Thursday, October 23, 2014

Montreal has great food. Impasto and Chez L'Epicier were our top restaurant picks.


Chevre Chaud Factor:  3 Yums UP
Favourite Restaurant:  Cathy – Impasto       David – Chez L’Epicier  
                                 
I love Montreal.  It’s on a waterway and has a huge park at its heart.  It has a great arts and music scene and is truly bilingual, with locals easily shifting between French and English. And then there’s the food; fabulous markets, an abundance of great local cheeses and restaurants that will knock your socks off with some of the best wine lists in the country.  What’s not to love? 

Dinner reservations are a must.  The restaurants are very busy, even on a long weekend. 

Lemeac Ravioli
We arrived on Saturday in time for dinner at Restaurant Lemeac.  A casual French restaurant, the atmosphere and service and food were all acceptable, some of it quite good.   I started with a salad chevre chaud and David had the Vegetable Tian.  My salad was very nice, a modern version with panko crusted chevre and  lightly dressed frisee on top.  Walnuts and apples added a nice touch.  The vegetable tian was forgettable.  For main courses I had the Mushroom Ravioli with pine nuts and arugula.  A dish I would normally love but I didn’t notice that it was served with a demi-glace, which overwhelmed the flavours of the mushrooms.  I’m not sure why so many chefs choose to take a dish that would be perfect for vegetarians or pescetarians and taint it with meat.  In this case a mushroom broth would have kept the character of the dish strong and earthy.   David had the Seared Scallops ; served with mashed fingerling potatoes and mujjol caviar, it was a beautifully executed dish with the large scallops perfectly seared and sitting on top of the tasty mashed potatoes .  The mujjol caviar added just the right salty flavour depth.  Awesome spuds.  I’m going to try and replicate this, it was simply delicious. 
Milos Special
After a day of exploring we had dinner at Milos.  This was our 3rd Milos dinner, one in New York and once before in Montreal.  We weren’t so happy the last time we ate in Montreal but New York had been so great we decided to give it another go.  We love the menu and the quality of ingredients is outstanding.  The Milos Special is a must have. A stack of light and crisp fried zucchini, eggplant and saganaki stacked on top of the best tzatziki I’ve ever tasted.  The calamari and Greek salad were perfect.  The tomatoes tasty with true flavour.  Our waiter proudly told us about their tomato source and how they are grown just for Milos.  I’ve recently developed a guilty tasty for octopus and was compelled to try the appetizer as my entrée.  Sashimi quality and charcoal broiled, I could crave this.  David had Dover sole simply prepared with lemon, olive oil and capers.  Some Greek potatoes and greens and we had a perfect dinner.  Our waiter was helpful and knew his wines very well.  They had more Greek wines than I’d ever seen and he was able to describe the Sauvignon Blancs well.  We chose the Gerovassiliou   in the style of a Sancerre and were very happy with how it.  Dinner at Milos offers exceptional seafood and it’s busy with interesting people watching.  It is expensive. Be careful when ordering fresh whole fish.
Go! Chef Godbout

Thanksgiving Monday and we had dinner at Chez L’Epicier.  We had to guarantee our reservation with a credit card.  I was reluctant but many restaurants in Montreal are closed on Monday and being a holiday there seemed to be a lot of American tourists so reservations were hard to get.  The restaurant in Old Montreal was comfortable and welcoming and the staff was outstanding.  Our waiter was the best I’ve had in a long time.  He had an opinion, something I value and appreciate.  I was struggling with the extensive French wine list and when I asked his opinion of a choice between 2 wines he said he didn’t personally care for either and suggested a 2012 Morgon  Beaujolais.  He wasn’t trying to sell us a more expensive wine; there was an insignificant difference.  It was just good advice.  Chef Laurent Godbout will be competing for Canada in the 2015 Bocuse D’Or and our dinner promised big things for Canada.  From the moment we tasted the amuse bouche we knew we were in for a fantastic meal.  
Eggplant Chevre Macaron


Parsnip Soup
Eggplant macaron with a chevre filling, I could have happily made a meal of several with the wine.  


 David started with Parsnip Soup; brown butter panne cotta and liquid parsley were presented in a bowl and parsnip milk was poured over top.  Fantastic presentation and equally good taste.


Not Just Like Fish & Chips

I couldn’t resist the Just Like Fish and Chips.  I consider myself a fair judge of F&C and this wasn’t like anything I’d had before.  Completely deconstructed, the fish was thin slices of a Japanese white fish, seared rare, with batter pieces on the side and paper thin potato crisps with frisee and tartar sauce.  I wouldn’t order it again but it was interesting.  David had the Roasted Butternut Squash with crème fraiche, walnut crumble, grapes and bread crisps.  A very pretty dish but I was surprised by the cold squash and not a fan.


Cod & Zuccini Carbonara

I loved the Norwegian Cod, with crispy skin served on zucchini carbonara, sea urchin cream and white wine.  Wow!  Richness made light by the zucchini replacing the pasta.  We also had Truffle gnocchi with broccoli puree, crispy buckwheat, roasted cipollini onions and grilled garlic oil.  Both main courses were outstanding.  
Chocolate Club House
Finally we had the signature dessert; a Chocolate Club Sandwich, small triangles of white and dark chocolate cake on skewers with pineapple fries and a melon salad.  Very pretty and the pineapple fries were fantastic but I think there were better choices.    




I recommend Chez L’Epicier unreservedly and wish Chef Godbout good luck in 2015.


Squid Ink Pasta at Impasto

Our final dinner in at Impasto was hands down my favourite. Partly because we sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and the chef and team were focused and happy, turning out food that kept the room humming with appreciation. 
We tried as many dishes as we could, David declaring both the squid ink pasta and the walleye, the best he’d ever eaten.  I was quite taken with the beet salad and the scallops.    
The beet salad had tiny yellow, pink and red beets disks shaved raw, as well as cooked beet with different fresh cheeses and toasted hazelnuts with great dressing and pretty presentation.
Scallops on Chickpea Pancake
 
Scallops were large and perfectly seared on a chickpea pancake with an agresto (a pesto like sauce with almonds, walnuts some magic involved).  Usually served with ‘nduja sausage, the chef had to be consulted before they agreed to serve it pescatarian friendly.  I was glad he did.  I like to cook scallops but I would never bother with the chickpea pancake, which I really enjoyed and the agresto wouldn’t be easily duplicated.
 David had an artichoke flan that wasn’t a big hit for him but I tried to steal as much as I could.  Irresistible with the house made bread. 
The Squid Ink Pasta had fresh clams and mullet bottarga (sun dried mullet roe), briny and delicious. 
The absolutely best walleye ever was served aioli topped with red cabbage and crisp walleye.  Perfectly cooked and the cabbage and aioli were surprisingly complimentary.
We also had squash stuffed ravioli with sage butter and amaretti.   Similar to Feenie’s Cactus Club dish, it was very good but not as impressive as the other dishes.

We’re living on salad now.

Au Revoir Montreal