Charles Antoine Crête is the enfant terrible of Montreal cuisine. Kicked out of ITHQ, Montreal’s restaurant and hotel school, he was quickly scooped up by Normand Laprise, chef-owner of Toqué, one of the best tables in all Canada. Crête remained there for ten years as head chef. Now, he’s started a new chapter at Montréal Plaza, opened in August 2015 with former Toqué colleague Cheryl Johnson. Johnson runs the kitchen, but Crête’s creativity is on display everywhere: in the décor, which evokes his parent’s home (an orchid greenhouse for his mother, a few grandfather clocks for his father, who collects them, and a loft for Ritalin, the now-famous teddy bear of his youth), as well as on the plate. The traditional soup-and-sandwich gets a makeover in his hands, the soup a warm bowl of smoked tomato water, poured over fresh fruits and vegetables, with caraway seeds and thick pieces of raw bluefin tuna; the sandwich reinvented as a perfectly ripe tomato blanched, sliced, seasoned and topped with homemade mayo, lemon basil and crisp breadcrumbs. While there’s a sense of humor in the food, it’s also rendered with extreme precision, the sort that separates a merely good restaurant from a great one. His version of a green salad combines at least 20 vegetables, both raw and blanched, some sliced thin, others in bigger chunks, in a masterful play of tastes and textures. Samuel Chevalier-Savaria, the former sommelier for both Toqué and Le Filet, takes a similar degree of care with wines: The cellar, in an old elevator shaft, may not be spectacularly extensive, but the wines are reasonably priced and feel tuned to Crête’s food, whether it’s in Burgundy and Loire whites from the likes of Loïc Mahé, Thomas Labaille and Laurent Tribut or cuvées from Norman Hardie of Ontario’s Prince Edward County, Clos Canarelli out of Corsica, Château Moulin Pey-Labrie in Canon-Fronsac and Bründlmayer in Austria.
6230 rue Saint-Hubert, Montreal, Québec, Canada
This story appears in the print issue of December 2015.
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