Frunchroom suffers from what Diva #1 calls the plight of the 1990s restaurants, which had the following characteristics: 1. Big restaurant 2. Long and diverse menu 3. We-can-do-everything attitude. Though this was successful in the 1990s, flash forward to the 21st century and it no longer works. Big is not always better…well, when it comes to restaurants And when you cannot fill a big restaurant, your customers feel very tiny and lost in the infrastructure. A diverse menu is acceptable but within certain guidelines. A restaurant loses a lot of points when it doesn’t have strict parameters that it abides by: is the cuisine French? Greek? Italian? American? Fusion is the new in-thing but even that means something to the foodies, it doesn’t mean everything. So when Diva #1 saw a menu with shrimp tempura, Italian pastas, fish and chips, sashimi, pizzas, and a large sandwich and salad section of the menu, she caught herself asking, what is Frunchroom’s style?
Architecturally it is rather stylish; it was inspired by Montreal’s yester years when the city was the “Paris of America” between the 1920s – 1940s. The word Frunchroom was the slang term for the front room of the house that was used to entertain guests. Frunchroom had their entire menu clearly written online; the menu even stated their specialties along with a little Montreal history.
But why were we at Frunchroom? Bellatrix had gone on Valentine’s Day with her Mate just a few days before. As she talked about it at the office, Whitey and Diva #1 were inspired by the way she described the jazzy ambiance. Mind you, she had had the set menu and had called the food decent, but we were in the mood for a quick bite before heading to a friend’s party. We didn’t need fancy, nor posh, just good food in a chill ambiance. So Bellatrix and her friend, Whitey, Sweet Pea, and Diva #1 went to Frunchroom with our dear majestic Sensei.
We started with the Bees Knees and Long Frunch Tea as cocktails. The Bees Knees is made up of gin, fresh lemon juice, honey syrup, egg whites and orange bitters. The Long Frunch Tea was the tastier option; it was composed of Kentucky Bourbon, gin, Cointreau, maple syrup and gunpowder tea, fresh lemon juice and tonic. As expected, they were decent drinks but nothing stood out in particular.
It took forever to get our drinks and even longer to order our food; although the restaurant was empty, service was not off to a great start. We really liked our French waiter from Nice, whom we chatted up, along with the barmaid / waitress, who was also from France and brought us our drinks. Still, the service really was slow. Our first dish was the French Onion Soup: it was simple, as expected, but the broth was a little too salty. This was a typical French Onion Soup with beef broth, onions, Swiss cheese and toasted bread. The bread would have been tastier if it was a crispy baguette. It wasn’t a bad soup but it wasn’t wonderful either.
The arancini weren’t too shabby at all; the two little croquettes arrived in a small cast iron pan on a cutting board. The risotto rice was crispy on the outside, without being greasy, and perfectly al dente and creamy on the inside. The mozzarella cheese was plentiful which is important with arancini because dry arancini that is lacking in cheese is a punishment! The tomato sauce wasn’t perfection but we weren’t at an Italian restaurant, and the arugula that topped the little appetizer added to the flavour, as did the crisped piece of parmigiano.
Sensei and Whitey both ordered the Caesar salad as an appetizer. She is a white girl so we weren’t surprised by her boring order but why was dear Sensei eating so light? The greens were more yellow than green, just see the photo, and they seemed rather wilted and old. The croutons were homemade which was a plus but lacking in seasoning like salt and garlic which would have made them much tastier. The yogurt Caesar dressing wasn’t bad but it can only be described as standard. The best part was the generous amount of parmigiano shavings that were shredded on top of the salad. This was impressive but the salad needed something more to make it a success.
Sweet Pea and Diva #1 were sharing everything so they ordered the salmon tartare as a main dish. Knife cut, which meant that it was not overly minced, it was served with olive oil on a fresh avocado base with lime juice. It was not an original way to prepare salmon tartare but very good. The fish was fresh, the one large crouton was crispy and our waiter brought us more croutons when we asked for them. The French fries were matchstick fries that came in a mini colander and we really enjoyed them, actually we had to swat Bellatrix’s hand away from the fries because she tried to eat them all. Once again this dish was as expected.
Another main that Diva #1 and Sweet Pea ordered was the cheese ravioli with duck confit, shiitake mushrooms and arugula. We were torn between this dish and the cavatelli with cream sauce, gorgonzola and mushrooms. The problem is that we have had really good Italian food, so we are hard to impress. One of the best pasta dishes of our lives is on the menu at Vallier, and it is very similar to what is offered at Frunchroom. The ravioli at Vallier is stuffed with portobellos and a generous amount of duck confit tops the pasta. The sauce is au jus, more mushrooms litter the plate, and arugula and parmigiano top this decadent dish.
How the hell could Diva #1 expect Frunchroom to top that? It was very hard for Diva #1 to agree to order a pasta dish that was so similar to her beloved Vallier. Nonetheless it was not a complete disaster: the cheese ravioli was very fresh and presentable. The duck confit wasn’t plentiful but the sauce wasn’t bad at all, and once again, they were generous with the parmigiano. It could have been a bit saucier but you really tasted the freshness of the cheese ravioli because it wasn’t drowning in sauce.
We all wanted to try the stuffed pizza which we were told was their in-house specialty. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any available that night which was unfortunate because they had a section of their menu raving about how good it was! Similar to an Italian calzone, they promised a Montreal twist, but we never got to try it.
Bellatrix and her friend decided to satisfy a pizza craving and share the prosciutto and arugula pizza. Unfortunately, both Italian girls thought that the pizza was average, the crust was very thin and too crispy, almost like pita bread instead of traditional pizza dough. The marinara sauce wasn’t bad and the cheese was plentiful. The prosciutto was crisped properly and there was plenty of arugula. The pizza wasn’t bad but once again it was average and they left with their pizza craving unsatisfied.
The night was winding down and though our waitress spilled a cocktail she was bringing to the table on our friend, she was more than apologetic, even bringing us a chocolate fondant as an apology. The chocolate fondant was dense and better than what we had expected. While chatting with our waiter and waitress, Bellatrix tried to marry the Niçois Frenchman to Diva #1. Unfortunately, he informed us that he had come here to live with his girlfriend who was here for school…Bellatrix was really upset. She really wanted to visit France and what she described as Diva #1’s French villa in Nice.
But of course our night couldn’t simply end there. Whitey and Sensei went off on their own whereas Bellatrix, her friend, Diva #1 and Sweet Pea went off to a friend’s party… and boy did we party hard. In the end, Frunchroom wasn’t a bad experience but it is a restaurant suited to Montreal in the 1990s. To improve they need to choose a distinct style, and stick to it.
Our Rating: Meh!
Tagged: 1425 Boul. René-Lévesque, Arancini, Bar, Beef Carpaccio, Beef Tartare, Burger, Caesar Salad, Calamari, Chicken, Cocktails, Downtown, Duck Confit, Filet Mignon, Fish and Chips, Focaccia, French Onion Soup, Frunchroom, Frunchroom Downtown Montreal, Frunchroom Montreal, golden square mile, H3G 1T7, Lasagna, Montreal, Montreal Downtown Restaurant, Montreal Restaurant, Pizza, Pizzeria, Ravioli, Réné Levesque, Rib Steak, Salmon, Salmon Tartare, sandwich, Shrimp Tempura, Stuffed Pizza, Tartare, wine