Vive la cui­sine Mon­tréalaise

DINE and Destinations - - MI QUESO ES SU QUESO - By Sara Wax­man

In Mon­treal, haute cui­sine is alive and well

“In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage” is the des­ig­na­tion given five years ago by UNESCO to French cui­sine.

Look around most ma­jor Cana­dian ci­ties and you will see that French haute cui­sine restau­rants have al­most dis­ap­peared. Left the build­ing. Gone AWOL. In ci­ties that boasted at least a dozen white table­cloth fine din­ing French restau­rants with at­ti­tudes and prices to match, to­day there are one or two lonely hold­outs.

Did the world’s most renowned cui­sine be­come too pre­dictable, too tired, too bor­ing? Ab­sol­u­ment pas!

Mon­treal has its own brand of soul food. It is the city of Chez la mère Michel, where the kitchen still pre­pares foie gras in the tra­di­tional way, and on the other side of the spec­trum, Ce­line Dion’s favourite, St. Hu­bert BBQ, where chick­ens get a lot of re­spect. Le smoked meat is still a star player, and bagels are the manna of the masses.

Restau­rant Euro­pea spear­heads the culi­nary French Rev­o­lu­tion in the city. En­joy the unique hos­pi­tal­ity of Jerome Fer­rer and Fran­cois Chartier even once and you will un­der­stand why this Re­lais & Chateaux es­tab­lish­ment has been rec­og­nized as Best in the World on sev­eral fronts.

A cup of lob­ster cap­puc­cino with truf­fle puree shows off the skill of the kitchen, and then they prove them­selves with Maple bark-stewed, panseared foie gras, caramelized on a river stone with ice wine. God is in the de­tails. They go un­de­scribed and un­listed on the menu. The witty and whim­si­cal sur­prises of be­tween-course fan­tasies, and the pa­rade of sweet spec­tac­u­lars at the end cre­ate a breath­tak­ing din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. To tell-all would give away the de­li­cious plot.

Cus­tomer clam­our for a sib­ling resto was an­swered with the open­ing of Birks Café par Euro­pea. On the mez­za­nine of this leg­endary jew­ellery em­po­rium, el­e­gance pre­vails at lunch or af­ter­noon tea.

Is there any­one more in­flu­en­tial than the “Meilleur Ou­vrier de France,” Chris­tian Faure (at left) He has opened Mai­son Chris­tian Faure, his school for pas­try chefs in Place d’armes on four floors that en­com­pass a pas­try shop, a sa­lon de the, the school, where the pas­tries at left were cre­ated, as well as event and demo space. Clas­sic tartines, sal­ads, Quiche Lor­raine may sound ho-hum, but the vi­su­als are like de­lec­ta­ble paint­ings, and then, of course, the desserts from the mas­ter him­self. Au­then­tic, beau­ti­ful and de­li­cious dishes. If you can­not tear your­self away, reg­is­ter for a pas­try class at the school.

The oldest inn in North Amer­ica, Au­berge Saint-gabriel, built in 1754 out of solid Que­bec stone, is the scene of one of the city’s most mod­ern kitchens. You won’t find old-fash­ioned cui­sine in this lov­ingly re­stored es­tab­lish­ment. What can we say when we see a huge dinosaur spine dec­o­rat­ing the bar? Sur­prises are ev­ery­where, es­pe­cially in the cui­sine of tal­ented Eric Gonzalez. The menu changes con­tin­u­ously, as one would ex­pect from a chef whose man­date it is to serve the finest and fresh­est avail­able. My rec­om­men­da­tion to se­ri­ous chefs in Canada would be to make a pil­grim­age to Mon­treal—and see what Cana­dian cui­sine is all about.

It is with good rea­son that Sun­day Brunch is one of the most pop­u­lar so­cial din­ing ex­cur­sions of the week. No rush to get back to work, cell phones off, com­put­ers shut down, we want to re­lax and en­joy. In search of el­e­gance, I be­lieve that the most beau­ti­ful brunch in Mon­treal is served at Renoir in the Sof­i­tel. Chef Olivier Per­ret is jus­ti­fi­ably proud of his fresh in­gre­di­ents and pre­pares them with fi­nesse. With light pour­ing in from the wall of win­dows, we can see our flaw­less dishes of just-cut fruits, eggs done per­fectly to our lik­ing and the tiny sub­lim­i­nal de­tails that give us such plea­sure in din­ing.

From this lo­ca­tion, at the foot of Mount Royal Park, the city is open for us to ex­plore: The Mon­treal Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Mcgill Univer­sity and the unique bou­tiques and shops of mid-town. Strolling and ab­sorb­ing the dis­tinc­tive Mon­treal style is the ac­tiv­ity du jour.

Au­berge Saint-gabriel, the old­est inn in North Amer­ica

Lho­tel’s LOVE sculp­ture by Robert In­di­ana

Beau­ti­ful brunch at Renoir in the Sof­i­tel


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