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High-end aspirations fall flat

Giancarlo La Giorgia

By: Giancarlo La Giorgia
Aug 4, 2010 - 10:24

Rating: **1/2 (out of *****)

Despite high-end aspirations — judging by menu prices, at least — this international chain's Montreal franchise misses the mark.

It's hard to believe that Bice is actually one of almost 20 international franchises (yes, they made more of these things), with the original still running in Milan since way back in 1926.

The night my wife and I deigned to dine there, we discovered was a big, disappointing drop from the place’s lofty aspirations — and steep prices — down to the very average quality of its food.

The first cue that something was amiss was Bice’s bread basket. It included the usual assortment of olive and herb breads, but also, strips of tomato pizza. An odd, but fine addition, except the basket is covered with a napkin, which invariably ends up being smeared with bright red goopy blotches. Not appetizing.

We hoped that the food would make up for this misfire, starting with the seafood and "tempura" antipasto: a plate of calamari rings that were fried to perfection… then cooked some more, until bone dry, and overly salted for good measure. And a single fried zucchini stick. For $18.

As a main dish, I had the seafood pasta, while my wife ordered the red snapper. The seafood was fresh, and the pasta reasonably al dente, but the sauce was a let down. Maybe I'm an extra tough customer, because I was raised to know the difference between homemade and bottled (or just mediocre) sauce. But when you're paying about $30 for a plate of pasta, the tell-tale acidic, over-concentrated taste of tomato paste (or just plain over-reduced sauce) doesn't cut it. My wife's dish was tasty enough, but still unworthy of the rapture a true fine cuisine restaurant should deliver.

For dessert, I ordered a melted chocolate-filled chocolate soufflé, accompanied with mint ice cream. The one thing we had both been assured by people who had eaten here was that, if nothing else, we could look forward to amazing desserts. They were OK, but again, for $12, you want a sharing-size portion, not the inelegantly plated bird food we received.

My wife and I had each heard good things about Bice, but in hindsight, I wonder if the comments may have been meant for the now-defunct Brontë.

Underwhelming cuisine, for anyone who knows anything about Italian food. Of course, if you don't mind paying for the chance to rub elbows with the rich and beautiful, the above may not apply. A good back-up option if Cavalli, Primadonna or Medgrill (equally overpriced members of the group that owns Bice) are booked.

Giancarlo La Giorgia is a freelance writer and’s resident foodie.

* = bad food and/or service; avoid
** = mediocre; some redeeming qualities
*** = good; worth visiting
**** = very good; recommended
***** = excellent; must visit

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