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Le Club Chasse et Pêche

16 Feb

Despite my best efforts, there are still numerous Montreal staples that I have yet to try. Be it for lack of occasion or honestly just forgetting about them, some restaurants have been continuously on my to-try list for years and years. Le Club Chasse et Pêche has been one such place. The old Montreal staple run by Claude Pelletier, long lauded for the quality of their work since 2004, has weirdly never been one that I would think about when looking for a high end restaurant for an occasion. Well, thankfully that was fixed for me as a friend of mine decided to have his birthday dinner take place there so I finally got to see if all the praise was justified.

Located very unassumingly on a side street in the Old Montreal, Le Club Chasse et Pêche has a somewhat weird visual motif to me. Given the age of the building, they highlight some of its classic features – beautiful old stone walls and archways – in the periphery but the rest of the space is a mix of more modern touches – dark printed pattern wallpaper on the ceiling, black accent walls with a flat concrete-like finish, modernistic artwork, curved plastered walls which orient and separate the room in ways to make things feel more intimate but also weirdly disorienting. It works with the low lighting to create a very intimate ambience perfect for the type of special occasions that bring you to a place like this but personally not the type of style I enjoy.

The menu is not big but frankly everything on the page sounded amazing. As a starter, I went with the crispy veal sweetbread served with a soubise sauce, comté, mustard and hazelnuts. I love sweetbreads so even though the rest of the items listed seemed like a weird mixture, I felt this dish call to me. It was superb – the sweetbread was cooked to perfection – juicy and tender but with a great exterior crunch. The onion sauce had a nice balance of sweetness and creaminess and the other elements worked well even if adding cheese, mustard and nuts to this would seem odd. Just trust me.

The other starter I got to try through an exchange with the birthday boy was THE Club Chasse et Pêche classic starter – the braised piglet risotto topped with foie gras shavings. Holy cow did this dish not disappoint. My friend called it the best risotto he has ever had and I would agree. The risotto itself is cooked nicely – a touch firm but still very tender and the flavours are out of this world – the mixture of the pork and the rich foie gras made this so decadent but so powerful. Definitely a dish not to miss when you go!

As a main dish, after much MUCH deliberation, I went with their version of the surf and turf, Le Chasse et Pêche, the component of which change regularly. On this occasion, it was buttery lobster and 30 day aged steak. Excellent preparation of both elements. The lobster was all rich and buttery goodness. The steak was seared perfectly and very tender. An excellent surf and turf.

As a dessert, I decided to go with their Bomb – a caramel and milk chocolate tartelette served with an 80% chocolate sorbet. I loved the tarte – flaky and crisp with a great rich caramel flavour. Honestly I didn’t like the sorbet – it felt too watery to me which gave us less impact than it should have. A minor quibble in a great meal.

Le Club Chasse et Pêche was a great experience and worth the wait. The food was exquisite – our entire table left the dinner very full and satisfied. It may be easily missed when you walk around Old Montreal but believe it, it is definitely worth your attention. Don’t wait as long as I did.

Cheers!

Le Club Chasse et Pêche
423 Rue St-Claude
514 861 1112

Le Club Chasse et Pêche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Licence IV

10 Dec

Being a Francophone town means that we are inundated with French cuisine here in Montreal. In particular, there are a lot of restaurants cribbing off the classic French bistro style – burger, moule-frites, steak-frite, tartar, etc… It is a classic favourite but one that can be stale in the hands of an average restaurant. Funny enough, in the Sud-Ouest, there really wasn’t a bistro spot in the neighbourhood. Well, that changed last year with the arrival of a couple including Licence IV on Notre-Dame. As my wife works nearby, we went a few weeks ago with some of her colleagues to see if they could do this classic style right.

Licence IV definitely put a good foot forward in terms of looks. The space is beautiful – a modern but classically inspired bistro look. we have the long bar, the banquets, the ornate tin ceiling, the heavy touches of glass and brass all over and tons of ample lighting. There is also lots of use of vegetation to create an indoor terrasse feel. I found the video projections over the bar a little strange and the wait staff allowed the videos to lapse at one point so we can the computer desktop being projected over the bar instead of the videos we were supposed to see. The look is there – just needs a touch more refinement in terms of execution from the staff.

The list of cocktails is interesting as is the wine list. I started with their Marseillaise – Rye, Italian Amaro with orange bitters served hot. I enjoyed it – close to my favourite Negroni but with a extra hint of orange. I also enjoyed how the use of warm water created a more soothing and warming beverage. Perfect for the cold weather we are now experiencing. Related to the cocktails, the wait staff was weirdly insistent about cocktails or even champagne prior to the meal even though everyone else had said no the first time they mentioned it. I get the profit that comes with drinks but as a staff you need to understand the line between suggesting and being way too pushy about it.

