1228 Sherbrooke O.
Bus: 15, 24, 420, 715
Visit: July 9, 2013
When someone thinks of a hotel, they don’t necessarily think about a burger. Many of the elegant hotels cater to a fine dining crowd. These days, burgers are finding themselves on more and more fine dining menus. In Montreal, one of the most luxurious hotels on the entire island of Montreal is the Ritz Carlton. After closing for a few years for major renovations, they reopened in 2012 with a brand new restaurant named Maison Boulud.
With 200 different burgers under my belt, it is now time to begin the fifth year/season of Mr. Lew’s Great Burger Search. Every time a season ends, it has to be done with a big time burger or a unique location. I also think it’s important to start the next season with another important burger. With the reputation that Maison Boulud brings to the game, it was the easiest decision to make it the first burger in the fifth year of the search.
As it is already quite clear, Maison Boulud is located at the Ritz Carlton. With that point alone, you just know that this is for the economically inclined. The thought of going to this hotel or even the restaurant is pushing the boundaries and not something that you do on a whim. I was really apprehensive because I was wondering if I would even make it past the front desk.
Before we go on, we have to mention the restaurant’s namesake, world renown chef Daniel Boulud. Before his stamp was put on the Ritz, I honestly had no idea who he was. I did a little research and found out that he’s a big deal, along the lines of a Gordon Ramsay without the aggressive mean streak. With that, there is this YouTube video of his making his version of a perfect burger that really intrigued me. After watching this clip, I knew that I had to try his interpretation of a burger.
On this sweltering Tuesday morning, I patiently waited until the restaurant’s opening at noon. Without a reservation, this was the only way I was going to attempt to get myself a seat in this establishment. Their website states that walk-ins are welcome and I was more than happy to test that. Plus, the dress code is outlined as casual elegance, where no tie or coat is required. So, I took my step into the restaurant and was seated almost immediately without any fuss or resistance. This was a good start.
I was among the first people to be seated during this lunch service. As things went along, the outdoor terrace, which was within my view the entire time, filled up rapidly. The suits of the world all came in to have their power lunch and believe me, there were a lot of people who could probably buy me out a hundred times over.
On your way in, you can’t miss the open kitchen. This is where all the magic happens and nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
My table was located right next to this private room. I can only imagine what kind of people are rich or powerful enough to be able to afford to get themselves this room. It stood empty during my visit, but one can only dream. The table I had was quite elegant as well. The biggest point to note is that the hostess pulls out your chair and doesn’t leave until you are seated. That’s service.
It was at this point where the server came to the table and asked if I wanted something to drink. As I asked for normal water, I was thinking that this was the moment that would define the kind of service I would be receiving. In seeing that I didn’t want any of the fancy drinks, the server asked me if I wanted some juice. The foresight to ask me something like that was great because I would have been happy to settle on water.
In four years of going to restaurants regularly, I have seem to worst and the best kind of service. I have to say that this visit to Maison Boulud showed me a lot and opened my eyes a great deal. My water was filled without asking. Plates were cleared with great efficiency. The people who were responsible for those tasks all had smiles on their faces and showed a great deal of politeness to the customer. Even the individual bringing the plate to the table made it a point to wish me a good meal.
If I wasn’t impressed by the mundane nuances of a restaurant visit, my server took things to another level. I may not have been the ideal customer, but I was treated like the most important person on the floor. I wasn’t in a suit and I didn’t order bottles of alcohol, but I wasn’t neglected either. That, to me, is the ultimate in service, where you can go into any restaurant of any value and feel like you’re important. If that point is achieved, it goes a long way to enjoying anything you’re eating.
Coeur de Sucrine
This salad contains baby gem lettuce, breakfast radish, cherry tomatoes, cucumber yogurt, and feta cheese.
I was going back and forward on whether I would go forward in taking the appetizer. The appearance of feta cheese was the clincher and I couldn’t turn that down. With each bite of the salad, I was really happy with the freshness of the ingredients chosen. The cherry tomatoes weren’t limp and they had some punch to them. The green sauce at the bottom of the salad, when combined with any part of the salad, was really nice. The star in my heart of this salad was definitely the feta cheese. I could’ve stopped the meal at this point and went home happy.
This burger contains rillons, morbier cheese, arugula, and a tomato compote.
Of all the burgers I’ve done recently, this is one that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Aesthetically speaking, it is a very good looking burger. If you put the ingredients aside, you can easily tell that each and every component was carefully thought out. The arugula and tomato on the bottom of the burger ensures that nothing falls apart. It’s also a little smaller than your average burger, but with everything together, it looks like a notch above the rest.
When ordering the burger, one of the first things I was asked by the server was how I wanted it done. It was also added that the chef recommended it be done at a medium temperature, which was basically like reading my mind. When the burger arrived to the table, it was spot on. You hold the burger and the grease comes out and for me, that’s a really good thing.
Structurally speaking, the burger holds up quite well. It looks like the buns are a whole lot bigger than the patty, but it is something that you forget about quite quickly. Plus, with the amount of grease, the smart building of this burger alleviates any issues that may arise from a weakened bottom bun. Even at the half way point, the burger held up on its own.
The inclusion of some pretty different ingredients is something that creates an appeal for this particular burger. The item that I didn’t really figure out so much was the rillon. I had to bite on it to figure out what it was. Some online research led me to figure out that it was pieces of pork belly. Pork belly is the cousin to bacon. The rillon’s inclusion in the burger was not as impactful as I would have expected. The other elements were so well chosen that any pork belly of any kind wouldn’t be missed.
The overall burger works really well. It’s not your big fancy product that goes way above anyone’s capabilities. The ingredients are very normal and anyone of any group would find it to be very acceptable. To me, it was well worth all the money and every bite.
This chocolate coulant includes ice cream and caramel liquid.
When it came time to order dessert, the server recommended this particular choice. It was another case of reading my mind since this is what I was leaning towards. I even made mention that when choosing chocolate, you can never make a bad decision.
The warm nature of the coulant mixing with the coolness of the ice cream is ideal when they are together. This is the second ever cake of this type for me and for some reason, I can’t get on board with it. Don’t get me wrong, it was really well done and tasted wonderful, but I preferred the ice cream portion of it a whole lot more. Despite what I think, it’s still worth each bite.
With this visit, the record for price was smashed once again and it now sits at 80 dollars.
In my four years of visiting restaurants regularly, this experience at Maison Boulud has got to be one of the best ones of my entire life. Everything from the service to the food, I wouldn’t mind going back and shelling another record setting amount to go through it one more time.