There are tons of new tables in Montreal! If the discovery of new gourmet proposals remains one of our favorite activities, returning to visit long-established restaurants is also part of the work of restaurant critics. So we went back to the Smoking Dog. Open since 2009 and recognized for its festive evenings, the establishment has changed its gastronomic offer since the return of the pandemic.
The duo at the head of Le Chien Fumant is the same as on the first day: chef Maksim Morin, and his sidekick behind the bar, Nicolas Gamache. “When we opened the restaurant, at the time, we were 22, 23, we wanted to have the restaurant we were looking for: open late to party and eat after work. At first we only served cocktails, we didn’t even have a wine list! recalls the chef-owner. The Smoking Dog is somewhat modeled on us, on our needs, and it has followed our evolution. “Today, Maksim, who is there every evening like Nicolas, is no longer in the kitchen, because he wants to make room for a new generation. He continues to sign the menus, but when it’s time for service, he enjoys walking around the dining room with some products offered at the “pedestal table”, “my new fun”, he laughs.
Saturday evening in February, the Plateau is buried under a layer of fresh snow that doesn’t seem to want to stop falling. Through the storm, Le Chien Fumant offers itself as a small cocoon with a cozy atmosphere and dimmed lights where we hasten to rush in, my friend and I.
We scan the menu quickly, on which one noble ingredient does not wait for the other – yet another novelty, requested by the clientele who have aged and also become more refined, it seems. Several choices of caviars from Maison Caviari, sea urchin, wagyu beef, veal chop, wild striped bass, black truffle… All divided into “small” and “bigger” dishes drawing their inspiration as much from classic French cuisine (blanquette de veal, mustard duck) than in other cuisines around the world (chaat masala potatoes, pork belly donair, etc.).
No doubt those with a taste for luxury are spoiled for choice. But we are still a little puzzled: what to order and above all, how much? Fortunately, we quickly understand that the menu is more a starting point than an end in itself, when Nicolas strongly suggests that we let ourselves be tempted by the tasting menu, which can be adapted to our desires… and to our budget.
On the menu for years, the Korean-style beef tartare is a Dog classic, presented “bibimpap” style with its raw egg yolk in the center. The waiter mixes in front of us strips of filet mignon (well seasoned) and its accompaniments (puffed rice, fried shallots, kimchi…). A nice play on textures, punchy flavors: it’s a good start!
The small dishes follow one another – often half-portions or even quarter-portions – all very well worked, without any real false note, but without surprising or captivating us. The wagyu beef micro-sandwich in its homemade milk bread with a little tangy sauce melts in the mouth; the avalanche of grated black truffles on our ricotta gnocchi is a pleasure to enjoy with every bite; the plump Mexican shrimp with their white butter and tobiko eggs are well prepared, the flavors rather subtle.
Our favourite: the cheeses at the pedestal table, at the end of the meal, with a fairly refined selection, generally European: Lavort, a raw sheep’s milk from Savoie, Crémeux du Jura, Chabibou du Poitou… Fans will be served!
We recommend starting the evening with a house cocktail. A few variations of gin and tonic or martini are on the program, as well as other classics and creations of the house. We chose the French 75 (with real champagne, please!) and the Paloma, balanced and satisfying. The wine list suits the style of the place well with bottles from established houses, especially from the Old World, and vintage wines. Again, by opting for the tasting menu, you can let the team choose to offer you wines by the glass to accompany your various services.
You can’t call an evening at Le Chien Fumant affordable. Reading the menu will give some heart palpitations: Urchin
Le Chien Fumant is probably not the place to be for vegetarians (much less for vegans!), although there are a few meatless options available. The place is cramped, but since it is located on the ground floor, it can accommodate people with reduced mobility.