Our appetizers came next and were enjoyed nicely. First was the charcuterie plat – a mixture of duck rillettes, ham, rosette de Lyon sausage, figs, candied fruits, raclette cheese and bread to melt the cheese over. A nice variety of items and all enjoyable. I liked the touch of being able to melt the raclette cheese at the table.

The other appetizer I tried was the panko breaded fried calamari served with homemade tartar sauce. A nice crunch to the calamari and I loved the freshness of the sauce. The calamari were nice and tender as well. Solid starter.

As a main, I went with the duck burger – topped with marinated slaw, melted cheese, honey mustard sauce and lardon – served with fries. Sadly, this was a disappointment. The patty was very thin compared to the rest of the burger and frankly didn’t really evoke much in terms of the natural fatty flavour of duck. It is too bad because I liked the bun and the matchstick fries. However, if the heart of the dish isn’t good enough, you can dress it up all you want – it doesn’t matter.

The other main I got to try was better – the Moules-Frites à la Marinière. Excellent dish – the mussels were plentiful, very tender and had great flavour from the classic broth. Add the excellent matchsticks fries and you had a classic bistro dish very well executed.

Licence IV was a solid Bistro experience. A few things to nitpick and hope to see improve but overall, they get the look and feel of the French Bistro down pat. If you looking for some French classics in the Sud-Ouest, Licence IV is worth a look.

Cheers!

Licence IV
1524 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest
514 938 8084

Licence IV Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chez Victoire

14 Nov

Every November, we in Montreal are lucky enough to have the MTL à Table food festival going on. This wonderful event – where restaurants offered a reduced price table d’hôte – is a great opportunity to try a restaurant that you have otherwise not had a chance to try at a price that makes taking a chance more reasonable. Over the years, I have used it as a great way to visit those places that I have wanted to visit but honestly forget about. This year’s choice is no exception. I have been aware of Chez Victoire since its opening in 2010 and while it has been on ‘the’ list for a while, I’ll admit to simply forgetting about it year after year. As I looked at the different menus offered, theirs was one that grabbed my wife and I’s attention so we made our way down Mont-Royal on a quiet and cold Sunday night to see if the long wait would be worth it.

Chez Victoire described itself as a neighbourhood bistro and yeah that description fits well. The space feels like a bistro but more clean and modern, less ornate. The high ceilings and the mezzanine in the back of the room amplify the noise such that, with a full room, the noise level was a little too high ideally. The waiters are dressed in the classic bistro style with the black vest and white shirt and their service is in keeping with a bistro – very smooth, professional and sharp. So far so good but what about the food?

Prior to the MTL à Table menu, we decided to try a plate of their house-made charcuterie served with bread, crackers, dijon mustard and olive oil. Lots of variety on the plate and very enjoyable all around. I am also a big fan of grilled bread like they served with it.

Coming back to the actual Table d’hôte, my wife and I decided to share the two options available for each part of the 3 part service. The first entrée was braised pork from Beaurivage Farm served with celeriac, butternut squash, ahi amarillo and carob. Very favourable dish – the tender fatty pork pairing very nicely with the earthiness of the squash and celeriac.

The second appetizer was quebec whelk served with leeks with leek dressing, yuzu, dill and a goat cheese mousse. Lots of flavour here but weirdly, everything but the whelk came through. Loved the texture of the goat cheese mousse and how it combined with the leeks but that pairing is what comes out as the star. If I hadn’t known there was whelk, I wouldn’t have known as I tasted the dish. The other more minor issue I had was the leeks at the bottom being served room temp. It adds some crunch but I admit I would have preferred it lukewarm to warm.

The mains had a similar split of excellent and alright. First was the braised Lac Brome duck thigh served over celeriac puree, puy lentils and kimchi topped with butterscotch miso butter, pomegranate, walnuts and mint. Lots of components and seems very busy with the mix worked very well. The duck was beautiful in terms of tenderness and flavour. The mix of celeriac, lentils and kimchi provided some earthy hardiness but with a spicy kick and then the butterscotch miso brought the richness that works so well with duck. Loved this dish.

The second one was more of a meh – Albacore tuna tataki served with apricots, green beans, carrots, carrot puree with jalapeño and a curry oil. Compared to the other dish, this one just felt fad. The curry oil was only slightly noticeable and the jalapeño not at all so the big punch of the dish didn’t show up. The rest was well done but felt underwhelming.

