Celebrity chef Danny St Pierre's journey over the last five years has closely followed the overarching trend of "the death of fine dining". After making a name for himself with Sherbrooke's upscale Auguste, the renowned chef stepped away from his baby in 2015 and graced Montreal with Petite Maison, a bistro with a homely feel. The latter folded a couple years later, after which Mr. St Pierre focused on his media duties, then finally resurfaced this spring with Danny Pan Pizza in Saint-Henri.
With this, the chef completed his switch from refined French fare to a casual pizza operation, which was very quickly replicated in the Plateau, but under the name Le Pontiac. So it was that I took my family out for an impromptu dinner on this Sunday evening, hoping to nab a table at this no-reservations hotspot's terrace.
tagged: CAN'T RESERVE CATCH SOME SUN SUNDAY NIGHT
Ideally situated on a corner of Mont-Royal Avenue, Le Pontiac features two patios: a cozy one full of planters stuck to the restaurant's front followed by a larger section lined with picnic tables occupying the closed-off adjacent street.
We sat at the former, which afforded privacy while allowing us to soak in Mont-Royal's pedestrian-only setup; a welcome change from dining next to noisy, exhaust-spewing cars. The vibe for the evening was relaxed, while the crowd was composed of a mix of young adults and a few parents with kids.
tagged: BRING THE KIDS
For his nascent empire, Mr. St Pierre found inspiration in deep-dish, Detroit-style pizza. His pies may be small in diameter at 9 inches; but they're so deep and cheesy, two people can easily share one. At $14-19 a pop, that's quite a deal when divided. For something green, a handful of salads are available; as for dessert, gelato-stuffed "paninis" are what's up.
Refreshments consist of custom cocktails, ciders, domestic plus imported beers and a short but diverse wine list with limited choices by the glass. I started things off with an Aperol spritz, which was unfortunately flat, quite weak and garnished with a deformed orange wedge.
A simple, refreshing and crisp salad was made up of crunchy romaine lettuce topped with whole dill stems and black sesame seeds; served with a fluffy focaccia quarter.
A mixture of cherry tomatoes and mashed tomato confit produced something more akin to a stew than a salad. Flavours were bland and the bocconcini were scarce.
What's better than a deconstructed cheeseburger on pizza? A thick, firm but spongy crust was topped with minced meat, melted cheese slices, pickles and onions. Need I say more?
This smoked meat version of Danny's pan pizza was somehow less successful than the one above. The dough did not hold well while flavours did not stand out as much.
Our evening began with a smidgen of irritation when we were made to wait several minutes before anyone even acknowledged our presence upon arrival. Following that, we got our preferred table and were attended to by a friendly, youngish waitress. Despite the busy service and the distance between the two patios, she was certainly available, which made up for the initial absence.
At some point, I spotted Mr. St Pierre behind the pizza counter on my way to the bathroom. It was impressive to see the busy restaurateur/media personality so committed to his new project; tossing dough, sprinkling toppings, sticking pies in the oven…
By eschewing his past in upscale dining for a laid-back pizza concept, the famed chef proved he has his finger on the pulse of the modern diner. His original take on pizza served out of a café/bar setup has clearly resonated with Montrealers, myself included!
Price per person: $30
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.