Cuisine et Dépendence opened about three years ago, the brainchild of Danielle Matte (the original owner of the much missed Club des Pins) and chef Jean-Paul Giroux. The L-shaped dining space is clean-lined and contemporary, with a wall of windows along the street forming the L’s base and a white painted brick wall the stem. There’s also a small terrace for apéros in back. The constantly changing menu’s writ large on a wide roll of white butcher paper hanging from a spool affixed to the wall. Light wood, green accents and a few dramatic lighting effects round out the décor. The table settings are modern: white napkins, large white plates, good stemware. The overall impression is chic but unpretentious and inviting.
The clean, contemporary look is echoed in the cooking. Definitely market-driven French but also Italian in its straightforwardness, its lack of adulteration, its insistence that ingredients taste mainly of themselves. As a result, it seems more healthful and less heavy than your standard bistro fare.
We were greeted with an amuse of rabbit rillettes on a crouton. Tasty.
For a starter we chose the Quebec asparagus and wild arugula salad with Parmesan shavings and three thin slices of house-cured capocolla. The asparagus were halved lengthwise, perfectly cooked and served warm. The capocolla was first-rate, the dressing ephemeral. Hard to imagine this being better.
The saddle of rabbit stuffed with chèvre was attractively presented and perfectly cooked -- the meat very moist -- but somewhat bland; the accompanying Israeli couscous flecked with bell pepper ended up stealing the spotlight. A bone-in veal tenderloin -- a large piece -- was, again, perfectly cooked. The mashed potatoes were good but what really made this dish sing was the sauce, which we guessed was based on the pan drippings and onion. Pure, sweet, natural and thankfully provided in copious quantities.
Desserts were a pleasing, minimally sweetened but ultimately unmemorable chocolate tart with a scoop of dense chantilly cream, and a long thin slice of a dryish financier with very little almond flavour but topped by an exceptionally delicious ball of nougat glacé. Coffee was decent.
The wine list was smaller than expected (about 20 wines of each colour) but serviceable, populated largely with private imports. Markups seem to average the standard 100%, though there were some exceptions: the Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape retails for $68 but is listed at $112; on the other hand, a 2005 (?) Château Yvonne Saumur blanc lists for $80 and change, while the 2004 can be had at the SAQ for around $27 (we wondered whether it was a different cuvée but we didn’t ask). About five whites were available by the glass (we didn’t inquire about reds) and the selection seemed to change as the evening progressed. We started with a tasty Tocai Firulano (a private import -- didn’t catch the name) and then Domaine de Mouscaillo’s impressive Chardonnay from Limoux. With our main courses, we enjoyed the Cuvée des Drilles from Domaine d’Escausses, a quaffable private-import red Gaillac at a reasonable $40.
Service was friendly and obliging.
It’s à la carte only in the evenings and prices were somewhat higher than I expected. Appetizers were mostly around $8 to $10, mains $25 to $30, dessert around $7 (going by memory here). Throw in some wine and before long you’re looking at a tab of $75 or $100. My dining companion summed it up thus: “I like but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back.” I can appreciate his point; C&D isn’t as adventurous or creative as some similarly priced places around town. Yet I have to say that the quality ingredients, precise cooking and pure flavours exert an appeal I find hard to resist. I’ve been positively haunted by that veal in onion gravy.
C&D also styles itself as a “comptoir prêt-à-manger.” This seems to take the form of a glass-doored freezer filled with a half-dozen or so main dishes in the $10 to $15 range, and various sides. The duck confit was adequate but outshone by the accompanying coco beans with root vegetables. The two veal cheeks were fork-tender and flavourful if not terribly filling, the celery root mash a nice backdrop. The cream of asparagus soup was enjoyable -- delicate and light. Some of the cream had been replaced by potato, which gave the soup a slightly grainy texture. Like the food in the restaurant, these were simple and well made albeit not particularly memorable and somewhat pricey for what you get.
4920 St-Laurent (near St-Joseph, just north of L'Espace GO)
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