As for the dessert, both were excellent. First, a dark chocolate ganache served with malden salt, sunflower seeds, creme fraîche, kumquat and a financier. The richness and creaminess of the ganache was excellent and although my wife didn’t love the sour creme fraiche, all of the accent ingredients worked well to pair and contrast with the chocolate.

The second dessert was a rice pudding with coconut milk served with kaffir lime, caramelized bananas, spiced rum, citronella and pecans. We both love a good rice pudding so this was an easy sell for us. The addition of the bananas, pecans and rum paired well with the rice and coconut notes of the pudding.

So I finally made to Chez Victoire and despite a couple of flat dishes, I can definitely see where the praise for this restaurant comes from. I love the idea of a neighbourhood bistro and the homeyness that comes with that but with the high level of execution and presentation. It is ironic that I finally visited a Plateau bistro only once I left the Plateau but I’m happy to have finally tried it. Definitely worth a try!

Cheers!

Chez Victoire
1453 Mont-Royal Est
514 521 6789

Chez Victoire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Le H4C

28 Dec

For my final review of 2016, we have my final MTL à Table choice from November. For about 3 years now, I had heard great things about a restaurant located in the heart of St-Henri. Living near McGill, I thought about it but never went. Last year, moving to Pointe-St-Charles meant I could walk there now if I wanted to… but I still didn’t visit. Finally, the opportunity came around so I found myself at le H4C ready to see if the wait was worth it.

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Started by the founders of an architectural firm and chef Dany Bolduc, le H4C has the stated goal of combining responsible and sustainable architecture to gastronomy. The restaurant is located within a 1893 vintage building that used to be a post office. It has been restored beautifully – showcasing the old features of the brownstone while adding some more modern touches. The space is completely open and beautiful – the use of wood tables and leather banquette and chairs complement well the gorgeous stone exterior walls. The overall vibe is very calm and intimate – a perfect date night location.

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The menu is an interesting mix. I supposed one could call market cuisine with emphasis on local ingredients using french technique. It lents itself to very particular dishes. First up was housemade duck pancetta with papadoum, lime, curry, mustard, tamarin and cilantro. The pancetta was wonderful – the fatty taste of duck very strong and the texture wonderfully tender. The papadoum (a sort of Indian fried tortilla) provided a nice crunch to pair with the duck. The sauces dotted along the papadoum provided different accents flavours to play with. An excellent dish.

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Our second starter was equally well executed. The marinated salmon with cauliflower, creme fraiche, salmon roe and spices was similar to the first in that the primary ingredient was done simply but so well. The fish had great freshness and a lovely texture to it. The use of cauliflower and creme fraiche, while weird together in theory, worked very well with the salmon to enhance it by bringing in some richness.

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The final entree we tried was the Ricotta gnudi with gruyere, onion and croutons. Essentially a french onion soup broken down with gnudi instead of that big cheesy bread. A very cool usage of a classic French recipe and have some fun with it. Excellent onion broth – rich and smooth. The gundi were soft and lovely balls of rich ricotta. Adding the gruyere on top just made it richer and more filling.

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Our mains continued the high level of execution. First was the octopus with tandoori, caramelized yogourt, red onion, basmati rice and coconut. The octopus was wonderfully tender and the tandoori spices brought some nice flavour. The combination of the red onion and the yogourt provided some nice sweetness and creaminess to pair with the octopus.

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My dish of the night was the main I ordered: smoked meat with potatoes, smoked onions, rye, mustard and marinated cabbage. A wonderfully weird deconstructed smoked meat sandwich that tasted as close to the real thing as possible without having just meat between rye bread. The smoked meat was perfect – getting that right level of tenderness and flavour. I was just missing my root beer (or cherry coke if that’s more your thing)!

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The desserts had a hard time matching the highs of the mains. First the lemon meringue with cucumber ice cream and gin was interesting texturally but the cucumber popped more than the lemon or even the gin which didn’t work for me. The squash with gingerbread, white chocolate and pumpkin seeds was an interesting savoury sweet idea that worked better in theory than practice. No one at the table really enjoyed the preparation of the squash – almost gelatinous but the flavour didn’t work at all. The gingerbread and white chocolate mousse were excellent but that wasn’t really the point.. We also got some housemade popcorn which was very good as well.

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Le H4C was a solid night out. A very high level of execution throughout the meal in a beautiful environment. With the exception of the desserts, the meal was enjoyable by everyone at the table. I’m happy to see a restaurant such as this one succeeded in my part of town and I’m sorry it took this long to come visit. They also do brunch so I will need to check that out as well. Le H4C deserves your attention if you are visiting the Sud Ouest.

