Went as a foursome to La Salle a Manger on Mont Royal (www.lasalleamanger.ca) last night and was very disappointed. Firstly they sat us at the front of the restaurant, where they have an Applebee's-esque hostess stand. Besides being a bit on the tacky side, the placement of the stand proved very distracting since the baseball capped maitre'd hung out all night chatting with the wait staff and his friends that kept coming in.
On the plus side, the dining room is pretty spectacular, with orange-y bare filament bulbs for light, and reclaimed wood tables, as well as an exposed kitchen. As we settled in, preparing to ignore the hip-hop host, we hoped for the best. Unfortunately, waiting 20 minutes to receive aperitifs, and bread did not bode well for the rest of the evening. Looking around the rest of the dining room one saw many necks craning for a glimpse of their server. By my count there were, including the host, 5 front of house staff members working. When we sat down, there were no more than 10 tables, so the delay, and lack attentive service was mystifying.
Then there's the food. I had read a review that said the sweetbreads at La Salle a Manger were the best in the city. What a joke. These sweetbreads were an undercooked mess, full of sinewy filament, and tasting organ-y and slick in the mouth, the exact opposite of what a crispy, meaty sweetbread should be. I've eaten sweetbreads all over the city, and these were easily the worst. I left a good size chunk that was visibly undercooked on my plate, but no-one bothered to ask if there was a problem. Sigh...My wife had the scallop ceviche, which was pleasantly tart, and quite fresh, so it wasn't all bad.
The mains were a mixed bag as well. We didn't really know what we were ordering, since our server didn't bother to tell us about any of the dishes, or the specials. The menu is fairly light on details, so I didn't really know how the rabbit leg was prepared, and when I asked for details, I got "oh, it's a rabbit leg...", as if she was either too uninterested to describe the preparation, or didn't know.
Ultimately, all the dishes seemed to rely heavily on cubed bacon for the flavor, though the rabbit leg (which came stuffed with a very mushy chorizo paste, sitting on a bed of baked beans!), was 'ok', it certainly wasn't anything to write home about. My wife ordered what turned out to be a pork chop, though on the menu it had some more flowery name that didn't indicate this - not suprisingly the server didn't say anything. So, she didn't really expect what she received (though again, we didn't know what to expect anyway), but it was, while a little on the dry side, an adequately cooked pork chop, with a nice side of bok-choy.
Finally, after sitting around for another 15 minutes, with a thimbleful of water and wine each, that we were preserving lest we never see our server again (at one point I made eye contact with another server who was polishing cutlery in the back, to no avail) I finally stopped our server, somewhat curtly asking if we might see a dessert list, and order coffee. She snapped that they didn't have a dessert menu, and pointed me 180 degrees to the back of the dining room where their dessert specials were written on the wall. Guess I would have seen that if I had eyes in the back of my head.
We decided to cut our losses and bail. Of course it took another 10 minutes for anyone to grab the credit cards off the table. In the end, the server confronted me at the door, presumably because of the poor tip I left, asking if she had offended me in some way. Pretty unbelievable that they can provide such lackluster service, and not even know it. She was genuinely surprised!
Beware the allure of the dining room; the service is brutal, and the food overrated at La Salle a Manger!
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