***Sadly this Restaurant is Closed***
Diva #1 and Sweet Pea were due for a quiet night out where they could gossip about guys, enjoy a bottle of wine and, of course, good food is always a must. We just needed to take a break from the usual wild nights. Our Saturday nights are usually spent in Old Montreal, either having dinner, or more accurately, hopping from bar to bar. On this particular Saturday, we began our night at Le Mas des Oliviers. As much as the Divas love the newest and trendiest restaurants and bars, sometimes we like going back to the Montreal restaurant institutions that have stood the test of time. Lesley Chesterman had written a great review on Le Mas des Oliviers and it just made us eager to try the restaurant where Mordecai Richler had his “spot” and Brian Mulroney dined on occasion. Le Mas des Oliviers has been open for 40 plus years; it is a piece of Montreal history.
Though their cuisine is predominantly French, they are often described as having more of a Provençale cuisine. Dishes like ratatouille, frog legs, foie gras terrine on a homemade brioche, duck confit with varied sauces, veal scaloppini à la Normande, etc, make up the menu. Their famous fish soup, le pescadou et sa rouquine is well known, as is their Grand Marnier Soufflé that you must order 20 minutes in advance. Simply calling the restaurant rustic does not give it justice: Le Mas des Oliviers sets a mood. The waiters offer pristine service; the stucco walls, low ceilings and thick wood wine cellar make you feel like you’re in Provence, especially when you see the old phonograph, candelabras, French posters and other old school ornamentation.
The only unfortunate aspect of the restaurant is that it has not been revitalized by people in their late 20s, early 30s…or even 40s. Well, it certainly didn’t seem that way when we arrived on a Saturday night. Downtown was bustling, we could not find parking, and every restaurant on Bishop seemed very busy. We entered Le Mas des Oliviers: Sweet Pea in her leather pants and f-me shoes, Diva #1 in her plunging neckline and general sassy attitude. Did we stand out? Yes. We walked in expecting a fabulous restaurant in downtown Montreal; we had cocktail plans with our Sensei at the witching hour so we were dressed to impress. We entered Le Mas des Oliviers and realized how out of place we were: the median age was 65. We looked ridiculous, so we swallowed our ego and sat down. Had we known, we would have dressed more appropriately, or at least tried to.
Our experience was slightly tarnished when our table was next to a man connected to a ventilator in his eighties; perhaps that night was his last meal? As we awkwardly sat down and mocked ourselves for not looking into the restaurant’s style, we were quickly quieted by our accommodating waiter. Though he too look amused, he brought us our bread and amuse bouches; some charcuterie cured sausage, carrots (which was random) and some delicious garlic olives. The bread was perfect crusty French baguette, the olives perfectly seasoned and the cured sausage tasty. The raw carrots were strange but we didn’t mind and ordered our bottle of red wine, a 2009 Bordeaux to accompany our meal. Drinking made us feel less conscientious but we were careful not to become loud and obnoxious.
Le Mas des Oliviers has varied group menus if you do not want to order à la carte, ranging from 36$ to 66$ a head. We chose a group menu that allowed you to have the soup of the day, the choice between salad or snails as appetizers, and then a choice of mains and dessert. The soup of the day was a cauliflower soup; Diva #1 is not a huge fan of soup with the exception of seafood soups or French onion soup, but this beautiful creamy soup was delicious. The cauliflower taste was very prevalent: it was not overly creamy and just thick enough to almost be a purée. Nothing is worse than a runny cream soup! We topped our soups with freshly ground pepper and enjoyed them tremendously. Our only complaint was that it arrived at our table at room temperature, and it should have been warmer.
Though we like to order different things on a menu and share our plates, choosing between snails in puff pastry and a green salad was not a very hard choice. Both Diva #1 and Sweet Pea ordered the wonderful snails in puff pastry that were topped with a wine sauce and mushrooms. Decadence is the perfect word to describe this rich and creamy appetizer. The sauce was a wine sauce made with cream and the snails had the same consistency as the mushrooms which was very interesting and a great combination. The puff pastry was crumbly and not soggy under the thick sauce, and the portion was generous. Diva #1 was smitten with joy at the fact that Sweet Pea was now ordering her own plate of snails; it felt like just yesterday she was squeamish with things like snails and oysters.
