20 May 2014
A trip to Montréal without a visit to Joe Beef is like going to Las Vegas without gambling — it’s just not right. It’s always one of the highlights of visiting this cool town, and this time, due to my schedule, I had to visit it on my final night in town.
As my readers know, this trip has been very food-laden. Some good stuff in Toronto, but spectacular stuff in Montréal, from a multi-course wonder at Hôtel Herman to a spectacular omakase at Park, my appetite has been satisfied to a rare extent on consecutive evenings. I had even skipped lunch in preparation for my session at Joe Beef, knowing what tends to happen there!
As I walked up Notre-Dame from Lionel-Groulx Station, I ran into David McMillan, who welcomes me and walks me into his restaurant. Great timing! I plop down at the already busy bar (raw bar section), my usual area, and got myself ready for a spectacular feast. As usual I’ve left everything up to the amazing team at Joe Beef. Many of them remembered me from last year’s visit (or even further back), and I was glad to see so many familiar faces! You know a restaurant is good and the owners are awesome if the staff retention is so high!
The drinks are poured and the shuckers are busy, and soon my first course arrived — fresh in-season snow crab legs and razor clams.
Mmm… You just gotta love fresh seafood. The great thing about the Joe Beef philosophy is to emphasise local stuff that’s in season, and this is a great example of it. The crab was sweet and the razors were scrumptious. Mmm, mmm, mmm. A great start!
Dish number 2 gets a little heavier, the crab and shrimp dip.
This was a really nice item that emphasises the fresh seafood once again. It looks thick, but it really wasn’t, and it was easy to eat the lightly-pickled cucumber with it. The pickle worked well as a make-shift spoon actually! And when I was working on this, dish number 3 came out — the smoked meat croquettes.
Montréal smoked meat is an institution, and here it was made into croquettes. Unlike many of my friends that love Spanish cuisine, I am usually not one to like croquetas. But these were rather nice, and the flavour of the Montréal staple came out very strong. Actually I was dipping it in the seafood dip at one point…not supposed to do it, but it was decadently good… Not sure if David and Fred planned that!
For some odd reason I was starting to get full. This usually doesn’t happen until at least course 5 in previous sessions. Perhaps it’s the cumulative effects of so many good meals that my body is sending me a message. Even the staff noticed I was eating slower. The food was spectacular, but my body was just tired from this trip…it was too good! The next dish worked well with this situation, the guinea fowl soup.
The broth was rich and direct, no covering up stuff here. You want guinea fowl, you get guinea fowl. The bird was tender and not dry. A good selection of veg, and some shrimp, made this a very nice bowl of soup to enjoy. Excellent, and was good at getting my stomach back to work!
The drinks were still flowing, which was fantastic. They really treat me so well here I feel so at home. One of the best front-of-house teams ever. They should get some credit for friendly and extremely knowledgeable service in both English and French.
Then the next course came. I thought at first it was a steak…it looked like a steak, it smelled like a steak…
Nope! It’s actually a large and thick slice of giant abalone mushroom! But the richness of the gravy, alongside some nice escargots and other garnishments, you’d never know it wasn’t meat! Spectacular stuff, and it was just a humble (but giant) mushroom!!! Nice! I bet you thought it was meat!!!
It was a hearty portion I must admit, as the heaviness was starting to slow me down again after that short second wind. The next course arrived and it was utterly awesome — fiddleheads.
These beauties, fresh and just in-season (they don’t last long), were served with a nice duck egg. Now rarely I get a chance to eat these, and this dish really, really exemplified Joe Beef’s philosophy. These rarities are in season, so let’s bring them out and treat people! Excellent, lovely flavour, with the duck yolk adding a layer of richness to the baby ferns. Totally awesome.
At this point I was slowing down as that was a big plate, and that duck egg was rich. The last plate came soon, and was clams and sausage. It was rather dark and my phone failed me with the picture, so no picture. But I also could not finish it! This from a guy who challenged David last time to try to kill me — and won, but loses so early tonight! Nevertheless it was a spectacular meal…
I was spent…really spent. Not just tonight, but the whole trip. It has been a spectacular eating trip, and it was time to step back and get back to reality. I stayed and had a few more drinks chatting with the crew, which again, are amazing people. I just feel at home here. Spectacular food, awesome staff, great drinks. What’s not to like?
But alas, it was time to go. Not just back to the hotel, but back home. Back to some sense of reality. It was a nice divergence from all the Ukraine-related stress, but it’s time to depart this fantasy world of fiddleheads and snow crabs…sigh…
Awesome, awesome, awesome. David, Fred & crew are just the most awesome people in the biz. Can’t wait to come back — and to challenge David again!
2491 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest