skinny jeans, holding a Chanel 2.55.”Anabel on Yelp! I saw this quote and I couldn’t agree with it more! Just to put a foodie spin on things I’ll add that the blonde would start with raw oysters and a martini and the brunette with raw scallops and champagne.

I walked by Garde Manger on the weekend and I honestly thought it was a night club. Both restaurants are hidden gems with no signage, but Le Bremner is more sophisticated, yet still lively.

Le Bremner was fully booked and it is a foodie destination in Montreal for locals and tourists. However it does have the famous name to help carry it. I’m not actually too familiar with Chuck Hughes’ cooking style and all I knew was that this restaurant was seafood focused, so I came in rather neutral which is a good place to be.

I opted for dining at the bar which is always my first choice. It’s where all the action is and I found the floor tables a bit close together.

The menu was quite extensive featuring raw items, share plates, entrees, and meat and seafood options. It’s supposed to be an upscale “seafood diner”, so it was kind of a first for me even though I’m from the West Coast (Vancouver, BC). The menu was fresh and eclectic and they generally delivered way beyond the menu description, which didn’t give much at all.

It is a casual fine dining restaurant and it is overpriced, but I kind of expected that. You are paying for the name, so don’t be too surprised. The appetizers are almost the same price as the entrees and I was actually more impressed with them, which I find is often the case with me.

Unfortunately it was “Chuck’s Day Off” so he wasn’t in house, which was something I also expected. However on this occasion I was dining with Mr. Maple Pudding Chomeur (aka Brad) from Food Network’s Recipe to Riches! Brad is from Gatineau, Quebec so it was nice to reunite with my fellow sweet puddings and pie contestant. Sadly, Glo couldn’t join us as she’s busy whipping out lemon puddings, so please remember to vote for her on December 7! If she wins she can fly over to visit me and teach me more of her winning recipes :)

On the table:

Complimentary Breadsticks

  • The servers walk around offering very long Rosemary & Parmesan Breadsticks.
  • The were nice and crunchy with coarse salt, but the rosemary and parmesan were pretty faint.

**Kimchi Snow Crab with Crispy Rice Cake - 6/6

  • $22
  • This is the most raved about dish, and I loved it! It’s a must try.
  • The crispy rice cake was a nice switch up from a “been there, done that” crostini, and it was reminiscent of the deep fried sushi “pizza crusts” I’ve seen in Vancouver.
  • This was also almost like the MARKET Sushi at Market by Jean-Georges in Vancouver.
  • The crispy rice cake was fried to just under a complete crisp and I think it even had a panko breading for extra crunch.
  • It had a chew that stuck to your teeth and a wonderful nuttiness that was just like the rice bits that are glued onto the bottom of Chinese clay pots or Korean bibimbap.
  • They were nice and thin and topped with a mound of super juicy, flaky, shredded, fresh and chilled spicy snow crab mixed with pieces of crunchy pickled kimchi.
  • The crab and kimchi mixture was marinated with mayo, sriracha, and lemon confit so it was nice and bright and full of zesty and zingy flavours.
  • I could taste the crab and kimchi equally and he didn’t butcher either ingredient.
  • There was also some garlic and shallots and fresh basil leaves so it was incredibly aromatic and infused with flavour.
  • It was extremely juicy, nice and spicy, but well balanced and the spice never overpowered the sweetness of the crab.
  • It had all the textures and flavours imaginable and it nailed the idea of Asian fusion.
  • Being from the West Coast, where Asian fusion is easily available, I was very impressed with this and could have eaten 2 plates no problem.

Focaccia Au Thon4/6

  • Seared tuna focaccia $18
  • The “pizza” was topped with a fresh arugula herb salad, parsley marinated shallots and 2 slices of albacore tuna that were perfectly grilled.
  • This was delicious, but for what it was, it wasn’t the ideal execution and I found the tuna played a back seat to the focaccia.
  • It either needed more pieces of tuna, tuna carpaccio or tuna tartar covering the whole thing because the focaccia just dominated it.
  • The focaccia was fantastic so I wouldn’t give that up.
  • It was a home made focaccia meets a naan bread and it was quite substantial and rich and I could have eaten it alone.
  • It was a rather flat focaccia with a crispy and flaky exterior and the inside was very chewy and moist.
  • The flavour was very buttery and almost cheesy with baked in shallot flavour, and the drizzle of olive oil literally and figuratively topped it off.
  • I could taste caramelized onions, sweet and pickled shallots and a hint of lemony parsley.
  • Underneath the arugula was I think a layer of cheesy garlic aioli for extra richness and salty flavour.
  • It was very good, but with that kind of focaccia bread, anything would be good on it, so I found the tuna a bit of a waste.

