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Reviewed December 28, 2003   »   32avenue.com   |   justin-cheung.com     

Chez L'épicier

311 St-Paul Est, Old Montréal, Québec
Sansfifi Mousse with Tahini Vinagrette | Among the most interesting amuse-gueule I've ever had - served on tray of chinese soup spoons - each person gets one spoon. Looked like a glob of mayo, but was incredibly light and very pleasant tasting on the salty side.

Wild Mushroom Mousse foie gras, Forum vinegar caramel candy and Empanadas stuffed with Perron Cheddar | $12. Absolute perfection of an appetizer. For $12 and such a small serving, I expected the world from it. And I was not the least bit disappointed. Definitely not for sharing, as my original intention was, not only because it's small, but there's no way I would want to share it with anyone since it was just too good. I would drive all the way back to Montreal for this.

Rosemary shortbread, soft white cheese, black olive cream, whipped roasted garlic, infused with Espelette pepper | $8. A comparatively tamed appetizer, meant more for the less adventurous and more sharing-plate type - it was still nonetheless very good. The spread was very light but rich and full of flavour. Above avergae appetizer.

Braised Boileau venison osso bucco, crispy vegetables ravioli with truffle butter, orange carrots and boiled onion rings | $28. The first thing that came to my head when I tasted it was: "really, really, really tender Chinese beef brisket" ("au lam"). Interesting plats principaux presentation in that it was served still on a giant bone. The chef really paid attention to detail, as even the garnishing vegetables were impressive and not just thrown on. Excellent dish overall, with a good healthy serving portion.

Medallion of bison tenderloin seared and studded with olives, pureed fingerling potatoes cooked in milk, chicken demi-glace, parsley oil and chives | $33. First thing Howard said about bison? "Tastes like chicken". Served filet mignon style, was equally as tender as the osso bucco and well worthy of an entree. Serving portion, however, was a little small, and garnishing vegetables were few in comparison to the osso bucco. Eric had to fill up on bread.

Four types of Creme Brulee | $12. Cafe Mocha, Grand Marnier, Vanilla and Chocolate Creme Brulee, served in Chinese tea cups. Very lightly toasted, just the way I like it. Fluffy and sweet without being overbearing, and the variety presented is nice to share and try different flavours. Excellent dessert, I was in creme brulee heaven.

Warm Chocolate Tart with Milk Froth, Truffled Honey and Ice Milk Stick | $14. It was more like a set of different desserts put together - the ice milk stick was an interesting concept, placed inside a shooter glass. The chocolate tart was incredible - chewy, not too sweet, and it just felt like it lasted forever. A+ dessert.

Conclusion: Absolutely amazing. The price and long wait for the food was exorbitant compared to normal restaurants, but this was no ordinary dining - the meal literally lasted 4 hours. Service was exceptional. The only complaint I could have was the main course meat was not as flamboyant as the rest of the meal was. The atmosphere was very pleasant and laid back, high class without being stuffy, which is why they were able to pull off both the exceptional ambience and exceptional social atmospheres. And Old Montreal is absolutely gorgeous late at night when it's covered with snow. Word of warning: not for the student budget. For a dinner of 13 people, the bill came to $850. For the mathematically deficient, that's about $65 per person. Of course, that's taking into account we ordered lots of San Pellegrino; but regardless, $65 is relatively low for the quality of eats. In Toronto, this would've translated to at least $100, which is why this restaurant was able to secure the exceptional value mark. And they let me take the menu home with me too! (which explains how I was able to list what we ate in such detail)

4.8

out of 5.0

noteworthy
ambience
creativity
service
social
taste
value


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