Three Restaurants Go Head-to-Head for "Top Dish"

“Top Dish” is a multi-part mini-series that pits three top Canadian restaurants — one in Montreal, one in Vancouver, and another in Toronto — against each other to reveal the best dish. These restaurants’ chefs will go head to head to deliver the best dish — one they have chosen themselves to best represent their talents, style, and concept.

How It’s Scored

The scoring system for “Top Dish” includes, as per usual, our proprietary Foodable Labs data. But to shake things up a bit, we’ve also enlisted top local food influencers to be critics in each city.

Each critic’s responsibility is to taste the chef’s featured dish (tough job, right?) and then give an honest on-camera critique — not in front of the chef, of course. Perhaps most importantly, our critics are tasked to privately rate different elements of the dish and experience to later determine an overall score, which will be revealed at the end so as not to give anything away. The overall scores for each restaurant are broken down into three parts: the critic’s scorecard (which consists of many elements — from selection and tableware to plating and ingredients — on a 1-10 scale), food sentiment tracked by Foodable Labs, and service sentiment, also tracked by Foodable Labs. In total, a restaurant can earn up to 270 points.

The Selection Process

Several restaurants were considered for “Top Dish,” but ultimately it came down to the publisher’s selection (read: that’s us). The chosen restaurants were selected based on current consumer data (see Canada’s Top 25 Restaurants list here).

Critics were carefully selected by our editorial and production teams based on social and editorial research, local sentiment, and how well they are connected to the local food community.

“Top Dish” Part One: La Petite Maison, Montreal

In this first installation of a three-part series, we head to Montreal’s La Petite Maison, where we join chef/owner Danny St. Pierre.

The Restaurant: La Petite Maison

“At La Petite Maison, we create pretty straightforward food,” says St. Pierre. “We’re like an upscale diner, if you may. A place where people of all origins or budgets can come and see us and have a good time.”

The Dish: Jambon braisé carbonara

The Dish: Jambon braisé carbonara

The Critic: Dustin Gilman, Montreal native and food blogger, FoodGuyMontreal.com

“I love all the food in this city. We have some of the best restaurants around,” Gilman says. “We have the most restaurants per capita, a very, very diverse restaurant culture — everything from old to new, and everything in between. La Petite Maison is a very cool, fun new restaurant. The concept is exactly what the name says: la petite maison, a little house.

The Dish: Jambon braisé carbonara

“It’s like a breakfast pasta or a brunch thing,” says the Chef of the dish. The preparation includes braising, brining, and smoking ham shoulder. “And we take the broth and a nice slice of that velvety, molten ham, and top it with carbonara pasta.” But it’s not a proper carbonara, St. Pierre adds. “Because I’m adding a bit of cream in it. It’s more like a blanquette. ‘Blanquette’ is to bind your sauce with the egg yolks and cheese and a bit of mustard and black pepper, a lot of parsley so it’s fresh. It’s rich, it’s dense, it’s well-balanced. And I think it speaks out loud of what La Petite Maison is.”

Jambon braisé carbonara

Jambon braisé carbonara

Inverted poutine

Inverted poutine

Bacon brioche au sucre

Bacon brioche au sucre

Dustin Gilman, Food Guy Montreal

Dustin Gilman, Food Guy Montreal

The Full Lineup

Though only one dish -- the jambon braisé carbonara -- is able to compete for “Top Dish,” Chef St. Pierre also provided us with other #foodporn to dig into:

  • Housemade bread: Made out of rye and white flour, the Petite Maison team makes bread fresh daily.

  • Bacon brioche au sucre: A different take on a traditional sugar pie, this one is made with bacon fat and a brioche crust, with the sugar component in the middle. “This idea came to me about 15 years ago,” St. Pierre says. “Just playing around with the fun fact of changing traditional dishes into something more elegant.”

  • Inverted poutine: Chef St. Pierre made cheese poppers in a brown sauce that’s encrusted with a potato. “This poutine, instead of being a sloppy mess of fries and sauce is just a little croquette,” he notes. “We serve it six by six on a snail plate, and people go crazy for it.”

The Verdict

While we can’t give away the score(s) just yet — we’ll be revealing them in the third and final post — Gilman says of the experience, “You go in and you feel like you’re in someone’s house, you’re greeted as if you’re in someone’s house, and you’re treated like that, too. The food itself — not necessarily something you would get at home, and that’s kinda one of the reasons why we go out to restaurants, but… very cool new concept and a lot of fun.”