The Divas are very hesitant about bring your own wine (BYOW) restaurants. The status quo tends to be that if you can bring your own wine, something must suffer and that tends to be the food. Another reason that we do not like BYOW restaurants is that when we go out we like to indulge…a lot. At a BYOW restaurant, you cannot start your meal with a cocktail because they never have that type of liquor license. Those who like to indulge usually like rich foods and good alcohol. If we are going to walk into a restaurant with three bottles of wine for three women….well that’s just not classy. Now, if we are enjoying a lovely dinner and happen to order three bottles of wine au hasard, well that’s just a coincidence and was in no way planned…most of the time.
Time to confess, we’ve all left a bottle or two in the car, walked into the BYOW only holding one or two bottles and then when they are quickly gone, one exclaims to the other “oh I have another in the car, would you like me to go get it? I had bought extra for home” and with a coquettish giggle another bottle is fetched ensuring that the night is a success. Perhaps the secret to BYOW restaurants is getting drunk enough on all of the inexpensive wine to ensure a good night and indifference towards the food. Hmmm, interesting concept.
Les Canailles is not a visually beautiful restaurant. It is located off of the Plateau in what is being called an up and coming part of town. The open kitchen is nice but we’ve seen it before. The menu isn’t very long or original; it is what you would expect from French bistro fare. When we go out we like to be wowed and we were simply content with Les Canailles. Diva #1 ordered the foie gras appetizer whose preparation changes according to the whi, of the chef. That night it was a hefty piece of foie gras torchon with an apricot glaze and on a bed of preserved fruits and bread. The portion size was impressive, the foie gras tasty and the fruit preserve decent.
We were out for a good friend of Diva #1’s birthday, we will call her La Femme Fatale. She ordered the sea triad. This little appetizer came with cod croquettes, crab cakes and some jumbo shrimp. Good sized portion served with a romanesco sauce and a chive sour cream, it was a tasty appetizer. The fish was not too fried and you could differentiate between the crab and the cod. When seafood is fried it tends to be undistinguishable which is unacceptable. Everything was arranged nicely on the plate, very appetizing and appealing. A nice little appetizer.
The oysters were what you would expect from Montreal, meaty Raspberry Point oysters that did not disappoint. Oysters at Les Canailles were not overly expensive, nor cheap. Oysters are the perfect pallet cleanser between heavy appetizers and rich main meals. We try to incorporate them in many of our meals, particularly when Zeus is around because he demands it and well, he is Zeus. And if we are going to emasculate him in every way, we may as well give him his little victories.
The beef tartare was chopped in large pieces and was a touch overly seasoned. It was okay but we’ve had so much better. The fries and salad were plentiful and fresh but once again, this tartare dish did not really impress us. We consider a restaurant a success if we leave it and immediately tell all of our friends and brag about our dishes to everyone at work the next day. Les Canailles just did not provide us with the French bistro excellence that we are used to.
La Femme Fatale ordered the braised short rib that was served with carrots and peas in a creamy sauce with onions and an individual spinach tart in puff pastry. The meat was tender and braised well. The spinach tart was decent but once again, nothing mouthwatering.
We were not in the mood for dessert and chose to simply enjoy our wine and the busy ambiance. The dessert menu included a nougat glacé, crème Catalan, a chocolate and nut tart, and a cheese parfait. Since we were there near the holiday season we also noticed the option of a holiday group menu for 40$ that included the choice between specific appetizers, main dishes and desserts with coffee or tea.
Les Canailles was packed and seemed very popular. In all, it was a decent restaurant…for a BYOW, which is what people usually say when they go to a BYOW, “not bad for what it is.” Bring your own wine is overrated because the food always suffers and if you’re going out, you want to spoil yourself and enjoy great food. That being said, eating at home is also BYOW and at least then you’re not expecting a fancy French meal. Well we do, but most don’t
The Divas are all about luxurious eating and we just didn’t feel spoiled at Les Canailles.