Update: Le Saint O is under new ownership, with chef Nancy Durocher in the kitchen. Untasted, as yet.
At the corner of St. Laurent Boulevard and Hemlock Avenue, Le Saint Ã” is no curbside showstopper. It’s a boxy house, wrapped in beige vinyl, its porch framed in white lattice.
Across the porch – enclosed and heated in the shoulder seasons – and down a few steps, you find yourself in a dark, all-burgundy cosy sort of space.
Owned by the husband and wife team of Philippe Dupuy and Natasha Dumont, Le Saint Ã” has served its saucy French classics to the faithful for some 20 years. Popular with the Rockcliffe-Manor Park neighbourhoods, reservations are not always easy to come by.
The service, provided by Natasha and her delightfully enthusiastic help, is five-star. Gracious, thoughtful, they are Le Saint Ã”‘s biggest draw – bigger than its look and bigger than the food, which doesn’t always live up to its passionate billing. My meals here have been mixed – at times disappointing, other times on form, though often feeling like there was a flavour too many, a few ingredients too much.
Dredged in seasoned flour, browned and crisped in butter and finished with vermouth, honey and cream, the sweetbreads have been a signature dish for Le Saint Ã” forever. They are reliably good at dinner. At lunch, they are less polished, served with a puff pastry vol au vent, and sauced with Portobello mushrooms in a luscious cream sauce gently scented with tarragon, but tasting mostly of the flour.
A daily duo of soup has also been a classic for Le Saint Ã” – cauliflower and brie, say, poured on one side, mushroom and truffle oil on the other, the bowls prettily crowned. But on two occasions, the soups have been wildly salty.
We order salmon gravlax one night and find it still frozen at its centre, the fish watery and bland, the presentation lacking. The duck confit in a spring roll is dry and crusty. And I would steer you toward the pretty green salad, and away from the Caesar.
There have been highs and lows among the mains as well. A thick pork chop in mustard sauce is terri fic – juicy-good and nicely pink – while the nut-crusted pickerel tastes less than perfectly fresh and the vegetables that work with the pork are too strong with the fish.
Another night, another fish. Steelhead trout is an uncomfortable mix of flavours on one plate. The fish is marinated, ceviche style, with citrus and tequila, we are told, then grilled. It arrives moist enough, topped with a smoked salmon mousse that suffers not from lack of flavour, but from its whipped-baby-food texture. Then there are the extras – the grilled parsnips, roasted fennel, a deep-fried won ton wrapper topped with December tomatoes and corn shoots, and the house signature potato gratin (two parts potato and one part beet.) There’s a lot happening on this plate, not all of it worth eating.
You can certainly eat well enough here. Sweetbreads, a nice terrine, a dandy pork chop. And certainly plates are fussed over – as are you. But I find the food, like the room, can strike me as a bit too busy, and a tad weary.