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A REVIEW OF CHEZ L’ÉPICIER

January 2, 2011
Grain fed veal chop, all dressed fingerlink, asparagus au gratin and prosciutto chip

The food-porn is at the end

I was invited to a restaurant for the holidays, having zero knowledge of it prior to setting foot inside. I had heard some murmurs of it but nothing solid. Chez L’Épicier (The Grocery Store in French) looks like a very upscale grocery store with canned goods, oil bottles and such all set in a charming Old Montreal where the old bricks and rock walls of the historical site give it its rustic elegance. Beautifully lit in subdued light, the spacious restaurant says welcome before the greeter can.

The service staff so well coiffed, polite and elegant gave me fear for a pretentious dining experience, which I dislike. I can’t stand art-food and refuse to pay the overpriced bill that comes with it. But the prices are fair for the quality of food to be eaten and I didn’t hold back on ordering my desired plates for fear of paying too much.

Right out of the ballpark, I spot foie-gras on the menu as an appetizer. I can’t resist foie-gras, it’s the ultimate food-stuff I can think of. Life without foie-gras is pretty meaningless, that’s how much I love it. But I love it well prepared. Having eaten the best foie-gras on this planet at Le Pied de Cochon, the bar is set stratospherically high. Chez L’Épicier did not disappoint. At one point I contemplated whether Chez L’Épicier beat out Le Pied de Cochon, but the texture made it lose out to Le Pied de Cochon. But don’t get me wrong. This awesome perfectly seared foie-gras server on a croissant pastry and top with duck pâté was sublime. Serving it in a tiny cast-iron pan was a presentation coup that rendered it even more appetizing. There were expressed regrets at the table for not having chosen the foie-gras once it was presented.

Now the problem with foie-gras when well prepared is that it can easily ruin the rest of the meal. Foie-gras is like having sex with twins, pretty hard to top. I’ve come to accept defeat in these cases. With a few exceptions, the main-dish never satisfies… once again I am supremely surprised by the main dish: Grain fed veal chop, all dressed fingerling potatoes, asparagus au gratin and prosciutto chip. Now I was somewhat disappointed by the over-crunchy-not-so-al-dente asparagus (Also white asparagus is prettier, but doesn’t taste as good as the green variety) but the lardon-lace gratin was good, really good. Someone says fingerling potatoes and I say “Yes Please!”, enough on that, they were perfect. Same for the crunchy prosciutto. But the piece de resistance, the veal chop, was quite possibly the veal I’ve ever had in my life. I had never considered veal served as a 1 inch thick chop. I normally eat meat rare, but the chef suggests serving medium-rare. Good enough I can play along though there are only 3 possible cooking degrees with meat, rare, medium and the yucky well-done. Everything in between is basically a crap-shoot that depends on the cook’s feel and attention, but I digress. Well it was perfect and the taste exponentially above my expectations, if there is such a thing. Had I had more money and stomach space to spare I would have easily gone for another mind-blowing veal chop.

For desert I jumped so quickly at the thought of eating delicious soufflé (a rarity in restaurants these days) that I completely glanced over the word ICED. I was disappointed in not getting a traditional soufflé; however the taste of the homemade ice-cream and its toppings made me quickly forget. I almost didn’t eat the fennel Madeleine, but thankfully I went for a taste anyway and it was amazing. I also ordered a tiny butterscotch-banana macaroon, so sweet you’ll reach for insulin but small enough not to burn your palate.

This is my favourite way of going into a new restaurant, blind. Expectations easily lead to disappointment. Disappointed I was not, in fact it was an experience I will not soon forget and hope to relive.  Service was slow, but I’m told they were short on staff for the unexpected amount of clients on a date so soon after Christmas, which probably explains why some of the menu items were either no longer available or some ingredients were modified. This was not an issue for me, as I don’t mind long diners with friends.

Oh oh I almost forgot…The Tom Collins… quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. They added something pinkish to it and I never asked for details. Awesome.

Despite some menu and service issues and keeping in mind it was the 27th of December, I really can’t complain about anything. The food was above and beyond; the service despite latencies was great. I expected to blow a lot of money but it ended up costing me just above 100$ which is not expensive considering the quality of the food and service. A Fantastic 5 chops outta 5.

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RESTAURANT CHEZ L’ÉPICIER
311, rue Saint-Paul Est,
Montréal, Québec CanadaH2Y 1H3

Téléphone : 1 (514) 878-2232
Fax: 1 (514) 878-2239

Website: http://www.chezlepicier.com

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