Cheers!

Le H4C
538 Place St-Henri
514 316 7234

Le H4C Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

EVOO Cuisine Soignée

7 Nov

Two and a half years ago, I came to EVOO for a quick brunch with a friend. The experience was good enough that I told myself I should come back for dinner at some point. Well, it took awhile but for the event of MTL à Table, I finally came back last week ready to see how EVOO held up after all this time with my girlfriend and some friends of ours.

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First thing of note for me was the completely change in decor. Gone was the contemporary white and purple look of before. Now, the space is more rustic in appearance with a harvest theme running through the room – use of light yellows, harvest tools and greenery on the walls, old mismatches wooden chairs and a large mirrored wall in the front. Compared to before, the space feels warmer although there is lack of pop visually and the room still feels a little empty somehow.

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I also need to make mention of the wonderfully offbeat playlist that played all night – jazzy covers of pretty much anything possible from “Stacy’s Mom” to “Gangster’s Paradise”, “Girls Wanna have Fun” and Kanye West’s “Only One”. For the entire night, our table was laughing and smiling at the great and weird songs to the point of asking our waitress exactly how found these songs.

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We decided to start with some of their speciality cocktails. Personally, I went for the Autumn Martini – Ice Cider, bourbon, apple juice and spices. An excellent blend of sweet and spice. Officially a cocktail I need to re-attempt at home.

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My girlfriend went with the rhum ground cherry – white and brown rums mixed with angostura bitters and ground cherries. Not a huge rum fan but again a very nicely balanced cocktail. A hint of bitterness to go with the spiciness of the rum and the sweetness of the ground cherry.

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Amongst the four of us at our table, we were able to try the entire menu EVOO had set up for MTL à Table. The first starter was a Bass Escabeche with roasted cauliflower, yogurt, smoked tomato jam and pickled fennel. Nice tender pieces of poached bass served cold as is traditional of a escabeche. The use of the smooth yogourt and the smoky tomato jam provided nice flavour kicks to pair with the fish. A nice presentation as well.

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Second starter was a homemade Ricotta salad with cucumber, brussels sprout, carrot, beet and walnut dressing. Another beautiful presentation and a wonderful fresh. A great creamy rich texture to the ricotta and the use of all those fresh vegetables matched up well with the inherent richness of the cheese.

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The final starter was a red wine onion soup with parmesan foam. The lack of that big crouton and melty cheese that we usually associate with a French onion soup made this feel a little lacking in the end. The flavour was very nice though – the red wine coming through strongly in the broth. More a question of expectations than anything else.

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Our first main was the Québec bison ribs with Anthony’s vegetable stew, chimichurri and pangritata. The meat off the rib was beautifully tender and juicy – simply falling off the massive rib in the plate. The pangritata breading added a little crunch and the vegetable stew provided a hearty comfort to the dish. Very enjoyable.

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Next was the mushroom ravioli with Mr. Petit’s confit goat, pear, crispy cipollini and parmesan. Nicely sized raviolis with a solid amount of filling. Nice flavour overall with the addition of the sweet pear provided a nice counter to the goat itself.

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Finally, we had the stuffed quail with Gaspor bacon, grilled lettuce, Labrador tea, sage mascarpone and root vegetables. The bird was nice and juicy and the rest of the dish had this great feeling of being technical but still comforting. Another excellent dish.

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Desserts brought further enjoyment. First was an assortment of Québec cheeses with some caramelized nuts, apple butter and fennel and coriander crackers. Next was an medley of desserts – salted caramel flan, aerial chocolate, apple, fireweed ice cream and some meringue. A great showcase of different technical skills and flavours. Very good across the board. The final option – for a little extra cost – was the Banoffee – caramelized bananas, dulce de leche, creme fraiche, shortbread and toffee. I was very happy I went for the extra cost to get this. The combination of the bananas with the caramel and the toffee was perfectly sweet and some nice crunch as well. This dish disappeared as quickly as it arrived at our table.

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It may have taken me longer to come back than I hoped but EVOO thankfully did not disappoint. An excellent meal – a showcase of technique and great ingredients – that left us satisfied and full. With all the changes and new restaurants opening on Notre Dame, it’s great to see EVOO is holding its own and providing a great experience.

Cheers!

EVOO
3426 Notre-Dame Ouest
514 846-3886

Restaurant EVOO Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taverne Sur Le Square

13 Sep

With the rapid succession of new restaurants that open in Montreal, it is sometimes very easy to focus on the new stuff without considering some older more established spots. Just because they aren’t new doesn’t mean they aren’t worth visiting. I was reminding of this a few weeks ago when I met up with my girlfriend and some of her co-workers for a post-work dinner at Westmount Square and more specifically at Taverne Sur Le Square, a place I had never been to before somehow.

