L’Autre Version Grapples with Molecular Gastronomy

I liked the concept of “L’Autre Version…it evoked something mysterious, something daring, a feat of culinary mastery I had yet to experience. “The Other Version” of everything else I have had already.

I have no qualms with molecular gastronomy…it has its merits and I appreciate pushing boundaries and giving diners something to smile about. My problem with it: some of these chefs are trying so hard to do something “different”, they forget that people actually need to EAT the food. I have no doubt that L’Autre Version has great intentions but their execution is slightly flawed. They seem to be big fans of TRANSGLUTIMINASE, which, as its name suggests, is a bacteria-based enzyme glue that binds proteins together thus producing the potential for a whole new scale of fusing tastes. There was some controversy in its use to mask the quality of meat but has been defended by chefs who simply want to innovate. It is in general, a completely safe practice when used properly.


In the case of L’Autre Version, we experienced an oddly shaped rectangular slice of fused layers of scallop. The scallop was fresh but erred on the salty side. The rest of the elements on the plate were fine but didn’t blow me away. Peas in crème fraiche, radish slices, carrots, a few difficult to identify purées. Everything tasted the way you’d expect, which is fine but not transformational. The other appetizers were enjoyed – a flavour packed squash soup, green salad, beat and creamy goat cheese.

The transglutiminase made a second appearance in the venison dish which comprised of venison shoulder pieces fused together and then cubes of venison loin. The dish had to be sent back for its gummy texture (a result they said, of sous-vide cooking – although I’ve had plenty of sous-vide dishes that eschewed tenderness). The flavour, however, was definitely there.

We exchanged it for the Peking duck duo which was incredibly delicate and mouth-watering duck (yes, more transglutiminase appeared in the fusing of the duck confit).

The name of the dish would lead you to believe that it would have Asian influences and in fact, there was another molecular-type 5-spice powder dabbled around the dish which was just too potent. Fondue potatoes were deep in flavour but the rest of the dish sort of fell flat and did not marry well with the Asian theme. The duck was superb though – I’m trying to stay positive here people!

Several people at the table ordered the cod dish accompanied by black rice and diced veggies, a unique side that made the dish much more complex. The cod was fresh and tasted like…cod. It could have used a bit more salt and a bit more browning. In general, the dishes all could have used less ingredients and more focus on consistency.

Dessert was definitely the piece de resistance.

I tried the pear ice cream with a moist almond cake, speckled with apple popcorn and apple chips. We also went for the deconstructued apple pie which was a massive hit. There’s no question that they have a talented pastry chef producing some stunning creations.

Dessert looked something like this.

Dessert looked something like this.

Service in general was strong to start but lagged as the meal went on. But to be fair, the place was packed as a result of their participation in this year’s Taste Montreal and we all took advantage of the $39 prix-fixe menu for the occasion. For this reason alone I would go back to get a sense of their regular menu. While i love these restaurant weeks for providing an opportunity to try restaurants that might normally be out of range, it doesn’t always reflect a genuine experience of the restaurant. Seats get filled up, the dishes might become monotonous…I think there are several factors which would make what could be a great experience slightly mediocre.

That being said, does mediocre mean bad? Not in the least. In fact, L’Autre Version has merited some solid reviewers, audience awards and the like. But the question remains: when you’re looking to throw down some good coin on dinner and you’ve got a city full of guaranteed good meals to be had, are you going to choose mediocre? Or maybe you’ll just give mediocre a chance to improve and redeem themselves? I’m all for the latter…go twice, then judge. I’ll get back to you on that…

L’Autre Version Restaurant is located in Old Montreal
295, St-Paul street East
Montreal, Quebec
Canada, H2Y 1H1

Reservations can be made through OpenTable or directly on their website

L'Autre Version on Urbanspoon

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