Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Dinning in Québec is a delight but for those that dine it is also very serious business!
Modern gastronomy has arrived in Québec and has been influencing in a molecular-gastronomy manner a number of the younger chefs, with kitchens that can rival in inventiveness and quality the dishes of top European and Asian restaurants offering a style of cooking well worth exploring. There are many traditional Québécoise restaurants in the city and, during past visits, we ate in a number of them offering fare based on classic French recipes and seasonal, local ingredients.
Three particular restaurants had us salivating over the innovative dishes of their kitchens at diner.
The first was Chez Rioux & Pettigrew (160, Rue Saint-Paul Québec, QC G1K 3W1), a restaurant in the old city where we had eaten in the past; I think it was a year after they had first opened. The restaurant is at present open for brunch and dinner. You can see their regional seasonal menus at https://chezriouxetpettigrew.com/en/
Chef Mathieu Jans’s creations were exceptional.
To get to our table we had to pass through the open kitchen where we saw the cooks at work designing dishes -- that is the proper way of describing the activity; the dishes were not only properly cooked, they were designed to look great on the plate as well. As chefs are fond to say “You eat with your eyes first!”
We started with a dish called Tik-Tak-Tok. A Salmon Tataki dish with témari, honey mayonnaise, lemon-marinated armillaires (honey fungi) and herbs.
The meat course, called “Le bouc des montagnes” was roasted Québec lamb with cumin jus, corn salsa, fried polenta and fresh butter. A pure delight!
The dessert was “Symphonie des Douceurs.”
The second dinner at the new Melba Restaurant (https://restaurantmelba.ca/) that opened in October of 2022 was also delightful and inventive.
In the kitchen, Alexandra Roy and Charles Provencher Proulx have created sweet and savory seasonal menus in collaboration with two other equally inventive cooks.
Dinning there was “family style” with a variety of hors d’œuvres, main courses and desserts brought to the table.
For our dinner there were 6 appetizers, 6 main courses and 3 desserts in that menu.
Remarkable appetizers were the Deviled Egg, Snow Crab, Avocado Paste and Sorrel; the Fiddlehead Fritters with Béarnaise Mayo; and the Grilled Whelk Skewers with cucumber and confit garlic. The other 3 were very nice but not as remarkable, I’ve had similar dishes in other restaurants in the past.
From the main courses, I loved the Bison Tartare with the Andaluz Sauce; the Steak with Black Garlic, Spinach and Blue Cheese; and the Salmon with Vichy Carrots, Fennel and Smoked Mussels. Again, I’ve had before dishes similar to the other dishes in different restaurants.
And I loved the finishing dessert, a Pavlova with marinated strawberries and strawberry ice cream on the side.
Both the above restaurants served delicious dinners.
But the pièce de résistance was the farewell dinner we had at Tanière3 (https://taniere3.com/en/) in an unmarked building in the heart of Old Québec town: 36 1/2, Rue Saint-Pierre, Quebec, QC, G1K 3Z6; the restaurant’s phone number is (418) 872-4386. The previous day we had lunch prepared at another venue owned by the same company at a rural property in Ste-Brigitte de Laval at Bora Boréal, so we knew to expect exceptional cooking.
It was a 6 hour extravaganza, featuring 16 spectacular dishes. These chefs push the boundaries of cuisine Québécoise with a kitchen that is inventive, very seasonal and delicious, using petite delicacies with sometimes, rather obscure ingredients. It is a dining experience, as good as at any three Michelin-starred restaurant I’ve ever been fortunate to dine in.
The restaurant is located in an unmarked building. The street entrance is not hard to find; it is a yellow wooden door on the side of a stone wall, but there is no signage indicating it is the entrance to a restaurant. You are given a code when your reservation is accepted to input to an electronic pad on the side of the entrance; once you are inside the adventure begins. If you decide to reserve please remember that the restaurant fills nightly to capacity and at this point it takes a month to a month plus, for a reservation to be accepted. The restaurant operates Thursday to Sunday from 5:15 pm on.
There is a chef’s table in the kitchen so you can observe how these remarkable dishes are created and the rest of the seating is in the dining room and the dining room’s cellar.
The staff is attentive but not intrusive; the dining is in the very capable hands of Chef-owner François-Emmanuel Nicol and dining room director and owner Roxan Bourdelais. Hubert Garneau is the Maître d’Hotel and General Manager. Each dish is delivered to the table with élan and the kitchen’s creativity and culinary expertise is immediately evident.
Individually addressed and wax-sealed menus were delivered to each one of us.
We started with a glass of sparkling wine and once the dishes started to be delivered to the table, a number of mocktails and wines to pair with the food were also served.
As I said there were 16 different dishes, so I’ll talk about the ones that really impressed me.
First and foremost was the salmon caviar on emulsion pillows with a “flower” made from meringue.
The Pork Belly dish and the Duck Breast were to die for.
And the assorted fish plates were not shabby either!
Also remarkable were the Bone Marrow with Nettle Condiment, the Lobster with Prickly Ash Pepper, the Quail with Preserved Lemon and Grilled Cucumber and the Foie Gras with Wild Strawberries.
As I said in a previous article… The motto of Québec City should be “On mange bien ici” that is “We eat well here!”
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