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The second of chef Stephen Leslie’s three restaurants – after Monkland Taverne and before Le Sieur d’Iberville – Taverne Sur Le Square called itself comfort food with international twist. The space is one befitting its place in Westmount Square – one of our city’s architectural beauties. The open room is warm and welcoming while keeping that touch of refinement. We chose to sit outside on the terrasse gently lit by patio lights strung across the space. Because of the risk of rain that evening, we were pretty much alone out there – one should never turn down some terrasse time especially with how short terrasse season is for us but I digress….

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Looking at the menu, I decided to go with the table d’hôte whereas my girlfriend went with a couple of starters for a lighter dinner. My selection of the table d’hôte gave me a salad to start – very simple and served with roasted seeds over top. The roasted flavour of the seeds was a nice touch. The portion was very generous as well – very uncommon as a table d’hôte starter.

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My girlfriend’s first starter, the salmon tacos with Pico de gallo and avocado, was a slight miss. Loved the soft tortillas and the creamy avocado and the fish was fresh but it felt bland. The pico de gallo didn’t have much punch to it and the portion felt a little small even as an entree.

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The second starter was more along the right track – Grilled octopus with chickpeas and red pepper puree, sauce vierge, parsley and red onion. The octopus was plentiful and grilled nicely with just a bit of char to it. The puree was nice and creamy and the sauce vierge paired nicely with the whole thing.

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As a main, I decided to go with the soft shell crab served in a bun with remoulade, tomato, pickle, lettuce and tavern sauce. This item was the reason I went with the table d’hôte for a change. The soft shell crab was plentiful and had a great crunch. Add some fresh veggies, a creamy sauce all put between a great soft bun and you had an awesome sandwich to enjoy. Plus, it was served with a nice of wonderfully crunchy fries to enjoy. Goodness all around.

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The last I got to try was their creme brûlée – always a sucker for a creme brûlée and a little sweetness to finish off a meal. A very solid creme – nice caramelization on the top with a richness and creaminess underneath.

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Despite a couple of neutral or slight misses, my first experience at Taverne Sur Le Square was a solid one. You can see how this restaurant has survived being in the relatively dead zone restaurant wise for over 14 years now. A place where you can grab a quick bite and drink after work or have a nice refined dinner for a special occasion. Taverne on the Square isn’t perhaps on the forefront of the “Hot” restaurants in Montreal but if you willing to deviate from the current trend and try a classic, you may wonder why it’s not on that list to begin with.

Cheers!

Tavern on the Square
1 Westmount Sq Ste
514 989 9779

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Tuck Shop

7 Jun

About 5 years ago now, I read a review from Lesley Chesterman in the Montreal Gazette about a restaurant in St-Henri – a neighbourhood I knew nothing about – called Tuck Shop. Everything about what she wrote about the restaurant – from the food to the decor to the music even – peaked my interest and I made a note of it. Fast forward to now – I have moved to Pointe St-Charles and have spent tons of time in St-Henri visiting all the great new restaurants and spots that have popped up…. except for Tuck Shop. The one initial reason I even knew about the neighbourhood. Well that needed to change. Taking advantage of a rare evening free for both myself and my girlfriend, I set up a last minute dinner date to finally see if Tuck Shop was worthy of its high spot on my to-visit list.

Relatively nondescript when you walk by, Tuck Shop is a 40-ish seat place with a great mixture of hardwood floors, white brick tiles and wooden walls. The open kitchen in the back creates a more dynamic feel to the space and I love the granite countertop bar in the middle of the room. The room is adored with mason jars filled with marinades and sauces which provide a homey touch. The music the entire night was right up my alley and kept me humming along the whole meal – from CCR to Grease to Steve Miller Band. Noise level was moderately high – you could still have a conversation but not in a hush tone. Service was punctual and on point – I particularly enjoyed when we received our menus and were recommended to try a cocktail…. especially since the server in question was the one who made them. And in fact, the menu said cocktails by Seabass. Loved the friendly and fun way that was done. The entire team all night brought the same energy and vibe. Well done.

After being sold by Seabass, I couldn’t say no to one of his cocktails. I went with the Maple Rhubarb – Brandy, maple syrup, mint, lemon and rhubarb bitters. The rhubarb taste was subtle but there. The overall drink was sweet enough that my girlfriend enjoyed it but balanced enough that I could taste the brandy and not feel I was being stiffed. An solid starter.

