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Posts Tagged ‘Quebecois – contemporary’

Au Pied du Cochon is one of those contemporary “upscale downscale” restos (as my husband puts it) which overemphasizes its downscale quality while providing upscale food and service. They have a successful schtick, and they sell it with just the right degree of over-the-top glee. It can be hard to get a reservation, so plan ahead. This time around, it took two unreturned voicemail messages, one unreturned email, and then finally one last-minute phone call the night before which miraculously got us a 7pm reservation on the next day.

There is no sign on the outside of the resto and there is a strategically placed tv in the restroom which plays a lopped, frenetic promo tape. Despite the difficulty in getting a reservation, service was excellent, and not a 10 minute period went by without waitstaff patrolling by to wipe crumbs off the table or refresh the bread basket.

I enjoyed the strongly cultured butter with my bread. It was tempting to fill up on bread and butter alone, but of course we had other food which had to be eaten. For starters, my husband and I shared a very tender and juicy tomato tarte and some spicy cod fritters which were a tad too salty. I ordered the foie gras cromesquis for myself, which were two bite-sized fried balls of foie gras that were supposed to explode in my mouth. Unfortunately, I was too worried about burning my tongue after being warned by the server to really enjoy them; they merely melted a bit.

I had trouble deciding what to order, but I know that it had to include foie gras. I went with the iconic duck in a can again. Duck in a can was a duck breast, 100g. foie gras, vegetable concoction which is sealed in a can, boiled for 20 minutes, opened with a can opener at your table and smashed into a tower on top of a slice of toast and a parsnip puree. The dark, caramelized vegetables melded with the bread and parsnips and my red, tender duck breast was wonderful with the dreamy foie gras. It’s a very heavy, rich, darkly coloured dish, oozing with a lot of fat, which I think I’ll have to overlook the next time I dine at this resto.

We were disappointed to hear that the maple stout floater was not available, as we had remembered it quite fondly from out last visit over the summer, and opted to split the poached pear and ice cream. It arrived inexplicably swimming in a cold liquored broth. I enjoyed the bit of intensely vanilla ice cream, but the pear reeked too strongly of alcohol to really enjoy. My decaf latte tasted like water after the richness of the meal.

This is not a resto for the faint of stomach or appetite, nor is it an ideal place for children. It can get very noisy, and depending on who your fellow diners are, it can also get a little rowdy. But the food is inspired and this is definitely a “top 10” resto. I’d recommend going at least twice, however, or even several times, because the more frequently one goes, the less apt one is to try to order everything on the menu at once and pig out.

Metro: Mont-Royal

536 Avenue Duluth Est and Avenue de Chateaubriand

 

See my April 2011 write-up here.

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One of my favourite restaurants in Montreal is Brasserie T!. This contemporary, sexy bistro opened up just last year, and is a “little sister” to Toque! and Olives and Gourmando. Reservations are recommended, although it’s possible to squeeze in if one goes early.

Despite its tiny home right next to the contemporary art museum (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal), Brasserie T! makes intelligent use of its space, and the decor feels a little like a minimalist airplane – first class, of course. Claustrophobia is averted by the large windows lining the walls that afford a nice view of passersby and the dancing fountain during the summer; during warmer days there is even outdoor seating. While sophisticated,  pricing is not outrageous. The service is smart and friendly, and the menu is a small yet sophisticated selection of charcuterie and contemporary Quebec bistro fare. It’s all delicious…well, maybe not the brandade, a bland mixture of cod and potato that I haven’t been in Quebec long enough to appreciate it. Last summer there was a tantalizing fresh tomato soup which was poured at the table over a waiting bowl of herbs, croutons, and spices. My favourite order is the salmon with dill, which is a delicately cooked and seasoned salmon filet with a fennel salad. My husband sometimes gets the burger, which is also good and comes with a gigantic mound of fries, which we split along with the vegetable of the day.

As for dessert, I have had good luck with the eclair and other baked goods; the fresh sorbets and gelatos tend to be too sweet.

metro: Place des Arts

1425 Rue Jeanne-Mance and  Rue Saint-Catherine Ouest

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Au Pied du Cochon is one of those contemporary “upscale downscale” restos (as my husband puts it) which overemphasizes its downscale quality while providing upscale food and service. They have a successful schtick, and they sell it with just the right degree of over-the-top glee. It can be hard to get a reservation, so plan ahead. There is no sign on the outside of the resto and there is a strategically placed tv in the restroom which plays a lopped, frenetic promo tape. Our reservation was at 5pm, the opening time, and there were quite a number of staff zipping about behind the bar, around tables, and canning. Service was excellent, and not a 10 minute period went by without waitstaff patrolling by to wipe crumbs off the oversized table or refresh the bread basket.

