2491 Notre Dame St W, (corner Charlevoix)
Chef Hats 5
Cost =$178.21(without tip)
Joe Beef located in Little Burgundy and owned by two bubbly characters David McMillan and Frederic Morin can be classified as the educational epicenter of the culinary world in Montreal. Some of this city’s big name chefs have worked here under the mentorship of McMillan and Morin and have gone on to become famous in their own right. Now nine years later after its inception, it has more than doubled in size and they have added Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillion to their roster of restaurants.
Joe Beef has become a market brand name all on its own by selling its own cookbook, special spices and of course their fine cuisine.Over the years it has appeared on numerous magazines as top Canadian restaurant of the year, on American and Canadian television shows and has become a household name and trendsetter among restaurant entrepreneurs in Montreal. That is a far cry from 2005 when David and Fred tired of the scene at the Globe and Rosalie’s decided to open Joe Beef in a little café across the street from the Corona Theatre.
The history of the name Joe Beef derives from the legendary 19th century inn keeper Charles McKiernan who owned and ran Joe Beef Tavern for twenty years -Circa 1869-1889. Originally located on the corner of de la Commune and Calliere St. in Old Montreal, Joe Beef Tavern in the olden days was for the working class laborers of the area. Its patrons found it a good place to find food, alcohol and a good esprit de corps, but it was McKiernan’s subservient generosity towards the unemployed, the sick and the hungry that made Joe Beef Tavern a kind of haven for the Montreal working class at the time. I guess it was what David McMillan and Fred Morin had in mind when naming their new restaurant located in this once low income neighborhood on a stretch of Notre Dame St. that housed rows of antique shops and that was relatively obscure at the time. Today this stretch of street has become a sort of hipster hangout, and one can think that it all started thanks to the Joe Beef guys.
I have always been a diehard fan of David McMillan since the Globe days, when he shared his secret to the famous Globe apple martini secret with me and my friend Stella. For many years people loved my apple martini’s and just came to my place weekend after weekend to enjoy them poolside on hot summer days. It was inevitable that we took a liking to him and followed him to Rosalie’s and then Joe Beef in 2005. We loved his food and we loved his stories describing in great lengths where he had gotten the decor and his anecdotes about everything under the sun. We knew this larger than life character and his restaurant would not remain small for very long and it didn’t.
Nine years later I revisited Joe Beef with Frenchie to have him experience the rage. Some things have changed but some remain the same. Joe Beef has doubled in size and has added a terrace and a garden in back, but you can still find the daily specials written on a blackboard and they change daily. You can still find some of the old favorites like oysters on the menu and a great wine list. We choose this evening a perpetual favorite of ours, a bottle of Chianti from Tuscany at $ 55.00, at a descent price. We also ordered a bottle sparkling San Pellegrino at $7.00.
Tonight I came to try their famous double down, two pieces of duck foie gras sandwiched with cheese and bacon and deep fried in a crispy batter. This entree which started off as a lark when food writers would come into the restaurant, caught on like wildfire and has become epic all on its own. I had to sample it .A word of warning Joe Beef is meat heavy but everything here is exceptionally tasteful. This evening I opted out for the meat and just ordered the double down and fish as my main meal.
I was going for the pappardelle, but was warned by our exceptionally fantastic and uber friendly waitress Alexandra that the sauce was made with a hearts and liver stew. I opted out and went for the Dorade-Sea Bream with mix of summer vegetables, which hit the mark for its flavour and lightness. All was to Joe Beef standards except for the presentation, which I was not too pleased about as its head and bones were still intact. I am little picky for this kind of thing. I really prefer my fish deboned and beheaded. But I saw pass this and enjoyed the food nonetheless.
Frenchie started with an entree of terrine served with a slice of bread topped with cheese and for his main meal had and order of two huge mounds of baby back ribs in its jus topped with peas, perfectly tender and fall off the bone, which he pleasantly enjoyed and very filling and very tasty.
My half portion of double down never arrived and as I mentioned it to Alex, she apologized profusely and said she was going to bring it as a dessert with a little maple syrup if I still wanted it. I asked her to pack it for take-out, which she did. I had it as soon as I got home. The double down was really tasty, what I loved was the exterior batter and melted cheese, but I misjudged the description and thought it was pate de foie gras. Instead it was to pieces of liver sandwiched together. I found the liver a little tough and did not complete it. For $ 17.00 it was a steep price to pay for a taste test. Both Sea Bream and the ribs were priced at $ 29.00.
We topped off meal with two espresso and completed our bottle of wine. By then I was feeling good.
Our waitress came to talk to us and apologized again the forgetting my entree. I could see the staff hard at work, the level of professionalism and mix of genuine friendliness here is amazing. They made us feel really special. I loved Alexandra so much I wanted to bring her home. We were drawing such attention but this is what Joe Beef is all about, you are amongst friends. Sad to say that there was no sign of David or Fred, but I guess they are busy guys this day creating their empire, but their spirit remain and is present. I can highly recommend Joe Beef any day of the week even minus the pitfalls, because it is a Montreal institution that cannot be missed and must be experienced.