We decided to share an appetizer and went for the Florida soft shell crab with green papaya, coloured carrots, cucumber, radish, coriander, chili, peanuts and kaffir lime mayonnaise. A wonderfully light but flavourful dish. The crab was beautifully rich and tender with the outer crust providing a bit of crunch. The green papaya salad underneath provided some sweetness and a bit of heat which could be countered by the lime mayonnaise. A beautiful dish throughout.

The first of our mains was the fish of the day – in this case, salmon – with herbed ricotta gnocchi, morels, fiddleheads, fava beans, carrots, Tokyo turnips, sorrel, daylillies, salsa verde and root vegetable puree. The fish was beautiful but the star here was the herbed ricotta gnocchi – rich and fluffy delights. The inherent earthiness of the fiddleheads, morels and fav bears were an interesting pairing with the creaminess of the puree and the fresh kick from the salsa verde. Enjoyable all around.

Our second main was the Cornish Hen with Littleneck clams, homemade chorizo, fennel, white beans, kale, coriander, chili, charred onion puree and tomatillo. I simply loved this dish! So much going on but oh so good…. The chorizo was the driving force flavour-wise – spicy almost to the point of overwhelming the palate but it didn’t. The hen was juicy and crisp on the outside. The underlying clams and white beans helped to dull the chorizo as did the sweetness of the puree. The jalapeño added even more hotness if you were so inclined.

With a bit of room left, we went for the brownie with noix de Grenoble and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Loved the ice cream – great rich vanilla taste however the texture of the brownie was a bit too dry for my preference.

Outside of the minor quibble at dessert, Tuck Shop was exactly what I had hoped it would be even all the years later – A beautifully relaxed atmosphere serving kickass refined comfort market driven food. My biggest disappointment is that I waited so long to eat there. Believe me, that will not happen again. It’s great to see such an awesome spot holding down in St-Henri for this long now. There were one of the first here. Here’s hoping they continue to do so for many years longer.

Cheers!

Tuck Shop
4662 Notre Dame Ouest
514 439 7432

Tuck Shop on Urbanspoon

Chez L’Épicier

16 Nov

For my final MTL a Table dinner, I went back to the Old Port to another longstanding member of my “need to try” list – Laurent Godbout’s Chez L’Épicier. About to open a sister restaurant down in Palm Beach, Chez L’Épicier has been a highly regarded restaurant in Old Montreal since its opening. A friend of mine continues to states that one of the best meals of his life has been here. Talk like that has made my visit long overdue. Hype level was high which can be scary when dealing with restaurants. There is nothing worse than overly heighten expectations setting you up for a disappointing experience. In these instances, you just need to go in and have faith that the restaurant can shine through with excellent dishes and a fine touch.

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Pre-starters, we were greeted with a cocktail of maple syrup and apple cider as well as an olive and goat cheese macaron amuse-bouche. Loved the combination in the cocktail – the acidic nature of the cider dull by the maple syrup while keeping the sweetness level strong. The macaron was a interesting idea – I had never had an non-sweet macaron before. My hatred of olives had me skeptical however the use of the creamy goat cheese eased that olive taste which I despite. Very nice level of technique.

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Our first starter was a squash velouté poured over homemade sour cream, onions, squash seed nougatine, parsley juice and brown butter vinaigrette. Cool little presentation element as the velouté was poured at the table over the bowl of accent ingredients. Loved the smooth and earthy nature of the soup and how each extra item brought a nice element to pair with the squash. A perfect fall starter.

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Our second starter was a slowly cold smoked trout filet with a miso and maple reduction, shallot fingerling potatoes and a maple vinegar mousse. Wonderful flaky texture to the trout with a subtle hint of sweetness from the reduction. The mousse was a quirky but nicely flavoured addition and the potatoes brought some more heft to the dish. Very good.

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The first of our mains was a sea bass fillet with herb polenta, lobster juice bouillabaisse and vegetables glazed with water butter. The real star here is the bouillabaisse – if only because the lobster juice overpowered everything else. The fish itself was solid. I am not a big fan of polenta up front so while this one was well done, it didn’t speak to me in any way. The vegetables were good but nothing to write home about (which is ironic as I am writing about them). Overall an okay dish. I feel like the fish should have had more of an impact in this dish.

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Our final main was beef shoulder lacquered with orange and olives served with onion and rosemary butter brandade and reduced juice with Cointreau. Huge winner in my eyes. The beef shoulder was cooked perfectly – to the point where you early had to touch it for it to fall apart. Great richness to the beef and the hints of orange and Cointreau came through nicely. The brandade was excellent as well.

