We love gourmet weekends! In the case of Auberge Saint-Mathieu, the (positive!) shock lies in the contrast between the rusticity of the Mauritian environment and the refinement of the cuisine of chef Samy Benabed and his very young team. Tasting menus can end up being boring, but here, even after eight courses and more than three hours at the table, you’re in no rush to go to bed. It’s a sign that we feel a bit like home with Nicholas Trottier-Lacourse, Florent Borrel, Étienne Prud’homme and Samy Benabed, exceptional innkeepers!
As I wrote last February: who doesn’t love pasta? I would add: who can resist it when social media bombards us with photos and videos of plump tortellis in their simplest form, of pappardelle which receives a shower of freshly grated truffle, of creamy spaghetti which is wrapped sensually around a fork ? What we love about Pasta Pooks is that they make it a real party. Wherever chef Luca Labelle Vinci and his partner Victor-Alex Petrenko (otherwise known as Coach Vic) go, whether serving tortellini in brodo at Menu Extra or gnocchi at Gia restaurant’s holiday market, they raise the spirits atmosphere. On a daily basis, we find the tandem at Double’s, another huge success of 2023.
The couple closed their Little Burgundy pastry shop at the end of summer 2022 to take a year off to recharge their batteries. This culminated with a two-month residency at Fulgurances restaurant in Brooklyn, in May and June 2023. The seven-course meal was one of the culinary highlights of my year. Then, upon their return, the savory-sweet chef and sommelier quickly announced the opening of their 14-seat microrestaurant where they would serve three-course tea and tasting menus in the evening. Obviously, their Sabayon is a hit. And, yes, it’s frustrating to see the next month’s reservations disappear in two minutes, but your turn will come!
Southeast Asian cuisines are among my favorites. In 2022, Pichai and its Thai delights were in my retrospective. This year, the prize for cuisine with intoxicating flavors goes to Satu Lagi, which serves well-known and lesser-known Indonesian dishes. Owner Kevin Larken is surrounded by a very solid team of chefs combining classic know-how and knowledge of the repertoire of the archipelago’s most gourmet islands. What’s more, the restaurant on Avenue du Mont-Royal does not allow any gluten into its cuisine, to the great delight of people with celiac disease.
Here is a superb address that makes you want to move to Estrie! The Old Mill serves exceptional “farm” meals imagined by chef Éric Gendron and his wonderful group of young chefs, in a warm environment that is absolutely not stuffy. Once full, those who have reserved one of the four rooms or the suite in the very pretty Cécil House will just have to go upstairs to digest. The next day, in the light of day, it is possible to admire the fields where the gardens of market gardener Jean-Martin Fortier are located in summer. Espace Old Mill was ranked 9th on enRoute’s Best New Restaurants in Canada 2023 list.
This small brasserie with a short but delicious menu throughout lit its stoves in Villeray in September. The success was immediate. Open seven evenings, the address attracts a young clientele like its active owners – Matisse Deslauriers, Geoffrey Gravel and Amélie Demchuk in the dining room, Charles-Tristan Prévost in the kitchen –, catering workers who can eat there until midnight, curious about the neighborhood and simply curious people. It’s a lion’s start from rue De Castelnau.
Everything that chef Marc-André Jetté and his partner Mila Rishkova touch seems destined for success. It is not luck, but the result of conscientious work, where the emphasis is placed on the quality of the product and the execution, all without trying to be the darling of the month or to follow the ” trends”. The immediate success of their new Annette wine bar, just a stone’s throw from Hoogan and Beaufort in Angus, is proof of that. This is without forgetting another success, that of the Édouard butchery
I remember the early years of the Côté Est bistro in Kamouraska. It was certainly nice, with generous plates, including the Phoque Bardot, this famous seal burger which already announced the commitment of Perle Morency (winner of the Best Service prize at the Lauriers 2023) and chef Kim Côté to raise awareness our land. Moreover, National Geographic visited there in the fall for a report on the eel, to be published. If we had to choose restaurateurs to whom we attach the overused pandemic term “reinventing ourselves”, the prize would go to them. Not only have they succeeded in their challenge of a more humane and viable restaurant in the region, but their gourmet offering has also been refined. A dinner last summer allowed me to see that this table is better than ever… a magnificent sunset to boot.
One of my most memorable meals of the year was at the Bika farm table, in Saint-Blaise-sur-Richelieu. The work that chef Fisun Ercan does every day to bring her farm-to-table project to fruition is incredible. It’s not window dressing: when the delicious and refined seasonal dishes that are presented before us in the restaurant’s magnificent greenhouse are not fruits from the local gardens, they come from producers and farmers located in proximity, and who work in an eco-responsible manner. In my eyes, Bika is one of the best restaurants in Quebec at the moment, because what is offered here is not only tasty, but also makes sense.
Sometimes we dream of returning to a restaurant to taste again a dish that left its mark on us. In my case, I’m salivating at the idea of plunging my lips into Ayla’s incredible Pistachio sour again, flavored with a pistachio and rose syrup. A little gem! The drinks menu at this Griffintown restaurant impressed me, particularly its cocktails with their intoxicating scents of the Mediterranean, without forgetting the wine list, which has a lot of depth. Food-wise, it’s also quite extraordinary; I remember with nostalgia a particularly successful plate of grilled squid. While waiting for spring to return, there will always be Ayla!