Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Travels in Taste - Le Boucan - Montreal

And we're back to our travelling ways...

Once in a while, it helps to have foodie friends in another city. In this case, my friend Regina recommended to me months ago that I forego some of Montreal's more well-known gourmet pig-outs like Au Pied de Cochon and Garde-Manger and try out some old-school BBQ a little off the beaten path (well of my beaten path in Montreal, at least) at a little resto called Le Boucan. Turns out it got a bit of exposure by being one of the restaurants featured on the Food Network program The Opener, but luckily I learned this fact after we got there. I think I might have had some odd bias against the place had I known it was pseudo-famous for being on TV. I know I'm weird, I accept this.

But that doesn't really matter. All I knew was after a slightly disappointing outing at Pied de Cochon back in September, mostly because of the oppressive heat due to sitting at the bar right in front of the open-concept kitchen, I was ready to take an insider's advice rather than general Internet and TV hoopla. Also, RIBS!

So, after our gourmet sojourns in Quebec City, it was back to Montreal for some good old-fashioned meat. Located on Notre-Dame West in Montreal's Saint-Henri neighbourhood, Le Boucan was definitely a step outside where I'd usually hung out in Montreal (Downtown, Old Montreal, The Plateau, etc.). Luckily it was still walking distance from our hotel, but it was a fairly long walk, which served us well because we get there right on time for our reservations. Unfortunately, no one had passed the memo on to the people sitting at the table that was supposed to be ours! So, we had to wait at the bar for a little bit, but that was fine in itself! It gave us a chance to get to know the staff and take in the whole atmosphere of the place. I really liked that it was cozy and dimly lit, it made me think of a get-together at a ski chalet.

As we were waiting, we took in the food and drink menus and I was trepidatious at the lack of microbrews at the bar: on tap was Keith's, Bud and so on. Luckily, there was an item that caught my eye: Bierbrier Premium Ale. I'd never heard of it, so I was intrigued and asked the bartender about it. Turns out the brewery is a few blocks away from the restaurant. So, yeah, that was absolutely going into my gullet. And, much to my delight, it was really freakin' good! Too bad it's only available at restaurants or by going to the brewery itself. Hopefully it'll be available a little more broadly in the future, I'd love to be able to pick up a six-pack sometime soon.

Bierbrier Ale - a local discovery

So, after enjoying a beer and meeting pretty much the whole serving staff and chatting a bit with the cooks, we finally got seated at what might have been the best seat in the house: a snug little two-person table right at the front window. I'll admit, it was chilly (Montreal still being blanketed in early March Winter grossness), but I liked being able to look out onto the street while eating.  

It didn't take much perusing to decide what the starter would be: Smoked Tomato Soup? Damn right! Oh man, it was really tasty. I can't tell whether the tomatoes actually went in the smoker or the smokiness was achieved through the use of liquid smoke, but either way it was a great variation of a classic. The cheese toast on the side didn't hurt either!

Smoked Tomato Soup!
But let's be realistic, I didn't come here for the soup. Next up was the real star of the show: the MEAT! Now, I'm a big fan of all things pork, but I also like a good hunk of BBQ chicken, so I thought it would be a good idea to go for the chicken n' rib combo. As with most BBQ places, you get to pick your own sides. So, naturally I went with cole slaw. But I had to pick another side. Hmmmmmm, what to pick, what to pick... Well, the other choices were fries (yawn), potato salad (in Winter? Naaaaah), green salad (yeah right) and cheesy corn. Wait, what? Cheesy corn!?!?!? YESSSSSSSSS!!! And hey, guess what? Kari picked the exact same sides for her full rack of ribs!

Ribs n' Chicken w. Cheese Corn and Slaw

So, once served (and the service was fantastic - friendly, polite, attentive and fast!), it was time to get down with the meaty good times!

My thoughts? Well, let's start with the sides and work our way in.

The cole slaw was a good, basic slaw. Not really mind-blowing or anything, but it served its purpose to add crunch to the meal and to make the guilt of eating a pound of meat less acute.

As for the cheesy corn, I gotta say that it tasted a bit weird. I figure they used frozen corn, which is fine, but there was a "fake cheese" kind of coating to the tongue reminiscent of Cheeze Whiz. I imagine that was something to do with how it was cooked, because I doubt they'd use that nasty stuff in a resto with a strong reputation for its food, but it is Quebec, and Quebecers like some weird food.

OK, on to the chicken. It was AWESOME! Great sauce and tenderness to the meat, loaded with smoky goodness. I do wish the skin could have been crispier, but that's an eternal lament when dealing with BBQ chicken. If there's some pit master out there who has perfected crispy-skinned BBQ chicken, I will trade favours for your secret. Lots of favours...

Finally, on to the ribs. Oh the ribs. Some of the best I've ever had and I've had a LOT of ribs. They had the perfect texture of 'fall off the bone' but not mushy. They were well smoked but not overdone. The rub was pretty basic, certainly not intended to be the star of the show (unlike when I make ribs and obsess about making the ultimate rub). But what REALLY made the ribs was the sauce. OMG, the sauce... It was delicious and unique, which are the two necessary hallmarks of a great BBQ sauce. It had a low-medium spice level, so very accessible, it had good sweetness without tasting like candy, but what set it apart was that the most forward flavour I could taste was cumin. I know what you might be thinking: "Cumin? Whoop-di-doo, it's just freakin' cumin." But in this sauce, cumin is the spice of the gods.

I was able to finish the chicken, but the ribs did both me and Kari in. We got them to go (they made for a tasty midnight snack and road food on the way home) as well as being gifted a piece of Buttermilk Pie! I can't remember if it was because we had to wait for our table, because I mentioned the blog, or because of the general awesomeness and gratitude Kari and bring to the table when we eat out. It's kinda awesome!

Buttermilk Pie - too much for our full bellies! Will eat later...
How was the Buttermilk Pie? Damn tasty, but I can't say I've become a convert. Give me Bread Pudding any time.

And so, that's it for another fun travel in taste to Montreal. And by no means coincidentally, the next day was lunch at Schwartz's before hopping the train back to Ottawa.

Life (and food) is good on the road!

No comments:

Post a Comment