Lunch at LExpress:
LExpress is said to be Montreals most popular bistro, and I can see why; this is a
no-nonsense restaurant dedicated to basic French comfort food such as steak/frites, confit de
canard etc. Located on Saint-Denis, a street with the look and feel of Newbury Street in Boston, the restaurant has an unadorned ambiance similar to that of Brassiere Balzar of Paris; high ceilings, small tables packed close together and a an attentive wait staff offering quick, responsive service. For singles, the long bar is set up for food service; on our visit, the bar was packed with
Our most important decision was the wine choice; our server, Suzanne, steered me away
for the expensive Sancerre I was considering and recommended the reasonably priced 2002 La Poussie Sancerre (43$); a bit fruity but with a clean and dry aftertaste. M.E. started with Artichaut Breton, served over a bed of mixed greens. The mustard vinaigrette sauce was well balanced; simple and perfect. I had the fish soup accompanied by garlicky rouille and cheese covered, toasted French bread pieces (these croutons were cold and had been prepared some time before...no big deal). The soup was very good. M.E. then had the quiche of the day; comprised
of ham, Swiss cheese and minced sweet onion flavored with nutmeg and served over mixedgreens. The crisp crust and light-as-air filling was pronounced a Best Ever! I had the Dore Amandine; the fish was grilled and covered with a creamy, lemon butter sauce accompanied by steamed pea pods and zucchini. We then shared a huge Baba au Rhum which we couldnt finish.
As we were finishing our meal I looked around the room and saw my sin of omission; every table seemed to have a least one bowl of the famous LExpress pommes frites prominently displayed; they looked so good! Next time! Our total bill came to 112$, before tip, including wine and Badoit. JP/M.E.
Lunch at Toque:
We almost skipped Toque due to all the snide commentary recently found on the internet; that would have been a big mistake. Based on our one meal, Toque just has to rate as one of the top restaurant experiences in North America. Only the service, and lack of fine touches, such as the absence of an amuse bouche presentation, would take the restaurant out of the vaunted Michelin ** or *** levels.
We started with Kir Royale; and then ordered two half-bottles of wine, a 1999 Moutonne Chablis Grand Cru (44$) and a 2001 Le Graviere 1er Cru Santenay (41$); both were recommended by our server and were excellent. M.E. started with a Portabella mushroom dish; the title tells all, Portabella marine au vinaigre de chardonnay et grille, grecque de legumes au citron confit, fromage de chevre Tournevent acidule et sesame roti. I had the grilled trout
Truite de Tasmanie grillee et poelee de girolles du Quebec, tombee darroche de mer et puree dail confit. Each of the dishes was served with two or three complex sauces; the plate presentation was colorful and enticing. M.E. then had the sea bassBar raye sauvage, puree de chou fleur jaune, tomate cerise, jeune poireau, carotte, pleurotes eriges et beurre de homard and I had the pork & ham steakSelle de cochonnet rotie et jambon braise, puree doignon blanc, Betterave jaune et morilles, haricots verts et baies damelanchier. We finished with a cheese assortment of camembert, allegretto, tomme joyeux and rassembleu accompanied by a Warres
Otima tawny port.
Ingredients were of the highest quality and freshness. The style is certainly nouvelle, yet
everything makes sense; definitely not the off the wall nouvelle cuisine found in so many Parisian restaurants today. We are still debating which dish was the best. A return visit is required. Total bill, excluding tip but including beverages, was 275$. JP/M.E.