For starters, my husband and I shared the endive and blue cheese salad, an enormous apple-abundant dish which could have been a main course, and a plain-looking cold smoked sausage with toast and mustard.

I had trouble deciding what to order, but I know that it had to include foie gras. I was tempted by the foie gras-stuffed au pied du cochon, but instead opted for the equally iconic duck in a can. Duck in a can was a duck breast, 100g. foie gras, vegetable concoction which is sealed in a can, boiled for 20 minutes, opened with a can opener at your table and smashed into a tower on top of a slice of bread and a parsnip puree. The dark, caramelized vegetables melded with the bread and parsnips and my red, tender duck breast was wonderful with the dreamy foie gras. We shared some hot and crisp duck fat-cooked fries, which were also great dipped into the rich, meaty rendered fat er, sauce which oozed around my plate. While our happily companions split the duck in a can, I don’t think it was absurd to eat it all by myself as well, though perhaps towards the end I resembled the resto’s manic pig emblem a bit too closely.

For dessert, we split a floater, which was maple syrup, club soda, maple ice cream drizzled with Stout made at the table. Delicious, adult, sophisticated, and wonderful after the salty, hearty meal.

This is not a resto for the faint of stomach or appetite, nor is it an ideal place for children. It can get very noisy, and depending on who your fellow diners are, it can also get a little rowdy. But the food is inspired and this is definitely a “top 10” resto.

Metro: Mont-Royal

536 Avenue Duluth Est and Avenue de Chateaubriand

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On one hand, this cramped upscale mart/cafe/brunch bistro has identity issues, right down to the Rorschach-like artwork on the wall; on the other hand, it’s a youthful, pleasant place for brunch if you can get a seat and the food is reasonably priced for the quantity and quality.

Food first. Diners either sit at small tables along the wall, or at a long communal table down the middle of the narrow establishment. Service is friendly, but during peak times can be brusque. The energetic brunch ambiance seemed more conducive to dating couples rather than families. I spotted some of the diners enjoying their bacon and eggs straight out of a cast iron pan. My sizable brunch order came on a large plate. It included: a skewer of fresh fruit, a simple side salad, a mild cheddar-like cheese, scrambled egg on toast, a hot scoop of fried salmon and potato, and a ham and cheese croissant. It also came with a coffee and an amuse bouche, a small cube of what seemed like a cream cheese danish, both of which we got after the entrée after asking for them. My husband enjoyed his brunch atlantique, but was miffed that they refused to allow him to substitute bacon for eggs.

The tiny mini-mart section had a small selection of prepared foods and high-end olive oils, exotic salts and chocolates – the sort of gourmet items which could be put into a gourmet gift basket. And for those to whom this is important, they sell Illy coffee (as a non-coffee drinker this means nothing to me, but apparently some rate their eateries by the brands of coffee served).

Metro: Place Victoria

106, rue McGill and Rue Wellington

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On the street that houses a number of closely packed, worthwhile restos, is yet another one in Reservoir, a casual yet trendy francophone bistro. Anglophones, bring a bilingual dictionary, as even the website’s English version seems to be perpetually “coming soon.” Still, the weekend brunch at this Plateau resto is something to look forward to when you want a contemporary Quebecois, foody-friendly repast.

The floor-to-ceiling windows are removed during nice weather, which suits the laid-back brasserie air. Service is friendly, but minimal and very slow. The main draw is the food, which is nicely presented, well-seasoned, and delicious. Selections are scribbled on a large chalkboard, but are also presented on a printed menu, ranging from eggs florentine with gravlax to thick crepes with fresh fruit compotes to juicy pan-fried mackerel on top of asparagus, fresh peas, and zesty citrus puree. My first brunch here was an unbelievable scallops with bacon garnished with cauliflower and citrus purees – I had seen it at another table, artfully arranged on a large wooden slab, when we walked in and thought immediately “I want that.” The chocolate pot de crème with fleur de sel topped with thick dulce du leche is unbelievable and very rich.

Metro: Sherbrooke

9 Ave. Duluth Est at Blvd. St. Laurent

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