I had heard of the Hotel St-James before; to me, it brings up images of rock stars and uber luxurious surroundings. So, when a friend mentioned she was having her wedding reception (and meal) there, I was anxious to try it. We were a small party of around 30 people, so we were seated on the mezzanine, with a nice view of the first floor and a wonderful chandelier. Unfortunately, though, it was a little warm, with the air conditioning not quite cooling down the whole level.
I started off with a raspberry and lemon cocktail, fresh and tangy on this warm evening.
The tables were decorated with some lovely pink roses, very appropriate for this wedding supper.
The menu was preset, and we were served two entrées and then we had a choice of a main meal between veal or duck, and then a cheese course followed by a dessert course.
They started us off with a selection of breads. They had some type of pizza bread, it was drenched in oil; greasy, but delicious!
Next, we started off the entrées with snow crab from Gaspé, pistachio powder, lemon, tarragon oil, whipped celery root and roasted red pepper. I was a little put off by the size of the entrée, it felt a little too small. However, it was a great start to the meal. The crab was very fresh and the mixture of textures and tastes was intriguing. I liked that the whipped celery root and pistachio powder lent some molecular elements to the dish, making it both tasty and interesting.
Next we had the foie gras with spiced brioche, strawberries, millet mint, macadamia and molasses. The best part of the dish was definitely the spiced brioche. It was so concentrated in flavours, cinnamon, molasses and nutmeg. Also, it was a nice contrast to the creamy, unctuous foie gras. While the crab was small, this was a huge piece of foie gras, and many people at the table were unable to finish it. I therefore got some leftovers and ended up eating two to myself… yum!
I decided on the veal course for the main meal. A duo of veal cheek and filet, celery root, butternut squash tortellini, burnt onion gel and collard greens. Both the filet and the cheek were extremely tender, and the veal filet was cooked to perfection. The butternut squash tortellini was another highlight of this dish, with a creamy and decadent filling.
The other option was the duck magret with apricot, kohlrabi, maitake, wheat berry, orange and wild leeks. While I did not taste the dish, other guests mentioned it was good, and also very well cooked.
Next up was the cheese service. I don’t recall the exact cheeses, but I recall them being good…. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever met a cheese I didn’t like!
Finally, the dessert was a chocolate pudding with cherry sorbet, pistachio, crumble and yogurt spuma. I didn’t particulary like the dessert. Again, the effort was there with a pistachio chip, some whipped yogurt, the crunchy crumble, etc. However, I’m not a fan of cherries and found the tastes, while all good individually, didn’t do much for me personally. And, despite my earlier fears of the portion sizes being too small, I was now stuffed, so I didn’t bother finishing my dessert.
As a nice touch, we were also given some mignardises to finish the meal. There was some meringue, some blackberry gelly, and some crunchy little cakes.
The décor was beautiful, though quite empty on this Saturday evening. I would have expected more people at the restaurant, and was surprised by the low turnout.
In conclusion, while probably not up to par with their usual service and offerings due to the fact that it was a set menu for a wedding, I nevertheless really enjoyed my evening at the XO Le Restaurant at Hotel St-James. I felt that they showed inventiveness in their ingredient selection and their offering of different tastes and textures. So, while it’s definitely not what I expect is a typical experience that might get if you went there for a romantic evening for two, I still felt it gave me a good idea of the quality of the restaurant.
I enjoyed my experience and would recommend the restaurant. Definitely worth experiencing.
Enjoy, bon apétit!
XO Le Restaurant
355 Saint-Jacques Street, Montreal, Québec H2Y 1N9