Had the pleasure of dropping by Le Bremner last week. While there is another post with a few details, I thought I'd start a new one focused on reviewing the place. Here is the other post:
The restaurant is located in the basement of the retail outlet at 361 Rue Saint Paul East. You'll identify its location by a reddish-pink sign that reads simply "Restaurant". It's decently charming inside like only Old Montreal delivers, with large, unadorned stone walls with wooden structural elements. Garde Manger is the gussied-up prettier cousin of the two, with Le Bremner straddling the line between Vieux-Port and a Haligonian oyster bar.
My hotel ended up making a reservation after I had earlier left a message and received no response. I had asked for 9pm but they were solidly booked until 9:30pm on a Wednesday (indeed, when I arrived, the place was packed). I was a lone diner that night and decided to sidle up to the handsome wooden bar and hope for a handsome non-wooden stranger to join me (alas).
The menu is divided into different sections (e.g. raw,hot, cold) and prices primarily range from $7-$22 from what I recall. The bartender said the portions were larger than tapas but smaller than mains. He could have just said "appetizer-sized" but I suppose Chuck Hughes would never be so gauche.
But to the food! For that's what I heard restaurants are designed to provide:
While I had asked for a sea bass dish with kimchee, the bartender misheard and delivered a crudo variation sprinkled with fresh mint, julienned radishes, always exciting micro-greens, and a generous scattering of toasted pistachios. I doth protested, but the bartender assured me this was his favourite dish and that I would be thrilled (nice save). But I courageously put aside the bitchiness and devoured this spectacular dish. While not complex nor novel, the crunchiness of the pistachios perked up the silky freshness of the sea bass crudo slices and I devoured every last bite. Perhaps a slightly heavy hand was at work with the olive oil (and rice wine vinegar?) in which the fishy rested, but delicious all the same.
For my next healthy fix of protein, I gobbled up a ceviche of scallop sitting on a bed of firm ice. The chopped scallops were rolling around in curlicues of fennel, diced chives and what struck me as fried tempura bits to give the dish the uplifting crunch it needed. Lime was served on the side, but the pretentious purist in me just glared at it. The dish was quite good but the subtle sweetness of raw scallops was lost in the cacophony. If you switched the scallops with the sea bass in the previous appetizer, the tastes would play to their stronger points.
While more of a side, the sauteed rapini with fried anchovies and chopped hard boiled egg was the boring friend of the night. The anchovies tasted like over-friend bread crumbs and hid their umami flavours from the dish. The hard boiled egg was, well, hard boiled egg and looked to have been chopped by a hammer. C'mon - medium boil the embryo and let the yolky goodness envelop the rapini. Given the anchovies' muted presence, the dish could have used some flake or maldon salt.
With a wine list heavy on French and dotted by Spaniards, I took the bartender's recommendation of the Pazo de Senorans Albarino (2006?). An excellent slightly cirtusy accompaniment to my raw friends, the bartender was kind enough to serve me 2 glasses at 2/5s of the price of the bottle. There are no explicit wines by the glass, but the bartender is happy to serve you glasses or half-bottles without a low-volume markup (if that makes sense). I appreciated this policy and hope it's standard.
Happy to see the place is busy and patronized. I'll be back to try more dishes and hopefully snap a few pics.
361 Rue Saint Paul East
Google Streetview map of the place (you'll see the "Restaurant" sign):