Restaurant: Le St-Urbain
Last visited: November 5, 2011
Location: Montreal, Quebec (Ahuntsic)
Address: 96 Fleury Ouest
Price Range: $20-30+ ($25 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Owner/Chef Marc-André Royal
- French-Canadian Bistro
- Local favourite
- Hidden gem
- Seasonal menu
- Local ingredients
- Creative menu
- Beer/wine available
- Lunch Tues-Thurs: 11:30am-2pm
- Dinner Tues-Fri: 5:30pm-10pm
- Dinner Sat: 4:30-10pm
- Closed Sunday & Monday
**Recommendations: Sweetbreads, Short Ribs, Beignet Chaud
I was recently invited on a Van Houtte Coffee Getaway to Old Montreal where I was submersed in coffee culture and the art of coffee tasting. After touring the Van Houtte Coffee factory, a “cupping” session, and coffee and chocolate pairings (read my experience here), I was looking forward to exploring the world of the coffee bean being used as an ingredient.
Most of us have probably tried espresso or coffee being used in desserts (eg: Coffee Crisp or tiramisu), but how about it being used for savoury dishes? For some, the idea may sound unusual, but it’s actually something that has been done in the culinary world before.
Quite often I will use it to make Mexican mole sauce, or even as a rub for steaks, just like the Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Caramelized Shallot Butter I had at Capital Grille – see the Follow Me Foodie Quickie webisode for that here. There are lots of ways to use coffee as an ingredient and the same goes for things like cocoa nibs, tea leaves etc., so I encourage you to experiment beyond what you’re used to, because it may lead you to appreciate it in a new light.
The coffee getaway continued at Le St-Urbain where we were presented with a formal 13 course dinner, and almost every course incorporated the coffee bean. I think I was most excited for this portion of the coffee itinerary because I’m more invested in food than I am in coffee. This was when I sharpened my pencils and got quite inspired by the whole theme.
The owner and chef at Le St-Urbain is Marc-André Royal, who is also one of the chosen ambassadors for Van Houtte. Despite this fact I did my own research and he’s apparently the next up and coming celebrity chef in Montreal with rumours of expected television shows.
Marc-André Royal is originally from Montreal and started his career at L’Express, an award winning bistro in Montreal, which I have also tried and liked. He’s also worked at world renowned Per Se in New York, and Araxi and Blue Water Coffee & Raw Bar, which are award winning fine dining restaurants under the Top Table Restaurant Group in Vancouver, BC. Nonetheless, everything added up and I had high expectations for this dinner.
To be honest, the dinner was phenomenal. I’m not just saying that because we got “special treatment”, but a lot of things we had were also on the regular menu that evening. Some of the dishes from this dinner were the highlight of my whole experience in Follow Me Foodie Montreal & Quebec City. I can confidently say that I would have no problem revisiting this restaurant on my own in the future. It’s truly a hidden gem located outside of the Montreal core and it’s no doubt a local favourite for food and wine enthusiasts, and I would highly recommend it to locals and tourists.
On the table:
- This is what I call bread!
- Even the complimentary bread is amazing in Quebec and I’ve been so spoiled by it.
- This was one of the best ones I had which is no surprise since they also have a bakery.
- The buns were rustic, giant, freshly baked in house and served warm.
- One was a crusty multi-grain and multi-seed bun with sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds. It was soft, fluffy and moist in the middle with poppy seeds throughout.
- The other was almost like a sourdough, but not sour. It was chewy, stretchy and moist with a crispy and crunchy toasted exterior.
- There was so much heart in just the complimentary bread and Le St-Urbain was off to a great start!
La Soufrandière Pouilly-Vinzelles, 2006, France
- With confit raisins, pickled onions, on home made brioche.
- They had a slight variation of this on the regular menu.
- This was super light for being foie gras and it really just melted in my mouth like liquid silk on a fluffy cloud of crispy brioche.