**Lobster Toast Au Gratin6/6

  • $19
  • This was a shared appetizer and it could have been a main course for one.
  • Oh god! Please! I can barely look at this photo without salivating.
  • This was a hybrid of all things good and all things bad, but I only focus on the good!
  • It was the love child of a lobster grilled cheese meets an eggs benedict, but almost even better if that’s even possible.
  • It was a thick and fluffy semi-crispy home made brioche topped with fresh lobster, a 62 degree sous vide egg, a generous amount of lobster bisque and an overwhelming amount of three melting cheeses including Parmesan, mozzarella and cheddar cheese. *Phew*… if I smoked, I’d take a cigarette break right here.
  • This was rich and hearty comfort food at its best.
  • The only thing missing was a couple strips of crispy prosciutto… and if the cheese was parm and Gruyere, even better!
  • The egg was somewhere poaching in the middle. I wasn’t even sure when I cut into it, until I saw the silky bubbly egg white and golden rivers of egg yolk flow and absorb right into the fluffy brioche.
  • To be honest, I barely tasted the egg under all that sauce and might not have guessed it was in there unless I was told.
  • The lobster bisque was so rich and indulgent and it mixed right into the melting cheese. Together with the egg yolk it was almost like a superior lobster bisque meets a hollandaise.
  • The lobster bisque was heavy and more like a brown gravy than a typical tomato based bisque.
  • I could taste the lobster crustaceans used to make it and it did have a seafood flavour.
  • Everything was so buttery, creamy and saucy and the bread was just a giant sponge that absorbed it all. It was a bit thick, but with so much sauce, it ended up being okay.
  • I could have used a crispy cheese gratin crust for more texture since everything was so ooey gooey, but I’m barely complaining.
  • The actual pieces of lobster meat were on the chewy side, but everything else was so good it didn’t bother me.
  • I could have this for brunch or dinner and I loved every bite of it.
  • It’s too fancy for Diners, Drive ins, and Dives, but this would make it on my list as one of the best and richest foods at a high end restaurant.

Cornbread with Broiled Garlic Shrimp4/6

  • $20
  • This was a main and the description wasn’t exciting, but when I heard the cornbread was almost like a “melting cornbread”, I was sold.
  • It was a butter pan seared cornbread with marinated pickled shallots, Florida shrimps, cilantro, chives, herbs, and home made bacon chips.
  • This was another very rich, indulgent and decadent dish.
  • I really wasn’t a fan of the broiled garlic shrimp though. For one they were imported, and they were quite dry and very bland. It just isn’t the season to put shrimp on the menu.
  • I actually wanted more caramelized garlic or crispy nutty garlic chips because all I could taste were lots of chives, cilantro, parsley and some shaved celery marinated with grated ginger.
  • I found the Asian twist of cilantro and ginger a bit contrasting and it didn’t really complement the sweet corn bread and pickled onions.
  • The sauce was basically a reduced brown butter sauce, so I wasn’t sure if it was more East or West, and the butter needed a chili spice or something to bring it together.

  • The corn bread was the best part, but you have to be a fan of sweet and savoury to enjoy this, which I am. However I’ve enjoyed similar combinations of corn bread and protein better before.
  • The corn bread was pan seared in reduced butter and soaked with a sweet syrup so it was incredibly moist and tender.
  • I could also taste some black pepper in it and the pickled onions gave it a crunch as well as tang to cut the richness.
  • The herb salad was Asian, but the bacon and corn bread was Southern, and I think the shrimps would have been better with a Creole execution with more spice and garlic.
  • I had a Albacore Tuna Nicoise Benedict on Corn Bread at The Oakwood Canadian Bistro, but seafood on cornbread never works as well as meat.
  • It’s apple and oranges, but if I’m eating any protein and corn bread, I prefer the Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict on Corn Bread at The Well.

