Résident may be the newest good-looking neighbour in Old Montreal, but not all its grass is greener
Comfort food is a strange category. When I need comfort (on, like, a daily basis) I’m good to go with anything from a goat roti to a channa samosa. But it is true that certain classic American dishes, often associated with childhood, like mac ‘n’ cheese and sloppy joes, hit an atavistic sweet spot of dining pleasure.
Résident aims to fill that hip home-style niche. It’s on the east side of burgeoning Old Montreal, near City Hall. The space, which seats 50, is simply fantastic. Résident has a soaring, majestic stamped-copper ceiling that makes it feel more like a gallery than a restaurant. There are giant windows, long banquettes, a tasteful tres leche-like layered paint job of muted greys, a long wooden bar and a giant mounted faux-bison head. There are also, oddly, photographs running along one wall of rock icons from the early ’90s, like The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and, of course, Morrissey.
Résident’s menu is small but admirably varied, with quirky little flourishes that play with the comfort food theme (I noticed that they also do weekend brunch). We started with a trio of fried appetizers: onion rings in tempura batter with homemade ketchup, fried smelts and crab cakes. The onion rings were okay, but not great. The batter was nicely crisp, but the onion strips themselves had been marinated far too long in lemon juice. The ketchup was essentially a chunky salsa flavoured with cumin, and while quite nice, would have been more appropriate with, say, fried calamari. The smelts, a usual favourite snack of mine, were mediocre. Rather than light and crisp, the battered fish were a little heavy and mealy. The crab cakes were, sadly, also just meh. The stingy amount of shredded crab in each got lost in a mushy mass of potato and breadcrumbs.
Mains came in the form of two comfort classics: a grilled cheese sandwich and the aforementioned sloppy joe (here called a "sloppy joseph"). The grilled cheese was aged cheddar on challah, served with sweet potato chips. While this sandwich had elements of being good, it didn’t quite make it. The cheese mostly got lost with the inclusion of a sweet onion and pickle relish that took over. But the bigger problem was that the challah was burnt. It should never have been sent out by any kitchen paying attention. The chips were also overcooked and a little soft, but not bad. The sloppy joe was the best dish of the evening. It had little to do with the usual manwich-style ground beef in a river of tomato sauce, but rather was essentially the innards of a tourtière, the juicy ground pork and veal delicately spiced and topped with smoked gouda on an onion roll. Very simple, but very good.
Desserts at Résident are also homemade, but if the sour cherry coffee cake is anything to go by, best to head to your own home. The simple white cake was dry and flavourless.
All in all, a frustrating visit. Résident really does have promise, despite its obvious flaws. The service was friendly, the space is amazing (and will be particularly so in the summer) and the menu shows at least a desire to head in the right direction. And the prices, while high compared to the quality, are not the extortionate ones that places like this usually charge.
Right now at least, Résident is not the kind of place you go to for the food – you go to have a quick lunch in the area or hang out at night in a hip spot with a group of people more interested in atmosphere than food. If Résident wants to be more than that, they have to try harder and execute better.
400 Notre-Dame E.; 514-844-1466
Dinner for two, before tax, tip and alcohol: $40-$50
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