Sunday, March 25, 2012
Understanding the story behind a restaurant, the chefs, the owners, each dish, and each decoration piece just brings the experience to a whole new level. Usually, I get super excited whenever I get a new book about food but somehow, I never really get through cover to cover. Well, The Art of Living according to Joe Beef is a different story.
As soon as you start reading the first pages, you feel close to David, Fred and Allison already. Their passion breathes through the words; they love their city, they love their local markets, they love their peers, they love their staff, and most importantly, they really love sharing what they do best, socializing over good unpretentious food. They wrote the book as if they were telling you stories in person. From how it all began, to some tricks to build your own smoker to food in trains to their recommended good eats in Montreal! They are also giving away recipes of some well known dishes that they serve at Joe Beef! There is a solid reason why they won the Food52 Piglet award for this book! I am lucky enough to have the book signed by Fred Morin himself! How? He he he...
I must say that I am extremely fortunate to work with one of the most amazing epicurian! Food developer by day, and jet-setter by night, he has experienced almost every top restaurant from Chicago and Montreal! He has been to Joe Beef about 15 times already in his business travels, thus he is now considered as a regular and is well known among the staff. Thus, we successfully got a seat at the bar to be in the action!
The restaurant combines the old McKiernan along with the original Joe Beef to a small and cozy two rooms available for good eats and drinks. The decor is relaxed and you can really see the personality of the owners on the wall. Wild, funny and random at the same time, you can find a head of a water buffalo in the bathroom and a sturgeon on another wall, the place definitely has a whole lot of character!
Now on to the food, we gived liberty to our awesome waiter to choose for us! Here goes:
Village Bay oysters from New Brunswick served with mignonette, horseradish and seafood sauce (3.50$ each)
These babies were plump and juicy with a clean and salty finish on the tongue! The freshly shaved horseradish were an awesome addition for texture and kick!
Cornflakes nuggets of eel; tartare, bbq and mustard sauce (12$)
Little pockets of crunchy sunshine is how I will define them! The idea of adding cornflakes to a batter to amp up the crunch factor is genius! The eel, also referred as the undersea tenderloin by Joe Beef, is shredded and mixed with potatoes and seasonings to result into an smooth and unctuous mix contrasted with the golden and crisp exterior. Also, do make sure to mix the tartare and bbq sauce together to make perfection: a slighlty acidic and smoky dipping sauce perfect for the nugget!
Double down foie gras, Chicken skin mayo, maple bacon and aged cheddar, caramel apple syrup (29$)
Ha-ha, in your face Colonel! Your double down has nothing to compete against's Joe Beef! Can you imagine? Two pieces of foie gras deep-fried, in which are sandwiched maple-syrup infused, aged and smoked cheddar, double-smoked bacon and chicken skin mayonnaise, all drizzled with a caramel apple syrup (to cut through the fat ;) )! Are you having a heart attack yet? I know I am having an orgasm. Seriously, this is business here! As soon as you bite into this 'sandwich', you are just hit with the combination of texture, the foie gras literally melts in your mouth! The mayo has a meaty flavor and adds a 'je ne sais quoi' to the double down. And the liver taste is much more significant here then in any foie gras I had in the past. Good thing we did shared this dish, even though it was oozing of deliciousness, the fat was really too intense!
Œufs mayonnaise - quail eggs, œuf mollet, sturgeon and salmon caviar on mayonnaise (13$)
By looking at the name, this is a dish that i would not have personally ordered. Good thing that I wasn't the one deciding though because this dish was top-notch and the favorite of my foodie companion! The quality of the caviar was out of this world! Exploding in the mouth and salty, they just had that fresh and sea taste to it that was perfectly married with the rich taste of the eggs and the creamy mayonnaise. The hint of herbs completed marvously this dish. Perfect example of how simple can be better.
Sturgeon pojarski, escargots en meurettes, pork belly, aioli (16$)
Pojarski is a russian dish where ground meat, bread and cream are fried in butter. Here, chef Morin did his own version with sturgeon but adds in a bone of an unknown animal to make the pojarski appear as it was made of meat! This dish was absolutely mouth watering! The sauce made of snails and mushroom slowly stewed had this rich and buttery taste to it. The smokey hint of the sturgeon paired up nicely with the velvety sauce and the slight touch of garlic from the aioli. And of course, the strips of pork belly only adds value ;)
Spaghett Homard-Lobster (49$)
Extract from the book:
We take the name from an old Iron Chef episode when the host declared 'Battle Homard Lobster!' Yes, homard and lobster mean the sme thing (like 'minestrone soup')
If you don't want to look at the live obster as it boils, you are probably someone who likes to have sex with the light off. That's okay.
Gosh! Just gotta love those guys' humor! The famous lobster spaghetti! We asked for a half portion as we were already 4 dishes in and so glad that we did! The pasta is perfectly cooked al dente and tossed in the lobster bisque sauce made with a generous amount of cream which contributes to the intense richness of the sauce. The addition of tarragon and brandy to the dish intensify the sweetness of the lobster while underlining the smokyness of the bacon. And the lobster pieces are huge and so so so perfectly cooked! Love love love!
Baked Potato - dessert style (Meringue topped with home made soft vanilla and orange serve, carrot shavings and chocolate sauce) (10$)
Another creative way of chef Morin to play with food! The meringue plays as the potato, the ice cream as the sour cream, the carrot shavings as the grated cheese, pistachios as chives and the chocolate sauce as gravy. G-E-N-I-O-U-S! Although a little sweet for my taste, I must admit that their soft serve is so creamy and heavenly delicious! Again, the texture of all the ingredients contrast beautifully against each other!
Almond financier with roasted pistachios, homemade soft vanilla serve and honeycomb (10$)
This was the BOMB! The financier is light and flaky, perfectly golden with the nutty flavor of the almond. The vanilla serve, as mentionned above, is like silk against your tongue and the roasted aroma of the pistachios blends in wonderfully with the dish. But the highlight here is the honeycomb! The raw honeycomb square on top was explosing of a syrupy sweetness! And they way it was sticking to your teeth just adds up to the experience. So sticky + creamy + crispy + crunchy = whirlwind of sensations in your mind and mouth!!! Wow wow and rewow!
Joe Beef delivers like no other! Each dish is executed with simple ingredients but so carefully thought through… the combination of flavors, texture, colors… and even the plates adds a nice touch! And there is even more emotion in the meal once you've read the book and understand how the dish was brought together and why. It is well worth reserving one month in advance! And Joe Beef also earns a point in that there is almost always one of the owner at the restaurant! This shows dedication and care to their work! And I had the incredible chance to chat with Fred Morin, such a down-to-earth guy that has an awesome sense of humor and his passion seriously shines through when he talks!
Thanks to all the amazing staff, Pier Luc our waiter and to my beloved partner! You truly made my evening memorable!