So my last post was just about my first night in Montreal, breaking into the new city with a taste tour of Japan at Kinka Izakaya. The next morning I had my Old Montreal food tour which I mentioned in previous posts on what to see and do in the city. That night I met up with an old high school friend and her husband. I hadn’t seen them since I was in Toronto…so so many years ago for their wedding. It was great to see them again and catch up. Often times when you hear stories of old friends meeting up again after some time, they talk about how amazed they are at how different everyone looked. I was more amazed by how it looked like we had just seen each other last weekend, and how easily and readily the conversation and good times flowed as such too. I hate to admit that I am very, very bad at maintaining communication with people. Out of sight out of mind is more often the norm for me. I had messaged them a bit before my trip so we could arrange some time to meet and catch up, but other than that, I really hadn’t spoken to them since the wedding. But it felt great to see each other, and I knew, as always, we would be able to pick up right where we left off.
But let me tell you about the food. The benefit of having had this trip planned in my head so far in advance is as soon as we had set a date, I already knew where we were eating and scrambled to make the reservation. I was actually in Punta Cana and, taking advantage of the free calls to the US and Canada at the resort, made my reservation from there while I was on my work trip. I got us a highly sought after reservation at one of the best, craziest, gastronomically astronomical restaurants in the city, Liverpool House. You might recognize the dining room from the recent photo of (it hurts my heart to say this) former president Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ‘bro-date’. And let me tell you, if it’s good enough for me, you can bet it’s good enough for two of the most powerful and influential men in the world. Liverpool House is the sister restaurant to Joe Beef next door, both under the careful, watchful, and expert eye of co-owners Frédéric Morin and David McMillan. Joe Beef is still one of the most exclusive and hard to secure reservations in Montreal if not the entire country, and continues to elude me to this day. But to sit and dine at Liverpool House is more than just a consolation prize. It is an experience in and of itself; one nothing short of culinary excess and near perfection.
Much like Joe Beef, the menu at Liverpool House changes regularly with seasonality and inspiration. Giant blackboards dominate a majority of the restaurant’s walls listing specials, current cheese offerings, and a wine selection that would make a Frenchman drunk just reading it. The dining room is more ‘survivalist uncle’s living room’ than ‘fine dining mecca’. Wood-paneled walls, stuffed deer heads, and various eclectic pieces of nostalgic knickknacks. The tiny, two room restaurant is packed the night of our reservation and as we wait for our table to be cleared, we all start taking mental notes of the dishes that pass through from the kitchen to the dining room and what looks and smells the best. We start our meal with a sinfully large portion of foie gras served with a Prosecco gelee and warm, fresh bread. The foie is rich, buttery, smooth, and incredibly fatty. When the cool foie meets the warm bread it truly becomes one of life’s greatest pleasures. Perhaps the controversial preparation of foie gras has us straying further and further from God’s light, but I’d rather be a sinner anyways. We also order a half dozen oysters from different parts of the Eastern Canadian coast to start. I am reminded that I am in French country when I see my cocktail sauce has been replaced with freshly grated horseradish and mignonette sauce but I am too busy slurping away and enjoying the salty sweet liqueur to mind. Our other started is a light and creamy pappardelle pasta tossed with snow crab meat and fresh garden peas. The pasta is freshly made in house and has a wonderfully toothsome texture that soaks up the cream and crab sauce. There are large, sizable, generous chunks of seasoned snow crab mixed into the pasta that add an ocean saltiness to the rich cream.
We each order separate entrees with the firm understanding that we will be sharing all three amongst each other. My friend orders the lobster spaghetti which is an all-time favorite and classic staple of both Joe Beef and Liverpool house. A generous portion of fresh spaghetti is tossed in a rich and creamy tomato based sauce that is super infused with the flavor of lobster and served with two whole cracked claws. The tail meat is chopped and mixed into the dish. This is one of the most essential dishes of the restaurant and I highly recommend any newcomer first makes sure to order this for the table. Liverpool House is very particular to ensure that the seafood is always fresh, local, and meaty. It takes little to no effort to get into the pre-cracked claws and extract whole, juicy, tantalizing pieces of claw meat. Her husband orders the half roast chicken served on top of roasted vegetables and a cream of leek sauce. I had a portion of the breast, which I normally do not enjoy because it can become too dry, but this piece was superbly moist and tender, with a delicately crisp skin crackling with flavor. The chicken’s natural juices were still captured inside the meat and burst when you bit into it. Being the unrepentant carnivore, I wanted to try one of their specials, which was a horse filet wrapped in bacon served with radish, foie gras mousse (because why not have extra foie on everything), and a peppercorn sauce. This was my first experience with horse and I have to tell you, it would be a huge shame if people thought of horses as too domesticated to be considered a viable meat source. There are very many other portions of the world who regularly eat horse meat and I can see why. It is tender, lean, has a wonderful flavor, and is incredibly juicy. The horse filet was treated just like a large steak would be, seared and done to just medium rare with fatty smokey bacon wrapped around to add extra flavor. Mixing the foie gras mousse with the vegetables on top made for an excellent accompaniment. Liverpool House’s wine selection is also top notch, Old World producers and our waiter recommended a wonderfully spicy merlot to pair with my filet.
The three of us, fully stuffed, satisfied, and satiated with an incredible variety of starters and entrees, naturally came to the conclusion that we had eaten way too much already to order dessert… individually. Instead we decided to share a maple brioche bun stuffed with sweet cream ice cream and served with the fresh strawberries, just picked from the beginning of the season. This brioche bun with its fluffy interior and sweet sticky maple exterior, lightly caramelized and browned sugar crust, was everything I wanted a real French pastry to be. And those fresh Montreal strawberries, so tiny but so packed and bursting with sweet tartness, were some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had. Real quality produce that tasted of just pure fruit, grown with attention and care. My friend did tell me that, according to our childhood in Jersey, Montreal fruits were some of the best.
I knew way before we even got to the restaurant and started ordering to our heart’s content that I would be treating my friends that night. A combination of the joy of reunion, the excitement of a new career, the adrenaline of being in a new city, and the slight guilt of not having spoken to them in well over five years, made that decision for me a long time before. So I ninja’ed my way from the table under the pretense of using the restroom, covered the bill, popped my head into the kitchen to compliment the staff, and we headed out into the night. They were kind enough to drop me off at my hotel afterwards, we chatted for a bit more, and once it was starting to really get late they left and headed back home to a suburb just off the island. I meanwhile, had the night, and this beautiful city, to reflect and reminisce not just on what was one of the best meals I’d ever had in one of the best restaurants I have ever been to, but on the rare opportunity I was afforded to meet up with old and dear friends to catch up and chase away the time.
Man: 302 Loneliness: 33