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The first dessert was a carpaccio of compressed apples with tarragon granita and caramelized pecans. Sadly I didn’t get to try it because my friend finished it off so quickly which one can definitely take as a good thing. Loved the concept overall – the tarragon being an interesting addition to apples and pecans.

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The other dessert available was a tempura brownie with greek yogurt cream and white chocolate jelly. The brownie itself was moist and chocolatey – a key for me with any brownie. Personally, while the tempura was well done, I’m not sure how much of an addition it brought to the dish other than texturally. It kind of felt like an afterthought – added at the last minute to make the dish “unique”. I enjoyed the smoothness of the yogourt cream as well as the presence of the white chocolate and strawberries. A solid finish to the dish.

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I had high expectations for Chez L’Epicier and they were mostly met. Very high level technique was visible throughout the meal – the highs were oh so high. However a couple of dishes had a few elements that left us wanting more. Not things that were a big deal but when compared to the rest of the dishes, they stood out more than they should have. All in all, I was quite happy to finally cross Chez L’Epicier off my list. Looking at the regular menu after my visit, I was intrigued enough to want to come back which I suppose is all that needs to be said.

Cheers!

Chez L’Epicier
311 Saint-Paul Est
514 878 2232

Chez L'Epicier on Urbanspoon

Leméac

4 Jul

Special occasions call for certain restaurants. Restaurants where not only is the food delicious but the overall experience is from top to bottom impeccable and without fault. There are not too many of said places but for my family in particular, Leméac continues to be one of these and as such, it was the perfect place to go celebrate my sister’s 2nd university degree (tied with yours truly and soon to be passed me).

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For the uninitiated, Leméac is a classic French bistro on Laurier that has one of the best dinner terrasses in the city. Sadly, for this evening, we did not have a table there so we would have to make due inside. The interior has a modern bistro feel – stone tile floor, white walls, wooden chairs, white tablecloths and a gorgeous modern bar with leather bound high chairs. A very clean look that screams professional and upscale but still feels welcoming.

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As a a starter, I went with the house made blood pudding with celery root purée and cider sauce. Now… I know that blood pudding is not for everyone and a complete non-starter for some, however if you are tempted to try it, this would be the place to do so. Great texture to the pudding itself, the root purée nice and creamy and the richness of the sauce… dear god that cider sauce. So good. An excellent start all around.

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The other start I got to try was the escargots with portabella mushroom tomato ragout and basil sauce. Very different compared to the richness of the previous dish. Outside of the delicious escargots, the rest of the dish was all about freshness. Particular recognition must go to the sauce, a foamy basil sauce that paired everything together here so well. Amazing depth of flavour despite its consistency. The level of sauce work at Leméac has always blown my mind… and makes me feel wholly inadequate to attempt to make my own at home.

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We move on to the mains now. First up, a grilled shrimp salad and sesame oïl vinaigrette. Very asian-inspired dish in terms of flavours mostly because of the vinaigrette. The very large shrimps were grilled perfectly well and the mixed veggie salad underneath was nice.

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We also ordered a side of french fries because when one is at Leméac, you must order some whether it makes sense with your meal or not! Pretty much perfection in terms of fries – just the right cut and just the right mix of crunch and tenderness. Add a side of mayo for dipping and you are set to finish the entire bowl and order some more.

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My own main was the braised beef short rib with barley stew, swiss chard and mint pesto. The level of execution on the rib short blew my mind. I was able to pull the bone out without any effort and not a single strain of meat came with it. Just needed a fork to break it apart and enjoy the meaty goodness. The barley stew with the pesto and the chard were excellent as well but quite honestly, it didn’t matter what else was in that plate because of that glorious cut of beef.

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Lastly, I just needed to order their classic pain perdu with maple caramel and ice cream. This thing is massive. The picture doesn’t do it justice… unless you have skipped a course, you will need help to finish this. Beautifully fresh bread crisped up nicely with a truly decadent caramel and silky ice cream. Perfect execution once again.

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Leméac was, as it always is, a excellent experience. Every course screams technique and execution. Great depth of flavours across the board. Great food, excellent wine list and very solid service means that you can never really go wrong here. If you are looking for a great French bistro experience, there is nowhere in Montreal that I can recommend more highly than Leméac. Just try to sit outside if you can… it will make it even better.

Cheers!

