The Europea has historically been one of my favorite fancy food restaurants in Montreal – it is so seldom that I’m disappointed with either the food or the service.
This said – in recent visits, things have changed. The maitre-d – who had always greeted us by name – is no longer there, and the service, while always upscale and efficient, has become clearly more ‘important’ guest oriented. It’s hard not to notice, for example, that Jerome came up stairs – greeted the groups at 4 of the tables on either side of us – and ignored us completely. I’m not that proud that I need to be greeted – but it does hurt when clearly other people at other tables rate – and you don’t. Bad boy there Jerome.
But a fancy restaurant has to be about the food – and last night (Feb 23, 2013) the Europea offered a set meal by a very famous guest chef from Argentina, Francis Mallmann. Typical of what we’d expect at Europea – every course used unique tableware, and the presentations were interesting. Unfortunately – there were no outstanding courses – and several of the offerings were pedestrian at best. At the price point – this is unacceptable. Is it too much to expect that at least one of the courses be ‘blow-you-away’ quality?
Particularly disappointing was the way they handled my allergy to goat cheese. Generally, in a restaurant of this caliber, and a chef of Mr. Mallmann’s reputation, I’d have expected that the course in question be modified so that I could enjoy it. But all they did was leave off the goat cheese. No added salt, no bit of yogurt – nothing. Clearly the chef wasn’t in the kitchen at that moment, or his sous-chefs had been instructed to not change the courses. I wouldn’t mind if my meal cost $25 – but at ten times that price – hey – add a bit of yogurt or sour cream to off-set the sweetness of the squash puree!
I think that the folks at Europea knew that Mallmann hadn’t really delivered – because when we were leaving – the maitre d asked how we enjoyed our meal. When I commented on the fact that several of the courses were disappointing – he said – “Have you eaten here before?” When I replied in the affirmative – he said – “Well, then you know our normal quality”. Enough said.
Too late to get our money back – but there’s a lesson learned. Older celebrated chefs may be just floating along on their reputations – if you want great food – look for younger chefs with something to prove.