The first review of the year is going to be different and will set the tone of the blog for the new year. With the growing number of restaurants in Montreal, there are bound to be the odd few who will not meet expectations, who will disappoint, drop the ball, be below par, and all those other cliché idioms. Not all restaurants I eat at are going to be ones that hit it out of the park that I gush about on the blog. Previously, I decided to forego mentioning those establishments and focus on the ones that blew my socks right off, unfortunately this week’s review not only failed to knock me off my feet, but duct tapped my socks securely onto my feet. I stopped by at Le Bon Vivant (2705 NOTRE DAME OUEST) for lunch. I first heard about this place when I attended a function where they were catering. Their homemade charcuteries is what drew me in. If my gout wasn’t already on the brink of causing mind-shattering agony, the masterfully dry aged salumi was definitely the temptress to my sky-rocketing uric acid levels that would provoke my consideration of vegetarianism.
We started with the kale salad ($12) – Kale, cashews, apple, keffir dressing, nori chips, craizins, pecorino pepato. The kale was fresh and the sharp cheese and tangy dressing made each bite extremely bright. The nuts and dried berries added a nice texture to the salad and the nori chips got lost as most of the “chips” wilted under the dressing and stuck to whatever was next to it. I guess the inclusion of briny seaweed chips sounds delicious on paper to compliment the saltiness of the cheese and sweetness of the apple, but its delicate salinity is what makes nori, nori – if you can’t taste it, it’s as good as hole-punch confetti.
When we ordered our sandwiches, our helpful waiter explained each item on the menu in great detail. I asked if the sandwiches come with anything and with a pretty honest and disappointed look on his face, he said no, “nothing other than a ‘small bowl of cabbage'” which I understood to be coleslaw and he suggested we order sides. My girl had the “DANY ISRAEL” ($11) – White bun, hummous, marinated eggplant, hot pepper aioli, pickled turnips, mint, shaved fennel, onion jam, goat cheese – the vegetarian sandwich. The sandwich was warm, which helped the goat cheese soften which lent a great creaminess to each bite and toned down the chili aioli. The combination of kabees el lift, eggplant and mint definitely gave this sandwich a middle-eastern feel. The waiter wasn’t joking when he said a “small bowl” when he gestured with his thumbs and index finger like throwing up a gang-sign when we ordered. My girl has impeccable table manners, so when I say she killed this sandwich in four bites, it can give you a good indication of the size of the sandwich.
I had the *cough* *cough* “BANH MI” ($13) – Pork meatballs with sriracha mayo served with Korean style slaw: soya pickled shiitake mushroom, pickled carrots, cucumber, pickled daikon radish, scallions, cilantro. Please refer to my article “What is a Banh mi“. I’m not going to be a prick and say that this isn’t a banh mi, because anyone else who knows what a banh mi is will say the same. Calling this a banh mi would make as much sense as calling it a folding patio chair. I looked and thought about it hard to see if there were any indications that this would be Le Bon Vivant’s take or interpretation of a banh mi. Nothing… it’s served on bread. That’s about it. The meatballs themselves were moist; the pork was juicy. The bread was supple and grilled which offered a smokey aroma that’s appreciated in any formidable sandwich; unfortunately these were the only redeeming factors of the sandwich itself. $13 for two diminutive meatballs and haphazardly strewn pickles that came with a side of inconsistently rough-chopped cabbage slaw… I’ve eaten bigger sandwiches at tea parties hosted by my niece which feature imaginary food.
Kimchi side ($4). It wasn’t really “kim chi” more than it was a spicy napa cabbage pickle.
Fries ($4) french fries served in a whimsical mini metal basket – we counted 37 french fries.
I don’t mind paying for good food but I don’t remember the last time I dropped $60 on lunch (without drinks) then went home and had lunch again. The food was good; the food was decent. For sandwiches, it certainly wasn’t Subway, but it also wasn’t worth the minimum payment on my abused holiday season credit card statement. There were tables who were nursing cups coffee and enjoying Le Bon Vivant’s baked goods (prices which I didn’t take note of.) The spot also has a nighttime scene which quite honestly I’m not making immediate plans to check out.
Le Bon Vivant
2705 NOTRE DAME OUEST
514 316 4585