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“Another Reason Why It's So Hard to be Thin in Montreal”
Review of Restaurant Le Grain De Sel - CLOSED

Restaurant Le Grain De Sel
Cuisines: European, French
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine, Business meetings, Special Occasion Dining, Romantic
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner, After-hours, Reservations
Neighbourhood: Olympic Park & Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (HoMa)
Reviewed 15 November 2014

Le Grain de Sel is a small restaurant, providing an intimate atmosphere without making one feel crowded in by other patrons. Waitstaff were attentive. The bar selection was not particularly extensive, but what they did have was very good.

Our appetizers were excellent: I had fried mussels with mixture of wide noodles cooked perfectly with saffron, squash and orange; it was topped with long unwieldy strands of watercress, the absence of which would have made the dish easier to eat but less beautiful visually. My dinner partner had the beet salad, which he described as "excellent." We decided to split a second appetizer of black pudding, a house speciality which neither of us thought we would really want but which we wanted to sample. It was good -- paired with chocolate sauce and banana -- the fact that neither of us would order it again has more to do with the fact that I guess we just don't like black pudding -- it was no reflection on the quality or the originality of the presentation.

Main courses were good; venison with a blueberry sauce and halibut. Neither of us licked the plate clean, but both of us were happy with our food. The chef came out to greet us and to check on everything, and that made the meal all the more enjoyable. The bread served with the meal was fantastic.

Here's the reason I am giving Le Grain de Sel 4 stars instead of 5: the restaurant offers a "tasting menu" but only if all the parties at a table order it. I don't like that -- I think a person should be able to do the tasting even if the other people at the table do not -- but I get it. However, the waitress could not give any indication as to what would be IN the tasting menu. She said it would be up to the inspiration of the chef. That's like playing russian roulette. It's one thing to say "you will have five courses; one will have shellfish, one will have game or another meat, one will have this or that." But to say "we will serve you five courses and you will not know anything about them until they're on your table" -- well, sorry, but that's not my idea of dining out.

Having said all of that, I heartily recommend Le Grain de Sel. And to the tabulae rosae out there -- try the tasting menu (if everyone else at your table will) -- it's probably fantastic!

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4  Thank xaviercourtois
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviews (266)
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8 - 12 of 266 reviews

Reviewed 27 October 2014

Having read WMarkR's remarks, I have very little to add: it would seem that we have the same tastes. It is a great value for money and the fact that it's out of the central buzz of downtown, parking is easy on the street very close to the restaurant - now that is a luxury in Montréal!

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1  Thank Marysela
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 October 2014

Why am I the only TA reviewer so far in 2014 to award Le Grain de Sel less than full marks? Well, being a resident and dining out as often as I do, I know how high the bar is set here in Montreal, and as positive a time as we had on our Thursday-night visit, I would not rank it among the very best our city has to offer. That said, this most recent dinner was a vast improvement over the disappointing meal I reported on 2 years ago, and I would now recommend Grain de Sel so long as you go in with realistic expectations.

Certainly, the service this time deserved all 5 stars. Not that it was impeccably polished—this is a casual neighbourhood restaurant after all—but our main waitress was knowledgeable about the composition of every dish and couldn’t have been more attentive, soliciting our opinion of each course. When we confessed that we weren’t in love with the cream of radish soup, she asked with genuine interest and no defensiveness what we thought could be done to improve it. Similarly, when the chef visited us later to enquire if all was well, this didn’t feel like a formality but rather a sincere attempt to gauge audience reaction to his work. Our water glasses were never less than one sip short of topped up. There was no problem this time with catching attention to get our bill at the end, as I remarked on in my previous review.

I can also retract my previous complaint about the wine list, which has been improved with several private importations. Wine pairings selected by our waitress were well matched to the food, and pours were generous.

