Restaurant: Café Clocher Penché
Last visited: November 8, 2011
Location: Quebec City, QC (Old Montreal)
Address: 361 St. Paul East
Bus: Charest Est / Caron
Price Range: $20-30+ ($20-25 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- French-Canadian bistro
- Seasonal menus
- Strong focus on local ingredients
- Moderately priced
- Wine/cocktail list
- Daily specials
- $16 2 course set lunch menu
- Lunch/Dinner/Brunch menu
- Tues-Thurs: 11:30am – 2pm, 5pm-10pm
- Saturday 9am-2pm, 5pm-10pm
- Sunday 9am-2pm
- Closed Monday
**Recommendations: Celery & Parsnip Velouté, Pork Liver Paté, Duck Confit, Home Made Soft Serve Cheese, Dulche de Leche Parfait
Welcome to Follow Me Foodie in Quebec City! I was invited by Tourism Quebec and Quebec City on a culinary trip of Quebec City, which is about a three hour train ride from Montreal. Stepping into it was like stepping into a doll house. If you think Montreal feels like Europe, then Quebec City is even more so! I wouldn’t call either Europe, but it’s a slice of Europe without the cost and time of actually going to Europe.
Quebec City is smaller than Montreal, and it’s more quaint with less city life. To put things into perspective for my home readers, I see Quebec City as the Victoria of BC, and Montreal as the Vancouver of BC. It’s très adorable to visit for a few days and the experience is totally different than Montreal. I’m glad I didn’t miss it, or I wouldn’t have all this delicious food to report back on!
Café Clocher Penché was the prearranged lunch spot, and coincidentally I was actually given personal recommendations to try it already. A trusted Montreal foodie, and a Quebec City local, confirmed it was a good choice, so it was either going to be a great restaurant or just the only restaurant…
It’s a sophisticated and elegant French-Canadian bistro, but it’s not pretentious and has a warm and inviting neighbourhood feel. The menu is simple, but it’s fresh and seasonal with a strong emphasis on local ingredients. In a way, I felt like I was back home in Vancouver again, but “local” in Quebec City it not “local” in Vancouver, so bring on the Quebec ingredients!
… or just bring out the chef. This is part owner and Chef Mathieu Grisson. Yup! And Quebec City was off to a fine start 😉 We were happy to have him explain his restaurant in his French accent… aaandd I could probably end my post right there… but I won’t, because I actually want to get into the food.
They work really closely with their local suppliers and artisans, which are further supported on their website here. The food wasn’t particularly different and it’s not necessarily the typical “must try” place, but it felt like a reliable classic in a newer sense of the term. The cuisine was easy to warm up to and it takes on a lighter flare for a French bistro. It showcased the natural ingredients most, which is the premise of their restaurant philosophy anyways. It felt West Coast, but with Quebec ingredients and charm.
For the Vancouver readers, if I had to relate this restaurant back to something at home, it was kind of reminiscent of Raincity Grill. It was an upscale lunch from the French-Canadian country side and although simple, it wasn’t boring. The artistic presentation of the dishes were impressive and if I had to sum up my experience here it was simply beautiful.
On the table:
- It wasn’t a great baguette, but it was good. I don’t think they’re made in house, but it’s likely from a local bakery.
- It was served cold, as it normally is at French bistros.
- It wasn’t as chewy or as crusty as I usually prefer, but it was nice and moist.
- The other baguette had sunflower seeds and flax seeds.
- With shrimp salad, lobster oil and house made crouton (2 course lunch prix fixe $16)
- I love velouté, so I was excited for this! It’s a classic rich, creamy and smooth French sauce and it’s almost a meal in itself.
- Although creamy, this was somewhat light for a velouté with milder flavours of celery, parsnip and shrimp.
- Traditional velouté is made with a chicken or veal stock and this one seemed vegetarian based so it lacked that meaty richness and depth.
- I could taste an equal balance of celery and parsnip with parsnip in the aftertaste, and there was perhaps a bit of potato to thicken it up.
- The shrimp salad had a little bit of crab in it and it was very lightly dressed with some lemon juice and chives.
- Celery and parsnip don’t have much flavour so the drizzle of lobster oil enhanced the seafood flavour, but it was still slightly bland.
- It would be nice to have seafood stock and flavour in the base of the soup and not just as a garnish.
- Some juicy bursts of salty salmon roe would perhaps give it that intense seafood flavour to finish it off.
- It was an appropriate lunch time starter, but I can go a bit more decadent during the fall season.
- With caramelized apple and honey bread (2 course lunch prix fixe $16)
- I love paté and I thought the presentation was beautiful.
- Apple and pork are classic pairings and there was also a brush of reduced soy sauce which was the twist.
- I was expecting a typical balsamic reduction, but the soy sauce had a sharp acidity so I think it was actually a balsamic soy reduction.
- It was a savoury pate with sweet apples and a tang of balsamic. It’s a very traditional combo, and well done here.
- The velvety smooth pate was whipped and mousse-like with a layer of apple gelée on top to balance its richness.
- Although buttery and rich, it had a airy lightness to it and was creamy and spreadable.
- It had a mild pork liver flavour and it wasn’t that seasoned and it didn’t need to be since there were other components to play with.