- The foie gras pate was more like a foie gras mousse though and it didn’t have that strong of a foie gras flavour, but it carried the essence of it.
- The mousse was creamy and silky and almost like melting whipped butter and it had a nice sprinkle of salt and ground espresso on top.
- The brioche was soft and fluffy and nicely toasted all around, making a perfect bed for the equally airy foie gras mousse.
- I loved the sweet raisins and sweeter brioche contrasting the savoury foie gras and bite of pickled onion to brighten everything up.
- I actually wouldn’t have guessed there was espresso on it if I didn’t know though, so I wouldn’t have minded a bit more.
- This had an Asian influence and it reminded me of something I would have at Japanese Izakaya.
- The smoked sturgeon seemed marinated in mirin (sugar and rice wine vinegar), ponzu and lots of sesame oil.
- It was beautifully smoky and well balanced in sweetness and aromatic and nutty in the nose and aftertaste.
- The pork was a crispy piece of house smoked bacon which made for great texture and added salty and smoky flavour.
- There was a bit of chili heat at the end, and for a non-Izakaya place, it had izakaya potential.
- This was simple, but still good.
- It was a cheesy choux pastry filled with warm creamy salty goat’s cheese and chives.
- The choux pastry tasted like cheesy bread sticks in puff pastry form.
- The pastry was slightly hard though and the creamy cheese would ooze out the edges before you completed the bite. In one bite, these were easily enjoyed.
Coffee Crusted Scallop – 4.5/6
- With salmon caviar and reduction of cucumber and dill.
- This was great, but the scallop was only seared on one side which actually really bothers me.
- The scallop was nice and rare and the crust looked burnt, but it wasn’t.
- The crust was crispy with coffee grounds and I think brioche crumbs and ground nuts and seeds too. It almost seemed deep fried and I loved the texture it brought to the tender creamy scallop.
- The scallop was sweet and nutty and the salmon caviar gave it juicy busts of salt and the coffee flavour was only noticeable if you paid attention.
- I found the sauce a bit bland since cucumber doesn’t carry much flavour, but I could taste fruity olive oil and some lemon juice and lemony dill keeping it bright.
- The combination of ingredients was new to me and it was a lot more subtle than I expected.
- With caramelized onion veloute and chanterelle mushrooms.
- OMG. This was genius! A brilliant dish that had me in awe. Amazing! This was available on the regular menu too!
- Honestly, this dish was probably the highlight of Follow Me Foodie in Montreal. This was legendary.
- This made all other sweetbreads I’ve had in the past taste “meh”.
- It was a crispy, pillowy, creamy and soft sweetbread and the texture was perfect.
- It had the flavour of sweetbread, but the texture was so smooth and unlike any sweetbread I’ve had before. It was so airy and light and not gelatinous or chewy like some can be.
- The sweetbread was almost like an egg poached on top of a thick and hearty creamy puree of caramelized French onion soup, but executed as a veloute (which is “the Mother of all sauces”).
- A veloute is basically my favourite kind of sauce and soup. It’s almost like a bechamel and it’s very rich, creamy, and velvety smooth.
- I could taste beef stock, carrots and lots of caramelized onions and some acidic tomatoes in the veloute.
- It was very thick like a sweet gravy with a peppery kick at the end which could have been Worcestershire sauce.
- The veloute was almost a hybrid of a home made BBQ sauce, Chanterelle mushroom soup, tomato soup, and French onion soup all in one. It was remarkable!
- The sweetbread had a noticeably salty crust which balanced the sweetness in the sauce as well as the coffee glaze.
- The coffee glaze was quite sweet and very mild in coffee flavour and I could only get the aroma of it.
- There were so many flavours going on and textures of meaty dried chanterelles, pillowy sweetbread and velvety soup that my palate was surprised with every bite.
- I ended up using the bread and squeegeed down every last bit of this dish… it was more polite than licking the bowl.
