Locating on the main of Montreal, close to the corner of Avenue Fairmount E, Hôtel Herman, unfortunately, is a restaurant, not a hotel for lodging. However, the vibe and the food were simple, yet with sophisticated and interesting flavors. It has recently be ranked as the No.15 by Canada’s 100 Best. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.
The visit to Hôtel Herman with my food buddy, Cher, was quite spontaneous. We managed to grab a table on a Thursday night. The exterior of the restaurant can be quite subtle that one can simply walked by without noticing it.
The restaurant is heavily decorated with woods, which sends off an old charm. In the center of the restaurant, there is a large and long U-shaped bar, and tables on the side. Most of the people would try to grab a seat at the bar. However, Cher and I preferred the table, because we thought that it would be easier for us to share the plates. As we always do, we share the dishes so we can try more items.
These bread aren’t complimentary, but I would recommend it if you are hungry or just need some carbs to go with your meal. They are made in house everyday. The crust is crisp, and the inside is moist and fluffy, which totally reminds me of the bread from Bouillon Bilk. The butter is already a bit soften, so it was easy to spread. Most importantly, they are sourdough bread, which is one of my favorites!
First up, the rutabaga with pig’s head, and crème fraiche. Rutabaga is a type of root vegetable also known as the Swedish turnip. It was stacked up with a layer of rutabaga chip, thin slices of pig’s head, and pickled rutabaga. I loved how the rutabaga was served two ways, because it brought a contrast to the dish due to its texture. The pig’s head doesn’t have any seasoning, hence we were able to taste its original flavor. The pork was well-prepared as it doesn’t have the unpleasant piggy smell.
When I saw “lavender” as one of the ingredients, I told Cher that we have to get this! This is the Jerusalem artichoke with pont blanc and lavender. The lavender is so fragrant that I could smell it as soon as the waitress was close to the table. I’ve never had a savory lavender dish. I thought it was an interesting combination, because lavender can be bitter or astringent when it’s under the heat for too long. However, not in this case. The lavender were sprinkled on the artichoke, which was soft and fluffy. We had an illusion of eating potatoes, instead of artichokes. Each bite was accompanied with two or three petal of lavender, which was the perfect amount to have the aromatic flavor, but not overpowering the entire dish.
Cher opted for the sweetbreads for the main, which came with parsnip, gnocchi and mustard seeds. I did not try the sweetbreads as it’s the thymus or the pancreas of the calf. However, I did tried the gnocchi, which is made with parsnip instead of potato. It was so chewy! I think it’s due to the starch of parsnip, which made it chewy like rice cakes, instead of fluffy when it’s made with potato. It was also really sweet, which comes naturally from the parsnip. According to Cher, the sweetbreads were creamy and smooth. I opted for the Cabane’s pork, which was served with blood, and marinated chanterelle. The flavor of the pork “wow”-ed me. It has a strong flavor of a type of Chinese medicine, Angelica root, which is a common flavor in asian cuisine, but never thought about it with the western cuisine. The pork was cooked to the point as the meat was still pinkish. Another thing that I loved was the “blood”. It’s so creamy, but firm. Just like a scoop of room-temperature butter.
When it comes to the dessert, it was a tough choice, however, we settled for the honey tart, which is topped with sour cream, pollen, and caramelized honey sheets. The crust was well-baked, which didn’t crumble up when we cut into it. The honey filling was dense, rich, yet not-so sticky. The pollen added an interesting flavor and texture, as it tastes more earthy than sweet. Both Cher and I agreed that the honey sheets are better than honeycombs. Though they tastes similar, but these sheets won’t stick to your teeth!
Overall, definitely an impeccable experience as we were already choosing what to order for our next visit. The menu is precise, focusing on just single ingredient. The dishes created by the chef (as well as one of the co-owners), Marc-Alexandre Mercier have a bit of Nordic influences. The portion may be small for some people, but it was just right for me. The plates that we ordered had unexpected depths and left us with a good impression. Beautiful presentation, nice vibe, friendly staffs, what can you ask for more?
5171 Boul. St Laurent, Montreal
Tel: +1 (514)278-7000 (Reservations strongly recommended)