We finally got around to Restaurant Duel on Saturday night (on Amherst, housed in the former AREA Resto). Oh, how I miss AREA!!!
The restaurant is very stylish--the tables have slots cut into them for utensils, special "rings" that hold napkins, and lots of other funky details that make it a good-looking place to dine. On one side are traditional tables, on the other is one long table that seats many. The lighting is low and there are a lot of people working there (servers, sommelier, chefs, kitchen prep, maitre d,....). There are papers "stuck" to the wall with forks and knives listing the ingredients that both chefs must use to prepare their dishes. One chef is French-Asian fusion, the other is more traditional French. Both chefs were there Sat night (the kitchen is open) and the service was indeed excellent.
We chose the 8 course tasting menu. This was a mistake. Each course is actually 2 dishes (one prepared by Chef Godbout, the other by Chef Biron). This adds up to a LOT of food. We did not take notes, and there was truly a ton of food, so I cannot give detailed explanations of any dishes because I simply could never remember all of that.
What I will say is that the meal started off on the right foot, with a lovely salad vs.a smoked salmon cream soup within a sea urchin. This was followed by a beautiful tuna tartare vs an excellent beef tartare--both winners. Then came foie gras, one side seared and the other pressed (both were so-so, and definitely too much on the plate for a tasting menu). I think this is when we realized that the tasting menu was going to be too much food---only 3 courses in and we were both pretty much full. At any rate, it kind of all went downhill from there. There was a tataki (not so good) vs cooked salmon (OK), lamb vs. lamb (not at all memorable), and I can't remember what after that as we were only able to force mouthfuls at that point since we were so stuffed---I know there was cheese in there somewhere..... Probably the best course of the night was desert---4 mini-deserts, a tiny brownie, a fruit mousse, and...can't remember, but they were all excellent.
We splurged on a great bottle of wine (around $100), and the bill came to $350. The tasting menu is $85 per person, so if you don't splurge on wine, you could get away with less than $200, but I would not recommend the tasting menu--I can't say that you won't leave with a full tummy--you will. But I am not sure you want to leave with such an empty wallet at the end of what for us was just a "good" dinner. Ordering off the menu might be a better option--most entrees were about $30. They are now open for lunch on Thursday and Fridays, and I think I will go back to see what the lunch menu offers...assuming it would be much less food!