Hake & Clams4/6

  • $25
  • I’m not familiar with Hake (type of fish), but this was called the “underdog” of the entrees, so I gave it a shot!
  • It was 4 tiny Little Neck clams with 4 pieces of Hake in a white wine and butter broth with grilled brussel sprouts and asparagus.
  • I can’t say I saw the value of the dish, although it was good.
  • The clams were overcooked and a bit chewy, but they had a crispy buttery panko crust on them which I liked.
  • I think they sprinkled the dish with toasted brioche croutons and crumbs and tossed it quickly under the broiler before serving it.
  • There were random bits of crunchy bread crumbs throughout. It was perhaps my favourite part and it added great texture and flavour.
  • I loved the flavour of the fish more than the execution.
  • Hake is in the cod family and it almost reminded me of Rock Cod they serve at Chinese restaurants meets a Sablefish. It was right in between.
  • It was a very buttery, flaky and firm white fish and it was incredibly juicy and moist, but alone it was bland and needed more seasoning.
  • I love fish skin so I was happy to see it, but the texture wasn’t appetizing on this one.
  • It was almost like jellyfish and it was very thick, rubbery and chewy and I wish it was crispy.
  • The broth was very rich, but it didn’t have a seafood flavour and I think I was anticipating a bouillabaisse or something to that degree.
  • It was basically a brown butter sauce with olive oil, but there was no apparent tang of lemon and I could have used some acidity.
  • There was so much brown butter sauce that I wanted a starch or something to absorb it all.
  • Although it was rich and flavourful, it wasn’t really good enough to drink alone as soup either. It was just missing something.
  • The crispy brussel sprouts were another highlight for me, but had they been sauteed in bacon, and the bacon included in the broth, that might have done it!

Upside Down Pineapple Cake with Candied Celery4/6

  • Served with vanilla bean ice cream $9
  • At this point I was stuffed, but I opened my second stomach for dessert! No surprise there.
  • I’m a sucker for hot and cold desserts and anything with ice cream, so on the table it was.
  • This was a solid gourmet upside down pineapple cake.
  • The best part besides the incredibly fragrant and intensely flavoured real vanilla bean ice cream, was the bottom of the cake.
  • It was a warm, light, fluffy, moist and tender egg based sponge cake with a crispy caramelized bottom.
  • I loved the crispy bottom and the cake was made with real vanilla bean seeds too.
  • It was similar to a rum cake (but no rum) and topped with a caramelized fresh pineapple and it wasn’t too sweet, especially with the ice cream to cut it.
  • The candied celery added texture, but not flavour since it’s mostly water anyways. It could have been candied beets and that might have played more of a purpose if they wanted to add a vegetable.
  • It was surely delicious, but nothing you couldn’t replicate at home.

[geotag]

Le Bremner on Urbanspoon

19 Comments

  • Stash says:

    I’ve got to say, I was a little sad when he was eliminated from The Next Iron Chef Super Chefs. I liked the Canadian Rep on the show! I guess you can’t win em’ all, eh?

    I wish I could make myself that Lobster Toast every evening as a snack…. mmmmm

  • Linda says:

    o no!! i hadn’t watched last week’s episode of next iron chef but now i know chef hughes is gone :( i kind of think that show is rigged because all the more mainstream chefs avoided elimination and all the lesser known ones are gone… week 1 it was chef spike, then chef robert irvine and now chef hughes?! :( booo booo

    o my! you should catch some episodes of ‘chuck’s day off’… it’s actually one of my favorite shows on the food network and i’m glad he won iron chef against bobby flay.. chuck’s cooking style is mainly unpretentious comfort food and i love how rustic his dishes are! i can see from the dishes you choose that the price was definitely worth every penny you paid for them :)

    everything here looks amazing! but wow, those crispy rice cakes and that lobster toast! i think i might have to steal that for my next cooking adventure :) for the rice cakes, he made something similar on one of his show episodes but he put the crab in spring rolls instead! nomnomnom!

    i love sweet and savory so i would totally be all in for the cornbread dish! plus an additional bonus is that i love cornbread! one of my favorite dishes in vancouver is actually the hicks benny from bandidas! all the dishes featured here are uber hearty and rich but i guess i understand since montreal can get quite cold during the winter :) i wish he opened up a place here!

