Last weekend, Monsieur Snowpea and me took the train to Quebec City for a little R&R in a comfy hotel in the lower part of the old city.
We had no reservations for Friday night and we were hungry, so a quick perusal of nearby places on OpenTable revealed a few openings at Chez Boulay Bistro Boréal, a place we didn’t know but that seemed promising according to reviews on that site.
It turned out to be a very pleasant experience.
The space is modern-industrial, without being overly cold (the old style incandescent light bulbs everywhere helped). Dark colours, lots of metal and wood. Glassed in kitchen out back, where you can see the team working and admire the hanging sausages and dried hams. Noise levels grew as the evening progressed, but not unbearably. The place is actually well sound proofed because it seems we missed a noisy parade outside on rue Saint-Jean while we were engrossed in our meal.
Service was swift, professional and attentive. Bread and water were always replenished without asking. Olivier, an older Frenchman who seems to be the floor manager, was funny and charming. He quickly grasped my love of cocktails…. Chez Boulay’s menu is essentially articulated around northern foods – from wild meats to wildcrafted herbs, berries and other edibles. This is not Redzepi, but I think they are inspired by the same nordic sensibility.
I was not expecting an inspired cocktail menu, and so I was delighted to see they had some unusual offerings. Olivier explained they hired the Saint-Amour’s mixologist to design cocktails around a set theme. We started with a Quebec 75 (variant of the French 75, a personal favourite), which involved Ungava gin, elderberry cordial and a handful of elderberries that tumbled around in the sparking wine. Refreshing and something I will have to repeat at home. Don't ask me about the wine list: I didn't look.
For starters, we had the charcuterie plank for two, which included a small dish of marinated mushrooms, along with dried sausage, pork rillettes, some thinly sliced dried duck magret, and a generous portion of terrine. They also make a seafood ‘charcuteries’ plank and another with assorted cheeses.
We went for a second cocktail, which this time was a variant on a martini, and involved Ungava gin again, along with Lillet, rowan berry jelly and an orange twist. It was fragrant and perhaps a tad too sweet for my own tastebuds, but still very well done! I don't recall its name.
Our main was the cutely named ‘Cerf and Turf’, a dish involving lobster cooked sous-vide (sweet, tender, not rubbery at all) and a tender (!) medallion of venison, served with vegetables and a dark peppery sauce that included black beer. It was delicious and not a speck of sauce was left on the cast iron pans it was served in (we impolitely mopped up everything with bread).
Dessert is often a disappointment after a good meal, but we since we seemed to be on a roll (and were planning to burn some calories by cycling the next day), we ordered some. He had the wild berries nougat glacé with a coulis of chicoutai, while I ordered the tarte fine with berries and wild cherry (merisier) syrup. My small quibble would be that the crust on mine was tough, but the flavours of both desserts were so interesting and delicious as was the rest of a very satisfying meal.
I declare Chez Boulay my new favourite place in Quebec City.
Total was 175$ before tip, including booze.