e had difficulty getting reservations at this top-of-the-line restaurant in Old Montreal which opened in January 2005. It reminded me of a piece by Dave Barry from In Search of Excellence that went like this:
This striving for excellence extends into people's personal lives as well. When '80s people buy something, they buy the best one, as determined by (1) price and (2) lack of availability. Eighties people buy imported dental floss. They buy gourmet baking soda. If an '80s couple goes to a restaurant where they have made a reservation three weeks in advance, and they are informed that their table is available, they stalk out immediately, because they know it is not an excellent restaurant. If it were, it would have an enormous crowd of excellence-oriented people like themselves waiting, their beepers going off like crickets in the night. An excellent restaurant wouldn't have a table ready immediately for anybody below the rank of Liza Minnelli.
The three of us, being the excellence-oriented people we are,
got down to business immediately: the wine! Our first choice, a Charles Hours Jurancon Sec ($46) was too acidic. It was neither off, nor corked, nor otherwise spoiled – it was just too acidic for our taste. No problem – we were immediately offered a replacement at no extra cost, a great dry white chardonnay from Mâcon Bussières, Domaine La Sarazinière, Cuvée Claude Seigneuret 2003 ($41). In my modest dining experience, no restaurant has ever taken a wine back just because the taste was not as I expected. Many years ago at a local Spanish restaurant, my Parisian friend sent a wine back to the kitchen claiming that it had traveled. To which the waiter replied: Of course, how did you think it got here from France? It's a jungle out there, but not at Le Club.
The service remained friendly and of the highest standard throughout the evening.
Our second pleasant surprise was the bottled water. Bottled bubbles are the new "in" thing. The Chateldon water from the Auvergne carries the picture of Louis XIV and the date of 1650. It is said that it was the personal water of king Louis XIV. Some have refuted that claim by pointing out that the Chateldon source was only discovered in 1774. Nevertheless, it is known to be beneficial for people suffering from skin diseases and digestive disorders. In other words, Restospy territory.
For me, this was the night of the pig. I started with a juicilicious risotto of braised piglet ($8). This was followed by kurobuta, black Japanese pig, made two ways (longe et flanc), with baked potatoes ($27). This is the best and most tender pork anywhere, renowned for its marbled texture and superior taste. The kurobuta is originally from England and emigrated to Japan in the 19th century on a diplomatic visa.
But wait, it gets even better. The main courses at the Club have at least one marked costaud. Costaud is a French word meaning for hungry lumberjacks just back from the Yukon. Today it was Guinea hen (pintade) with an apple and Porto sauce ($23). I hope that this costaud thing catches on in other restaurants.
My women checked out the seafood. One started with scallops and fennel ($12), four bite-sized delicacies. That was followed by another winner, the grilled swordfish with a vinaigrette and truffle sauce ($26). I will say no more. This is as good as it gets in Old Montreal.
Among the seafood appetizers, noteworthy are the oysters (twelve for $33) and the caviar: one ounce of osetra for $99 and one ounce of beluga for $144. A good sneeze or a healthy Chateldon burp can cost you $288.
Woman number two ate a moron. To be precise, she ordered a morone saxatilis, also known as a striped bass, the main fish off the Atlantic coasts of Canada and the United States. Some live up to 30 years to end up at Le Club Chasse et Pêche on top of a pile of white asparagus and sorrel for $25. Judging from her reaction, it was a morone exceptionalis.
The desserts were not as extraordinary as the wonderful fare we enjoyed earlier in the evening. They were all smorgasbords of sweet things, following the present fashion in Montreal. To make me happy, give me one item, done to perfection. Preferably one large item. How about a canard flottant version of îles flottantes, with a huge white duck paddling on a sea of crême anglaise? Would make sense in a hunting club.
A memorable dining experience. A shot of Poire Williams, a quick single-notch belt adjustment, one last Louis XIV burp, and off we went, $217.98 lighter. – Reviewed by RestoSpy (Mar/07)