- The honey bread crisp was like a Melba Toast and it tasted like gingerbread. It was a nice contrast to the pate and better than a typical crostini.
- The diced apples were caramelized and sweet like candy from perhaps a hint of maple, and I appreciated them for texture as well as contrasting flavour.
- The only acidity was the reduced soy and I could have used a bit more and maybe some pickled pearl onions too, since pate is always an indulgence.
- It was very good, but I did need more toast and at the end I was just using the table bread to finish the mousse.
- Chilled salmon tartare, pink grapefruit vinaigrette, beet and fennel salad, pesto rubbed baguette (2 course lunch prix fixe $16)
- It was hard to avoid shadows, but the tartare is in a dome shape underneath the crostini.
- It was farm raised salmon marinated in terragon, pink peppercorn and a little aioli.
- The terragon and pink peppercorn was used for aromatics and it wasn’t apparent unless I knew.
- I’m biased being from the West Coast, but I just prefer our local Wild BC Sokeye Salmon tartare, and it’s hard to have anything else. However, this was still enjoyable.
- The salmon was nice and fatty and it was topped with a crunchy shaved fennel salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette.
- I couldn’t actually taste the pink grapefruit vinaigrette and I was looking forward to that part.
- I almost wanted segments of grapefruit and a more pronounced pink peppercorn flavour to complement it, but I could taste either.
- The beets were sweet and juicy and dressed in a light whole grain mustard dressing which brought the punch of flavour I wanted.
- It was a very light and summery tuna salad and I enjoyed it despite it being fall again.
- Pistachio crusted goat cheese croquettes, crabapple puree, parsnip crisps, beets, pears and chives (2 course lunch prix fixe $16)
- I’d recommend you to order this just to see the presentation! (If you care for that stuff)
- It was deep fried pistachio crusted cheeseballs and I loved all the ingredients in this, but it felt more like an appetizer.
- The parsnip crisps weren’t substantial enough to act as crostini for the cheeseballs, so at times it was literally just eating cheeseballs, which is a bit much.
- Thank goodness for the pistachio crust to give the cheese some texture.
- Goat’s cheese can be very gamey, but this one wasn’t, and it was quite fluffy, light, but still creamy.
- I usually would enjoy these cheese balls with honey, but instead it was some fresh slices of sweet pears and the same beets from the salmon tartare.
- The crabapple puree was slightly tart as well as being sweet, but I would say it was the tang to this dish.
- There was a nice salty and sweet contrast, but again the dish felt incomplete as a main… and it’s not because it was missing meat.
- Daily special + $3 to daily prixe fixe (2 course lunch prix fixe $16)
- With salted pork, cherry tomatoes, and goat’s cheese salad.
- I love duck confit, so I was so happy to see it as the daily special!
- It was a beautiful crispy skinned duck with incredibly moist and juicy meat that was melting off the bone.
- It shred away with my fork alone and the meat wasn’t overly salty and cured like some duck confit can be.
- There was no sauce and it didn’t need one and it was topped with delicious crispy house made bacon bits.
- The bacon bits were tangy as well as salty, and likely sauteed with some balsamic vinegar. It certainly made the duck more decadent and delicious.
- I would have liked to see a fresh fruit puree or beet reduction or something sweet to this dish to balance the saltiness, but it still wasn’t too salty for being duck confit.
- It was a very rich dish, as it always will be, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
- They love their cheese in Quebec and so do I. Even better was the presentation for it. It was showcased on a pedestal.
- It was a local goat’s cheese, cow cheese and raw milk cow cheese. They were all soft buttery cheeses.
- There were some dried apricots, dried figs, pecans and almonds and I think an apricot fruit chutney.
- With gooseberries & Maple Syrup $5
- This is something you should order here because it’s unique to the restaurant and it’s quite labour intensive.
- It’s an art and skill to make your own cheese and in this case they made their own strained cheese, which is more or less comparable to a yogurt.
- It was very light and refreshing and in between a cheese plate and a dessert, but I almost considered it more like a palate cleanser.
- It was thick and creamy and almost like Greek yogurt.
- It was quite tart alone so the maple syrup was a nice sweetener and better than honey, especially being in Quebec City.
- It was missing some crunchy texture though so it would have been great if there were some additional nuts.
- Verrine of quince puree, vanilla cake, caramelized milk and caramelized pumpkin seed $5
- I loved this! Verrines are definitely more popular in Quebec than the West Coast. It’s simply a layered sweet or savoury appetizer or dessert served in a glass.
- It was almost like a fruity version of a tiramisu meets a trifle or parfait.
- It was quince puree with cake bits, and then a generous amount of light, fluffy and foamy caramelized milk that was in between a custard and a mousse.
- The caramelized milk is almost made like a dulche de leche, but it wasn’t nearly as thick or sweet.
- It was lightly sweetened and creamy, and I would have loved some vanilla bean seeds in it for that aromatic accent in flavour.
- I loved the various texture and crispy crunch of candied pumpkin seeds too.
- I would have liked a bit more cake since it was all pretty creamy, but it was still an excellent dessert.
- In the category of Verrines I had in Quebec, I did like the Verrine Choco-Pistaches from Van Horne in Montreal better.