- I could have just had this and called it a night.
- This veal tongue was slow smoked in house and braised for 48 hours. They had a slight variation of this on the regular menu.
- I thought it would be completely overcooked since it sounded like overkill, but it was actually incredibly tender with a crispy exterior. I think they pan-fried it before serving.
- There was also a caramelized onion puree which was similar to the flavours of the caramelized onion veloute I mentioned above with the sweetbread.
- The other sauce was a herb puree that was strong with parsley, a bit of lemon and perhaps some mint. This helped to cut the sweetness of everything else.
- We were told to squeeze the warm tubes of sauce onto the veal tongue.
- The idea was different and fun, but it was slightly gimmicky because I actually enjoyed it more without the sauce and it didn’t need it.
- The sauce was a combination of reduced orange, absinthe, and coffee and it was very syrupy and I wanted it over ice cream before veal tongue.
- It was almost like a burnt orange syrup with bitter notes at the end, but it was predominantly sweet and I found it too sweet.
- The veal had a sweet sauce already and the caramelized onion puree was also sweet, so the sauce just became redundant.
- Served with bone marrow and Bordelaise sauce and a coffee reduction. They had a slight variation of this on the regular menu.
- I’m a sucker for “short ribs” and anything braised for __ hours, so I jumped at this.
- This was comfort food and it was as comforting as the Confit Pork Shoulder at Hawksworth Restaurant in Vancouver, BC.
- The short ribs literally melted on my plate with the touch of my fork.
- I was twirling the shreds around my fork like spaghetti and I didn’t pick up my knife once because it was so tender.
- It was an incredibly fatty short rib though and if anything it was almost too rich and fatty. I wouldn’t want more than the size of this portion because it was a very indulgent dish… even for me.
- It sat on top of a parsnip puree which was creamy and lightly seasoned, which is good because it was covered with a rich and heavily seasoned coffee infused Bordelaise sauce.
- The sauce was buttery, meaty, caramelized and sweet with lots of reduced red wine, bone marrow and a hint of coffee in the aftertaste.
- This wasn’t a lick of indulgence but a big old slab of it. I still loved it, but a little less is more, so again I wouldn’t want more than this small portion.
- This was the cheese course and it had everything you would want in a cheese course turned into a dessert course.
- There was a sweet cherry sauce for the fruit aspect, toasted crunchy nuts and of course glorious, pungent, thick and sharp blue cheese.
- One bite and the blue cheese was in your face. I loved blue cheese, so I didn’t mind.
- The puff pastry was flaky, buttery, tender and crispy and filled with a pool of semi-melted blue cheese that was equally salty as it was spicy with a kick at the end.
- The sweet cherry jus helped balance it out giving it a desired sweetness and if anything I could have used some freshly sliced pears to dip into the cheese.
- The semi-freddo was perfect and basically half ice cream and half ice milk.
- It was a light mocha with a brandied cherry centre and whipped cream on top surrounded by a thin and crispy chocolate cookie tart shell.
- The shell tasted almost like a fortune cookie and the darker brown rectangular crisp did as well.
- It wasn’t too sweet and somehow light and refreshing even though it carried woody and nutty flavours.
- These are on the regular menu, but served with salted caramel which I think is even better. These are house favourites.
- They’re home made beignets (fritters or doughnuts) served in a cast iron pan. I ended up eating these dipped into my Mocha semifreddo.
- These were so airy, light, and soft, but they weren’t the best beignets I’ve had, although I did LOVE these.
- My favourites have been the beignets at Bouchon – see here.
- The inside was filled with melted bittersweet chocolate, but the execution was unique and different.
- The chocolate had almost coated just around the inside and it must have been how the batter and the oil in the chocolate reacted to make that happen. It worked though and it made them stand out even more.
- The chocolate was sweet, but the donuts actually weren’t really, so there was a nice balance.
