(Note: photos from this post taken by Don)
9pm. Kitchen Galerie. Dinner with Don.
The concept: three chefs run the entire show, front and back of the house, cook, clean, serve and everything else in between. Ingredients: all straight from Marché Jean-Talon just down the street. The food: simultaneously wildly indulgent, yet honest and satisfying. As Don noted, “this is they kind of food I could eat every night, though in smaller portions.”
Jean-Philippe, one of the three chefs, welcomed and made us instantly feel at home as he sat us at the last open two-top. He introduced himself and presented a menu with far too many temptations – dishwasher foie gras, anyone?…and let us off to debate the options. It wasn’t too hard to decide as our hearts were fixated on the côte de boeuf, which we “super-sized” (“like you say in the States,” Jean-Philippe explained) with black truffles and sear foie gras. He started us with an tempting amuse – a bite of lamb terrine, surely a sign of the night to come.
The terrine was followed by a dozen oysters, red wine mignonette. A basket of crusty baguette and dishes of soft salted butter. We slipped the oysters one after another, while observing the kitchen and diners, both exuding quiet energy, tamed excitement – concentration in the kitchen, appreciation at the table.
In the lull between oysters and the main, the chef arrived at our table with two petite red casserole dishes. He set them on the table and lifted the lids to reveal a little treat of “risotto aux trompettes des morts, épinards, huile de truffle”. We tucked away the risotto in marveled silence, creamy and toothsome with an abundance of trumpet mushrooms, gentle shavings of parmesan reggiano sharply melting into each bite.
It was at this point in the dinner when our afternoon eats at bakeries and markets settled in and I realized that I was indeed, quite full. However the given circumstances demanded an order of mind over matter, or rather, mind over tummy, so I held my breath and anticipated the côte de boeuf with a hearty appetite.
The dish was meant two, and we knew it would be large. But we were in for a true shock when the chef proudly walked over, both hands occupied by an enormous white dish. Three feet long and one foot across, the dish took up the entire table. He announced, “côte de boeuf rôtie, jus à l’estragon et légumes racines avec foie gras poêle, truffle noire,” and we dived in. Where to begin? Seared foie gras teasingly layered over the côte de boeuf, an intoxicating rich seal of fatty bliss? Or, perhaps the generous shavings of crispy black truffles – the very first I’ve ever tasted. Why we might just to decide to break into the beef itself, ridiculously tender with crackly charred edges, mounded upon a buttery puree of potatoes innocently soaking up the savoury drippings. Baby carrots, string beans and yellow beets, fresh from Marché Jean-Talon, were simply delicious on their own, but made all the more with a pour of the beef jus.
We ate and ate, until we could eat no more. Then we just one last bit: truffle, foie gras, and beef all locked in one heady bite. Polished off with a round of potatoes, and a crisp baby carrot, stem and all. Last, a pour of the deep red wine he had selected for the evening – the entire bottle sipped away far too quickly.
And dessert? Oh goodness yes, you bet there was dessert. If you’re going to all the way, may as well indulge to the very end, closing on a sweet note. The menu options were simple and unfussy, exactly what this type of meal commands. For Don, crème brulee, and for myself, a chocolate brownie.
Towering, with a thin crackly surface, the warm brownie arrived crowned with vanilla whipped cream and a single sweet strawberry – the first of many I hope to indulge in this summer. The real highlight was a generous smear of gooey hot fudge, dark and impossibly rich, the texture edging into pudding territory. And with that, we called it a night with glasses of sauterne, and wound back out into the dark, four hours later.
60 rue Jean-Talon Est
Montréal, QC H2R 1S5, Canada