Foxy review

Went to Foxy yesterday.

For those who don’t know, Foxy is the new restaurant from the guys who own Olive & Gourmando. The decor is from the people behind Club Chasse & Pêche and Pullman and one of the chef is from Vin Papillon. Their thing is wood fire cooking.

The space is pretty compact but very moody. The dining area is a long corridor (like a typical Montreal apartment) and there are a mix of tables and bar space. The place was buzzing and packed all night. The music wasn’t loud and, while the space wasn’t exactly “quiet”, you could see yourself having a discussion with a group of friends. I was alone and, for once in my life, didn’t put my ipod on right away because I just wanted to take in the space and soft buzz of the conversation (which is pretty rare for me). I just ordered a glass of wine and was content swimming in the gaslight ambience.

I came in as a walkin. I asked for a bar space and all they had left were places by the door. The seat was pretty comfortable but I did have people coming in on me all night so if you don’t like people watching you eat it might not be the best place. I didn’t mind since I had my back to them.

At the front of house there was a small mademoiselle (sorry lagata, I just had to… no hard feelings?;)) full of exuberance with a quick wit and easy banter. She made an immediate good impression. The barman was a bit cocksure/douchey and might have fit well at the grinder but I warmed up to him by the end. I told myself maybe he was just a good guy trying to overcompensate for something or put up a front. Roaming around like a tropical gale was what I surmised the floor manager. A very approachable but very focused tall woman in plaid that looked like an executive level hipster, which was very funny to me. She made me think a bit of Gaelle Cerf when she was at Pied de Cochon.

I obviously had a lot of time to watch people. That was because the service was a bit slow. No worries, I didn’t order an app and went straight to the main and a side dish so I understand why the timing of it all wasn’t as fast.

The menu is pretty small (7 apps, 5 mains and 3 sides with 3 desserts) but I prefer a curated experience with a clear vision to a plethora of half backed concepts. I asked for suggestion and cocksure bartender told me he liked the sausage, the hanger steak and the gnocchi. The problem is that’s 60% of the mains right there.

On my side I didn’t feel like chicken because it felt like an easy way out. I’m not a “super” fan of fish so the trout was out, gnocchi felt like like a potential bad exploitation of a live fire (sure you can gratinée cheese but don’t you feel like cooking a piece of meat when you have access to wood and fire?). That left me with the hanger steak and the sausage. I love sausage and pecorino and I guess if they do it in house they can customise it to their wish. On the other hand steak is a fun test for a kitchen. Classic but fun.

Now I’m not a fan of the hanger steak but I like bavette. I also like ribsteak and had good sirloin but hanger steak never stuck with me. Hanger it is then! Maybe they’ll find the secret formula that will make me like the cut?

With the steak I ordered a side dish of yams because I’m a yams maniac. I didn’t order any app or dessert since I usually just order 1 main + 1 extra “thing” (usually either app or dessert). I had a riesling to start the meal, went into a red with the main (forget what it was since I asked for a suggestion from cocksure) and had a Tenderness from Agnès & René Mosse as a dessert (a mellow white from Anjou… I had Moussamoussettes from the same producer at Loic and liked it so I was curious to try their mellow wine).

The riesling was great and was CLEARLY a natural wine. it didn’t have a robe as much as a thick hazy fog but it was light and full of nuance. A great starter. The red was ok, very muted, almost afraid to have an opinion, clearly a natural wine, the antithesis of an american red. It opened up a bit in the middle of the glass (cherries?) but by the end the clear sky was replaced with clouds of tannin that was unpleasant. Not bad but didn’t rock my world. The Mellow wine was great, not a sugar bomb but a great way to finish a meal.

The hanger steak came with heirloom tomatoes and onions. It was a much bigger dish than I expected (it wasn’t just the usual token tomatoes on the side it was a real salad). The tomatoes were ok but I had better at Candide (W.A.Y. better… comparing the tomato dish from Candide to these would be like trying to compare an olympic swimmer to me in my bathtub). I would have expected something a bit confit, kissed by fire, somewhat transformed but they were just there. Tomatoes. Cooked but not transformed. Good but not great. The onion wasn’t burnt (it was ok but it was still clear not browned or blacked so no caramelization, no acrid burnt to bring your mouth somewhere else… creamy perfectly good onions that lacked a bit of ambition). The steak was ok. It was a better hanger steak than l’express or Holder but I prefer Brasserie T’s bavette, Moishe’s rib steak and Lawrence’s sirloin to it.

I also need to say that at 36$ for a hanger steak is a bit expensive. L’express’s hanger steak is 27$, Holder’s is 24$. Lawrence’s superior sirloin is 30$, Brasserie T’s superior bavette is 26$ and you can have Moishe’s thunderous rib steak after 9pm at 25$ (ok, its 52$ on the regular menu but I’ll be damned if its not porn on a plate).

The yams were FANTASTIC. Just for these I need to come back and try the rest of the menu because if they can do that there must be something else that brings wonder. They were served in a weird Indian bowl that made eating a bit strange, sat on a generous serving of spicy mayo (which was spread all around the bowl) and was covered with… coriander leaves? (I think it was coriander). There seemed to be grill marks (the place was a bit dark) and they were clearly caramelized. Yams can be a bit of a candy food because its so easy to make them good and I already have a good predisposition to them but these ones were the best I had. And the mayo… GOD the mayo. Think of the garlic sauce you have with your potatoes at shish taouk places. Now think of your favourite garlic sauce you’ve had. Maybe add a bit of spicy oil from that wood oven pizza place around the corner from your house. And maybe umami from somewhere else (I’ll keep Worcestershire sauce in my mind for the exercise) . Now you bite in the soft yams caramelized from fire, charred a bit with that sauce and you get the peppery vegetable counterpoint from the coriander leaves and, god damnit, you’re alive.

Its also only 8$. So I guess the surcharge from my hanger steak went there in compensation.

Will I be back? Yep! With friends. And I’ll take something else. And I’ll recommend they take the yams. And I’ll force myself to take something else. I might also cry inside a bit because I’m not sure I can get something as good elsewhere in the menu.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold