Although we ate wonderful food in Montreal, two restaurants stood out among the pack. They both had french flair to them. Both were unpredentenditous in appearance and atmosphere; wooden tables, unmatched chairs, with a small visible kitchen. No paper menus here, just a chalk board with a hand written menu with today’s tasty delights written in french, carefully scripted on the board. But from this point the two restaurants diverge. Both take you down a path of culinary delights, but how they get you there is quite different.
Our first experience was at Le Renard et la Choeuette. We would describe the menu that evening as comfort food you wish your french grandmother would have cooked for you. My sister and I decided on the Gratin de Chouflueur (cauliflower au gratin) and the Cassoulet de Carnard (duck). You may wonder what can be so exciting about cauliflower and melted cheese? But this is not ordinarily dressed cauliflower, it comes to the table in a seasoned cast iron pan with lightly brown roasted cauliflower and the smell of the pungent melted cheese. The cheese either, goat or sheep, added a complementary flavor to the nuttiness of the roasted cauliflower. The hot cast iron pan kept the cheese melted and the flourettes hot while you dip them in the melted cheese .. oh so good!!
Now for the cassoulet. It arrived at the table in a large casserole dish bubbling hot with beans, duck pieces and sausages. It was supposed to be a dish for two but frankly we thought it could easily had feed three. The duck was served three ways. I love the fact that the duck breast was cooked separate and served medium rare, my only complaint was the skin could have been a bit crispier. The duck legs and meat were very tender and in combination with the beans. Everything just melted in your mouth with a savory tomato goodness. The very best part was the in-house made duck sausages, the delicate bundle of duck meat and flavoring just dissolved in your mouth leaving you wanting more. We were disappointed there was only one sausage in the cassoulet as we craved at least another. As good as it was, we could not finish it, and frankly had no room for dessert. As it happened, on my way to the ladies room, the owner of the establishment was sitting at the bar. I mentioned how much I enjoyed the food. He sent over a special created desert with wine to top off the meal. As there is always room for dessert, we certainly enjoyed it.
L’affaire Est Ketchup our second culinary adventure was quite a different surprise.!!
The restaurant was a small storefront space with a few tables. The menu was again written on a chalkboard in french with just a few choice items. But what a few items they where!! Culinary delights created in a open kitchen. To our amazement, on a tiny electric stove. We were lucky enough to taste some of the best sweetbreads we have ever tasted, The down-side was there were not enough of them they were that good. Then we shared the pork dish which can only be described as a gourmet’s delight. The tables are very close togethers and made rapid friends with the folks sitting next to us. We ended up tasting each others dishes giving us even more heavenly bites. Dee even got up a did a dance with our new friends and a fun evening was had by all.
So we recommend L’affaire Est Ketchup for a real gourmet experience in an unpretentious environment.