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Restaurant Review: Le Cartet – Why Gourmet Food Can Suck

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As an epicurean I’m always on the lookout for a cool place to get good eats during my lunch hour at work. One of my coworkers introduced me to Le Cartet, apparently the cat’s meow of a fine foods market doubling as a gourmet restaurant.

At first glance, one’s appetite comes alive just by looking at the restaurant/food store. The setting is absolutely gorgeous. It has the feel of an American general store from an old mill town, fused with a very modern feel. Every little detail has been exhaustively looked over by a very crafty team of designers. The staff is meticulously dressed and hired to look the part the restaurateurs desired. No Saran Wrap here, it’s a fine plastic wrapping you would find in a flower shop to pack roses. The facing of the product is immaculate. The table settings are just inviting and warm. It just reeks of Old Montreal Goodness. Local stars and Olympic athletes can be spotted grabbing a bite there.

It just looks perfect.

Emphasis on the “looks”. Sometimes a cake is crap but the icing makes it look good enough to eat anyway. And Le Cartet is such an example.

Let me take you through the culinary ordeal I went through. Let’s begin with the salad entrée I took. A simple looking salad, which is the way it should be to kick-start one’s digestion properly. It comes with a vinaigrette de Provence. Unless you have unclean or not so fresh lettuce, the dressing makes or breaks the salad. When I say Provence, if you enjoy wine, a nice wine-based dressing will most likely come to mind. Certainly not chili peppers, which are from Central and South America. Well, the dressing was made up of mostly chili peppers. Not being a lover of spicy foods (I feel spices take away the tastes of the food I’m eating) I immediately put aside the spice-ridden salad because it was awful.

Next in my meal was a simple egg salad sandwich on rye bread. I should spell that drye bread. It was too dry even for a corned beef sandwich. But wait, it gets worse. How they accomplished this is beyond me, but the egg salad was also dry. A good mayonnaise should be tangy and moist; I couldn’t taste anything of the sort other than flat, boring mayonnaise. Throw in some herbs at least or some garlic, give it some punch. And the piece of Romaine lettuce still had the heart attached to it. It was big enough to choke someone. But since I had to eat something and I wasn’t about to dole out another fifteen dollars for lunch, I finished the sandwich, washing it down with water so it could pass my oesophagus; yes it was that damn dry.

But that’s not all. Since it was my first run at the restaurant I even treated myself to some dessert — a lovely Tarte Tatin. This, for the uninitiated, is good ol’ apple pie from France — basically your regular apple pie but with the top caramelised with butter and sugar. Caramelised, not carbonised into extinction. When I took my first bite, hoping that the dessert would save me from this so far revolting experience, I cringed when I smelled the charred layer of burnt sugar and it was too late. The final straw.

The only thing that tasted okay was the water — the one in the Evian bottle.

The problem with gourmet restaurants is that they fear the fat — if you want taste, you must embrace the fat. It’s what makes food taste good, end of story. Slap on some butter, some cream, or some punchy mayonnaise. The fat is the drummer of the food band. If you ain’t got the beat, if you ain’t got the rhythm, it’s all for naught.

The restaurant gets a point for impeccable presentation and none for anything else. A big fat one out of five. Want good French cuisine in Old Montreal?  For lunch, stick to Cluny’s, and put a cross over Le Cartet.

Le Cartet – Food Store
Tables d’hôte and take-out dishes. Finally, a stylish neighborhood supermarket!
106 McGill Street 514.871.8887

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About David Desjardins

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=diana+hartman diana hartman

    I am pleased to tell you this article is being featured in the Culture Focus today, October 10th.

    Diana Hartman
    Culture Editor

  • http://theendofdave.com Dave

    SWEEEEET!

  • Tom

    It is a little strange for a culinary critic, to have an idea on a restaurant with a green salad, a sandwich with eggs and a water bottle???

  • http://theendofdave.com DAVE

    What do you mean Tom?

  • Tom

    A egg sandwich and a evian bottle!!! please next time, tests
    something more relevant, but does’nt make us waste our time.
    And please don’t awnser me again, just try to eat something else.

  • http://theendofdave.com DAVE

    What? An Egg sandwich isn’t food?

    And Tommy boy, I don’t take orders from jackasses ;-)

  • Oliver

    Le Cartet has to be one of my favorite places to go for lunch during the week or brunch on a weekend. Why a food reviewer decided to comment on an egg sandwich and salad is beyond me. Try one of their daily specials (the tuna or salmon tartar are incredible!). The Atlantic Brunch on Sundays is my favorite… There’s a reason why it is one of the most popular places to eat any day of the week – it’s a great place!

