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Restaurant La Porte: The Best of Six Years of Food in One Festival en Lumiere Lunch

Posted by Amie / February 18, 2012

Restaurant La Porte best lunch at the festival en lumiere 2012I've been meaning to try French restaurant La Porte during Festival en Lumiere for years and this year I finally made it. I went in wondering if Montreal really needed another French restaurant six years ago when La Porte opened, and came out convinced that it most definitely did.

This year's menu concept is to take the most popular items that have ever appeared on the menu, and let you choose the best of the best. The restaurant itself seems clean and stiff - business lunch-y, with tall vases full of fake green vines above the bar and mini lights elegantly hanging from branches - but the back room reveals the restaurant's inner romantic where a short bench set in front of a low table seems perfect for an intimate souper à deux.

For the first lunch served of La Porte as part of the Festival en Lumiere (reservations are still available for next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) the fast pace of the open kitchen run by Breton Chef Thierry Rouyé and son was impressively stress-free. Our first server was also charming. The second warmed to us. We tipped well, so I think she'd even let us come back. (How to get approval: "I think I'll bring my mom here when she's in town" = the promise of more money for the restaurant and that you're actually appreciating the meal. You eat more great meals with honey, I always say...).

I would tell you what's best on the $35 prix fixe lunch menu, but six years of patrons have already spoken and they got it right - everything is good. $35 isn't small potatoes, I know (their regular lunch table d'hote goes for $25 for three courses, but the glass of wine included here probably makes it possible to set such a low price point for the rest of the meal); it's a whole lot to pay for lunch, but for cod brandade with seared blood sausage, sweet and creamy celery root rémoulade, mashed potatoes and lobster emulsion, it's worth it. And that's an appetizer. The other apps are parsnip soup with a single scallop and a twirled fried chip, and crispy salmon tataki with Asian vinaigrette. And apple foam that actually tastes like apple, not air, is pretty fun whatever it tops.

Mains include a salmon filet (unsustainable...but perfectly cooked - rare inside, just like the sweet scallop) on top of red cabbage cooked with apple and absorbing the salmon juices, with a line of bitter-sweet apple reduction, a drizzle of nutty toasted buckwheat, and a glass of Californian Chardonnay.

Other mains included paella with rabbit, squid and chorizo sausage; grilled game; and local Gaspor pork with heirloom pink beets and baby carrots delicately cooked with a dab of butter in a rich sauce (paella isn't from Brittany like the chefs, but the butter sure is).

Desserts weren't toss-offs either. No crème caramel here. Instead, a brownie chock full of nuts, topped with apple compote, light-as-air pear sorbet and Chantilly cream. Another option did miraculous things with caramelized dried fruit, though I'd never skip anything stacked and crunchy here, like the paper-thin corn syrup brittle layered with caramelized apples and sided with molasses-thick apple reduction, simple apple sauce and sorbet - hot, cold, crunchy, smooth, chewy, sweet, bitter...heaven.

I love the idea of dessert after dessert: Mignardises of homemade rose marshmallows with dark chocolate, and soft fruit candies coated with puckering lemon and rich sweet fruit inside that put Laura Secord to shame. What did I say about stacked things, again? Thumbs up for the lemon custard-filled mini-Napoleans.

What: La Porte at Le Festival en Lumiere
When: Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 22-24, 2012
Where: 3627 boul. St-Laurent
How Much: $46 including tax and tip (not cheap, but worth the splurge if you're up for it)
514-282-4996

Discussion

11 Comments

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