Monday, November 13, 2006

Montreal 1 - Cheese Museum and L'Atelier

First full day in Montreal and the focus was on dinner. Why not? Friends had driven 5 hours from Toronto to join in this reunion of classmates. Granted there were only really 4 of us who were classmates but with assorted friends and family, we were nine and we headed off to a new-ish restaurant in town, L'Atelier, which was described as French food, tapas style.

However, first we gathered at my lovely hostess' gorgeous condo for some cheese and wine. I jumped at the chance to go shopping for the cheese and she took me to a cheese shop described as having a museum-like feel, Yannick's.

It was like I had died and gone to cheese heaven. Two servers (of which one was Yannick) were standing behind a large counter behind which were heavy wood framed glass cabinets full of cheese. In front of them were all the specialist cheese on display and cut for tastings. It was mouth watering. After a short debate we settled on the Comte Fort des Rousse (aged 24 months, from France/Jura, a raw cow's milk), a Brie aux Truffes, a pungent and delicious Lavort from France/Auverned which was made from a raw milk of sheep, and one which the boy found hard to resist, a layered local blue cheese with sheep's milk cheese. Accompanied by wine, rillettes au lapin (rabbit), some saucisson sec, and a baguette, we found it hard not to stuff ourselves before dinner.

At L'Atelier, introductions made and kisses distributed, we looked at the menu, which consisted of approximately 24 dishes without categorization. Our server recommend that we choose 2 to 3 dishes per person as they were quite small but to be careful not to choose 3 meat dishes, which would be too heavy. The concept was small degustations (tasting) of dishes rather than a full three course meal.

We started with an amuse-guele of a fresh raw shrimp marinated ceviche style with a mango sauce. It was nice but the raw onions used were quite sharp and overpowering and the shrimp could have been slightly fresher.

As a group, we tried a mix of the following:

Black cod with morels

Horse tartare – quite shocking and different to all of us but everyone was feeling quite adventurous and when it came, everyone except for 2 people had a taste, which was impressive. One friend loved it, the texture of the lean meat and the seasonings while another found it overpowered by the raw onion yet again. I agree that it would have worked better with a milder onion.

Black cod with morels

Magret de canard (duck) tartare – even more overpowered by the seasonings than the horse

Pork – delicious, soft and delectable (sorry, no pic)

Veal cheek in foie gras sauce served on spaetzle with grilled artichokes- The standout dish which had everyone scraping the dish hoping for more was the veal cheek which was outstanding, melting in your mouth and with a sauce so rich and delectable, it was hard to resist not licking the plate. We had tried to order seconds but it had sold out.

Seared tuna and bison – interesting but quite dry

Deer with a monkfish and butternut squash puree – beautiful pieces of deer, slowly braised in a dark, rich sauce, this meat was deliciously meaty yet slightly gamey and was incredibly tender.

Lamb ravioli topped with a giant seared scallop – this was a single fried ravioli stuffed with lamb topped by the scallop. Unfortunately, the scallop, perfectly cooked so that it retained slightly raw in the middle, had soaked through the ravioli and made it quite mushy.

Poutine – this was a bit of a disappointment and consisted of fried potato chunks tossed in sauce, topped with sheets of parmesan.

As you can tell, nothing escaped our appetite. We consumed a total of 7 types of meat including poultry and not including seafood.

It was all delicious and a revelation to everyone around the table. Everyone enjoyed the experience and for this group of usually “safe-eaters”, I was impressed at how open everyone was to trying something new and different.

Highly recommend it and loved the fact that it was served as small plates which were not too filling but substantial enough to be of value.

Cost of each dish ranged from $9 to $26 (all prices in Canadian dollars)

Fromagerie d'exeption
1218, rue Bernard
H2V 1V6
Tel: 514 279 9376

5308 St Laurent
Montreal, Quebec
Tel: 514 273 7442

No comments: