Le Vin Papillon

19 Aug

The Joe Beef guys opened a wine bar. That was pretty much all that I needed to hear. It took just over a month after its opening but I headed down to the corner of Charlevoix and Notre-Dame (which at this point is probably my most visited street block in the city outside of the Jean Talon Market and my own apartment) with a friend for a little early weekend dinner.

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The first thing you notice when you walk in is the visual differences between it and its brethren. No crazy or folksy paraphernalia on the walls. A very clean and elegant look with white brick, white tiles, wood tables and black leather. The entire right side of the narrow space is a beautiful bar where all the prep work is done. There is also a small relatively sparse terrasse in the back with communal tables. Overall, there is a sleeker look in keeping with a wine bar but once you add the blackboard menus and the alternative music, it keeps that Joe Beef/Liverpool House feel that I love.

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Like its brethren, Le Vin Papillon has no set menu on paper. When you enter, there is one blackboard with the day’s menu listed as well as a couple that list the wine choices they have by the bottle. Surprisingly enough for a wine bar concept, they don’t have very many selections by the glass. It is almost all by the bottle. The wines were mostly French and Italian from my browsing of the choices. The wines I tried were selected by our waiter because, to be honest, I have a complete lack of knowledge of wine outside of California so I figured he would be in a better place to provide me a good glass. Both were quite good but I won’t go into details here. I’ll stick to the food.

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The menu is very interesting in that it is very light on meats which is really separates it from both other restaurants. The dishes are mainly vegetables based and are very much dishes design to accompany wine and share amongst your dining party.

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First up, we went with the haricots-coco-romano. Local quebec green beans with some prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, romano cheese and beans tossed in some olive oil. As will be a pretty consistent theme through the meal, this plate was a great showcase of local produce with a few augments to enhance and up the flavours. The sun-dried tomatoes and the romano were nice pairings with the crisp green beans. The olive oil allowed all the ingredients to blend nicely.

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We followed that up with a selection of their cheeses of the day. Again, we left the choices up to the staff with the caveat of no blue cheese (still not a favorite of mine by itself). We got 3 out of the 7 they were offering that day. Great selection by the staff as they mixed up the texture and the tastes nicely. With the cheese, we got a plate of toasted artisan loaf bread with butter as well as fresh nuts to crack and enjoy. Loved the bread – thank god they didn’t leave a basket at the table during the whole meal because I wouldn’t have stopped eating it. As from the nuts, I love the idea but the practice of cracking them at the table is a little messier than is ideal.

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Next up, we went with the roasted onion and ricotta cheese. Just a great dish and a kind of item pairing that in hindsight I wished I had thought up sooner. Fresh creamy ricotta cheese with a beautifully roasted sweet onion and some more of that bread. Absolutely no complaints here.

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The final dish of our first selection was the chicken wings with tarragon. Nice flavours here and the wings were cooked as they should be, however I feel this was the least successful dish but only because of the impractically of eating wings at a wine bar. A little too messy and sticky to enjoy with a glass of wine even when trying to eat them neatly.

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Still somewhat hungry, we decided to order a couple of more plats. First up this time, their rotisserie Cauliflower. Yeah, that’s right. This dish was by far the most unique thing we had this evening. Roasted cauliflower with thyme, crispy chicken skin, candied lemon peels and a spicy oil mixture on top. A surprisingly spicy dish but one with great texture and crunch from the roasted cauliflower and the chicken skin. Very enjoyable.

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We then went with our waiter’s suggestion of the vinegar eggplant. Roasted eggplants topped with a tomato/almond mixture, some melted cheese, some fresh basil and of course, as the name implies, vinegar. Nice earthy flavours throughout with the sweetness of the tomatoes, the richness of the cheese and the acidity of the vinegar mixed in. A surprisingly filling dish on top of all that. Very well done.

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To finish the whole thing off, I went with a homemade chocolate truffle with some fresh blueberries. Rich creamy chocolate interior coated with some crushed pistachios for a little nutty crunch. Perfectly done and the perfect sweet touch to cap off the meal.

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Overall, a very nicely executed wine bar concept and one with a menu that surprises with its emphasis on vegetables. A few dishes and some wine glasses later, you leave stuffed and quite satisfied. I think that is really all you can ask from a great wine bar. Note that they do not take reservations so you may wait a bit if you go during peak hours. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy some wine!

Cheers!

Le Vin Papillon
2519 Notre Dame Ouest

Le Vin Papillon on Urbanspoon

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