Annex 132: Vertige | Mr. Lew's Great Burger Search

540 Duluth E.
Montréal, Québec

Bus:  STM 11, 14, 29, 30, 427

Visit:  December 19, 2013

Have you ever thought about the places that sit next door to the big ones?  In life, no one ever thinks about second place or even third.  But, there is a time where you have to give those things a thought.  Located on a very crowded street for the best of Montreal is a restaurant called Vertige.

Back in July, I made my way to Au Pied de Cochon for Burger 200.  Since I got there a bit early, I was able to walk all over Duluth to see what was around.  At that time, I noticed that there was this restaurant sitting right next door.  A quick perusal of the menu led me to the wonderful sighting of a bison burger.  I knew, right then and there, that I had to make Vertige a priority.

It was at this point where I mentioned this to Steakman, the person who is more than willing to tag along whenever feasible.  I hyped this up so much that he was more than happy to make it a priority as well.  He also looked it up on his own and that added to our need to visit Vertige.  Over the last few months, we’ve been trying to make it to Vertige, but various circumstances put our best laid plans to rest.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, we actually made it to the restaurant on this nice December evening.  This time around, Steakman was, once again, accompanied by his better second half.  Their time was limited since they were headed to a highly anticipated comedy show afterwards.  We made plans and reservations which put us in the restaurant right at the opening.

We arrived on time and took a look around.  There wasn’t anyone there, so we were the first ones there.  At this point, we stood and waited a few minutes.  The server, who most likely saw us, just ignored us.  When they got around to greet us, you could see that it was a bit of an imposition.  If this was any sign of the evening to come, this might be rough.

At this point, it is really important to note Steakman and his better half’s connection.  Apparently, they have a common chef friend that happens to be friends with the head chef and owner of Vertige.  So, Steakman and the better half got up to introduce themselves to the chef, Thierry.  I decided to remain at the table and let them handle their business.  This connection was on the back of my mind during the entire evening.

Vertige is only open a few nights a week and so for a few hours.  On this particular night, the restaurant was jam packed quite quickly.  When you look at the kinds of people who showed up, you could tell that they were the cream of the crop.  As the night progressed, another server came on board and the service did improve in politeness.

Before we get to the food, the big dilemma was to make sure that we got out in time so that the show wasn’t going to be missed.  Usually, a fine dining establishment like Vertige doesn’t set records in speed.  For good reason, they take their time and that is only a good thing if you’re expecting good.  So, with the other issue already mentioned, that was another thing on our collective minds.

This was originally set to be a burger location.  With the change in seasons and menus, the burger is no longer anywhere to be found.  Still, there were a lot of interesting items that were worth the trip.  For the purpose of our evening, we decided to order a main dish, where for an additional 10 dollars, you could upgrade to a proper three course meal.  While your appetizer and dessert choices are limited, it’s still a worthy value to sample more of the menu.

Salmon en Croute

To start off the evening, a hors d’oeuvre was delivered to every table.  This was a salmon puree served with a harder type bread.  This was interesting because first of all, it was unexpected, and secondly, none of us ever tried something like this before.  The group was raving because it was made in such a way where you’re not overwhelmed by the taste of salmon.  They were impressed.  I found it to be interesting, though I’m not such a big fan of salmon.  It was a good way to start because it got us warmed up.

Mesclun Salad

This was Steakman’s appetizer.  He was going back and forth on whether he was going to order this.  Mesclun salad is mesclun salad.  All I’ll say is that it has no place on a burger.

Beef Tartar

Steakman’s better half ordered a beef tartar to start with.  This was one of the few things I didn’t get to try.  But, from Steakman’s reaction to his try, you could tell that is was good.  From my vantage point, it was a hit.

Butternut Squash Veloute

Don’t let the milk foam fool you, this was quite the soup.  When the choices of appetizers were quickly listed by the server, I didn’t really understand what kind of soup I was getting.  When it arrived, I was a bit apprehensive, but I figured, what the heck.  The soup was actually quite good.  For a cold day, it was perfect, even though it wasn’t steaming hot.  For butternut squash, it had a bit of a cheese like taste, which really clicked with me.  I was really happy I picked the soup over the salad.

Seared Scallop Over Puree w/Chorizo

Now, this is where the question of connections comes back into play.  After we were done with our appetizers, the server brought this dish compliments of the chef.  So, you can think what you want, but I’ll just describe what I had.  I’ve only had scallops once in my entire life and it wasn’t at a place worth having them at.  Let me just say, if everyone cooked scallops like this, I would be having scallops every day for the rest of my life.  They were perfect.  The sauce and puree didn’t really blow me away like the scallops, but that didn’t really matter since the main star was there.

Veal Chop ($25)

This was Steakman’s main dish.  The two of us have this unspoken agreement where we get to try a part of each other’s main course, save for the burgers that I have to completely finish.  I got to try a piece of his veal chop.  To that bite, I expressed a need to steal his meal from him.  To that end, he graciously allowed me to have another bite.  It was really well cooked and that was pretty good.

Roasted Duck Magret ($26)

Steakman’s better half ordered the duck.  For the price, she noted that it was a really good portion.  I also had a try of this dish and it was alright.  I’m saying that because I have duck nearly weekly and it’s not really one of my favorites.  But, for what it was worth, it was a slam dunk as well.

Filet Mignon ($29)

The filet mignon is accompanied by vegetables and a gratin dauphinois.

When it comes to ordering meat, I usually go for medium.  People will tell you that medium is probably one of the better ways to have it.  Rare is for people who really know what they’re having and well done is for people who are casual diners.  Medium is the way I like my steak and also the way I like to have my burgers if any restaurant in Montreal cared to ask.

When the filet mignon arrived to the table, you just knew that you had something special.  I had another spot-on version a few weeks back at a Portuguese place, but this was something different.  This was a fine dining version of one and the expectations were right up there.  With one slice of that meat, all that anticipation led to bliss, as the confirmation of perfect medium color was achieved.  With that, each bite was well enjoyed and each penny was well spent.

It was at this point where I asked Steakman and his better half the question on everyone’s mind.  Is the fact that they had a connection, no matter how slight, have an impact on the end result?  Steakman’s response was to look at the three different main dishes.  Each of them are three very difficult meats to get right and they all delivered.  The only way to really answer that question is to interview all the other diners that night to find out how their meals worked out.  All I know is that most of the main components tasted great and left their mark on us.

Creme Brulee

This was Steakman’s dessert without the sugar.

This was Steakman’s better half’s dessert with the proper touches.

Chocolate Fondant

The other choice for dessert was a chocolate fondant.  Having had it three other times, I pretty much made up my mind about the dessert.  That doesn’t mean that I’ll never have it, which lays the scene for this one.  One of the first things I did was take my spoon and stick it in.  I don’t know why I was impressed with was I saw, but when the spoon came back clean, I was happy.  The top crust was easy to take apart.  The inner liquid chocolate wasn’t as hot as I would’ve expected, which made me happy because I wouldn’t have to wait to eat it.  Despite the fact that this took a few minutes to bake, Steakman and his better half were out of the restaurant on time for their show.

Final Verdict

When there’s any connection, no matter how little or much, one still has to look objectively at the restaurant experience.  Most of the food lived up to the hype and may lead to a future visit.  The service might have a been a tad slow and cold, but the food is what really shines here.

Vertige on Urbanspoon


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