  • Stash says:

    Sorry for ruining it Linda… and everyone else who reads my comment! haha
    Robert Irvine is my hero. If I was to choose someone to be my personal chef it would be him– personal chef and body guard!

  • Brad Gash says:

    Having experienced all of that with you, I agree 100% with all your assessments. Seeing your pics, especially of the Kimchi crab and the pineapple turnover, made me salivate all over again! Great review!

  • Linda says:

    haha it’s ok Stash! i love robert irvine too and i think he makes a better ‘restaurant impossible’ than gordon ramsey’s ‘kitchen nightmares’… no donkeys getting yelled at there!

  • Sara says:

    Never heard of this place before….. I am so lost lol!

    I might give it a try, probably for the Lobster toast and kimchi snow crab. You sold me on those two!!!

    My biggest fear with these type of overhyped restaurants is the level of saltiness! Was it ok or too much ?

  • Glo McNeill says:

    Thank you for the plug Mijune! Let’s think of it as voting for ‘OUR CATEGORY’ since we bonded in the backrooms over this wonderful competition.
    About hake….. it was the most common fish available to us growing up in England. That and sole were about the only fish we ever saw, except during wartime where, instead of putting the whole fish on the slab at the’fishmongers shop’ (no such thing as supermarkets in those days) they would remove the heads, so we had no idea of what horrible things we were actually eating… anyway, hake and cod where our staples for fish and chips, and sole, or ‘lemon sole’ as it was called, was our luxury fish.
    Your blog brought back the memory of a forgotten food.
    As for the rest, do you know how lucky you are to live in a wonderful cosmopolitan area where you have such a range of incredible eateries? We have one wonderful restaurant, and several lesser ones, and that’s it. Mind you, it’s an atmosphere that encourages home entertaining, and I think home cooks in this area are pretty darn good.
    Look forward to seeing you and perhaps, eating somewhere really special with y ou.
    Hugs

  • Mijune says:

    @stash – I literally LOL’d. “Personal chef and body guard”… hahahah!

    @Linda – ohh I love corn bread too!! I know, I rarely have time for tv because I’m usually blogging, but I do miss my Food Network shows. When it comes to cooking shows on Food Network I’m usually more of the Everyday Italian, Barefoot Contessa, Chef at Home, and Paula’s Home Cooking lol. She’s funny. I recall someone tell me that kimchi snow crab was on Iron Chef, so that’s really cool! Aww.. you make me miss my Food Network days!!!

    @Brad – yay!!! lol you actually got through it all did you!? It was so awesome sharing this meal with you! Hope it wasn’t the last too! Thanks for choosing this!!

    @Sara – really?!?!? But you’re in Montreal! Oh you should try it at least once then! It is pricey though… and the other place I posted on Le St.-Urbain is probably the same… but as long as you’re prepared there’s no sticker shock :) I have a high tolerance for salt and I didn’t find it too salty, but it is a restaurant so it will always be saltier than what you would make at home. The kimchi snow crab won’t be too salty, but you might think the lobster one is just because there’s so much going on with it and so many sauces. Brad and I didn’t think either were too salty and easily cleaned them off the plate though :) Please try it! I think you’ll like it!!!

    @Glo – I love how much you know about EVERYTHING! Yes, I do feel really spoiled living on the West Coast and having so many great restaurants!! Which I will take you to once you WIN and come visit me! :) We’re all rooting for you Glo! Make us proud :*) We missed you at this dinner, but I know we’ll reunite sooner than later whether it’s my hometown or yours!

  • josh says:

    It seems weird the base of every dish was a kind of bread!!!!

  • Mijune says:

    @josh – that IS weird!!! I didn’t even notice that!! lol.

  • josh says:

    Hey I just found your blog/site thing, its good!!!!!,
    and saw some of the videos and read a few review , how many people do you eat with?, my god there is always so much food!!!, its good but how do stay so petite???, I look at food and get fat, and I am a chef so its hard, also is this your job/occupation ? and did you start out in media?

    anyway, I am in vietnam at the moment visiting some friends who work here cooking, its funny it’s quite hard to find great food here!!!, I mean its good, but I have had better in other places and what seemed to be more authentic, anyway

    thanks for the site…

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