28 June 2013
This trip to Canada has been extremely fun, but also exhausting. I rested a lot, as I needed to, but the heavy eating and drinking has me needing to hit the gym and get back to rhythm soon. But I have one final evening, and I wanted it to be a good night. Honestly, I wanted to have fun but limit the drinking, because I hate drinking too much the night before I fly…never pleasant to be extremely hungover at the airport or on a flight (albeit a short one).
I had booked a slot at Hôtel Herman a few weeks earlier, as the new-ish restaurant nearly out in Outremont has been heavily recommended to me. I looked at the menu and was intrigued, which made me book far in advance as to not miss this place on a Friday night.
I took the Métro to Laurier and just then — a perfect NYC Friday thing from years past — the mobile signal is nowhere to be found. Shit. I have no idea which direction to go on Laurier. I asked someone and the direction turned out to be the wrong way… So by the time I got to Hôtel Herman I was sweaty and wanting a drink…
The restaurant is really cute, with an open kitchen and a narrow U-shaped bar/counter in the centre. I had a good location at the bottom corner of the U and relaxed on the stool. I was honestly needing a quick cocktail, and was a little miffed how long that whole process took. So that didn’t start good at all. The house cocktail list was pretty boring, and then I realised this is a wine-centric place. The martini was so-so, but I decided to make this a wine-centric evening.
I finally relaxed and I think the staff did too, as the service at this point turned around 180 degrees — and was extremely good from this stage. Maybe I caught them too early when I walked in at 6pm. But I ordered and also asked for the sommelier to find a good pairing for each course. She did a fantastic job and the pours were extremely generous. This is the kind of restaurant I like.
The first to arrive were the oysters, three pairs of different east-coasters. All of them were excellent, fresh and briny in their own unique ways. I was not the type to use the condiments when the oysters are so nice and fresh, but did eat the lemons after. This is starting well. I was enjoying myself very much now, chatting with staff and others, waiting for my next course, the smoked sturgeon.
This dish looked fantastic, and with a generous serving of morels as well. I love both sturgeon and morels very much, so this was a dreamy dish for me. The long strip of fish was very nice, lightly smoked. I asked and they indeed do the smoking in-house. The wine pairing was also excellent. I do apologise as it’s been over a week since this evening and I didn’t take proper notes on the wine pairings. But trust me they are excellent.
I was more than happy at this point. I like the food, the environment, the energy here. I was glad I was given the recommendation for this place by some people well in the know in town. I was in extreme anticipation for my next course, the seared horse steak.
This dish was cooked very well, with the meat seared medium-rare. Horse is a lean and tender and tasty meat, and it’s too bad (aside from pre-packed mislabelled supermarket rubbish) it’s not available in many places around North America and Europe. A generous portion, paired with a hearty red, made this one of the best dishes I’ve had to eat all trip. So good I even taunted well-known lover of horsemeat, Philadelphia’s super-chef Marc Vetri, with a semi-drunk tweet… This was a fun, fun night…
I have to say all the courses were excellent, and set up perfectly one after the other. Good pace, excellent wine service, good energy. I was talked into a dessert and it was a very impressive chocolate terrine…
Though I generally don’t have a sweet-tooth for a big dessert course, this really was excellent. Rarely do I rave about a dessert, but this was utterly fantastic. It was extremely rich in chocolate, which is something I love. For me, desserts need to be very chocolaty (not sweet, but rich) or very tangy via interesting fruits. This was the former, and as I said utterly fantastic. But it also made me quite sad as it brought me some rather wonderful-but-sad memories. First, I remember how much my ex loved chocolate-based desserts, and this is something she’d die over. Second, because of the richness of the chocolate it reminded me of the chocolate financier my late, lamented Elettaria had on its menu…
I left Hôtel Herman in a fantastic mood. The food was amazing, the service was excellent, the place was just awesome. It’s the type of place I would go to often if I lived in town. I really wish there were more places in NYC like this, one that focused on the cooking rather than the chef’s brand of over-chef’ing. Let the ingredients do the talking, the chef is there as a talented guide. Hôtel Herman fits that bill. Heavily recommended!
Oh, and the evening was not coming to a close here, though it did not go the way I thought it would. I will elaborate soon, but it began with me walking down Saint-Laurent all the way back to Centre-ville…
5171 Boulevard Saint-Laurent