Before I went to Quebec for the winter carnival last week, I did some hunting around Chowhound, which has always served me well when I travel. This time, there was relatively scant information, so though I'm not a trip log kind of girl, this might be helpful to some people. We thought about going to the super-expensive classic tasting menu type places like Initiale or Legende, and would actually have liked to go to iX Bistro, but we didn't feel like spending that type of money (and didn't get a reservation at iX). Overall, we were really impressed with the vibe in the city with young entrepreneurial chefs producing stand-out food.
Day 1: Snack and drinks - Aux Anciennes Canadiens - really just a poutine stop. It was okay: flavorful gravy but greasy fries and the cheese curds were really large so the ratio of cheese to fry was way off.
Dinner - L'Affaire est Ketchup - did not know this was Quebecois slang (but now I do) for "it's all good", and it was. Chalkboard menu, delightfully explained by waiter - everything was "very juicy, very tender, very flavorful" but it was. We had the Rabbit (though the scallops sounded damn good too) and a cut of pork known as "spiderweb" which was amazing. They also don't give you a wine list, they just ask what kind of wine you like and bring you something that fits the description.
Day 2 - Lunch - Paillard - this cafeteria style restaurant was very busy with school groups but still had quick service. The pastries looked beautiful, but we had soup and sandwiches. The sandwiches were fine, nondescript, although the bread was very good. The mushroom soup was excellent. Good for when you want a quick bite and don't want to mess with table service.
Dinner - Le Renard et la Chouette - Excellent. You order at the counter, and a lot of the seating is family style. Menu in French only, and changes every day. The server was terrific - not fantastic with English, but earnest and generally conveyed everything we needed to know. Since many of the dish names are humorous, I had a little trouble with the idiomatic French, but she was good at explaining. We had a wonderful charcuterie to begin with (the same people own the Pied Bleu, a charcuterie in and of itself) which had three pates and three cheeses, all really nice. This was followed by a salad with really good (but a little too much) dressing and smoked duck and dried nicoise olives that were *amazing*. Finally we had a dish to share that was a comfort food delight of potatoes, cheese, caramelized onions, and bacon which we tried really hard to finish but couldn't.
Day 3 - Lunch - Bistro Sous la Forte. French onion soup for the husband was fine; wild boar and mushroom egg rolls were delicious. I had the Elk burger which I thought was really good. Husband had smoked meat sandwich that was essentially a pile of Canadian bacon on a roll. What could be bad?
Dinner - Chez Jules. I needed someplace I could easily make reservations on Open Table for latish because we were going to the parade and wanted to eat after. That being said, we were pretty tired (we normally retire early) and probably didn't get as much out of the meal as we might have. The foie gras was pressed and kind of came across as liverwurst, so pretty disappointing, and not enough bread to spread it on. The coquille St. Jacques was pretty good. The sole meuniere was actually very good, but by then, I was falling asleep in my meal. Overall an expensive but fairly classic French meal that doesn't really stand out.
Day 4 - Lunch - Le Petit Chateau - worst meal we had. Onion soup was almost entirely bread. Crepe was thick and tasteless. Poutine had flavorless greasy gravy and some weird kind of cheese (maybe swiss?) that was dropped all over the top in chunks and eventually melted in but not good.
Afternoon snack - Chez Ashton - after the bad lunch poutine, we had to have another go. This was definitely the best in class - fast food joint with crispy fries, appropriate amount of gravy and lots of medium to small cheese curds so that you get all three ingredients in every bite. Also best value by a long shot.
Dinner - Le Moine Echanson - another great chalkboard menu meal. The premise of this restaurant is that the owner/chef sources a bunch of organic wines and then creates a menu to complement them. They bring a choice of wines to the table and have you taste two or three before you commit. We had foie gras (also pressed but NOTHING like liverwurst) and cod fritters for starters. Both were excellent. I had mussels in this amazing cheese fondue that was incredibly rich and such a good idea. Husband had Alsatian tarte, also excellent. Too full for dessert, unfortunately, but they looked amazing.
Both Le Renard et la Chouette and Le Moine Echanson were recommended by one of the owners at L'affaire est Ketchup. There were about 5 other suggestions on his list. We will have to go back.
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