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Rostra rating: 3.5
MagoGuide brought its A-game to Montreal’s Le Club Chasse et Peche with a delegation composed of a scion of the ancient Roman Julii clan, Montreal’s leading Neoplatonist, and a future Ballon d’Or winner. The hunting and fishing club is an old school, dimly lit Quebecois establishment with crisp table linens, impeccable crystal and stemware, as well as modern touches supplied by artwork and light fixtures. Note to Montucky hunters and gatherers: this ain’t your grandaddy’s Elk’s Club.
Since the Gens Julia descends directly from Venus, we began things with oysters on the half-shell served three ways:
- Tempura: excellent light batter, fried to perfect crispiness with a molten umami interior.
- Watermelon puree with crunchy cucumber bits: a very nice riff on a traditional mignonette.
- Raw: way good but the least interesting by far. I wish we had loaded up on the other two.
Now I realize that two data points do not make a trend, but I am beginning to think that Montreal is a tough town for sommeliers. This counterintuitive proposal is advanced due to the encyclopedic oenological knowledge displayed by the wait staff at Le Club Chasse et Peche and Liverpool House. In this instance our rather formal and aloof waiter suggested a killer Chablis premier cru that sported a lemon rind and damp stone nose, citrus fruit with a ramrod stiff mineral spine, and a long complex finish. We drank several bottles of it throughout the meal and the wine opened up as it warmed and breathed.
It turns out that Venus was once saved from a rampaging monster by Syrian river fish, who were later rewarded via transformation into the constellation Pisces. In honor of those noble ichthyes, our Iulia Optima Maxima chose king salmon on a nest of fresh peas, pods, tendrils, spring onions, and new potatoes. The immaculate salmon was pan seared to a golden spiced crust on one side and progressed from there through medium to rare/raw on the other side so that every other bite fell on a different part of the dish’s sapidity spectrum. The fish was sauced with a buttery basil solution that was just shy of a foam and all the better for it. The sweet muted crunch of the peas and the comforting potatoes redolent with fishy herb notes played their expected supporting roles in the dish’s texture and flavor profile.
Suckling pig risotto served with frozen shaved foie gras: perfectly executed risotto redolent of pig candy and foie. I seriously considered stealing it from the precocious 13 year old gourmet who ordered it and then proceeded to hoover it with gusto. Oh to have an early adolescent’s metabolism and a refined palate in Montreal! I certainly stole several more bites than I really needed to evaluate the dish, while I tried to get under the young Cristiano Ronaldo’s skin by telling him all he needed was to lose his shirt, slather on a gallon of hair gel, and snag a super model or two in order to emulate his hero. It didn’t work. Turns out it is the Lamborghini collection that appeals.
Our Neoplatonist intern seemed to be channeling Marsilio Ficino with his choice of magret de canard. Following the humoral dietary strictures of that great Italian rennaissance humanist, he was perhaps afflicted with an overabundance of melancholy humor due to some mental arithmetic associated with the future cost of Portugal’s Academia Sporting for his foie snarfing offspring. This would explain his choice of sanguine food as an antidote for too much black bile. The very sanguinary flesh had an intense flavor reminiscent of wild duck, but also with a tad too much tooth and the skin could have been crispier. The lack of fat (at least for a duck breast) called for a rich sauce and side that was duly supplied by a peppery duck demi-glace and classic pommes puree that seemed to be composed of equal parts butter and taters. The dish was also studded with parmesan tuiles, which added a chessey, salty crunch that in part made up for the disappointing skin. But there was no excusing the accompanying fava beans, which were old to begin with and then over-blanched to remove their tough outer skins (fava beans were not in the markets the next day—stall owners said they were done for the year).
My own domina chose a rack and shoulder lamb duo. The rack was just fine (fairly mature lamb perfectly cooked to medium rare), but the slow braised shoulder was a home run — delicious, super rich, meltingly soft.
My halibut was a) perfectly pan fried, and b) probably the last slice of Hippoglossus Stenolepis that I shall ever ingest willingly. The fact that this bland, ultra low fat, flaky fish is so prized that the noble octopus and entire salmon heads are often employed as bait for these flavorless leviathans is simply criminal. The stars of this dish were the veggies — fiddleheads and carrots, as well some of the best and most decadent cornbread I have ever eaten. It was served as a crumble that added a rich mouthfeel to the dish as well as a differentiated textural note. Why don’t they serve it instead or in addition to their bread, which was fine but unremarkable? In fact, Le Club Chasse et Peche would clean up with a dish built around that cornbread and the decadent lamb shoulder.
Desserts were superb and designed to align all four humors into harmonious balance.
Maple syrup parfait: a frozen foodgasm served with cranberries for a fantastic contrast.
The chocolate bomb was the bomb: a more age-appropriate choice for the future darling of the Champions League (and sure fire supermodel bait), but a real chocolate tour de force nonetheless.
Mago tip: As a field and stream-driven restaurant, Le Club Chasse et Peche food is best during the shoulder seasons when game (wild or farmed) and fish (ditto) are suited to the robust and rich preparations preferred at this Montreal institution. During a stifling July, the fare can be a bit heavy and in the depths of a Canadian winter you get the most bang for your calories at a sugar shack.