Our choice of mains included a duck confit, salmon mille feuille, surf & turf, and lamb. Diva #1 was craving the duck confit from the moment she read the words on her menu; she had not eaten duck in a while and no one does it like the French. When she tried her duck confit, topped with a green peppercorn sauce, she knew that she had not chosen wrong. She had seen on their menu that they had varied duck dishes served in different ways, but this green peppercorn sauce was divine. Smooth and velvety, it was perfect: the duck was fatty, the skin crisp and the meat just fell off the bone; no knife was required. The sauce was so good that Diva #1 kept spooning it up and eating it when the duck was long gone.
The dish also came with some steamed vegetables that required salt and pepper and were rather bland, and an amazing gratin dauphinois, the traditional accompaniment to duck confit. The baked potatoes, cooked in their cream and butter were heavenly, our only regret being that there weren’t enough potatoes! Long after Diva #1 was full she was licking her fork clean that still had bits of green peppercorn sauce and crème fraiche from the potatoes.
After tasting her dish, Diva #1 felt sorry for Sweet Pea whose dish had a lot to live up to. Sweet Pea had ordered the salmon mille-feuille which just based on its name, sounded like a very different type of salmon. The salmon was baked in layers with spinach and oyster mushrooms in between. A generous amount of mushrooms, and thankfully not awful button mushrooms, were stuffed in between layers of tender salmon. A cream sauce topped the dish (the French love their cream) and really tied in the stuffing with the salmon. This too came with those sad steamed vegetables but the richness of the dish made them inutiles. She couldn’t finish her plate which made the waiter ask if she enjoyed it; she was just full, and he seemed rather distressed at the thought.
Our wine complimented the food and we continued to plan our soirée with our Sensei and others. The weather was awful; we had parked far and it was raining, and of course we had no umbrellas. Our perfectly curled hair was going to suffer but after a good meal, does all of that really matter? Our menu allowed us the choice between the profiterole and chocolate mousse; of course we chose both to taste each other’s desserts. Our waiter exclaimed that this was the best profiterole in the city, and Diva #1 sighed remembering an old beau from France who loved profiteroles and would search Montreal restaurants for the best ones.
They arrived and earned their title as “the best profiterole in the city.” The puff pastry was crusty on the outside but fluffy on the inside, the vanilla ice cream was speckled with vanilla bean and the chocolate was so very rich. We enjoyed this dessert tremendously and ate it while finishing our bottle of wine; who says that you cannot have wine with dessert?
Our second dessert was the chocolate mousse, and in comparison to the profiterole this dish fell short. The mousse was creamy but not rich enough; the chocolate should have been more powerful. Though we had not had better profiterole, we unfortunately have had better chocolate mousse. Next time we should wait the 20 minutes for their Grand Marnier soufflé, a house specialty.
We left at 10:30pm, not late for a Saturday night in Montreal but the restaurant was closing, we were the last customers, and the waiters were sitting at the bar eagerly awaiting our departure. Le Mas des Oliviers is not the place to spend a Diva-night: you do not go there to order trendy cocktails and eat all night while getting rowdy. It is the place to go to be transported back to an older more refined Montreal, where French cuisine did not mean fusion, bistro or trendy, but instead it meant thick sauces, rich dishes, steak frites and more traditional French desserts. We will return to Le Mas des Oliviers, but we will perhaps leave the hot pants at home, sport looser blouses and ease up on the smokey eyes and f-me shoes.
Our Rating: Splendid
Tagged: 1216 Rue Bishop, Bishop, Chocolate Mousse, Downtown, Duck Confit, Escargots, Filet Mignon, Fish Soup, Flambé, foie gras, French, French Onion Soup, Frog Legs, golden square mile, Gratin Dauphinois, Group Menu, H3G 2E2, Jacques Müller, Lamb Chops, Lamb Shank, Le Mas des Oliviers, Le Mas des Oliviers Bishop, Le Mas des Oliviers Downtown Montreal, Le Mas des Oliviers Montreal, Le pescadou et sa rouquine, Mille-Feuille de Saumon, Montreal, Montreal Restaurant, Pâté, Pierre Dominique, Profiteroles, Provençale, Provence, Quentin Blouin, Rabbit, Rustic, Sabayon, Salmon, Scallops, Snails, Soufflé Grand Marnier, Southern French, Splendid, Steak Frites, Surf & Turf, Sweetbreads, terrace, Terrine, Valet Parking, Veal Scaloppini, wine