A casino is not really the kind of place I expect to find a really lovely high end restaurant. Particularly when the path to said restaurant is littered by poker machines and similar decor. And to be honest, casinos don't hold much lure for me apart from reliving some sort of Oceans Eleven fantasy of glamour.
So we were a little surprised when we saw the dining room at Nuances at the Montreal Casino particularly after seeing the blinking assault of pokie machines on the way to the restaurant. It had huge windows, thick drapes, leather banquettes and cream all around with green accents. It was very elegant and nothing like what I thought it would look like. Interestingly, as all four casinos in Quebec are state owned this means that they show daylight and night-time outside unlike others that avoid doing this so people pass the time gambling. You also cannot drink and gamble at the same time and there are also no taxes on wins.
I liked the sound of the "Menu for the senses" which is five courses that are composed based on the chef's intuition. We alternate this with the five course tasting menu. We're very impressed by the depth of knowledge of the staff and how they can answer any question that we ask them and then some. They also match the courses with some excellent wines.
We start with the bread bowl which is generously portioned with three types of bread: flaxseed, Egyptian wheat and French baguette which are all lovely and fresh. But with five courses we only sample a little of each. We need stomach space!
Scallop Amuse Bouche
We're used to seeing those fat Canadian scallops and so we were a little surprised when this scallop came out as it was about half the size in thickness. But like Australia, Canada is a very large country and the fatter scallops are from the Pacific and these are more local. It is served with tomatoes, olive oil and basil. Interestingly, whilst olive oil is omnipresent in Australia, it isn't so much here as they do not produce it locally.
Tomato, gazpacho emulsion, mozarella, Alaskan crab, spicy oil with chorizo from Charlevoix
This was an interesting dish as the gazpacho was more jellied than liquid. We were supposed to dip the other ingredients into the small cup although this was not practical to do particularly with the Alaskan crab. It's also a little odd to dip buffalo mozzarella and tomato into a tiny espresso cup. However the flavours were strong and clear and the gazpacho was deliciously spicy.
_Lobster salad with fennel pannacotta (senses menu) served with Soave Classico 2007
The first dish of the Senses menu comes out and I have a sneaking suspicion that I will love it. It's a lobster salad with a thin fennel pannacotta disc, tapioca balls, a creamy emulsion and finely diced sauteed lemon zest and dressed with delicate leaves. The lobster claw meat is beautifully cooked and is served chilled and goes very well with the subtle fennel pannacotta. There is perhaps a touch too much lemon zest as the rest of the flavours are quite mild.
Pan fried foie gras of duck, spiced roasted pineapple confit, pineapple sauce, pork caramel served with Château Villefranche Sauternes
This ended up being one of my favourite dishes. the duck foie gras is nothing short of divine with it's soft texture made even more delectable by light pan frying. A duck foie gras is said to be better to sear at high temperatures than goose foie gras. As they set the plate down the first thing I think of is dessert as there is a subtle but very persistent aroma of vanilla along with the pineapple as well as a sweetish cab sauvignon sauce drawn on in long strokes. It is finished off with a veal stock jus which along with the foie gras saves it from being a dessert. And it goes absolutely wonderfully with the honeyed sauternes.
Sardine with chermoula (Senses Menu) served with Chambolle Musigny m. doudet-naudin
The sardine was stuffed with a heady, flavoursome chermoula. I'm not usually a sardine lover, I'll eat them but I'll rarely choose them but this is really good as the flavoursome chermoula helps to balance the extreme fishiness of the sardines. It comes with with sweet red peppers and eggplant caviar.
Tandoori flavoured quail a la plancha, organic yogurt and raita, fennel salad
I don't mind the tandoori flavoured quail but I don't feel that it goes that well with the fennel and grape salad and I eat them separately
Filet Mignon Sushi (Senses Menu)
We were both looking forward to this sushi. The raw filet mignon is wrapped around sushi rice and it sits on a bed of horseradish and red pepper mayonnaise and is topped by tempura crumbs. The only thing is that I wish there were slightly more tempura crumbs as the soft and crunchy sensation is delightful, other it is another favourite.
Quebec Lamb chops flavoured with Ethiopian spices, creamy quinoa with yellow beet juice, seasonal vegetables and lamb jus
This was a very generous served of local Quebec lamb cutlets rolled in Ethiopian spices. It is served with a nutty quinoa risotto which is creamy and cheesy. There are also seasonal vegetables like tiny golden and purple beetroot.
_Guinea hen with foie gras served with Do ut des from Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino
The pieces of guinea hen are a tad dry and paired with minted basil guacamole which I don't really go for. It is served with foie gras, bok choy and wild asparagus.
Moist chocolate cake and milk chocolate mousse, fermented milk ice cream and Jivara chocolate crisp.
Dessert time! The chocolate cake has a layer of rich chocolate sponge on the bottom and a light chocolate mousse on top. It is draped in chocolate and has a crisp, thin rectangle of chocolate on top. The ice cream is intriguing, it's made from "Lait de Petit Beurre" which means "milk of small butter" which has no flavour but gives it a creaminess. It is like a yogurt icecream in flavour_. _
Strawberry mascarpone parfait
My favourite dessert however is the strawberry mascarpone parfait with butter crumble, Quebec strawberry sauce, pistachio crumbs and meringue straws. The cooked strawberries are sweet and go perfectly with the creamy parfait log and sweet meringue straws.
I ask Mr NQN what he thought of the meal and he replies simply "Sensationelle!"
So tell me Dear Reader, do you visit casinos much?
NQN and Mr NQN dined as guests of Nuances and travelled to Canada as guests of Tourism Canada
Casino de Montreal
1, Avenue du Casino, Montreal, Quebec, H3C 4W7, Canada
Tel: +1 (514) 392 2708