Diva #1 was quite happy when she was invited by her family to celebrate Aunty’s birthday at the new and much buzzed about Le Richmond in Griffintown. Le Richmond is huge and the converted loft provides an amazing ambiance for trendy foodies in their thirties. The restaurant is Italian with Piedmontese, Venetian and Emilia-Romagna influences. No fried calamari on the menu, pasta with nonna’s tomato sauce, or Margherita pizzas, this restaurant is here to wow you by releasing your culinary inhibitions. We started with cocktails, although our waiter was concerned that the bar couldn’t make our cocktails, but mojitos are nothing unexpected. But it was their opening month, so some confusion is expected.
Diva #1, Uncle, Senior Diva and one of the cousins went to Le Richmond without argument (a first). The restaurant has valet parking, so Uncle was happy, and Aunty loved the trendy atmosphere. Somehow we made it to ordering our food without one argument, a feat within any ethnic family. The menu wasn’t lengthy, but often times that is preferred because it is better to opt for quality over quantity. Not a huge fan of soups, their soups were nonetheless very tempting. The gorgonzola cream soup with a poached quail egg, kale and crostini immediately caught Diva #1’s eye. The mushroom consommé was equally enticing, but alas, the appetizers were even more intriguing.
Diva #1 asked the waiter for the best appetizer on the menu. He recommended the beef tartare which he described as a perfectly well aged beef which truly makes a difference. According to the menu, the beef tartare was composed of Marchand du Bour signature beef and tossed in the usual classic French beef tartare ingredients: French shallots, capers, gherkins and chives. Truffled crostini came with the tartare, although the truffle flavour was not apparent, and the dish was topped with Espelette pepper. The aged beef made a huge difference, the colour was vibrant, served perfectly at room temperature, and the meat was flavourful, irrespective of what it was tossed with. The Pecorino shavings were plentiful, and the oiled greens topping the tartare added to its flavour. Senior Diva took one bite of the tartare and was soon asking for more, but Diva #1 doesn’t like sharing.
Aunty, who is a more adventurous eater than Uncle, ordered the veal carpaccio. In Piedmont, this dish is called Vitello Tonnato, a decadent northern Italian antipasto. Thin slices of raw veal crusted with black pepper and fennel seed layered the plate. Tonnato sauce which is a mayonnaise based sauce that is flavoured with tuna, was sparingly drizzled so as not to overpower the taste of the veal. Truffled peaches, arugula sprouts and Pecorino shavings added an edge to this classic dish.
Interestingly enough, Diva #1 looked up the origins of carpaccio and found out that it was popularized in Venice but originally from Piedmont. Once again the northern Italian influence is evident in Le Richmond, even dishes that seem more French, like raw meat, have an Italian influence.
Uncle ordered the burrata and heirloom tomatoes. The burrata was fresh and creamy and the heirloom tomatoes were ripe and full of sun-kissed flavour. In traditional Italian fashion, the cheese and tomatoes were topped with fresh basil, olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. For the price, the burrata portion could have been larger but the combination of flavours was delicious and you can tell that Le Richmond uses a fine extra virgin Italian olive oil.
We asked for bread to enjoy with our appetizers and we were told that we will be charged. This should be stated on the menu but all was forgiven when the bread arrived. A medium sized warm loaf, cut in four, with a crispy crust and soft interior greeted us on a grey slate. A bowl of more of their extra virgin olive oil accompanied the bread. Uncle joked that Greek olive oil is better (I will let you guess his ethnicity *sigh*) but even HE couldn’t complain, the quality was evident.
Cousin and the Senior Diva both ordered the Venetian salad. Diva #1 finds ordering salad rather boring but this salad was quite interesting. Mixed greens were tossed with radishes, purple cabbage and a light vinaigrette. A crostini sat on top of the generous amount of salad, and we think that we also tasted fresh fennel with the greens. Though Diva #1 prefers more adventurous appetizers, she still stole some salad from Senior Diva and was once again impressed with Le Richmond. Satiated, we truly enjoyed our appetizers and were eager to see what their main dishes were like.
As the waiter decanted our full bodied Amarone red wine, the conversation turned to the political situation in Greece, in which Uncle and Senior Diva disagreed and argued. All the while Aunty looked at the ceiling, and cousin and Diva #1 discussed their upcoming soccer game. The conversation icily ended and we moved on to talking about work. Unfortunately for Uncle, we all work for him. More importantly, he chose to mention why all of his family members are always late for work. He mocked Diva #1 for coming in at a run when he catches her strolling in the parking lot. He glared at his sister-in-law, Senior Diva, who comes in late with a unique explanation every time i.e. dizzy spells, bowel issues, sick son, menopause, swollen feet, etc. He chastised Aunty who has Fridays off but ensures that all of her appointments are made during work hours on Mondays through Thursdays. Cousin doesn’t come to work before lunch and doesn’t like to leave too late either, you know, he’s busy. Uncle twitched while the rest of us nervously giggled and thankfully our mains arrived. A much needed distraction!