- The donuts kind of tasted like those Chinese donuts you eat with congee and they were barely sweet.
Now, that’s great food and wine (thanks for the wine list) !…you had a terrific meal, lucky you. Love sweetbreads and that’s almost impossible to find in Vancouver. Also love puff pastry; stuffed w. goatcheese, yum ! Did you eat enuff dessert !!! LOL !!! Beignets are addictive.Keep this up and even you will gain weight.
@bow – i wanted to talk more about the wine!! I loved them!! I swear to god I had you in mind when I posted the wine photos! I knew you’d appreciate them! The dessert wines were so unique!! The one with the cheese dessert was oaked for 25 years!! It was a fortified wine that was sweet and spicy at the end and it just played right into that blue cheese! The white wine was also great like a buttery velvety rich and sweet chardonnay!
PS Oh I’m sure I gained weight lol.
WOW! Everything looks so amazing and made with such care. I’m so impressed by the bread, you can definitely tell the quality of a restaurant by the complimentary bread they serve. And as for dessert….it seemed like another meal on it’s own!lol..glad you enjoyed it all.
Wow, this looks like an epic meal as well. I never really go in this area of Montreal as it is not reputed for restaurants, but your visit makes me really interested. That pic of the soft nougat looks so delightful. It is definitely out of my budget but I am gonna put this on my must-go places.
@vivian – I know!! And the restaurant isn’t even fine dining!! viv! If you haven’t been to Quebec I honestly thing my posts my convince you lol. Start a Wink there!! 😉
@Sara – Hi Sara! I’m so glad I have an insider’s perspective! It truly is a hidden gem huh? Yeah the mains are $25 or so… so maybe save it for a special occasion? The lunch might be more affordable, but you should definitely try it! 🙂 oh! Or look into the bakery and maybe you can check that out!
Great coverage of the Van Houtte get away! There certainly was a lot of tasty food!
wow o wow! i am so jealous of you right now!!!! this place is amazing.. we have some pretty good french bistros here but for the price of the food and the quality of the ingredients, this place is amazing! the only place that fares here is probably les fauz bourgeois but i’m finding that the quality there is starting to dwindle a bit.. maybe because now it’s no longer a hidden gem.. i can only hope that it doesn’t happen to this place 🙂
mmm the bread looks amazing!! kind of like the bread at bistro 101 to be honest. everything at this place looks delish and i must say that i’ve recently fell in love with eating sweetbreads! not sure how i feel about some items being coffee coated.. i haven’t had too many experiences with it.. the veal tongue looks great and the toothpaste sauce dispenser thing is creative! mmm that fois is calling my name and so is that yummy puff pastry! OMG, i’m drooling just looking at your pics!
macarons AND beignets?!??! AND meringue?!?!?!!??!?!?! i am SOOOOOO JEALOUS! 🙂 nomnomnomnom
@Kevin – If you make the sweetbread you have to let me know!! btw one of my closest friends has been reading your blog for a while! You have fans everywhere! I’m still telling everyone about it!
@Linda – I know!!! We can’t get that quality for that price! Vancouver is so pricey!! You should try La Regalade… that might be comparable! i know i know… we were so spoiled!! I indulged every moment and cleaned off each an every plate… SMILES!!!
I was just there!! But came no where close to covering the amount of food you did!lol
@vivian – gaahhh!!! u were!?!?! DAMNIT!! ok ok well now you have to go back after my posts!!! I’m curious where you went though lol
it’s too early in the morning right now and the french names are just not flowing into my brain..lol..I went to a creperie (not so great), Paillard , Panache , and chez Ashton for fast food poutine.
@vivian – what was ur fav?!
there are better restaurants in montreal, trust me
@Andre – I’m sure there are lots! but I still liked this one a lot. I was only there for a short time, but I would love to try more restaurants. For the rest of the places I went to you can click “locations” “canada” “quebec” “montreal” at the top 🙂