The infamous Joe Beef had tempted the Divas for awhile. Finally we took the opportunity to go for a mutual friend’s birthday. Joe Beef is known for its chalkboard menu therefore, there is no menu on their website. Reservations should be made weeks in advance and do not expect a sophisticated dining room in this tiny restaurant.
At first glance, the Divas expected more from the restaurant, perhaps it is a bias that restaurants with such a high end reputation should be fancier but alas, that is what we expected. It seemed more casual than a French bistro which was surprising.
Diva #1 does not consider a meal complete without oysters. The mojito was fresh and delicious but the Bloody Ceasar was an appetizer in itself served with an oyster, the traditional celery stalk, olive, caperberry and shrimp. This little soup was served in a large jar and did not disappoint.
A bucket of bread first arrived at our table, cut from huge loaves sitting in the windows on a wooden butcher block and we were quickly given more when we emptied the bucket. The chalkboard menu was extensive for a small restaurant and the wine list, also extensive in its own right, was also on the board. Unfortunately, the menu was behind tables so it was hard to read all the items amongst the crowd in front of it.
For appetizers we started with the foie gras doubledown which the Divas agreed should always be on their menu. This was one of the two foie gras options on the menu but it was the most original. It was 2 pieces of foie gras sandwiching cheese, bacon, lettuce and truffle oil wrapped in tin foil. Even if you’re a fan of foie gras, this appetizer is rich and delicious. The Divas opted for the small size, although after tasting it we regretted not ordering the larger size.
Diva #2 ordered the cornflake crusted eel nuggets that were not over fried and served with 3 sauces: tartar sauce, honey mustard and a spicy ketchup/BBQ sauce. It was tasty and lemony and the eel came apart on your fork because it was so moist.
We had also ordered the cold veal salad which was uneventful and the presentation poor (even our photo made it look like a bowl of mashed brains). The crab meat salad was also good and the crab was fresh but it arrived in an odd porcelain crab bowl and compared to the fois gras and the eel appetizers, it was not impressive, just mashed crab.
If you are craving seafood, opt for the lobster sausage served in a seafood bisque, it was seasoned to perfection and the sauce was creamy and not heavy. Our unstable friend Bellatrix ordered this dish and she is not easily pleased.
We felt adventurous so our main meals consisted of horse steak wrapped in bacon with Swiss chard and corn succotash. Horse meat tends to be a tougher meat but this cut was tender and. the sauce was not overpowering and was predominantly made of the juices of the meat, and the steak was topped with a sweet corn that added a sweetness to the dish.
Another main that the Divas enjoyed was a duck braised in a berry wine sauce with fingerling potatoes. Duck leg tends to be more tender than duck breast but this meat was a perfect pink colour and the sauce was sweet and the dish adorned with whole berries. The potatoes were on top of the duck mixed in with the sauce which was remarkable. There is nothing like a good plate of duck.
Bellatrix ordered the braciola of pork with clams casino. The clams were very salty and served on top of the pork. This dish was good but did not particularly stand out or compliment the Joe Beef experience.
Another friend of ours had the Joe Beef steak Madame which was tender and topped with a thick slice of tomato. Ironically, Joe Beef did not have many beef items on its menu, as this steak was one of two. Fortunately there were other delicious meat and seafood dishes making this steak dish tasty but boring. We are called Divas for a reason …
For dessert we had a delicious chocolate pot de crème served in a little jar with whipped cream on top and two sugar cookies on the side. It was rich and the mousse dense making for a well made dessert. We also had the marjolaine cake, which is a multi layered chocolate hazelnut cake. French pastries are usually tastier than a slice of cake but this cake was delicious and was coated in alcohol that tasted like brandy.
To enjoy Joe Beef, you have to have an open mind and enjoy odd dishes with horse and eel; it is not for the casual diner! But it is definitely a unique Montreal dining experience everyone should experience at least once. The owners have even come out with a cookbook!
We do not usually explain our ratings but we would like to explain why we rated Joe Beef as “average.” Perhaps if it was not a celebrity restaurant, recommended by all, we would have rated it as “splendid.” Unfortunately, our expectations were high and we were satisfied but not impressed….the Divas need to be wowed.
Our Rating: As Expected