39 Saint-Paul E.
Metro: Place d’Armes, Champ-de-Mars
Bus: STM 14, 55, 129, 715
Visit: January 26, 2012
On this particular week, I’ve been fighting my first illness of 2012. The fact that I was under the weather for the better part of the week really affected things here at the GBS. I put off the burger I was planning to do this week. There was one thing that I couldn’t put off, a reservation for another stop at Happening Gourmand. So, I was undertaking a whole demanding regimen of various medications, some normal and others, very much Chinese. By the time this evening rolled around, I was very much ready to enjoy something that I was really looking forward to.
Since I mentioned Happening Gourmand, let me set the scene once again. Happening Gourmand is a month long event organized by a family of restaurants in the Old-Port section of Montreal. They each offer a fixed price menu that includes appetizer, main course, and dessert. In some cases, you’re saving about a quarter of the normal menu price. The event also goes hand in hand with IglooFest, which was still well under way on this very evening.
The Vieux-Port Steakhouse is the third restaurant in the Happening Gourmand family that I visited in the span of 6 months. The first restaurant was Méchant Boeuf for Burger 105. The second, and most recent, was Taverne Gaspar, which led to a little bit of controversy. Even though Taverne Gaspar was the home of Burger 127, it really wasn’t about me that night. I was about my colleagues having a good time, which they did. I may of go the reservation through “questionable” methods, but it’s a cruel world out there and I play by the rules given to me. Since VP Steakhouse was under a different set of circumstances, I used more traditional methods to get my reservation, without attracting attention from the Twitter world. Honestly, for a last word on the controversial subject, I need to tell you all that I will always put the happiness of my dining companions over the reader’s impression of my integrity. Sorry.
On this evening, I was accompanied by 2 colleagues that I highly regard. I’m thinking that from this moment on, I’ll be giving them code names to better tell the story. So, Mr. Lew was accompanied by Steakman and Heizenberg. Those of you who are regular readers will know that I mention Steakman a lot. He’s my steak, ice cream, and pizza person. He also happens to be Greek and that can never be bad. Heizenberg was with us at Taverne Gaspar and this was his second outing with the team. Now that the whole entire scene has been set, we’re ready to enter the Vieux-Port Steakhouse, and it only took close to 500 words.
Much like the other restaurants I mentioned before, the Vieux-Port, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is located in the Old-Port. Saint-Paul street has slowly become one of my favorite streets in Montreal to walk down. I find the section between Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Place Jacques-Cartier to be the best part of the street. Restaurants located on this stretch must do well during peak times. I sure hope they do.
Our entrance into the restaurant was heated. It wasn’t in a bad or hostile way, but one where the first few steps nicely warmed us up. For the record, there was some precipitation and it wasn’t exactly swimsuit weather outside. So, the step in was refreshing. Once we got past the second door, that was the moment where we knew that this wasn’t just any other restaurant.
The first thing we see to our left is the tank of live lobsters. There’s a hall leading to the back area right in front of us. To our right there’s the main dining room and a set of stairs. I speculated internally all night as to what that set of stairs really led to. I know that I saw food going up there all night. There were probably tables up there as well. I’m, in a way, hoping it was for the really important guests in the entire restaurant. The dining room is dimly lit, but rather cozy looking. That’s the moment we saw our table.
The table didn’t seem like much at first, but as the night progressed, it grew on me. Thanks to the luck of the draw, we had the table right by the front window. From my seat, I had a tremendous view of Saint-Paul towards the west. It was absolutely a beautiful view. Just the fact that we were at the window, being seen by all the people passing by, I felt like someone, if only for a mere 90 minutes.
The service, much like everything we saw up to that point, was up to par. The server we had was tremendous in answering our questions. The prompt delivery of Steakman’s bread (flashback to Taverne Gaspar here) was very much appreciated. The food also was prepared very quickly and we were not even waiting for much of anything. It was so top notch, the name Moishes was thrown around a few times during our evening diner banter. I’ll delve more into the Moishes reference at the end of this long, narrative. So, for those of you who have once again patiently read through my babbling, here’s another picture of bread. Enjoy!
What I’ll say about the bread was that it was very similar to the one I had at Taverne Gaspar, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Though, I could probably re-use my previous picture and you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
I want to take this moment to rehash a little of what was discussed about bread that night. I remember, back when I was prepping for my high school graduation, when we were told about fine dining etiquette. The teacher in charge of this lecture told us how we needed to break the bread into 4 pieces before even eating a morsel of it. It was a this point of the evening, when the bread arrived, where I announced that I would break my bread into 4 pieces, much the boos of the dining party.
For me, I don’t usually need to have bread around to make my meals complete. That’s why I never go out of my way to ask for it. However, when it’s around, I try to keep to one piece. It’s probably the only food item that I’ll ever have any butter on. It should be noted that we didn’t get the standard butter capsules, but a tiny butter bowl-like structure, which was very classy. That’s something I never seen before. Come to think of it, I should’ve taken a picture of it to better demonstrate my point.
I know what you’re thinking, three paragraphs about the food and we haven’t even got to appetizers yet. Well, we’re here now. For the purpose of the next little bit, I’m going to give you my thoughts about what I had. As for the other dishes my colleagues had, I’ll try to add my two cents where I can.
