Les 400 Coups

3 Nov

Pardon the writing break… life does in fact get in the way sometimes even when it comes to delicious food! Here in Montreal, we are currently in MTL à Table, a wonderful week-long period when many of our fine restaurants offer a special table d’hôte to allow people to try their fare at a relatively reduced rate. With so many wonderful restaurants to choose from, the challenge is always deciding where to go (and that’s even if there is room left in said restaurants). This year, I decided to hit up three different spots – 2 of which are longstanding members of my “to-go” list. The first of these was the current Old Montreal staple Les 400 Coups.

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I was first aware of Les 400 Coups a few years ago when Marc-André Jetté, Patrice Demers and Marie-Josée Beaudoin were running it. While the entire crew has changed since last year, I had heard enough great things about the new group – headlined by Guillaume Cantin, the original Les Chefs winner – that Les 400 coups remained a must-go to me. A couple of my friends were of the same opinion so off we went on a late Thursday night visit very eager and quite hungry.. mostly because a 10 pm reservation will do that to you!

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Les 400 Coups visually strikes a nice, relatively understated modern look. The high ceilings create the impression of a larger room than what is truly there. Black embossed ceiling tiles, simple black walls, leather banquettes and dark wood floors create a elegant style but the white marble bar, the wall-sized Parisian street picture on the western wall and the subtle use of brick add some punch to the room. I’ve heard that noise can be a problem (which makes sense with the high ceilings) but given the day and time of our reservation, it wasn’t at all an issue and actually made us more aware of the music – a strange collection for the setting (never thought of the Black Keys as suitable fine dining music) but still enjoyable. We were lucky enough to have the large banquette by the front window which gave us a great spot to relax, enjoy some good wine and get ready for a hopefully great meal.

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As a group, we decided to make sure that we tried every item on the special table d’hôte. For the appetizers, that gave us two dishes – a parsnip soup with smoked bison, wild blueberries, mustard and wintergreen as well as a liver pâté with peach, oat crumble, honey jelly and celery. The soup was such a treat – the use of the smoked bison and the tart blueberries meshed well with the earthy parsnip. Texturally smooth and delightful on every spoonful. The pâté was also a great hit. Similar to the soup, there was a great use of ingredients to enhance and contrast the inherently fatty pâté – the sweetness of honey and peaches, the freshness of celery and the crunch of the oats. A wonderful dish through and through – relatively simple but one that showed a great understanding of flavours.

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Next up we had the main courses: Brill with buckwheat, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce cream and wild caraway followed up by Pork cheeks with beets, smoked potatoes, stag horn sumac and dill. Beautiful technical detail here. The brill was cooked perfectly – great sear on the outside but still flaky and moist. The insane things here were the cauliflower “crumble” and the lettuce cream. That cream was so rich and flavourful – how exactly they achieved that using lettuce as a base I don’t know but dear lord… such a elegant dish across the board.

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The pork cheeks were a perfect dish for a cold autumn night. Rich and homely with great execution. Texturally, the cheeks just fell apart beautifully and had a great fatty taste. The beets and smoked potatoes paired well with them – I simply wished there had been more to enjoy!

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We were almost stuffed at this point but there were still desserts to enjoy. First was lemon cream with sunflower, crispy meringue and melon sorbet. Now, I hate melons but I can’t argue that it didn’t pair beautifully with the lemon cream here. And about that cream….. just wow. Great richness and a nice depth of flavour. The lemon was powerful but not too tart. The meringue added some crunch to the plate and mixed well with the other elements.

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The second dessert was a Dark Manjari chocolate tart with peanuts, caramel and concorde grape sorbet. Creamy and smooth tart, the strong chocolate taste was nicely paired with the peanuts, the sweet caramel and the beautiful sorbet. Another strong dish.

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Finally, just prior to the check, we received mini chocolate and almond cakes. Rich and fluffy with that hint of the almond. A subtle but wonderful item to finish off our meal.

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I had pretty high expectations for Les 400 Coups and they were met completely. The level of execution and technical proficiency on display was very impressive. Not a single dish disappointed or left a bad impression on us. Every plate was returned completely picked clean… and not just because we were starving due to the late reservation. Add to that a nice atmosphere, a great bottle of wine and excellent service (safe for a slight technology issue at payment time) and we were left with a wonderful evening. I took me a few years to finally get to Les 400 Coups but I can safely say it was worth the wait.

Cheers!

Les 400 Coups
400 Notre Dame Est
514 985 0400

Les 400 Coups on Urbanspoon

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