One thing I love about Montréal is the fact that its inhabitants like to eat out late, like me. I’ve had trouble with this during my years living in Boston, with its early curfews. Montréal is a whole other story.
We knew we were going to arrive in the city quite late, especially since Keith, Melissa and I didn’t leave Boston until around 3.30, after which we promptly sat in traffic. I had been nervous the whole ride up, since we had planned to meet my friend Joann and were almost certain to be delayed. Luckily, I had made 10.30 dinner reservations at Leméac in the Outremont neighborhood; we specifically chose the bistrot because of its unique bargain: 22H/22$. Starting at ten o’clock, one appetizer and one entreé is (off a special menu) costs $22.00 (CAD). Even if the exchange rate hadn’t been in our favor, it’s still a ridiculous bargain — especially for the sheer quality of the food.
I know how annoyingly indecisive I can be when it comes to selecting my meals, but you know what? I’ve got to say that I made the most brilliant decision by singling out as my starter the ragoût of escargots, portabella and tomato confit in a basil butter sauce. Before I even moved the first forkful to my mouth, I knew that this was the perfect choice. The smell alone — now I know what the cartoon cat feels like. You know, the vagrant one who smells, à la distance, a freshly-baked pie resting on a window sill? Then its aroma manifests itself into a tantalizing animated hand that picks up the cat by his tail and floats him over to the pie. I would happily let this ragoût transport me by the tail, if such a thing were possible. But, since it’s not, I’ll just try to describe it the best I can.
This dish tasted like a farewell to summer, with the tomatoes’ sunny sweetness and the snails’ nuttiness, a flavor that I couldn’t help but think had developed during their time in the earth. The butter sauce was more like an airy foam, adding another hint of late summer to the plate. What’s interesting is how intensely satisfying the short pipes of pasta were; I’m not embarrassed to say that I followed each one around my plate.
Selecting my entreé was even easier than my appetizer, because as soon as I saw it on the menu, I had to have the herb-crusted calf liver. I was expecting a dainty presentation, maybe a fanned out arrangement of slivered petals of liver; instead I received a honking wedge that had been deposited solidly atop a mound of potato pureé and caramelized onions. It tasted as bold as it looked, and twice as rich.
One of the nicest things about Leméac, aside from its menu, is the heated outdoor patio. When the weather turns crisp, the restaurant encloses the stone-floored patio in a tent, and that is where we four sat. While I couldn’t legitimately describe any part of Leméac as quiet, I can certainly describe its patio as quieter, and much cozier. No matter how much I might love the fall, I wouldn’t mind putting it off a while longer for a few more moments underneath that tent with a plateful of escargots in front of me.
1045 Avenue Laurier Ouest
Montréal, QC H2V