When Diva #1 thinks of Les Deux Gamins, she takes a trip down memory lane. This little restaurant nestled on Prince Arthur Street near the booming clubs of St-Laurent is where she first ordered duck confit many years ago. Now she returns after a whole year of blogging and countless other culinary adventures to see how this little rustic wine bistro compares to some of her favourite Montreal restaurants. She came in with Dr. Body Shots and looked around at the fairly large restaurant, decorated to resemble a rustic Parisian brasserie complete with a functional fireplace and saloon piano in the back.
Les Deux Gamins has a menu that changes quite frequently and a wonderful terrace that, during summer, spills onto the pedestrian-only area of Prince Arthur. Sweet Pea and Diva #1 have spent many a night drinking too much wine on their terrace awaiting friends for a night of dancing and enjoying the Montreal nightlife. To be fair to Sweet Pea, she usually had to drag Diva #1 clubbing but she could always sweeten the deal with a stop at Les Deux Gamins.
Les Deux Gamins is in no way pretentious; it is a restaurant that is often filled with patrons dressed up and starting their night, or the more casual Prince Arthur wanderers. On this night, Les Deux Gamins was not busy but mind you, the restaurant is broken into three mezzanines so it is hard to fill to capacity. When you think of Prince Arthur you think of mediocre tourist traps but Les Deux Gamins is a down-to-earth gem amongst the pretentious supper clubs and garbage restaurants.
Dr. Body Shots and Diva #1 had decided to go to Les Deux Gamins to chat and catch up. We were really hungry and were soon picking our appetizers. Diva #1 was intrigued by the foie gras served with fig chutney. In the past the Divas have had the beef tartare and found it lovely but lately since then they have indulged in some amazing tartare dishes, Diva#1 was worried that Les Deux Gamins could not compete. She chose to order the foie gras. The seared duck liver was a generous piece served on grilled country bread, a rustic presentation to go with the ambiance. The portion was bigger than expected and though seared foie gras is a Diva-favourite, this foie gras left a slight metallic aftertaste. It was nonetheless delicious when coupled with the fig chutney, and well-priced, but we’ve had better tasting foie gras.
Dr. Body Shots ordered the salmon tartare and generously let Diva #1 try some. The salmon tartare was what you would expect from a French bistro, the only exception being that it did not come with baguette crisps. The waitress had initially brought us fresh baguette to enjoy with our appetizers but when we think of tartare, we expect those crispy baguette slices. On the flip side, the tartare did come with a delicious green salad that was dressed well and a nice addition considering that usually only tartare main dishes come with a salad.
Torn between the duck confit leg or the mac n’ cheese with duck confit, Dr. Body Shots solved Diva #1’s problem by saying that she was going to order the mac n’ cheese with duck. Although the dish itself could have been creamier, cheesier and richer, the mac n’ cheese had wonderful bread crumbs gratinéed on top. The duck confit was a lovely addition, though the mac n’ cheese should have been mixed in with the duck confit. By simply topping the mac n’ cheese the dish looked aesthetically attractive but missed out on a potentially richer combination of flavours.
Nostalgia tugged at Diva #1, so the duck confit with salardaise potatoes was ordered, a dish that is perfectly “Parisian bistro” in every way. We sat on our wicker chairs facing the glass wall that opens to the terrace in the warm summer months and awaited the duck confit that started it all. It arrived, and as remembered, the skin was crispy, the fat rich and the meat tasty. It does not come with sauce or any adornments other than the typical salardaise potatoes which are the traditional accompaniment to this dish. This too came with a green salad that was fresh and with a great balsamic dressing. The potatoes were crispier than Diva #1 would have liked but were lovely in their simplicity because salardaise potatoes are simply cooked in duck fat with minimal seasoning.
The Divas have ordered simple French dishes like duck confit with salardaise potatoes many times at different restaurants and this dish is often overpriced, but Les Deux Gamins is not a high-priced restaurant. Les Deux Gamins may not provide the bells and whistles of other French restaurants, the duck confit did not come with a raspberry coulis, nor was the plate adorned with truffle shavings or truffle oil, but they gave you a great piece of duck.
Dessert offered many options but being the gourmands that we are, we opted for the gourmet dessert sampler which came with a mini crème brûlée, chocolate mousse and an apple pie tatin with vanilla ice cream. The crème brûlée was what you would expect, vanilla and tasty. The chocolate mousse was surprisingly very good and light with a certain richness. The apple pie tatin was not perfection but it was good when paired with the accompanied vanilla ice cream. All in all, a good little dessert sampler.
Other great menu items that we have tried over the years include the boeuf bourguignon and the beef tartare. They used to have lovely patate dauphinoise (potatoes cooked in cream and gruyère cheese) that we used to order as a side dish but that has long since disappeared. Going to Les Deux Gamins for Diva#1 is a trip down memory lane, filled with memories of Montreal summer nights long passed. Diva #1 will never forget where she first tried duck confit and fell in love.
Our Rating: As Expected
Tagged: Bar à Vin, Beef Tartare, bistro, Boeuf Bourguignon, Brasserie, Chocolate Mousse, Crème Brûlée, Downtown, Duck Confit, Escargot, Flank Steak, foie gras, French, French Onion Soup, Les Deux Gamins, Mac n' Cheese, Montreal, Plateau, Prince Arthur, Rustic, Salardaise Potatoes, Salmon Tartare, Tartare, Tarte Tatin, terrace, wine, Wine Bistro