Mesclun Salad (Steakman)
Snails with Garlin Gratin (Heizenberg)
This was the soup of the day. I made sure to ask what the soup of the day was before ordering. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the server said after vegetable. So, I’ll go from my limited chicken noodle soup expertise level. This vegetable soup was a little thicker than a watery liquid. Though it tasted very much like a normal soup, the thickness put it a notch above anything you could get in any can. When I got to the end of the soup, I was trying my best to scrape the rest of the liquid so that I could get the most of the appetizer.
THE MAIN COURSES
16 oz. Rib Steak
Both of my colleagues decided to go for the same option on the menu. Unlike the majority of the main courses, this is only available if you’re willing to pay about 10 dollars more.
The steak you see above was the one that Steakman received. He requested his medium well and that’s exactly what he got. He took one bite and I could tell that his disappointing steak experience at Jack Astor was forgotten. He was completely satisfied. In a deal made before receiving our food, we decided to swap a piece of his steak for a pieces of my dish. So, the bite I tried was exactly what it was supposed to be. The steak had the taste that I would normally go for with a slight char. You don’t have to fight your meat, as it just melted in your mouth. At this point, I didn’t have a bite of my own choice.
The next rib steak picture is the one that Heizenberg had. He decided to order his medium. He may have a taken a little longer to eat his, but he was just as satisfied as our resident Steakman. It was actually quite entertaining to see Steakman pick up his bone to clear it of any meat. Then, we were watching, in amusement, as Heizenberg was using his knife to clear his. After much coaxing, we finally got him to pick it up and finish it with his hands. You may judge our eating etiquettes now.
Tenderloin Medallions and Bacon
Anyone who knows me can probably read my mind and tell you exactly what I ordered without reading this review. Once you see the key word of bacon, the choice is automatic. I will admit though, that I was seriously tempted by the grilled shrimps. As much as I am a bacon person, shrimp goes right up there for me. I should say that I talk a big bacon game, but I’m really “lucky” to get to eat it once a week. Remember, we all know that bacon is “bad” for you. Not.
When you see the plate for the first time, you would probably be disappointed by the size. Rest assured, you’re getting one of the best cuts of meat you can possibly get. The small size just shows you how much harder it is to get that tenderloin medallion. Upon Steakman’s recommendations, I ordered the meat medium and I didn’t regret that decision at all. The bite I gave him made his decide right then and there that a return visit was absolutely necessary. He already knows what he’s going to order, just like I know what I’m going to order, at full price.
The dish comes with two separate side dishes. The ones that really didn’t affect me were the vegetables. If they were there or not, I probably wouldn’t of noticed. I’m telling you right now, that was the low point of the evening. If decent tasting vegetables were the low point, the rest had to be right up there with our experience at Moishes.
The other side dish was the roasted garlic mashed potatoes. For what it was, it played its role well. The taste of the garlic was subdued, so that the taste of the meat was the prime player. I’m not a fan of garlic as a whole, but this didn’t have that overwhelming garlicky taste that normally makes me nauseous. The only shame about the potatoes was that there wasn’t any more.
I can’t leave this section of the meal without mentioning the meat. Each bite was very good. That’s me simply stating things. I’ve been so used to eating meat where you have to bite and chew until the cows (pardon the irony) come home. As a matter of fact, right before writing this review, I was at my regular restaurant and I was thinking of the VP Steakhouse food as I was over chewing some tougher than normal beef. To get back to the point, the tenderloin medallion, when drenched in the provided sauce, was the all-star dish of the evening.
Vanille Crème Brûlée (Steakman)
Vanille Crème Brûlée (Heizenberg)
Notice the more pronounced coloring here.
Chocolate Mousse Cake
I could end the Great Burger Search right now and start Mr. Lew’s Great Chocolate Mousse Cake Trip to the Same Restaurant Over and Over Again to Get Chocolate Mousse Cake. Yes, that’s how much I’ve fallen in love with what a chocolate mousse cake is. So, it was a no-brainer here, I had to order the chocolate mousse cake.
As the evening progressed, I was observing the other tables and I noticed the servers bringing the desserts to the other table. From my vantage point, I saw that the cake was a lot more different than I expected. As you can see from the picture, the cake has 3 distinct sections.
The section I preferred the most was the middle. It was the closest to what I expect for chocolate mousse. The section on the left was more a kin to a regular chocolate cake. The one on the right I can’t identify so much and I don’t want to ever make uneducated guesses. All three parts were good, but different from what I hoped for. You can’t get everything you want. I ruined my cake experience here because my dessert heart belonged to another.
I’ve mentioned Moishes at least twice in this post. Since I started doing the GBS, I haven’t had many top notch restaurant experience until I hit Moishes. On this very evening, Vieux-Port Steakhouse joined an elusive club in my fond memories. From the second we entered the warm “lobby,” to the second we left that very warm area, the experience was up there with all the great moments I’ve had. The decor, the service, and the food were all very good. If you don’t believe me, just ask Steakman, a person who prides himself on finding the great places to have steaks and he’s been around.
No matter what spin you want to put on my visit to Vieux-Port Steakhouse, there’s only one thing that has to be said, which is the only thing that matters to me, it was awesome. On that night, the food delivered the knock-out blow for a solid 12 round performance. We were so impressed that we’ve already started the discussions about having a rematch in the near future.