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Café Méliès
3536 St- Laurent Boulevard

Tel. 847-9218
This one goes onto the plus side of the column.

A busy but comfortable restaurant in the middle of this oh-so-chic section of St.-Laurent boulevard. Open from 8 a.m. until at least midnight with the menu changing every few hours: breakfast with eggs Benedict or Florentine should set you back around $10. Lunch starts around 11, later on weekends with basic bistro fare and price ranges between $10 and $20. Dinner begins around 5 p.m. and lasts until the kitchen closes which "can be as late as 2 p.m., depends upon how many customers we have." I would call just to make sure if it you plan on showing up 11 p.m.

The decor is sumptuous and hi-tech at the same time. Luxurious wing chairs reminiscent of what you might have found on a Pam Am clipper or maybe the Normandy in the 1930s when people knew how to travel. The restaurant itself looks like a set from a Busby Berkeley musical—the place where the diners ate while the show went on. Lots of steel, burnished wood and glass, a staircase leading up to a private reception area with the railings flowing from oversized film reels.

The show does go on. Méliès is the restaurant and bar of Ex-Centris, the best independent theatre in Montreal. The bar is long enough for a small crowd to get a drink before going to see a film.

The menu is bistro—long on basics: steaks, fish, a few ventures into the world of pasta with sandwiches added at lunch and egg dishes for breakfast. The kitchen is commendable although the chef seems to feel a need to be silly and quite often the combinations don't mesh. For example, a foie gras starter was adequate but far from sublime. The duck liver (and in Montreal this is the foie of choice) was seared but not meltingly tender. The sauce was adequate but unexciting. This is the kind of dish that separates the boys from the grills. Similarly, the filet mignon with truffle butter was seared perfectly and the filet was thick and excellent but the truffle butter was innocuous, the flavour of truffles being almost nonexistent. A shot of truffle oil would have helped. 

Again, the duck breast was excellent—a large portion richly flavoured—but the sauce wimped out. Vegetables with both dishes were seasonal and excellently prepared: parsnips roasted, a long thin carrot with a drizzle of butter, small roasted potatoes—but the potatoes were stacked under the meat to raise the filet about two inches off the plate. "The chef likes to have fun," we were told.

Desserts were both good and bizarre. The apple tart was served with a maple syrup crème fraîche. The sweet and slightly sour combination wasn't great. A homemade vanilla ice cream would have been much better. The roasted figs with goat cheese and honey also fell off the flavour see-saw. This dish has to be perfectly balanced or it just won't work. In this case there was too much char on the fruit and not enough sweetness with the yogurt. This is the kind of dish (along with the foie gras) that might have been perfect on another night. The problems may not lie in the recipes but in their consistency.

The wine list is decent with some good inexpensive choices by the glass. Service is wonderful and the street scene along St. Lawrence makes this a choice setting for people watching.

Dinner for two ranges from $50—$75 not including wine. Lunch is about half that and breakfast half again.—
Reviewed by Barry Lazar

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