Le Piment Rouge has been on my list of places to try since last fall. The place seems to bring out a range of opinions – from food media reviews that recently named Piment Rouge the Best Restaurant in Montreal (CBC, RDI, Le Devoir, etc.) to some chowhounders who vocally and frequently complain about the place. So… let’s throw one more review into the mix. A group of six of us went to try the restaurant for an anniversary celebration. Here is my review…
Positives: (1) excellent food, (2) beautiful dining room, (3) huge wine list with many affordable wines (100+ wines under $50/bottle), (4) polished and friendly service
Negatives: (1) slow delivery time on main courses, (2) frustrating parking
Price: For food, $45 per person, before tax and tip. Plus: two bottles of wine ($38 and $60), three glasses of dessert wine ($30), tea and coffee ($18).
The dining room is really quite impressive and beautiful in the old Windsor building – one of the nicest in the city. But this is not your typical modest neighborhood bistro that is at the core of our city’s dining scene. Here you have tall, ornate molded plaster ceilings and panoramic views of Dominion Square Park from almost every window. The dining room is accented with huge gray crystal chandeliers, silver and black retro wallpaper, Chinese bronze buddhas and massive white lacquered Chinese screens. Lots of expensive bottles (Petrus, Margaux, Lafite etc.) in the imposing glass cellar remind you that many special occasions and business deals happen here.
The sauces, food presentation and quality of ingredients all scored high marks with us. The menu has mainly authentic Chinese items but also some Americanized Chinese options, as well as a seasonal tasting menu (25+ items) and a half-dozen daily specials. Two of our dinner companions are Chinese (actually, Canadian-born husband and wife recently from Hong Kong, both celebrating their anniversary), so we basically avoided the Americanized items. For appetizers, we ordered:
- Roasted Chinese pumpkin (kabocha) soup with candied walnuts (in seasonal menu) – complex layers of smoke, luscious meat soup stock flavours mixed in with pumpkin purée and candied walnuts.
- Lobster wontons with crab meat and crab roe sauce over Chinese greens (in seasonal menu) – the crab sauce was delicious with lots of snow crab meat, and big chunks of tender lobster in the wontons.
-Dim sum selection – shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings all perfectly steamed to perfection.
- Hunan dumplings with peanut and sesame sauce – Delicious rich sauce and savoury meaty pork dumplings, but was told not authentic Chinese by my friends. I didn’t care – basically licked my plate clean!
For main course dishes:
- Fresh whole sole sautéed with black beans and sugar snap peas (daily special item) – the fish fillets were deboned and sautéed with black bean sauce, placed in a crispy basket made from the fish bone rack which was also edible (seasoned with Chinese spiced salt).
- Soy and wine braised eggplant in clay pot (in seasonal menu) – very tender eggplant with a rich and zesty soy wine sauce thoroughly infused into the velvety eggplant strips.
- Poet’s pork (Dong Bo Rou) – for Montrealers who love their pork, this is one more decadent dish to add to the city’s list! This was my favourite dish of the entire meal - the soy sauce and red rice wine reduction sauce is so rich, and the pork (fatty belly cut) is so tender and delicious! The meat just melts in your mouth.
- Home-made “Silver Needle” rice noodles with seasonal vegetables and XO sauce (daily special item) – I never even knew such noodles existed! Wok tossed with Chinese “XO” sauce that is a combination of tiny sundried seafood morsels (scallops, brine shrimp, squid) and chili oil. Amazing combination of flavours – salty briny, sweet and spicy all in the same mouthful.
- Whole clams stir fried in Bi Feng Tang sauce (daily special item) – BFT is a traditional Chinese seasoning consisting of tiny pieces of garlic seasoned with a variety of other spices (salt, chilies, ginger). The clams were very tender and juicy.
- Lemon Shrimp – too sweet for my personal taste, but these giant but tender shrimp were also cooked very nicely and seasonedwith razor thin shreds of fresh lemon peel.
We were stuffed, but ordered desserts for the anniversary. The crispy mango pastries were very nice with crispy phyllo outsides and a combo of mango-anise custard and stewed fresh mango on the inside.
We were particularly impressed with the service. The manager personally opened the door for us on the way out. Our servers and the manager were very attentive even though the dining room was almost full of customers. However, our main courses took much longer than expected to come out (30 minutes after appetizers), but the manager was quite apologetic in explaining that the kitchen was short staffed that night.
My pet peeve for the night was the parking situation. It was a Bell Centre hockey night, so impossible to find parking. Didn’t want to spend $15-20 at a pay lot – they should have validated parking at a nearby facility.
They have a huge wine list! We counted about 700 selections! But we were delighted to see over 100 wines under $50 a bottle, of which even 30 were under $40 a bottle. Also, we noticed a huge variety (40+) of wines by the glass, from $8. Our servers were quite helpful and knowledgeable about the wines. Also, Instead of just plain tap water, they served fresh fruit-infused filtered ice water – lime, lemon, orange and pomegranate. Chocolate dipped fortune cookies, mints and candied ginger also came free at the end of the meal with the bill. Nice little details from beginning to end all added up to a delightful anniversary celebration.
Le Piment Rouge Windsor
1170 Rue Peel, Montreal, QC H3B4P2, CA