980 Place Jean Paul –Riopelle
Telephone: 514-499 2084
Chef Hats: 5
Type of Cuisine: French
Cost=$ 317.33 (excluding tip)
The first thing that struck me when I walked into Toque on this peacefully quiet rainy evening was not its convenient location next to Palais de Congrés in Old Montreal, nor the carefully planned space and décor of this upscale restaurant. It had to be what I call the wall of chefs. Hidden in a corridor next to the bar you will find a type of Andy Warholesque display of some notorious and other famous chef’s that have been influenced by Normand Laprise . Through this display I saw an inkling of the greatness that is Toqué and the sense that it is the driving force in this city when it comes to creating culinary geniuses.
Anthony Bourdain coined it well in a segment of his “Layover” show when he called Normand Laprise the Godfather of the culinary world in this great city of Montreal. Anyone who claims to be a real foodie knows the story of Normand Laprise and has followed him from his humble beginnings at Citrus on St. Laurent, to the opening of the original Toqué on St. Denis Street in 1993. Fans of Normand Laprise have followed him to the move at the new location in Old Montreal, and the opening of Brasserie T in Quartier des Spectacles. They have bought the Toque cookbook and have read the countless write ups. They have watched him on the media making numerous guest appearances over the years thus making him a household name and cementing his reputation permanently as more than just a top chef in this city.
A forewarning that most of you are already aware of, going to a place such as Toqué comes with a hefty price tag and do not expect cheap when dining here. Lots of my friends and acquaintances are afraid to eat here and may have stayed away because they feel spending so much money on dinner is way out of their budget and ridiculous. All I am going to say is save up your jellybeans and go to Toque once in your life time, it is a must do experience and incomparable to any other dining experience you will ever have.
Once here you can go all out by getting the complete tasting menu with wine pairings at $200 a person or scale back by ordering à la carte and you can save a few hundred dollars. I suggest Toqué for those specials occasions when you want to go all out or impress that special someone or for a business lunch or dinner. Whatever your choice, they will be impressed. This was the case for me this evening when going to Toqué.
Let me be honest with you and tell you a story, the first and last time I went to Toqué was 20 years ago when it was situated on St Denis. It was a much smaller space back then but the reputation was just as grandiose as today and I was forewarned it was pricey. I knew what I was getting into but it was for a special occasion, a Valentine dinner celebration with my husband. Dinner at Toque back then put us back about $220.00 for two. After dinner, I heard it all the way home. The experience was none to pleasant and I Iearned quickly that not everyone was the ultimate foodie and willing to spend lots of money on a gourmet dinner. In another time and continuum, things changed and I met Frenchie who appreciates the finer things in life as much as I do. Hence the return this evening for Frenchie’s birthday after so many years and it was all worth it.
Toqué is perfection all around, from the start, it is total professionalism. The staff and waiters are of the highest caliber, our waiter was French and they are the best. You may beg to differ, but their training is like no other. He was great at suggesting the perfect wine with our meal, a Beaune -1er cru 2004-Les Coucherais, JC Rateau at $116.00, even if it was a little above what I wanted to spend, it was perfectly aged 10 years, strong but not overpowering and complimenting our meal perfectly.
Tempted to try the tasting menu this evening but I opted out as it was too much food and wine for me. The tasting menu has to be ordered for the table, therefore if one does opt out its not possible for the other to order it. It worked well with us this evening as Frenchie also just wanted to go via a la carte.
Our wine was decanted and set behind us in a nice carafe and they delivered two amuse bouche of cubed watermelon in olive oil topped with meringue. Very refreshing and a great palate cleanser. The olive oil was so light and the flavors very delicate. A very innovative combination. I would never have thought of.
For our entrees, Frenchie had Foie gras Terrine $27.00, served with peach, brioche bread, pistachio crumble and camelina oil. The nutty and crunchiness of the pistachios added an extra zing to the usual foie gras.
I had my sautéed wild mushrooms for $ 23.00, mixed with fried bread, soy, radish, yuzu sabayon, black garlic puree and sesame. This is a must try for mushroom lovers and totally decadent. It is made to perfection here with the different flavors and even for those non mushroom lovers; you will really enjoy this dish.
For my main dish I had the Beef Rib eye at $52.00, done medium rare on the inside, it was tender and delicious, topped with a mix of crispy greens, served with raspberries and sauce, sliced broad beans and more chanterelles mushrooms, black garlic puree, in a bordelaise sauce minus the extra foie gras.
The rib eye was done to perfection and very tasty, the topping a melange of crispiness and flavors indescribable.
Frenchie had the Mont Laurier Cockerel, at $50.00, with pieces of lobster, mushrooms, leeks, in lemon thyme sauce. It was tender, juicy pieces of chicken in a delicious lemon flavoured sauce, with pieces of sautéed leeks totally mouth watering.
Cockerel is a young Rooster, this one comes from in Mont Laurier in Québec from Societé -original, raised in a natural environmental setting, this society is a conglomerate of family companies featuring poultry and game of all sorts. They trap and raise poultry and game in a respectful manner locally in Québec.
Normand Laprise is known to get much of his produce from local farms in Quebec and helps to promote products from the terroir, always featuring the best products from Quebec in his restaurant. It is his way of him giving back to the land, a pioneer and trend setter in this sort of thing he makes no qualms about it, this is a known fact that Toque is among one of the first restaurant in Montreal for last 20 years that follows this tradition.
You can obviously taste the difference in your meal while dining here and we sure did. After dinner we lingered to finish our great bottle of wine. It was at this point that our waiter did not return to ask us about dessert. Only to discover that a misunderstanding had occurred with the waiter, when Frenchie mentioned we would finish our wine, he believed our meal was complete and after finishing our bottle of wine he promptly brought us our bill. This kind of suited me fine as I was full. I did not really want dessert, but a coffee may have been nice. Frenchie was left a little perturbed and believed the waiter let the ball drop on dessert. I was sure it was a misunderstanding, clarity is important especially when dealing with waiters who are very skilled in client psychology, they are skilled on picking up cues. It did not cloud my opinion of Toque, just reinforced it. I was glad to be back here again and enjoyed every minute, the hefty price tag and all, a definite return someday soon but not in 20 years.