My first visit to Lili Co. was two years ago, while it was still at Rue de Mentana (near Station Mont-Royal). Lili Co. has recently expanded and moved to Blvd. St-Laurent (corner of Rue Villeneuve), where it’s more spacious and better location (Congrats!). I was excited to see its participation in this year’s MTL à Table, as my friends and I had a great impression of their brunch.
Therefore, I gathered my fellow Montreal foodie friends, and reserved a table for 7 people. Walking in the restaurant with moderately high expectations, but the dinner ended on a not-so-pleasant note.
I purposely went to the restaurant a bit earlier than our reservation, so I can get few shots of the restaurant before it gets filled. The decor is similar to its old location, but brighter, and more modern/contemporary feel. The design of the restaurant is mainly focused on those two wrap-around bars, which circle the bar area and the open kitchen, where you can easily observe what the chef and his team are doing. With mainly the bar seats and few side tables that can only accommodate 4 people, it’s not really an ideal place for a party over 5. However, they do have 2 tables at the back that can accommodate 5-7 people.
As the waitress took our order, she gave us a heads up that everyone is going to be served at the same time, therefore it might take awhile for the first course to be served. Since we were starving, my friend asked for some bread. The bread was pretty good. They were moist and fluffy. However, we did not get the first course until almost an hour into their first round of dinner service.
Starter: Wild mushrooms poached in butter, caramelized cauliflower purée, black bread crumbs – The mushrooms were flavorful, and slightly soften. The cauliflower purée was rich, smooth, and creamy. However, not sure if it was due to the not-so-evenly distributed bread crumbs, half of the dish was quite bland, while the other half was quite salty.
Starter: Pork belly steam bun, cashew butter, creamy cabbage salad – This was an outstanding dish of the night. The pork belly was braised to almost perfection (at least the bite I had). It was tender, moist, and the fat melted in the mouth. The flavor was quite Asian-ish to me.
Main: Grilled octopus with pomegranate, chorizo, edamame, powdered black olives, lemon – I was a bit disappointed with this dish. First of all, the arms of the octopus were cooked to tender, and were right on the spot, but the mantles (or the head part) were hard in texture. It took me awhile to chew and swallow. Secondly, great presentation, but the plate wasn’t practical when I had to consciously watching out for not having any food fell out the plate (especially the edamame, chorizo…etc.). I felt like eating two separate dishes, as I couldn’t eat the octopus and the edamame together. However, I did like the seasoning of the edamame, chorizo, and powdered black olives. It has a hint of spiciness.
Main: Gnocchi à la fajiole, romano beans, smoked tomatoes, broccoli pesto, parmigiano – This was another star of the night. The gnocchi was crisp outside, but chewy inside. It was creamy with the broccoli pesto, and the parmesan cheese. Such a comfort dish to end the day.
Main: Charcoal grilled veal heart, kale chips, escargots, bordelaise (+$5) – The heart was cooked to perfection. Slightly cooked outside, while the inside is still raw, but no blood. The bordelaise sauce is a classic French sauce to serve with steaks, roast beef, or any kinds of meats, and it went well with the dish. The texture was a bit different than I expected. It’s tender, and less muscle-y. However, the kale was rather bland, according to my friend.
Dessert: Brioche, melted Eastern black walnut butter, wild flower honey ice-cream, sumac – Another disappointment. I was expecting it to be more of like a pudding texture, but the brioche was dried. I had to wait till the ice cream to be completely melted to have a better texture. Also, it was hard to eat with a spoon, when the brioche can’t be easily cut into bite size with a teaspoon.
Dessert: House beignet, lemon mousse, and cranberries jam – This was better than the brioche. It was warm, fluffy, crisp outside, and moist inside.
Dessert: Apple tart, pan-fried foie gras, aged cheddar, apple butter, hot black pepper maple syrup (+$10) – Another star of the night. It was warm, and gooey. It’s a rather savory dish than a dessert. I was surprised that the aged cheddar wasn’t too overpowering that it masked the flavors of the foie gras or apples.
Overall, the food was quite good, extensive wine list, but the services totally let down the whole experience. As I have mentioned before, the service started almost an hour late. Starting at the second course, the waiters/waitresses started to “rush” us subtly by clearing the table nonchalantly, while some of us were still eating. And not only to us, they were doing it to everyone. When it comes to paying the bills, one of the waiters took the bill of my friend, then he just walked away (without informing us that he’ll be right back or anything…) to the bar section, and took other people’s bill, left us there not knowing what was going on. He didn’t come back to our table after 15-20 minutes. What was annoying and frustrating, he intended to leave again (until another waiter stopped him and asked him to finish our table first) after taking the bill of my another friend, which all of us were already quite shocked.
We could tell that they were [obviously] running late, and were trying to get the first round of customers out of the restaurant as soon as possible, so the people who were waiting can be seated. It was a full house, and I understand that there are bad and good days for restaurants. However, throughout the dinner, the restaurant did not acknowledge the mistakes, instead, they attributed the flaw to the payment terminal, which one of them said “sorry, the machine is slow”!! My friends and I found it rather unacceptable as it wasn’t the first day of the event. Moreover, since people made reservations, the restaurant should know how many customers they are expecting. Also, they should be able to manage the time well as everyone is served all at once. Nonetheless, I’m not generalizing that the service at Lili Co. is bad. It was just an one night incidence that I think they could’ve improved and done better.
4675 Blvd. Saint-Laurent, Montréal
Tel: 514 507-7278