311 St Paul St E, / rue Saint Claude
Telephone: (514) 878-2232
Cost: $ 78.02
Chef Hats: 5
Chez L’Épicier and its chef/ owner Laurent Godbout have been a mainstay on the Montreal fine dining scene for over 18 years now. For those who may not have heard of L’Épicier, it is considered the Grand Dame of fine dining in Old Montreal, along with some others restaurants in the area that have withstood the test of time. Personally, L’Épicier, always tops my list of fine dining establishments in Montreal. I always highly recommend it to locals and tourists alike.
I first heard of L’Épicier through my friend Stella back in 2001, after she had dined there for a work event. She constantly raved about how good it was and wanted to return. The following year, I tried the newly opened L’Autre Version, by Laurent Godbout, located a few doors away.
I remember the great time shared with friends but most of all the delicious food and beautiful plate presentations. The food, labeled comfort food was exceptional and unlike anything I had before. The short ribs ordered that evening came served in an individual Creuset cocotte braised in wine and rosemary. So memorable, that after all these years, it is to date the best short ribs I have eaten in my life. The meal was packed with aromatic flavors and the meat was fall off the bone tender. The wine sauce complimented the dish all the while elevating to a whole different level. This is what Laurent Godbout cuisine is.
I never saw Stella again and I didn’t make it to L’Épicier till 2010, when my new boyfriend surprised me for my birthday. The experience was magnificent and I fell in love with this little resto. I loved its exposed brick walls, high ceiling, large windows and shelves filled with fine imported condiments. It was quiet, romantic and secluded. The atmosphere was casual, yet it exuded an air of pretentiousness. I recall the homemade bread being served in little wooden boxes, which I thought at the time were ingenious and very different.
Imprinted in my memories is the most decadent dessert of crème brulée that came served in three ramekins each sporting scents of lavender, vanilla and citrus zest. I was once again flabbergasted when sampling the maple cotton candy suspended from a tree branch at Laurent Godbout Cabane a Sucre, in Shefford in the Eastern Townships. I was never disappointed by any of the food at any of his establishments. His creativity and mastery never ceased to amaze.
In November 2018 I had the privilege to return to L’Épicier during Montreal a Table not only to sample the fine food but also to celebrate the re-opening after renovation in summer of 2017.The resto looked so different from what I had recalled. I found the dining room to be cozier, the pretentiousness was gone and the place had a warmth to it. Gone were the shelves with rows and rows of condiments as you enter. Instead I was greeted by pleasant hostess, who ushered me to my table for two in the area. Seated next to the window looking out at the Bonsecours Market I waited for my friend Lulu. Meanwhile, I ordered a glass of Chianti at $ 14.00 and sat there for a short while reminiscing till she arrived.
After perusing the menu and a short discussion, we agreed to take different dishes and share our meals to be able to sample everything. The cost of a three-course meal was $ 43.00 with the exception of some dishes that had an additional cost. Our first service was composed of four entrees : a Celeriac Cream Soup, with Caramelized Bacon and Fried shallots; the bacon was organic and came from Valens Farms in Huntingdon. This soup was creamy and a perfect blend of flavors.
The second soup was a Gaspésien Lobster Bisque, topped with caviar and fresh cream for an extra $ 5.00. I enjoyed both but the it bordered on being too salty and Lulu agreed with me. She was a little disappointed.
We also received slices of homemade bread with their special honey infused brown butter from Les Miels Anicet/Ferme Neuve.Which was eaten in a fair swoop for how delicious it was.
The second appetizer included Corn Duck from Canard du Village in St. Pie, with homemade mustard and Brassica Flowers and Grilled Nantais Carrots. The Duck was a shaped in a ball and breaded with a corn flour mix resembling a corn dog without the stick. Inside tender pieces of delicious duck confit, drizzled with a homemade mustard made a match in heaven. I loved it, we cut it in half and shared the Nantais that were equally delicious but fell flat on creativity.
The second service consisted of Roasted Quail from Patrick Brodeur Farms/ St. Francis du Lac served with an infused Foie Gras Cream, fingerling Potatoes and leeks, it also came at an extra cost of $ 4.00, but well worth it. This had to be the best dish I had in 2018. It was to die for and addictive. The Quail was generous in size and had lots of meat, the potatoes were also ample. But the cream sauce was an aphrodisiac and made this dish all the more worth the extra cost.
Also sampled was the Pulled Braised Mbakhar Lamb with lots of Green peas and Candied Lemons. I was not a fan of this dish, the lamb was tender, but had a back taste of mutton and the dish was overrun with peas. A little too much for my taste, I would have scaled back on the peas and focused on the lamb.
The Third service comprised of two desserts, an apple crumble and their signature dessert of S’mores, Majari chocolate and a Graham wafer crust. Both were delicious and totally decadent. But then that is what I remember about Chez L’Épicier, their desserts are always divine and a great end to the meal.
The service was professional and courteous. The atmosphere quiet and pleasant. The added plus is the promotion of local Quebec products, and farm to table ingredients.
The only drawback this evening was the construction and blocked streets in Old Montreal, part of St Paul streets and environs were totally torn up and blocked, getting there by car was virtually impossible and navigating was difficult. Every time I turned the corner, I had reached an impasse, it was like a maze. The rest of the evening was smooth sailing.
Chez L’Épicier remains one of my favorite places to dine at. They always amaze me with the quality of food, its well-planned menu, it’s beautiful and creative plate presentations and professional service. It is fine dining at its best and when the tourists leave, Old Montreal becomes that magical place I love to go to enjoy a special evening.