While in Montreal this past Memorial Day Weekend, I had a meal that caused me to search for words to describe it. It was beyond the “cracktastic” deliciousness of duck confit poutine. Epic and crack just didn’t suit it. It was refined, restrained, meat-filled, and damn near perfection for a small restaurant beyond the crowds of visitors on Saint Laurent. This place felt like a truly in-the-know spot.
We actually tried to eat at Le Comptoir (the site’s in French) on our first night, but they were booked solid. Even the chairless highboy tables were full. Our Local Montreal guide recommended this place as an off the tourist radar restaurant with fantastic food. They specialize in charcuterie and embrace the nose-to-tail movement. On our second evening, we walked by earlier in the day (on our quest for bagels) and made a reservation.
After our waitress noticed my horrendously out of practice French (and the hubs’s complete lack of making any attempt at French), she switched to English and gave us an English version menu. It differed slightly from the menu on the chalkboard, and I recognized about 75% of the words, but it was nice to be 100% sure that I wasn’t ordering something with fish or shellfish. We were seated right at the bar overlooking the chef in the kitchen. It was fantastic to watch everyone make dishes from start to finish, though the amount of butter used in the cauliflower dish was a bit frightening (Paula Deen might say it was too much butter).
We ordered a bottle of red wine and the charcuterie plate to start with, and then got a few small plates to share. The charcuterie (from what I can remember) had coppa, lomo, pancetta, sausage, and either a head cheese or terrine. Porky goodness. Add in a spicy mustard and pickled veggies, and I could have eaten 5 plates of it. We also got a cup full of baguette toasts with a garlicky mustard and more pickled veggies.
We shared a dish of smoked duck breast (yeah, I wasn’t sick of duck) in a cold onion soup with asparagus and mushrooms. I really couldn’t pick between this duck and the poutine as the best duck I’ve ever had. The onion soup (with the shavings of cheese) acted like a sauce but tasted just like French onion soup. The veggies were perfectly crisp and the duck just fell apart from being so tender.
I got an agnoletti with crispy fried pig ear for my final course. I want to say it was beef short rib with potato, but I can’t honestly remember. I just remember that I wanted to lick the plate clean. And that crispy, fried pig’s ear tastes like a giant bac’n bit. It was an elevated version of my childhood favorite Mrs. T pierogi.
The hubs got the octopus. I declined on trying it (those suckers!). He enjoyed it, but found the dish a bit heavy and a tad chewy. Though it was still demolished. It was a good call that we stuck to the small plates for entrees or else I’d still be full.
It’s a fantastic place to dine away from visitor meccas. You can watch your dishes being prepared from the bar seating, and the seasonal menu really highlights the various produce and meats available. And try the fried pig’s ear.
We were guests of Tourism Montreal, but they did not comp the meal or ask for a glowing review. The food (and wine) earned it on their own.