Other than the afore-mentioned soup, the rest of the 5-course tasting menu we ordered was good to very good. True, no dish provoked eye rolls or goose bumps, but we’re tough customers! Importantly, nothing served was standard or ordinary; there was genuine creativity going on in that kitchen, and if I didn’t feel that all the experiments were equally successful, it counts for a lot with me that everything was at least original and thought-provoking. In general, flavours were subtle, with light purées of root vegetables playing a major role on several plates. Imaginative comfort food would be a good description. Indeed, if you’re an adventurous diner but often find your palate overwhelmed by strong flavours, you may fare better at Grain de Sel than at some of the Montreal restaurants I’ve rated more highly.

Standout dishes on our most recent visit included a variation on Grain de Sel’s trademark boudin noir (black pudding) with dark chocolate, which alchemy or witchcraft had transformed into a light and fluffy cake, practically a boudin soufflé. Another winner was my fiancée’s dessert, an inspired variation on the rum baba, soaked in Pernod instead of rum, with cilantro ice cream, yoghurt and candied fennel root ... this was quite unlike anything we’d ever had, and definitely worth requesting if available.

Although the white tablecloths elevate the ambiance, Grain de Sel is not as fancy as implied by some reviews here. Can’t say I love the colour scheme, based on indecisive shades of grey, but your mileage may vary. The artwork is a quirky mix offering plenty of conversation starters. Tables are quite close together and we'd made the mistake of choosing a table next to a small group who became progressively louder and more animated as the evening wore on; couples should shoot for one of the two window tables tucked into the alcoves on either side of the entrance.

For the level of food and service, Grain de Sel presents a compelling value argument—the 5-course tasting menu was only $45 per person, considerably less expensive than what you’ll pay at most other Montreal establishments in this league.

P.S. Non-Francophones should not hesitate to visit (or feel shy about phoning to reserve in English) as all the staff were perfectly happy talking with us in both English and French. I’m guessing the owners cut loose the unfriendly waiter referred to by Marla A in her 2013 review.

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1  Thank WMarkR
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 September 2014

An unexciting area of the Montreal suburbs is one of the last places you would expect to find a restaurant of this quality and style. The menu is original and exciting but with a few classics for those of a less adventurous nature, who would expect black pudding with chocolate, caramelised banana and confit garlic purée as an appetiser, which turned out to be a harmonious and delicious dish? Just one example of the many interesting delights offered, although I did pass up the opportunity to try carpaccio of octopus!
The room is stark but elegant with large modern art on the walls, not large but not cramped either. The service is first class and fun, from the warm initial greeting to the final goodbye. When we asked for the dessert menu one of the waitresses came and described it while she was writing it on what appeared to be the tablecloth but was actually a sheet of paper which exactly fitted the table. The most impressive thing was that she was writing it upside down so that we could read it! Great trick. A table visit from the enthusiastic young chef rounded off the evening.
For food of this quality and originality the prices are surprisingly modest and there is a short but well-chosen wine list. If you find yourself in Montreal in search of a great meal then venture out from downtown to le Grain de Sel, it will be well worth the effort.

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1  Thank manofekent
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 September 2014

I made a reservation at Le Grain de Sel based on reviews from Trip Advisor and I was not disappointed. In fact both my husband and I think it was the best meal we had in the 4 nights we were in Montreal. We order the beet and goat cheese salad and escargot as appetizers. The escargot was cooked with chopped mushrooms in a garlic and wine sauce and topped with puff pastry. It was so good I drank the sauce. The beet salad was lightly sprinkled with cumin added a subtle and unique flavor. Dinner dishes were fish and chips and a wild mushroom ravioli. Both excellent. The service was great with the servers coming back on several occasions and even the Chef came to our table twice to see how our food was and once to help us with the credit card machine which he noticed we were having trouble with while he was visiting another table.
Unfortunately we ate here the first night so every other meal was compared to this one and we couldn't get back there as we had pre arranged events, one at a Wine Spectator awarded restaurant that didn't come close to the quality of food and service as Le Grain de Sel.

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Thank maureenwd
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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