Thursday, September 22, 2011

LAURIER GORDON RAMSAY


We had never been to the old Laurier BBQ and we have no nostalgic memories or personal attachment to the restaurant that once was. Depending on what neighborhood of Montreal you grew up in generally indicates your rotisserie chicken preference. It depends where your memories are of sitting in the inside seat of a booth between your mother or father and the wall dipping your french fries in gravy and getting your hands on as much chicken skin as possible. Some people love Chalet BBQ, others swear by Cote St Luc BBQ or the old Laurier BBQ, but ultimately the chicken is always pretty much seasoned and cooked identically from place to place. In the end, the debate usually comes down to the french fries and where your allegiance lies

Laurier is a first-come first-serve no reservations type of spot unless you're a group of 6 or more, so we figured we would show up for a late dinner and avoid the inevitable Saturday night line-ups. Our plan was successful and we arrived to find no line at 9:00PM, but the place was unquestionably very busy in the dining room and at the bar. The restaurant is clean and up-to-date looking in comparison to any rotisserie chicken place we've been to without being too trendy or prim looking, it's not trying to be something it isn't. After immediately being shown to our table upon arriving, we ordered a few draft Heinekens because they were out of Creemore and began having a look over the menu.

We decided to make our order a mix of ubiquitous rotisserie chicken items with a few curve balls thrown in to get a good overall feel for the quality and range of the menu. To begin, we ordered the chicken soup and the sliders. Why the chicken soup instead of a more "interesting" appetizer you ask? Because not ordering the chicken soup would be like trying to judge the merits of a smoked meat restaurant by ordering the stuffed chicken sandwich. Despite the predictability of the choice, it turned out to be particularly good. The soup was light, flavorful and not at all salty, unlike every other chicken soup we've ever eaten in a rotisserie chicken place. It seems ridiculous not to make fresh chicken soup from scratch when you have everything you need at your fingertips, but unfortunately most rotisserie chicken restaurants insist on making that painfully salty soup from frozen concentrate with the limp soggy noodles in it. At Laurier the broth is scratch made and the sad noodles and frozen vegetables are replaced with pearl barley, and fresh pieces of carrot, zucchini, and shredded chicken. Sure, so it's just chicken soup, but anything worth doing should be worth doing right; they make the effort to do it right here and it shows in the final product.

 Chicken & Vegetable Soup - 6$

Our second appetizer were the 2oz. beef sliders. Three mini hamburgers come served on a wooden board dressed with lettuce, caramelized onions and melted orange cheddar cheese. They were fun, they were juicy and most importantly they tasted of beef, not filler. The buns were tender and fresh tasting, the cheese was properly melted and the onion's sweetness came through well. Although they're small the portion is still a pretty healthy size for an appetizer, we would probably recommend sharing an order if you're planning on having dessert later. 

 2 oz. All Beef Sliders (3x) - 12$

We chose the double leg dinner, because the following 2 equations are factual: 2 + 2 = 4 & dark meat > white meat. It comes served with the usual suspects, that is to say, french fries, coleslaw, toasted bun and BBQ chicken gravy. The chicken is good, the skin was salty and sticky and the meat was moist but the bottom line is it's not special enough to get you to boycott your favorite chicken joint in its favor and fight for parking. On the other hand, everything that goes along with the chicken are certainly far better than average. The fries are hand cut fresh and pretty much perfect, and the toasted buns are infinitely better than the insipid usual sad-sack hamburger bun. The gravy is full of real, deep flavor as a result of being made from a homemade stock base instead of the standard powdered BBQ chicken sauce-mix that every other rotisserie chicken restaurant settles for.

 Double Leg Dinner - 16$

Our second main was the porchetta sandwich. A generous amount of juicy rotisserie cooked porchetta, sliced red onion and arugula are piled high on a roll slathered with a vibrant aioli. Porchetta sandwiches are pretty much always a crowd pleaser and this is no exception, the sandwich really is fantastic and the portion could satisfy any appetite. Unfortunately the chips it's served with were pretty bad, cut a little too thick and possibly held too long under the heat lamp, the chips weren't so much crisp as they were rigid and certainly under-seasoned. They turned out to be really, the only let-down of the meal but luckily there were enough of those excellent french fries on our chicken plate for the both of us. We should mention that we also found it to be a cool touch that the sandwich was served on a cut out portion of a copy of the original Laurier BBQ menu, a nice tribute.