Leméac
1045 Laurier Ouest
514 270 0999

Leméac on Urbanspoon

XO Le Restaurant

17 Dec

Every once in a while, I have the desire to really go all out with a meal. Never mind picking a few options from the menu – I want the tasting menu with the wine pairings. I want to take out my tie, pocket square and jacket and go fancy. Go somewhere where the initial though is “Well I can’t do this too often” and the bill at the end of the night reflects that. In the end, the experience is what I am after. Well, last month, through a invite of a friend, I was presented with such a opportunity in one of the most beautiful spots in Montreal.

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The St. James Hotel in the old port is one of Montreal most well known boutique hotel. A place where no expenses are spared. Located inside the hotel, in their Banker’s hall, is XO Le Restaurant. A restaurant that certainly makes quite the impression when you walk in. Beautiful high ornate ceilings, chandeliers, Roman columns, beautiful staircases leading to 2 mezzanines overlooking a lounge space and a dining space – it is quite the looker. You can’t help but stare around you throughout your time in the restaurant. It is a space that has you wanted to come back for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even just for a drink.

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For this evening, at the recommendation of one of my dining companions’ friends (who, for the purpose of disclosure here, works in the restaurant and led our service), we were going with their signature 6 course tasting menu with associated wine pairings. And so we sat down to a Aperol spritz – ready for a great meal and lots of wine.

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Our first course was thinly sliced Princess scallops with nitrogen frozen oranges and a trio of cauliflower paired with a Niagara Riesling. A precursor of things to come, the presentation was beautiful – the whole dish in a large seashell, sitting on a bed of rocks with dry ice poured underneath by our server. A little over the top with the dry ice? Sure but it added extra flair to the whole proceedings which definitely seemed in line with the setting. The dish itself was quite good – the scallops were perfectly executed, the orange added some zest and the cauliflower a little crunch.

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The second course brought forth Black bass with white beans, parsley puree and a Meyer lemon beurre blanc sauce paired with a glass of Meursault. Another great looking dish that was delicious as well. The fish was cooked perfectly – flaky and moist but with a great skin crispness on top. The beurre blanc brought some richness and had the unmistakable hint of the Meyer lemons. The beans and the puree were quite good as well.

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The third course was a little richer as we got a Foie gras Tartin with apple ice cider jelly on top, pecan crumble and a apple maple reduction paired with a lovely French Chenin blanc. Just an amazing combination of great technique and great flavours. The fatty foie gras, the sweetness of the apple maple reduction, the beautiful texture of the ice cider jelly and the extremely fine texture of the pecan crumble – there was not a single thing not to like on this plate. Simply beautiful.

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The fourth course continued along similar lines as the previous one as we got a white truffle risotto with a white chocolate sauce and chestnuts, all paired with a glass of 2007 Barbaresco Paje. This was by far the most filling dish we got on this evening. The white chocolate sauce was a surprise to all of us when it was mentioned but once we tried it, it made perfect sense – a touch of sweetness to offset the inherent creaminess and richness of risotto. The addition of white truffle was wholly unnecessary but oh so perfect. It made the dish all the more decadent.

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The fifth course was Stag with sweet potato done 2 ways and dehydrated Nutella, paired with (appropriately enough) a glass of Stag’s leap Petit Syrah. The sweet potatoes, both in puree and galette form, were delicious and the Stag itself was well prepared – very much showcasing the natural gaminess of the meat. The crazy element here was the dehydrated Nutella – such a unique preparation of that item but one that works so well within this dish. The chocolate and hazelnut flavours paired very nicely with the lean meat.

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Prior to the final course of dessert, we got a palate cleanser in the form of a Hibiscus tapioca. This was the one dish of the meal that I did not enjoy. It certainly served its purpose as a palate cleanser and it was beautiful to look at but Hibiscus is not a flavour that I enjoy.

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The dessert course itself was a orange flan with fennel ice cream and 3 crumbles: olive oil, black pepper and sea salt. Very unique flavours for a dessert but everything worked very nicely. Great texture to both the ice-cream and the flan. The 3 crumbles were amazing – great flavours without being overbearing. Individually, each worked well with the flan but they also worked well in combination. Very well executed.

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And to finish off the whole, a small plat including a Mint chip, house caramel and dark chocolate truffle were provided with the checks. All 3 were great – particularly the house caramel. A great meal all around.

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4 hours after we sat down, we were stuffed – 6 courses and 5 glasses of wine will do that to you. This meal was very much an experience – a pricey one for sure – but an experience nevertheless worth having. The service was impeccable, the decor jaw dropping, the food and wine spot-on. The sticker shock may be hard to get by but believe me – you’ll be satisfied in the end.

Cheers!

XO Le Restaurant
355 St-Jacques
514 841 5000

XO Le Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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