Jeffrey Finkelstein is the boy wonder of bread. His resumé includes stints at El Bulli, Noma and French Laundry, and he’s spent the past few years supplying the best restaurants in town. So it’s no wonder that the opening of his bakery, Hof Kelsten (4524 St-Laurent), is garnering more hype than most boulangeries ever do.
Hof Kelsen is a large, airy, attractive space that couldn’t be further removed from the anachronistic stylings of its former occupant, the lamented-by-no-one SuperClub Vidéotron. Located on St-Laurent slightly north of Mont-Royal, it’s got a different vibe than neighbourhood-y bakeries like Guillaume. But Hof Kelsten is a serious commercial endeavour that relies on more than neighbourhood eaters, and the large, industrial space speaks to its larger ambitions.
Hof Kelsten takes a no-frills approach to bread. You won’t find fancy loaves with cheese, nuts or other adornments. But when you taste Finkelstein’s deceptively simple bread, you realize that any flourishes are unnecessary when it’s that good. There is a small sandwich menu and only a few kinds of breads on offer (the cashier told me there would eventually be “Jewish” baked goods and bakery standards like croissants). I tasted the rye in sandwich form and took home a baguette.
My $9 gravlax sandwich made for one of the most satisfying lunches I’ve had in a while, with thick, fatty, quality slices of salmon on the Platonic ideal of rye bread. It tasted fresher, denser and moister than most. The baguette was also just… perfect. At home, I compulsively tore off pieces and ate them plain, much to the chagrin of my crumb-fearing companion.
So, yeah, the hype is warranted. There are a lot of good bakeries in Montreal (the aforementioned Guillaume is one of them), but it wouldn’t be hyperbole to call Hof Kelsten the best. ■
Hof Kelsten website
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