Friday, March 16, 2012

Montreal: An exploration of food: Part One - Joe Beef

We arrived in Montreal on Tuesday night and woke to fat-flake snow on Wednesday morning in what appears to be the last gasp of a relatively mild winter.  We've come up for a week hoping to catch a bit of snow (done) and eat well.  We have reservations at a Sugar Shack for Monday (la cabane de sucre) a maple sugaring tradition here in Quebec and in the maple sugaring regions of vermont, new hampshire, and Maine. We finally managed to get organzied enough to snag reservations at Toque (for lunch) and Joe Beef (for dinner). Hopefully, the rainy drizzles will let up tomorrow so we can walk off some of the calories we're ingesting!

So let's start with Joe Beef.  Last night we ate at Joe Beef at 2491 Rue Notre Dame West.  Located in a modest storefront in what has been traditionally a working class neighborhood (although that is changing), Joe Beef is an inviting, unpretentious, quirky set of rooms.  No fancy table cloths, a bison head in the bathroom next to the toilet, menu on a chalkboard, and books and odds and ends strewn on wall shelves.  It's a noisy, bustling atmosphere.  But despite the bustle, one is never, ever forgotten by the wait staff.  I watched them and they were in constant motion ALWAYS looking at tables and customers to see if water needing refilling, the table needing cleaning, cutlery warranted changing, dishes cleared.  The kitcehn prepared food so we didn't feel forgotten and yet didn't feel rushed.  Our waiter was delightfully helpful navigating the menu offerings for us, explaining them in great detail with considerable patience.  He made excellent suggestions for wine and was all together just a delight.

So Many Choices!

And then there was the food.  We'd heard we MUST HAVE THE OYSTERS, so, of course, we did  And they were indeed plump, firm, pieces of heaven on a shell.  Both types of oysters were from British Columbia: Beach Hardened and Golden Marina.  Beach Hardened you ask...well they pick the oysters, put them on a beach, and let the surf pound them.  I'm not sure who thought this up or why it's a good idea,  but they were spectacular.

Oysters: British Columbia: Golden Marina and Beach Hardened

After the oysters, Jerry had the cauliflower soup which was creamy but not too heavy and contained pieces of ham hock...It was delish.  I had the cornflaked eel fritters which were light and flavorful and not heavy or greasy. They were served with 3 sauces: dijon mustard, BBQ, and tartar.  All excellent, but my fave was the BBQ.

Our main courses were the Petit Bar: a striped bass served whole stuffed with rosemary twigs, lemon pieces and juice, and fat plump capers.  I think it may have been poached in olive oil...but I'm not sure.  It was spectacular.  Very fresh flavors and perfectly cooked.  Jerry had the Truck Stop Piglet...a "block" of shredded pork served with excellent mashed potatos and pineapple.  It was surprisingly rich.  And not surprisingly, VERY delicious.

Truck Stop Piglet

Petit Bar
Desserts were two concoctions made with the "soft serve ice cream" machine.  Who knew such fun and yet sophisticated desserts who come from a soft serve ice cream machine.  We had the tutti frutti creamsicle dessert made with oranges, orange slices, and bits of "tutti frutti".  And the Financier...ice cream served on a pistachio cake with ample pistachio bits as a topping.  Both were yummy.

Creamsicle Tutti Frutti

The Financier

We waddled out of Joe Beef quite content and happy to have shared the bathroom with a bison (not UP on the wall...but right NEXT to the toilet) and a pronghorn antelope (which served as the toilet roll holder).

You'll Never Be Lonely in Joe Beef's Bathroom

Clever way of making sure you have a second roll

By the Way...a recommendation for menu viewing.  There is only one blackboard in each room.  If you don't want to have to strain your neck to see the board from your table or get up and down to walk over to it....take a picture of it with your smart phone.  Made it ever so easy.  And reservations are available through Open Table as well as direct with the restaurant. 

Next time.....Toque.

1 comment:

Jennie said...

Two to add to my ever growing Montreal list - and the sugar shack? Sounds like a lot of fun. Laurel LOVES maple syrup and loves the story in Little House in the Big Woods about the maple candy they make with the snow.

Sounds like you two are having a fabulous time. So glad! And if you can beg borrow or steal that brownie recipe (raspberry balsamic!) . . .

Actually, I think I might have found a reasonable substitute. But it means you'll have to visit to tell me if it's the same!