Review: Restaurant , Garde Manger, Montreal

Yes, believe the hype, Chuck Hughes can cook as was evidenced by our dinner at Garde Manger in Montreal recently.  Although he was not in the restaurant this particular evening, there is no doubt in my mind that the food would have been equally stellar.

The restaurant itself, located in old Montreal, is very unassuming from the outside - you would probably walk right past it - if not for the tantalizing scents wafting outside.

I will say this - if you are making a reservation (recommended!) be patient.  They are busy, but be patient.  My first call was to a full voicemail box, two months prior to our intended visit.  Second time, I called early, and left a message with my date request.  My call was returned and I was told to call back only one month ahead.  To the day, I called again and left a message.  My call was returned and the reservations were made.  I was contacted the day of our dinner to confirm.  Ultimately a pretty efficient system - I had read some frustrated comments online by other patrons.  I guess they (Chuck's people) were also reading the same comments and have come up with quite a workable system.

Now, onto the food - the whole reason we were in Montreal in the first place, to eat!  We arrived for our 8:30 pm reservation a few minutes early and had to wait a bit - Bob Marley on the player to make the wait easy.  We were seated at about 8:40 pm.  I watch 'Chuck's Day Off' and the restaurant/kitchen look quite small on TV.  However, full of buzzing patrons, it is not as small as I thought.  We were led to our table past a bar, then the kitchen and ultimately to the back of the restaurant - where there was another bar.  The space is great - excellent vibe, warm, cozy atmosphere and the music (in the back anyway) was not loud enough to thwart conversation (that was left to a delightfully raucous bunch of ladies at the next table).  My apologies in advance on the low lighting of the photos - I don't like to use flash in restaurants.

There are no menus handed out when you are seated.  In Chuck`s nod to the Paris Bistro, the menus are written on a chalk board in French and offered something for every palate.  I practiced my French in translating the menu (learned a couple of new French words as well - bonus!) for our dinner order.  When stumped, our server Patrick, was more than happy to translate for us and provide tasty recommendations.

Starter for two of us was the Jerk Snow Crab legs - sensational.  I have to say one of the best Jerk dishes I have had outside of a West Indian restaurant.  Mr. Hughes definitely knows his flavour profiles.  The dish was a lot of work (not for my crab-picking dining companion from BC - L.D.B., you're a pro!!) but it was entirely worth the effort to guide tender morsels of crab out of their shell and into my mouth.  I don't like getting my hands dirty when I eat, but did delight in the smell of allspice on my fingers for the rest of the evening.  The heat of the dish was just at the edge of my personal Scoville threshold, but there was lots of water available. (They also thoughtfully provided some warm, damp cloths with lemon for clean-up after the feast).

A mound of Jerk Snow Crab Legs - bigger than this looks

My other two dining companions enjoyed the lobster poutine.  I did have a taste of the dish, but I have to be honest in saying that the Jerk sauce lingering on my tongue didn't allow me to fully appreciate the delicateness of the lobster sauce on the fries.  However, it was a delicious dish - my only preference would have been to have larger, fluffier fries to soak up all that delicious lobster sauce.

My main was the short rib which was cooked to perfection.  Moist, dark, a little sweet, sticky, delicious, yielding and succulent (there are not enough adjectives sometimes) - it was the kind of dish you must close your eyes to fully enjoy - so as not to deny yourself the full taste sensory experience.  I love vegetables and am always happy when a unique presentation arrives to accompany the main event.  The short rib came with a cauliflower au gratin and a roast potato with (what tasted like) Boursin - exceptional.  The garnish was brussell sprouts, leaves separated and very lightly wilted with some olive oil and a pinch of salt.  I did reluctantly share bites with my fellow diners, quid pro quo and all that.

Braised Short Rib

Garde Manger on Urbanspoon

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