If you are an Old Montreal local, it’s almost impossible that you haven’t either spent an unforgettably awesome evening at L’Orignal or, if you’re like us, become a seed planted at the restaurant’s core. The beautiful thing about L’Orignal is that we always know what to expect so we keep coming back to the point that we know every waiter’s name, all the drinks on the bar menu by heart and even have the “go ahead” to be in-house DJs whenever we desire. And there is, of course, is the menu…ahhh, the constant cravings for their famous tuna tartar seem to never vanquish. Alas, you must imagine our shock and confusion when they officially announced a completely reconstructed new menu that did not even remotely resemble the comfort food we have grown to be so dependent on.
With the new arrival of Chef Dan Geltner, who came from a very solid resume of being scouted by Michelin Star chef Daniel Boulud (famous for Maison Boulud), the menu has taken on a whole new life form and concept. “Dan really likes to take simple ingredients and make them in really different ways. He wants to keep things simple when it comes to root vegetables and local ingredients that are available here now” said Michael Terlecki, L’Orignal’s man to see and manager. “We were ready to take a different direction, go a little higher-end and healthier. People were always ordering the same thing and we wanted to go further in-depth and explore ingredients” mentioned Travis L. Champion, who is the owner alongside his wife Monica.
A fun, new addition to this evolution of L’Orignal? Family-style menus! These will be personalized for each group that decides to take on this option. A quick breakdown of how it works: when you come in with a larger group, Chef Dan will sit down with you, ask you what ingredients you like and which you don’t, what your budget is, and boom, plates will start being customized to your needs and sent out. It’s a great option for those of us that are indecisive, and let’s face it, a lot of us are.
Now let’s take a look at some of the star dishes we sampled from the new menu, consisting of five appetizers, two mains and a delightful dessert to end it all off.
The Veggie Garden Plate: At first glance this literally looks like a vegetable garden…and that’s the whole point. With carrots, cooked baby potatoes, radishes and a creamy ranch dressing sprinkled with pumpernickel crumbs to represent the earth, this is beyond delicious and definitely one of our favorite starters on the new menu. Don’t let the stand-alone veggies fool you, they are made to perfection in taste and texture.
The Sunchoke Soup: Keep in mind this was a mini version made especially for the tasting. This silky, velvety Jerusalem artichoke puree soup normally comes in a larger portion. The artichoke puree is put in a co2 canister, turning it into a delectable foam topped off with pickled and dry chips for extra crunch. The soup is extremely light as there is no cream used. A wonderful presentation and super option if you’re looking for something more “airy.”
The Salmon Tartar: This is the new tuna tartar replacement. Yes, it may not look as filling and calorie inducing, but the mix of sweet, spicy and salty is so perfectly balanced that we are slowly forgetting tuna was ever on this menu. This dish consists of Irish organic salmon cured in salt and raw salmon mixed in between. Topped off with cucumber jelly, sweet girkin pickles, spicy mayo and croutons, this defines Dan’s vision – focusing on single ingredients and doing it so damn well.
The Raw Venison: Raw deer may be scary to some of us; in fact one of our friends that joined the tasting looked frightened at the bright red color sitting on the dish. Once tasted, however, the meat melted so quickly in her mouth that she didn’t even have time to think about it. The Venison is perfection, served Carpaccio-style, raw, and sliced thin. Topped with egg white pearls, frozen ver jus shavings and horseradish snow, it’s very clear that a deer walking in a winter wonderland was the inspiration behind this creation.
The Kale Salad: Vegans, celebrate! This one is especially for you, made with green beans, green power player kale, green grapes, lentils, pumpkin seeds and lemon vinaigrette. Don’t let the basics of the ingredients fool you; this is not only uber-healthy, but fresh, crispy and zesty…look at the picture, the colours speak volumes!
The Shrimp Scallop Dish: The delicate flavour and tender texture of scallops are undoubtedly appealing, especially when seared the right way, and this is precisely what you get – the simplicity of flawlessly made scallops with a surprise appearance by a sausage pureed shrimp…never seen or heard of such a magical food transformation before, but here it was looking just like another scallop. The plate comes with a side of a wonderfully grilled fennel potato that was braised in saffron for extra flavour and spice. Yum, we say, yum!
The Bison Strip Loin: This is what L’Orignal is famous for: their meats. Another classic dish to add to your list of new favourites, the bison strip is very lean with its edges rubbed in sumac, the berry of a shrub that grows in the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East to add a special kick. To assist the strip loin, Dan so cleverly prepared a carrot side done in three different ways, and here is where we go back to focusing on simple ingredients and exploring them in various ways. The carrots came in a puree form, a braised form and in a salad form, all glorious in their own respective way, showing us that there is depth and creativity to veggies.
The S’more Plate: With dessert being a must at the end of all our meals, we were greeted by this playful but elegant play on the classic campfire cult sweetheart, the s’more. Done more eloquently here, this display is graced by a chocolate, hazelnut terrine with a blanket of a roasted marshmallow underneath and a free-standing graham cracker on the side to nibble on.
Full but oh-so-satisfied, we end our tasting and give the initially hesitant but now fully-approved stamp of thumbs up all around to this new, healthier and very flavourful menu. Remember everyone: change is good…even when it comes to tuna tartar.