Le Smoking Vallée is a brand new bring-your-own-wine restaurant featuring market cuisine with a French twist that opened just a little over a week ago on Notre-Dame West in Saint-Henri. Although it created quite a buzz on social media given the owners (including Matthieu Bonneau of L’emporte-pièce) decided to consult on everything from the name to the menu, I was taken by surprise by this newcomer to my neck of the woods. I was antsy to try it out and decided to give it a shot last Saturday with Mat for his birthday.
Granted it was only Le Smoking Vallée’s 8th day of operation and a few mishaps were to be expected, we left the restaurant with mixed feelings. We were so excited that a new quality restaurant had opened in our area, yet the food was hit or miss.
The entrées were disappointing (except for the Wiano oysters – excellent new discovery!) and had me thinking it was a mistake to visit the restaurant so soon after its opening. We ordered the beef tartar “bouchée” and shrimp and lemongrass ravioli in beurre blanc. The tartar was bland and lacked seasoning to give it some bite. As for the ravioli, they were a mess. In addition to being undercooked (and I like my pasta very al dente) and lacking any real taste of shrimp because they were pureed into oblivion in the ravioli, there were only 3 measly morsels in the plate that cost $12! Stay with me though – this was the low point. Things got better after this.
But then the main courses arrived and surprised us with some interesting twists. Our spirits were back up! Mat had the beef macreuse braised in beer with pickled vegetables and smoked gouda. It was comforting and homey, yet the pickles added a touch of unexpected zing. We loved it!
I chose the risotto with duck gizzards, foie gras and pear. I was expecting something rich and heavy but not at all! This risotto was impressively light and the ingredients combined nicely. I especially liked the odd addition of pear, which balanced the earthy gizzards and velvety-smooth chunks of foie gras.
For dessert, we had the cheese mousse with cherry compote on shortbread cookies. We adored every part, including the hit of cardamom in the cookies and the tangy cherries, but would have liked about twice as much mousse so that it could stand up to the sturdy biscuits.
Another important point to consider is the noise level. It was a full house, which made for a good ambiance, but the two very large groups drowned everyone else out.
That being said, there is certainly room for a new mid-range restaurant like this one in Saint-Henri. From my perspective, Le Smoking Vallée’s strong points are:
- The fact that it is one of only 2 BYOWs in the area (the other being Le Bitoque).
- The interesting mix of clientele – from hipsters in their 20s to working-class baby-boomers – which makes it feel like a true neighborhood restaurant.
- The price range, which fills the gap between upscale restaurants like Joe Beef and local diners.
- The great decor, including an enormous blow-up of a typical Saint-Henri scene along the Lachine canal.
The Bottom Line
My rating: 3 out of 5
On the + side: It’s a BYOW in Saint-Henri, an area in need of new places like Le Smoking Vallée.
On the – side: It’s very noisy and the food is hit or miss, but keep in mind it’s likely to improve over the next few weeks as the team works out initial quirks.
Price: Our bill was $107 including tax and tip for 6 oysters ($15), a “bouchée” of tartare ($3), an entrée ($12), two mains ($20 and $23) and one desert ($8).
Good for: Based on my experience, I’d say this restaurant is best-suited for groups given the price-range, BYOW factor and varied menu.
Will I go back? Probably, since it’s walking distance from my house and I am curious to see how this restaurant and its young chef (Thierry Dufour is only 25!) evolve.