My wife and I went to l'Inconnu for the 4th or 5th time last night. Over the last couple years we've watched as the restaurant has become more and more dead. Even at its peak, I don't think I ever saw them full, but certainly any bustle that used to exist seems to be snuffed out now. Yesterday when we arrived at 9pm there was one solitary diner. When the wait staff outnumbers the guests, it's not usually a good sign. We considered bailing on our reservation, but decided to stay, thinking this would be our swan song meal at l'Inconnu, and we hoped that it wasn't going to be terrible.
The meal started off with the customary complimentary amuse bouche (always a nice touch). It was a watermelon gazpacho, with sweet chili and coriander. Absolutely tasty and refeshing.
For starters I had my usual ris de veau/sweetbreads. L'Inconnu is the first place I ever had sweetbreads, and now after trying them all over Montreal at L'Express (gross), LTPB (good, but part of a larger dish), and others, I am sure that L'Inconnu has the best sweetbreads in the entire city. Crispy on the outside, plump, but not squishy on the inside, and sitting on a bed of mushrooms in a port (?) reduction, this is a dish to be savored. I have to close my eyes sometimes, it's that good. My wife had a snowcrab salad that was fresh, and infused with a lemony tartness. It was good, but hard to compare with the richness of l'Inconnu's sweetbreads.
For mains, my wife had a halibut roasted with market vegetables, including seasonal fiddleheads. Like much of the fish at Inconnu, it was a simple preparation that let the freshness of the fish dominate.
I had the duck duo, which included sliced duck breast slathered in a fig reduction sauce, and with an odd little ball on the side. When I broke open the ball I was met with tender shredded duck confit, with a fried duckfat 'cracker' on the side. These "duo" dishes are a specialty at l'Inconnu and are always interesting and tasty.
This meal was so good, making the fact that the restaurant was so dead, soooo wrong. I just had to post something for my fellow Chowhounds to try to get you to give l'Inconnu a shot. The restaurant is a tad off the beaten path (if you consider a 5 minute walk from St Denis and Pine off the beaten path!), the interior is immaculate, warm and inviting, and the service, if not impeccable, at least friendly and familial.
Help keep l'Inconnu alive. I can't live in a world where restaurants with great food, and great ambiance lose out to the slop houses along lower St. Denis!