This is the first post in the Our Neighbors to the North - Celebrating Canada! series. This is also day 29 of the 31 Posts in 31 Days Challenge (Almost done!!!)Usually when I visit Montreal I try to arrange meals with my Canadian colleagues or Canadian associates I know in the area. This has generally worked out well. My local colleagues know the city and many of them love food and thus are able to share with me some of their favorite places.
However, on one of my recent trips, I ended up having one free evening by myself. After a significant amount of research, I chose La Porte, which had excellent reviews as well as the advantage of being a 20-minute walk from my hotel right near McGill University.
La Porte is a family owned restaurant from Thierry and Pascale Rouyé, a French couple who closed their high-end restaurant in Brittany (Bretagne) to move to Montreal. They opened La Porte in their new home city, with Thierry and his son Maxime cooking in the back while Pascale ran the front of the house.
There are many different options on the menu at La Porte. The Menu Plasir is a 5-course tasting for $65 CAN while the Menu Gourmande is a 7-course tasting for $85 CAN. Since I was dining alone (and Bryan wasn't around to pressure us to get the larger tasting), I went with the 5-course. I could have also gone a la carte, although it's not as good of a "deal." Even just two courses on the a la carte menu costs close to $60 CAN, which makes the 5-course a much better value.
Plus, I love variety and would much prefer to eat more small bites than a few big bites.
My first course, the amuse, was an Oyster and Scallops Tatare served in a parsnip velouté and decorated with parsnip chips. I was blown away by the flavors of this dish. It was delicate, subtle, and sweet. The seafood was super fresh and had that sweetness you associate with really high quality scallops. There was a slight smokiness from the chip that reminded me of bacon. The dish was phenomenal and a great way to start the meal.
The next course was the Seared Big Scallop, which came with a blood pudding purée, apple crisps, a celery purée, diced apples, almonds, and an apple cider foam. The blood pudding purée had a really deep, rich flavor that was nicely offset by the bright and crispy apples and celery. The scallop was warm and perfectly cooked. I also really liked textural contrast of the crunchy almonds. All in all, it was a well-conceived and well-executed dish.
The final savory course was the Cod infused in Milk. served over a mashed potato "cream" filled with anchovies and olives, roasted grape tomatoes, watercress foam, and these tiny little cannoli-like bites that were actually rolled up potato chips filled with milk soufflé (so cute!).
The potato mash had really strong umami flavors from the anchovies and the salty olives. The delicate potato chips cylinders became soft fast, though perhaps it was my fault for taking a bit of time to photograph the food before tasting it! In any event, the mini potato chip milk soufflé "cannoli" were still tasty despite their softer texture. The cod was the only part that was a bit disappointing because it was cooked slightly more than I would have preferred.
Finally, I couldn't help but order the Kouign Amman for dessert. After all the rage over this dessert in the States (and because I knew it was a signature dish here), I had to get it.
This particular one was served on top of a salted caramel base, really soft apples, and a buttermilk ice cream. The whole dessert was interspersed with a cider foam. It was flaky, butter, and overall excellent. I enjoyed every single bite.
The final parting mignardises included a salted caramel macacron, which was nice and chewy with good flavors, an apricot paté fruit, and a lovely dark chocolate square with lime and salt (yum!).
It was an excellent meal. The service was great and the food was very, very good. I almost felt like I was in Europe. Around me, I could hear a mix of languages: French at that table; English at another. I even though I might have heard some German, though I wasn't sure.
Typically, I hate eating alone at nice restaurants. However, because I was in such a food city I felt compelled to take advantage of what this city has to offer. I would have felt terrible if I had just ordered room service in my hotel and wasted the night away. Thankfully, the staff took really good care of me.
They gave me a table where I could sort of sit off in the corner and enjoy the gorgeous space around me. It became a totally fine place at which to dine alone, and I felt perfectly comfortable.
I'm so glad I did it, because this meal turned out to be one of the best meals I had on that particular business trip.
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