Diva #1 could not choose between the pulled pork and duck heart ragout, and the rabbit ballotine. With the help of our waiter, she chose the rabbit ballotine. Tender rabbit stuffed with blood pudding wrapped in crispy pancetta. Aunty and Uncle were disgusted by the addition of blood pudding but Diva #1 absolutely loved this dish. Cousin tried blood pudding for the first time and liked it, but the combination of tender rabbit with pâté-like blood pudding, and crispy pancetta, was a delightful blend of tastes and textures. This is definitely a dish to return for, Diva #1 loves unique tastes and this was impressive on all counts. Vegetables were paired with the rabbit, and under it all, an au just sauce made from the rabbit’s juices. It was simply fabulous!
Though cousin was tempted to order the steak, Diva #1 convinced him to try the braised veal cheek rigatoni with artichoke hearts and Pecorino shavings. He had never tried veal cheek but Diva #1 knew that he would love it and he did. One of the best dishes of the night, the rigatoni was al dente, and the meat plentiful and tender. Artichoke hearts were also tossed into the pasta dish, and chives with Pecorino shavings were expertly draped on top. It was wonderful and creamy, Diva #1 was so happy that cousin loved it and sad that P’tit Frère was busy studying, and had missed out on such a good meal.
Senior Diva ordered the seafood risotto with aged carnaroli rice, shrimps, scallops and calamari. The risotto was clearly cooked in a fish or seafood stock because each bite tasted like the ocean, even if you took a bite without pieces of seafood. As the plate was placed in front of Senior Diva, Diva #1 could smell the seafood and its freshness. It was a delicious main meal, the scallops were a bit salty, but other than that, it was the best seafood risotto that Diva #1 had ever tried. The risotto was creamy and not overcooked; it was a remarkable dish that was well seasoned.
Uncle ordered the leg of lamb, and as a Greek, Diva #1 is very picky as to how she likes her lamb cooked. It was interestingly prepared ,covered with a lemon and black olive mousse with parsley and Swiss chard. Though it wasn’t a large portion, the meat was tender, juicy and seasoned just right. Made very differently than the usual traditional way that lamb is roasted, this seasoning helped enhance the taste of the lamb without overpowering it. Served au jus with roasted vegetables, the dish was devoured rather quickly.
Whitey had told Diva #1 that her friend had been to Le Richmond and ordered the Mediterranean sea bass with a parsnip purée and artichoke heart salad. Though Diva #1 was tempted to try this dish, since Whitey’s friend had raved about it, she did not regret her or her family’s choices. Everything we tried was delicious. As the night wore on, the place became more packed, the music a touch louder and jazzier and the lights dimmed. Definitely a place to return to for drinks.
For dessert, Diva #1 and Aunty both ordered the Piemontese style bonnet which was described by our waiter as the Italian version of a crème brûlée. Made with caramel and cocoa, this thicker custard-like dessert had a caramel mousse topping to its more bitter cocoa flavoured custard. It was very interesting and not too sweet, but interesting because of the amaretti. It was perfect with a cappuccino and a great end to our night.
Uncle ordered the tiramisu and looked confused because it did not arrive in a bowl, but instead it arrived taken apart on a dish. Tiramisu is not Diva #1’s favourite dessert so it tasted good but it just isn’t her thing. The cream was fresh and Uncle said it was delicious so all was well. Senior Diva ordered the chocolate semifreddo which was an excellent choice. Served with tangerines and candied seabuckthorn, the semifreddo was perfect, although the winner of the night remains the Piemontese Style Bonnet.
The food was exquisite, the music jazzy and the ambiance trendy. The restaurant was beautiful and the Divas are eager to see their courtyard terrace in the summer. Possibly the biggest restaurant in Griffintown, Le Richmond has created an excellent menu and vibe, we are sure that it will be quite a successful endeavor. Somehow Diva #1’s family survived another family dinner, but it is easy when the food is good, it gave us something to talk about instead of why everyone is on each other’s nerves.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 377 Rue Richmond, Bar, Beef Tartare, Blood Pudding, Burrata, Carpaccio, Cocktails, Courtyard, Eggplant, Emilia-Romagna, Gorgonzola Cream Soup, Griffintown, H3J 1T9, Heirloom Tomatoes, Italian, Le Richmond, Le Richmond Griffintown, Le Richmond Montreal, Le Richmond Sud-Ouest, Luc Laroche, Mediterranean Sea Bass, Milanese Pork, Montreal Restaurant, Mushroom Consommé, Mushrooms, Northern Italian, Pancetta, Panna Cotta, Paul Soucie, Piedmont, Pulled Pork and Duck Heart Ragout, Rabbit, Reservations Needed, Richmond, Risotto, Scallops, Seafood, Seafood Risotto, Semifreddo, Sheep Ricotta, Shrimp, South-West, terrace, Tiramisu, Tonnato, Trout Gravlax, Veal Carpaccio, Veal Cheek, Venice, wine