It’s been three years since Montreal chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard opened his tasting menu–centric restaurant Le Mousso in the city’s Gay Village to a fanfare of positive reviews. Since then, the laudations have only continued—this year, the eatery was named Restaurant of the Year in the inaugural presentation of Quebec’s new culinary prize, Les Lauriers.
Now, chef Mouseau-Rivard has opened a smaller counterpart to Le Mousso next door, aptly named Le Petit Mousso. Formerly a 19th-century printing shop, the 60-seat space features an open kitchen with white walls, wooden tabletops, and black lighting fixtures for an overall understated aesthetic. The emphasis here is, after all, on the food.
But what’s the difference? Le Petit Mousso was initially opened as a concession to the public, namely to offer an à la carte menu with curated cocktails and wine lists. Instead of patrons having to brace themselves for Le Mousso’s elongated dish-after-dish tasting menu, this new spot gives diners the avenue to choose their own gastronomic experience. While others may have chosen to simply create a new menu in the same space, Mousseau-Rivard opted to create an entirely new restaurant. “I think with [Le Petit Mousso], we have the best of both worlds,” he explains. “We’re doing the same type of cuisine, where the mentality behind it is to serve high quality products for more people … We thought LPM would be more for drinks, but instead, lots of people come to eat the whole menu.”
“For me, when you make food, every dish has to be well-conceived. We’re not going to rush to put something on the menu just because it’s in season.”
As for the cuisine, Mousseau-Rivard believes his approach comes full circle—from elevated fine dining to a more bombastic style with gratuitous foie gras shavings and drizzlings of truffle oil, and then back to fine dining once more. “Everything goes through eras,” he says. “Picard [of Au Pied de Cochon] worked with Laprise [of Toqué!], where they were doing sophisticated work for their time. Then Picard left to do something the total opposite of what he knew. It wasn’t the same gastronomy, the same vision, but a bon vivant style with abundance and in a way, the total opposite.” Now part of a newer generation of younger chefs in his city, Mousseau-Rivard muses he’s part of “Montreal New Fine Dining”, a resurgence of fine-dining technique and presentation.
The menus in question, at both Le Petit Mousso and Le Mousso, are created through a process of intense focus on a single dish. It can be difficult to discuss them in detail, as they’re subject to being overhauled every six months or so. “I want our dishes to be light, well-worked, and different,” Antonin notes. “For me, when you make food, every dish has to be well-conceived. We’re not going to rush to put something on the menu just because it’s in season.”
A prime example of Mousseau-Rivard’s dedicated approach is his spiced cake dish—made with pig’s blood and accompanied by fermented apple gel and caramelized shallots, the dessert took him months to complete. “People were scared of it at first, but eventually they were tripping on it,” he says. “It tasted familiar, but still transformative.”
Indeed, familiar yet transformative is perhaps the best way to describe Le Petit Mousso’s à la carte experience.
Photos by Bénédict Brocard.
Le Petit Mousso, 1023 Ontario St. East, Montreal.
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