 Porchetta Sandwich - 13$

Along with our mains there were a few items in the "sides" portion of the menu that sounded a little too good to pass on trying, even if they were unnecessary given the plentiful size of the portions of our meals. We ordered the smoked meat mac n' cheese and the creamed spinach. Both items came served in miniature cast iron pots, which we thought was a nice presentation touch. The creamed spinach was very good, it wasn't runny at all, tasted predominantly of spinach as it should, and was very well seasoned; it was finished with a dollop of sour cream cut with a bit of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of crunchy bread crumbs. The mac n' cheese wasn't too thin although it was verging on about as thick as we would like it to be; it was studded with an ample amount of chopped smoked meat which asserted itself well. Every other time we have tried smoked meat mixed with cheese it has failed where other people seem to feel it succeeds. Examples of this are smoked meat poutine, smoked meat on pizza, or even a classic reuben sandwich would really be better without the cheese, but the mixture of mac n' cheese with smoked meat genuinely worked for us, a happy first. 

(L) Creamed Spinach - 4$ (R) Smoked Meat Mac n' Cheese - 6$

We were in no rush to be anywhere after our meal and had been looking forward to trying the desserts, so when our waiter arrived to clear our plates we asked him to give us a few minutes to relax before we ordered dessert. Until this point the service had been very quick and attentive but our requested after dinner pause quickly turned into a rather long wait. After an obnoxious 25 minutes without returning we became impatient and asked another waiter where our waiter was. The young man returned to tell us he had learned that our waiters shift was cut early and we had been forgotten about - nice. We were unimpressed to say the least but ordered dessert nonetheless, we had already waited this long after all.

For those who have fond memories of the classic desserts that used to be served in the old Laurier BBQ, they are still available. We can't imagine though, who would choose those second-rate desserts over the clearly superior option of the new house made variety. We chose the tarte tatin and the lemon meringue pie. The apples on the tarte tatin were fantastic, they were cooked slowly until they surrendered 100% of their bite resulting in a deeply caramelized and succulent texture almost like apple sauce that was barely hanging on to the form of a sliced apple. The tart was served with a side of crunchy sweet streusel, a good quality vanilla ice cream and garnished with an apple chip. The lemon meringue pie was flawless, it left a lasting impression on us that will surely entice us to come back for it. The lemon curd was nothing like that translucent jello-like consistency that poor quality lemon meringue pies are made of. It was opaque and custardy, not too tart but not too sweet; it was just right sitting in a fork tender crust and topped with beautiful looking browned peaks of shiny, marshmallowy  meringue. 

Lemon Meringue Pie - 6$
Tarte Tatin - 7$

We enjoyed our meal at Laurier Gordon Ramsay quite a lot. We loved the casual nature of a place that serves simple, down to earth food without cutting corners. It really is nice to see such an affordable, accessible restaurant paying such close attention to detail and really cooking, from scratch. Laurier Gordon Ramsay is a family friendly breath of fresh air where parents can have a well made dish prepared with care in a place that still appeals to their kids; a compromise without really having to compromise. The prices are completely reasonable, the service was good minus our waiter's glaring fumble, and almost everything we ate was notable with the exception of the chips and the chicken itself which was good, but truthfully no better than any other rotisserie chicken joint. It will likely be everything but the chicken that will have people talking and coming back, including us. Keep Laurier in mind when you're looking for a place to eat as a large group, or with the family because it's sure to have a little something for everyone at a price that fits all budgets, and if you live in the neighborhood lookout for their delivery service beginning at the end of the month of September 2011.


Laurier Gordon Ramsay
381 Laurier West, near Parc
Montreal, QC
514-273-3671

Laurier Gordon Ramsay on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. I tried Laurier BBQ right after it was announced that Gordon Ramsay had bought it. I wanted a before and after picture. The before was ok, it was pretty much like any other chicken place. I'm looking forward to trying the after, your review sounds pretty good!

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