Bus: STM 103, 162
Visit: January 29, 2014
I’ve been visiting restaurants and sharing my experiences for the better part of 5 years now. Over that time, I have received a lot of suggestions for potential future visits. For the first time, a close friend to our family proposed a place that makes the six degrees of separation shrink and that place is Le Maistre.
Over the course of the last 5 years, I’ve been trying to write about my eating experiences with as much dignity as I can muster. I do my best to remain anonymous in any restaurant and I don’t jump on every media invite that floods my inbox. In a way, I do things the way I want to do them and what I feel is the right way. I’ve felt guilt over that one burger that was comped and the places where I was outed, which aren’t really numerous. Here, the following restaurant visit at Le Maistre presented one of the biggest challenges for me to date.
In the last 5 years, I’ve never been to a restaurant that had any connection to my family or the people who are closely associated with it. When I was younger, I could remember visiting a Chinese restaurant that my father’s friend operated north of Laval and getting to go to the kitchen, but that was a long while ago. My father and grandfather worked in kitchens over the course of their lives, but I never once visited them. They were even close to buying their own place about 15 years ago and I actually visited a place for sale in Saint-Hubert. In present time, the visit to Le Maistre would greatly reduce that infamous six degrees of separation.
A few weeks back, a very close family friend, who we consider family outright, asked us if we were interested in making our monthly visit to her boyfriend’s restaurant. He’s been working there for quite a while and holds the title of sous chef. I’ve known him for a little over a year and I really like the kind of personality he brings to the table. These days, our part of the family is all about supporting each other and there wasn’t a chance that we would refuse the chance to go out and eat.
We arrived on a rather brisk Wednesday evening and we were greeted by what would turn out to be the owner of the restaurant. The offer that the restaurant was running was a table d’hôte where you’d get a four course meal for 25 dollars. This was done, in a way, to try to generate business during the slower months of the year. Le Maistre is usually busier in the summer, as there is a terrasse that nearly doubles the seating capacity of the restaurant. On this evening, the restaurant wasn’t packed, but there were a number of tables nonetheless.
With a special deal on the normal menu, you get either a soup or salad, an appetizer, your main course, and a dessert. If you total it up with the regular prices, you’d probably want to take a second mortgage. This way, we were able to sample most of the menu and not feel obliged to go into debt. Just to be clear, as I’m writing this, I have my eyes locked on the bill and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Remember, I’m the same person who insisted on paying for food during a school outing, even though the chaperones had a free meal.
After the end of our dinner, we had a chance to catch up with the familiar sous-chef and the owner. At this point, the restaurant cleared for the evening and we were the last table still there. We got a chance to ham it up for few minutes while having dessert. Le Maistre has been in business for almost 20 years and has been under its current ownership for a few years. The head chef is a holdover from the previous regime and he made a very brief cameo before going home for the evening. During all this, I got a chance to notice that the staff all worked well together and it was a team atmosphere. There weren’t very many people working, as the owner also pulled his weight.
Before I get to the food, I have to admit that this was the part of this post that worried me the most. This is actually the second time I’m writing the whole post and I wanted to make sure it was done the right way. Since I’ve started writing lengthy posts, I have never abandoned writing one in the middle, only to restart a new one. Also, the thought of not writing one at all also occurred to me, but I didn’t want to do that either because I consider this blog to be a journal of my experiences.
That disclaimer was important for me because I wanted to be honest without doing damage to all the involved parties. Then again, I’ve probably been responsible for a lot of damage over the course of the last 30 years. A few days ago, we gathered once again as a family to try poutine. I shared my concern with the family friend and she actually gave me the green light to do what I usually do. With that, I’ll try to be as honest as I can be.
The first step of the meal was the choice of soup or salad. Most of us went with the potage option and I quickly caught what it was. I’ve actually become a fan of the potage, as I’m starting to find most salads boring. This potage was nice and you wouldn’t even know that you were having cauliflower. The soup was warm and it was a nice first step in our four course meal.
Foie Gras Torchon
The appetizers for the evening were prepared by our person in the kitchen and I can’t hide the fact that he put in some extra care in them on this evening. As you can see from the pictures above, the aesthetics look really nice and you can’t beat that. I chose foie gras because I was really curious. I’ve had it a few times in the past in various ways, but never really on its own. Honestly, after this evening, I think I can safely say that I’m over foie gras. It wasn’t the way that it was prepared, as that was quite nice, but the taste of foie gras isn’t one that I’m really fond of. I think I prefer it in a burger and even at that, it’s pushing it.
Fish of the Day
"Best in the World" Ribs
For the main course, I had my eye on a filet mignon. However, right before ordering, we were told that it was no longer available. It wasn’t until after the meal that we found out the true story behind that decision. It turns out that the cuts of meat weren’t quite up to snuff and they chose to focus on something else rather than serve below par food. I was forced to go to my second choice, but the hype job provided by our family member was enough to get me curious enough.
When you put such a claim of being the best in the world, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s one of the main reasons why I will never put a ‘best’ stamp on any burger in the city. I’ve never had ribs in any legitimate restaurant in the city before and I was really looking forward to this opportunity. Even with that, I didn’t have much to judge it against other than the fact that I was really hungry.
Before they arrived to the table, they were described to me as fall off the bone. When you hear that, you’re half expecting to pick up the ribs and have them fall apart, but that wasn’t the case here. After using a knife and fork to cut things up, each piece did come with a healthy amount of meat. With each bite, you didn’t have to fight the meat whatsoever, thus meeting the fall off the bone criteria.
The other feature that was interesting was the sauce. One of my weaknesses when it comes to eating anything sauce related like poutine or ribs, is the sauce. For the life of me, I can’t tell you anything about the sauce. Here, it wasn’t anything that blew my mind away, but it wasn’t anything that turned me off either. I found that it was something that complimented the meat without really overpowering anything else.
Lastly, you’ll notice the chips on top of most of the meals that were delivered to the table. These were last minute creations done for the heck of it. I think everyone that was there with me that night will agree with the fact that they were the best things we ate. We even mentioned that they could bag them and make a tidy profit, as a lot of big time products do start off in restaurants.
Our meals finished off with dessert. At this point, the chef left for the night and I started wondering something quite important. Who was responsible for making and plating the desserts? It’s really wonderful that they’ve worked so hard on the conception of all the items before dessert, but here, something was really lacking. This point was raised at our next outing and we discussed it a bit. These desserts were plated by the servers and there wasn’t much imagination going into it. I’ve seen better plating at the corner deli and that’s the most honesty that I can give you. There wasn’t anything with the piece of chocolate that was on the plate, but I was left wanting more.
Our visit to Le Maistre was interesting to say the least. This was probably one of the hardest posts for me to write and one that made me reflect a great deal on what I’m doing. If I try to look at things objectively, the effort on this evening was there, but I would have loved to know what it was like for the other diners who were there that evening. But, I would always be happy to go back as there is a lot that does work.