The soul of French cuisine includes a few key ingredients such as the baguette, tartare, duck, truffle oil and foie gras. And Le Pois Penché has all this and more.The restaurant encompasses the real essence of a Parisian restaurant, one you could easily find in a corner of Paris in Montmartre. The interior is a dark, rich red velvet, reminiscent of 1940’s France. There is also an open kitchen, a large bar and various trinkets from the past adorn the dining room.
We had our lunch out on the terrace on de Maisonneuve which is in the more typical style of Europe where tables are set up on the sidewalk and people leisurely pass through. Some might not be crazy about this but de Maisonneuve is not a particularly busy street compared to those around it. It definitely adds to the “French” atmosphere and, of course, is very scenic.
Our casual lunch started with toasted baguette which came with fresh strawberry jam and orange marmalade (both of which are made in-house). It also came with butter which was piped into a little dish in a swirled pattern.
The beef tartare as an appetizer not only won us over in terms of taste but also for its presentation. The meaty and light tartare (yes, it can be both at the same time!) was served on a bed of cucumbers with a crusty slice of baguette coming out of the middle, pointed vertically. And there was a good amount of Parmigiano and truffle shavings to round out the flavours. We love it when tartare dishes come with truffle shavings and not only truffle oil! We ordered a bowl of truffle mashed potatoes to accompany our tartare and replace the fries. This is an extra charge but well worth it, black truffle shavings top this creamy potato dish filled with butter….. mmmmmm!
Our second appetizer was a crab tatin with caramelized artichokes. The crab was fresh and flavourful and topped with a basil olive oil infusion. The puff pastry served on top of the crab was crusty but easily cut into with a fork. Truly a unique dish!
Our main meals were equally delicious. First, we tried the risotto of the day which was a mushroom risotto with truffles and Paramigiano. It was creamy, cooked well, and the mushroom flavour was rich and earthy. We were impressed with the enormous amount of truffle shavings. In most dishes that claim to have truffle shavings, you are lucky to see 2 or 3. However, in this dish, at least a quarter of a black truffle was used.
Our second main is a classic in any French restaurant, duck confit and salad with salardaise potatoes. It was delicious. The skin had the right crispiness and was tender just underneath. The potatoes were fork-tender as well. Unfortunately nothing stood out in comparison to duck confit at other French restaurants.
They also serve a very original breakfast/brunch menu if you’re partial to high-end French breakfast. A couple of the items on the menu include foie gras eggs (decadent!) and duck grilled cheese. For the good of humanity, we’re willing to sacrifice one of our mornings and try their breakfast and report back soon!
Though we were quite full, what is a meal without dessert? We decided to order a lighter dessert, which is a rarity in French restaurants. On the recommendation of our waiter, we ordered a warm apple turnover tart with basil ice cream à la mode. Oddly the basil ice cream was not speckled with green but the flavour was a refreshing combination with the tartness of the apple turnover. We should have ordered two…
Another unique quality of Pois Penché is their private dining room in the basement. Beautifully decorated, with a window looking into their wine cellar, respecting the restaurant’s motif, this dining hall is perfect for your next private event. It seats approximately 80 people and though it is in a basement, the ceilings are high and the decoration rich. One diva already planned her groomless wedding there…
We came back …
Diva #1 returned to Le Pois Penché craving some of the best beef tartare in the city but wanting to try something new. So she arrived with a Senior Diva (her mother) to show her the joys of amazing beef tartare and to try their foie gras. The beef tartare has been discussed above but we tried a few more delicacies. Did I mention they allow you to reserve onto the terrace? – How lovely!
We started with the French onion soup that was made with red wine, porto, gruyère and Swiss cheese. It was delightful, delicious and the little baguette slices were crispy and the cheese aged and flavorful. We even had the added treat of actually tasting the wine in the broth.
We then tried to order the fresh shucked oysters which according to the menu the price varies according to the market. They offer six different varieties, dependent on the market, but they were overpriced. They were sold at 4$ an oyster meaning 48$ for a dozen which is very expensive for Beausoleil and Raspberry Point oysters, although we were not familiar with the other types. We were unimpressed and decided to order a green salad with a raspberry vinaigrette and lotus root chip to enjoy with our beef tartare, it was a great combination and more interesting than the usual French fries served with beef tartare.
We then ordered a bottle of Santorini (Greek) Atlantis 2011 white wine which was nice to see in a French restaurant. It is a dry and flavorful white wine and as expected it was the perfect accompaniment to a hot day on a terrace. The Divas love Greek white wines and love seeing them in restaurants that are not Greek. The wine was 55$ which is not too bad but one diva had tried it a few times in other Montreal restaurants for 40-45$.
For our pièce de resistance we ordered the foie gras that was pan seared with Quebec apple cider and served with caramelized figs! This was delicious and we were really impressed by the amount of foie gras that was served in this appetizer, we were expecting much less and we almost could not finish it but alas somehow we managed. The foie gras was served with a toast like bread which was unimpressive but the foie gras itself was so delicious that the bread was irrelevant.
The dessert menu was longer than expected and though it took awhile to decide, we opted for the poached pear covered in chocolate sauce and almonds on a shortbread crust. Very elaborate, decadent and reminiscent of what you would see in a Parisian patisserie.
Other menu items that the divas must return to try include a bone marrow with fleur de sel appetizer, osso buco Milanaise with candied lemon and orange zest, blood pudding, etc, etc. Though the Pois Penchée menu is not long it is elaborate and each dish unique. It is a lovely restaurant for a nice night out in 1940s France.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 1940s, Always on Thursdays, bistro, Boulevard de Maisonneuve, Brasserie, Dessert, Downtown, Duck Confit, foie gras, French, French Breakfast, Le Pois Penché, Montreal, oysters, Private Dining, Tartare, terrace