  • http://theendofdave.com DAVE

    Enough with the focus on the egg sandwich. It’s a perfectly decent point of review: If you screw up an egg sandwich, you can screw up the more difficult dishes.

    Tarte Tatin: It was a DISASTER. My Frenchitude screamed in disgrace.

    Chili does not come from PROVENCE

    And reasons why crappy restaurants are popular? The owner, who knows who and who’s been there and was photographed there. That’s all it takes. It’s easy to hang the picture of Bono visiting your restaurant.

  • Denis

    my god, Dave relaxe! cela ressemble a reglement de compte. Passe à autre chose ou laisse les gens s’exprimer à leur tour!

  • http://theendofdave.com DAVE

    T’inquiete pas Denis je prends ca cool. C’est juste que tout le monde s’accroche sur la maudite sandwich au oeufs. Qu’ils en reviennent bon! C’est aussi bon a critiquer qu’un boeuf braisé. Tout le monde dans le Vieux trippe ben raide sur Le Cartet mais c’est rien pour ecrire a sa mere a mon avis, c’est tout. Tu devrais lire le massacre que j’ai fais sur mon site de “Les 3 Brasseurs”

  • Sebastian

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]. Le Cartet isn’t fantastic, but as Tom already pointed out, if you’re going to do a review of a restaurant and then lambaste it for these completely irrelevant points, at least choose something on the menu that isn’t a complete write-off.

    You don’t understand restaurants and shouldn’t be tossing out 1 star reviews because you don’t know how to order food properly.

    That being said, I can’t agree with the comment that if you fuck up an egg sandwich, then you’re going to fuck up other things. The chefs that make the meats and fish at Cartet are different from the cooks that put together the sandwiches. In fact, the sandwiches are all prepared downstairs where they are wrapped up and processed for take-out.

    It even said on their old menu – ‘the sandwiches are not made to order.’

  • http://darklydreamingdavid.wordpress.com DAVE ID

    Of course the sandwiches aren’t made by the Chef, they are made by his lackeys. The lackeys are simply following orders. The Sandwiches are made to the chef’s taste. And his taste is simply lacking. Someone made that menu and decided how it’s items would be prepared, that person is the chef, hopefully not a non-chef owner. Having worked in the restaurant biz for a decade (kitchen side) I know how it works in the back, don’t have the pretension to tell me otherwise.

    If you can’t make a boring egg-salad sandwich interesting and tasty… dude, get out of the kitchen.

  • http://darklydreamingdavid.wordpress.com DAVE ID

    And lets not forget the pie… they screwed up Tatin. It’s like it had been set on fire and they still served it. It never should have left the kitchen.

  • sacha 29

    “best brunch in town”
    Le cartet

    sacha29
    montreal
    May 19, 2008
    this place is fantastic ,great food , great ambience and the boutique fine food are fantastic you will find a lot of great iol and chocolate from aroud the world,
    very good experience go backe soon

  • ZEN-GAYLIFE

    All kidding aside, the food was excellent. I particularly loved the homemade baked beans, herbed sausage and tasty smoked ham. Oh, did I mention the side dish of fresh fruits that came with my country meal? Margarete also enjoyed her 3 Minute Egg Deluxe Plate….. though she was unable to finish everything. Both DJ and I cleared off our pans with little difficulty and feeling so satisfied.

    If I had to rate LE CARTET (food quality and presentation, service, ambience, cleanliness and location): 5 stars out of 5.

  • chili pepper

    Picholine Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Cold Pressed – 25cl/8.5floz With Chilli Chili Peppers

    Picholine is one of the most flavorful of French olives and originates in the region of “Gard” located in the heart of Provence. It has a generous fruity flavor with hints of artichokes & yellow prunes. Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Hot chili Pepper can be used as a dip or a natural flavored olive oil for cooking most of all your favorite dishes.

  • Dechen

    I’m disappointed that a customer had a bad culinary experience at Cartet. I have been going there since they had opened as I live around the corner. I have always had great service and enjoyed just about every item on their menu. For those I did not enjoy it simply was personal choice. Not everyone likes apples but it doesn’t make the apple a bad thing.

    Le Cartet currently serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays in the old French tradition.