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3500, Côte-Vertu boulevard, St-Laurent

Open Daily. Call for exact times. 832-0222
Went to Firegrill on a cold December Thursday evening.

I was expecting a prominent storefront on a busy thoroughfare, this after all being the son of Céline Dion and hubby Réné Angelil, but was somewhat perplexed when we actually couldn’t find the place.

It turned out that Firegrill is set back almost in obscurity next to a cineplex in the depths of what I can only describe as a strip mall, opposite Place Vertu, just off sprawling Cote Vertu Rd. in Ville St. Laurent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The interior could best be described as faux-upscale—it’s a large, dim, wood-paneled dining area subdivided into several sections and levels, including booths and regular tables, which are comfortably far apart, the smoking section being happily segregated in its own little pariah quadrant (never far enough away for me.)

The focal point of the main area is a faux-wood burning fireplace (faux is big here) and the kitchen is prominently thrust somewhat incongruously into the room, as there’s really nothing to see because of the shoulder-high wall around it. It was unsettlingly reminiscent of a Burger King kitchen, with only heads bobbing around against a background of steam and bright lights. Faux-medieval torches “burn” at intervals on the walls.

We were seated at my request “as far from the smokers as possible” at a not-unpleasant corner table near the window overlooking the inside of the now-deserted mall.

Diners were sparse. You won’t need a reservation here.

The waiter was friendly enough, but, as we would later discover, was actually somewhere on Mars.

We ordered a Margarita and Bloody Mary, and from there the evening began to slip. It took a full fifteen minutes to receive the drinks, and my Bloody Mary ($4.79) was warm in spite of the ice, and bland. Watered-down would be giving credit to the ice runoff, which seemed to be the only other liquid sharing the space with the tomato juice.

My friend’s Margarita ($5.22, and why it was more expensive than mine I don’t know) was an abomination. It wasn’t even a serious effort to disguise an utter lack of alcohol with an overly crushed-iced watery bottled margarita mix. (“They don’t even give me a slice of lime!”)

We ordered as appetizers Maryland crabcakes ($7.99) and deep-fried breaded mushrooms ($4.99). The crabcakes were flaky and creamy inside, but charred outside with a bitter black crust. The tartare sauce served with them was very good. The mushrooms, about eight or nine fairly large ones, were served on a bed of lettuce with a little ramekin of very good mayonnaise-based sauce, and were somewhat heavily breaded though surprisingly ungreasy, the insides pleasantly plump and juicy and fortunately not mouth-flayingly hot.

We saw that other diners were being served what looked like crusty loaves of bread on a wooden board and were wondering when it would be our turn. When the waiter came to collect our appetizer plates he assured us that the bread was on the way.

I ordered the Firegrill burger ($8.99) after surveying the steak menu and deciding that $23 was too much to be paying for a possibly iffy-quality filet mignon (I was proved not wrong.) My friend ordered the salmon filet with lemon-dill butter ($15.99.)

My hamburger came with a large bed of very good matchstick-style fries, the best I’ve had so far in Quebec. The burger itself was a substantial one, char-grilled and served with swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce and red onion, but the roll was, as is usual in Quebec, the old Price Club corn-meal-on-top Kaiser. Still, the burger ranks up there as one of the better ones I’ve had in Quebec (which is not saying much at all) and was certainly better than those served at Mr. Steer.

My friend’s salmon was served with “wild rice,” (which was a “wild exaggeration”, as it turned out to be wild ol’ Uncle Ben’s) and a toothy quantity of brocolli and cauliflower. However, the kitchen had served it with the teriyaki sauce (on the side) so we had to wait while the waiter brought the correct dill and butter sauce. The salmon, with nice grill-marks, was overdone, and, according to my friend, “quite fishy-tasting.” I pointed out that it was a fish, but she iterated that it was “too fishy-tasting for salmon.”

The bread never materialized. I ordered a half-bottle of the Orvieto Classico ($13.99) but the waiter couldn’t uncork it—he had “injured his thumb.” “I shouldn’t have come in to work today, but . . .” he shrugged. A busboy opened it. It was very nice, fruity and semi-dry, although it could have been colder—much colder.

For dessert we ordered a crème brulée ($5.99) and coffee ($2.58), I with my usual V.S.O.P.($4.79.) The waiter forgot the cognac even though we had had a discussion about the various brands available. The crème brulée was happily devoured by my friend, but wasn’t much to my taste.

Dinner came to $86.63 for two with wine and taxes but not tip. I won’t discuss how much the taxi cost.

Judging by the inaccessibilty of Firegrill and the spotty food and service, I’ll have to give it a 3.5 out of ten on all counts. —
Reviewed by Nick Robinson

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