Putting together a media tasting can be a daunting task for a restaurant and it’s chef. When 60 or more, hungry human beings with pens sharper than swords arrive at your door, ready to slice, dice and deconstruct the plates put in front of them, you can’t help but sweat a little. Last week, Laurea’s owners selected some of Montreal’s privileged media, food and wine bloggers, sommeliers, concierges and VIP guests (including Eric Gonzales, ex-Auberge St. Gabriel et Enfants Terribles and Eloi Dion, Mimi la Nuit) to join them for a private tasting in their airy atrium. We were treated to four courses of delicious culinary creations by head chef Hakim Chajar and his team that had the whole room applauding. The evening kicked of with signature cocktails in the main lobby of the restaurant. The room’s serene décor was accented by the soft music of live piano, setting the scene and ambiance for the evening. As people trickled in we were served an exclusive cocktail, dreamed up just for the evening, featuring ungava gin, Campari, simple syrup, grapefruit and soda: the Laurea Magistrale. Dinner got off to a start shortly afterwards as we were invited upstairs into the glass-covered atrium, featuring a sliding roof that will be perfect for those warm summer nights in the city. We found our places at the tables and set out for the first course. Each course was paired with a different wine that married perfectly with the flavors of each dish, fitting together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. For our first course we were served a creamy fois gras with quince, slivered almonds, fennel and brioche. The texture of the fois gras was perfectly buttery and balanced well with the other ingredients. The second service was a delicious Hamachi and was beautifully presented with prune, edamame, alga and shizo. The dish was fresh and paired well with the 2012 Alsace. When the third course came out, you could almost hear a pin drop. While we prepared to eat each service, the chef or a member of his team came out and proudly described what had been prepared for us. A wonderfully cooked veal was served with celery-rave, tomato, cress and girolle. A jus was poured over the dish and if I could still be there, sitting at the table, eating that very same thing, I would. The dessert may have been my favorite dish of the evening but it was quite polarizing. Far removed from traditional desserts by a long shot, the kitchen prepared beets with grapefruit, pistachio ice cream and a meringue wafer. Each element of the dessert had very distinctive flavors but it was the acidic yet sweet grapefruit that harmonized the dessert.
At the end of the evening a few stragglers stuck around and we popped a bottle of bubbly to celebrate a successful night. It was one of the most pleasant and flavorful dining experiences I’ve had in the city. Though it’s been buzzed about for quite some time, Laurea is more than worth checking out, it’s a must try in Montreal.