"I'm kissing the girls first and answering the phones later" so says Dominic Laflamme of Le Quarter Général who is busy farewelling a large table of delighted guests who have just finished dining.
Chef Olivier Racicot on left
BYO wine is commonplace in Australia but here in Montreal it is a relatively new concept and it's one that obviously delights customers as they are not only able to cut down on alcohol costs, there is also no corkage fee. At Le Quartier General four delicious courses will cost you a mere $40 per person- no wonder it is full! The room has a large exposed pipe, painting and the menu appears on the chalkboard. Incredibly there are only two chefs in the kitchen cooking up a storm for diners. There's the handsome and very friendly Olivier Racicot.
_Confit of tomato soup (included with main price)
The waiter looking after us is friendly and asks if we would like some recommendations. Since I'm kind of blind without my glasses I gratefully accept. It's rather warm in here so I'm very glad when we start with a cold confit of tomato soup. The true tomato flavour shines through in this creamy textured soup which actually has no cream in it. There is a swirl of olive oil and smoked paprika which gives it a bit of mystery.
Salad (included with main price)
The salad comes with a stripe of balsamic glaze across the plate. It looks simple and tastes simple but that's really the beauty of it. It's dressed in a creamy dressing that tastes faintly of fennel.
_Milk fed suckling piglet on quinoa salad $10
You know I love my pork and this milk fed suckling pig is tender and comes inside a thin pastry outer much like a spring roll which is deep fried and crunchy. It sits on a quinoa salad which is lovely and gives it a slight crunch. The only thing I wished for was a bit of fat in the pork like the lovely slightly fatty flank. Again I am floored by the prices for the quality of the food here in Montreal!
Grilled octopus $10
Even though I liked the previous dish, I loved this one even more. From on top the grilled octopus comes out looking like a rectangular piece of fish. Cutting into it it's not quite as tender as calamari but when you're chewing it it never tastes tough or chewy. It's paired with a soya bean and Lebanese cucumber salad and a goat's cheese yogurt which is divine and it is finished off with a lightly flavoured parsley oil. The freshness of the salad pairs perfectly with the simple grilled octopus.
_U12 scallops in barley risotto $27
What are U12 scallops you might ask as I did? They are, as you might be able to see, absolutely humungous scallops and there are 12 of these scallops to the pound. And since we had six of these gorgeous specimens on the table, I just realised that we have come across 1/4 of a pound of juicy, creamy , absolutely divine scallops. And we're in a bistro in Montreal where we will pay a total of $40 for 4 courses. This is some sort of crazy fabulous! OK I didn't much go for the mushroom barley risotto, it was probably a bit too earthy for me but the oyster mushroom on top and the scallops, did I mention there were six of the fattest, best scallops I've ever had?
_Quebec Veal Chop $29
I was a bit prejudiced I must admit. It was hot today at 35 degrees, 42 counting the humidex rating (both humidity and temperature) so the last thing I wanted was a big hunk o' meat. I spied the table next to us getting exactly the same dishes as we were only five minutes behind so I saw this monster sized veal chop and silently said a prayer for the hungry husband. However I was wrong and it ends up being one of the highlights. The veal chop was topped with a disc of hazelnut butter and roasted parsnips and underneath it lay more parsnips and a parsnip puree. The veal was tender and pink inside and the nutty hazelnut butter was an unusual addition but one that worked very well.
The parsnips however are a thing of wonder. Parsnips are usually are not my favourite vegetable. They've got that strong flavour that just smells odd to me and whilst I won't chuck it out, I prefer other vegetables. Here though they are devoid completely of that strong parsnip flavour and they are sweet and smell like vanilla. In fact I need to ask if this is actually a parsnip puree. The waiter, having been asked this question by other customers confirms that this wondrous parsnip puree has not a jot of vanilla added at all, just parsnips and cream. Mouth open in wonderment I shut it so I don't catch flies and vow to research parsnips in Montreal. PhD material this ;)
Quebec Berries with lemon granita $5.60
The dessert menu resembles France and all over with cheesecake, chocolate marquise, apple crumble and other goodies but I am enticed by the current berry season and order the berry salad with lemon granita. The berries are lovely and sweet and they sit in a sweet syrup. The lemon granita is quite sour which can be a bit too much on its own but once it is melted into the syrup it adds another flavour dimension to the berries.
The frozen pistachio nougat is sweet and refreshing in the heat (by the way, it seems most Montreal restaurants don't have air conditioning, it's probably because there is just on week in the year that they really need it and heating is the main concern). It comes with a sweet, thick peach sauce and a sprinkling of crunchy homemade granola and a berry sauce.
We're sure going to miss Montreal something silly with food like this. But Dear Reader, guess where we're off to next?
_NQN travelled to and explored Canada as a guest of Tourism Canada.
Le Quartier Général
1251 rue Gilford, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Tel: +1 (514) 658-1839