Restaurant: Laurie Raphaël
Cuisine: French/Eclectic/Fine Dining
Last visited: November 8, 2011
Location: Quebec City, QC (Quebec City)
Address: 117 rue Dalhousie
Price Range: $50+ ($40-50 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 3 (based on what I tried)
- Fine dining
- Multiple Award winning
- Chef/Owner Daniel Vézina
- Location in Montreal
- French/Eclectic menu
- Quebecois cuisine
- Local ingredients
- Seasonal menus
- Wine/cocktail list
- Daily specials
- $60 3 course price fixe
- Lunch: Tuesday – Friday, 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
- Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm
**Recommendations: Meyer Lemon, Apple Crumble
I don’t even know where to begin with Laurie Raphaël. It’s won numerous awards and the name needs no introduction in Quebec City, although outside of Quebec, it’s perhaps not as well recognized. It has a location in Montreal and Quebec City, and both have been named Restaurant of the Year with 5 star and 4 Diamond ratings. The chef and owner is local celebrity chef Daniel Vézina who has been named Chef of the Year on a few occasions. The cuisine is Quebecois inspired French, but it’s also very modern, inventive, and eclectic with some occasional play of molecular gastronomy.
I was invited on a culinary tour of Quebec City and dinner was arranged at Laurie Raphaël. The outside was as pretentious as the inside, but it was no doubt a nice looking restaurant. It was sophisticated, classy and spacious, but something about it felt contrived. It didn’t feel as warm as it had intended to be, and it was perhaps due to the black lights which hinted almost a club atmosphere.
Needless to say I had high expectations for Laurie Raphaël and the ambiance just heightened my hopes for it. I think that’s pretty normal when it comes to fine dining though, and quite often it’s an experience you want to remember with food and service you can’t stop gushing about. In Quebec City and in general this would be considered a place for special occasions. It’s understood that it will be pricey, so as a local or tourist you almost want a guaranteed fine dining experience.
I don’t know what happened on this occasion, and I give it the benefit of the doubt because locals seem to love it and it has the awards to prove, but the menu I had was a bit disappointing. We were given the “Chef Chef” Menu ($60) which was described as being “for the daredevils who have to be surprised with new taste sensations…” It is a 3 course menu that is put together last minute and although the theory sounded really exciting to me, the outcome just fell short.
I know. I’m really sad about it too. I wouldn’t say the food was bad, but it just didn’t meet the expectations I had set for it. Perhaps it would have been better if I ordered from the regular menu, but I’m not sure. Everything on the menu suited my flavour profile and it sounded amazing and incredibly creative, but it just didn’t translate in the things I tried that evening. To be honest, the best things I had were the desserts, which were artistic and memorable. It’s not only because I have a sweet tooth too, but they were genuinely the most impressive and original presentations I’ve had on a global scale of fine dining.
I should also mention that Chef Daniel offers cooking classes and a boutique gift shop in the restaurant as well. I’d still be curious to check the cooking classes out because it looked really intimate and it would be such an experience. As for the restaurant, at this caliber I’m not looking for an “okay” to good experience, and that’s kind of what I was left with. It’s not the style that didn’t suit my tastes either, so maybe it was just the menu that night I wasn’t feeling.
On the table:
- Plain, Olive Oil & Sundried Tomato, and Parmesan Cheese & Rosemary
- I had the Olive Oil & Sundried Tomato and the Parmesan Cheese & Rosemary bread.
- I appreciated the variety and they tasted like what they were supposed to be, but they were a bit chewy and tough too.
- Duck rillette with olive oil powder and truffle oil
- Already signs of molecular gastronomy! It’s not the theme of the menu, but there are hints of it here and there.
- I love duck rillette and I liked the taste of this one, but I couldn’t taste the olive oil in the powder and the truffle oil was quite faint.
- The duck was chilled, confit, shredded and moist and very tightly compacted.
- There were some nice sweet and tart cranberries for contrast and texture.
- I could taste a little bit of onion and it wasn’t too salty, but I wanted the olive oil powder to do something besides look pretty and interesting.
- With honey mushrooms, celery leaves, and yellow potato chips
- It was a modern take on an escovitch, which is usually marinated in citrus or vinegar and then poached or fried and served chilled. I had lots of it in Jamaica too – see here.
- This one seemed ceviche or sashimi like.
- When I hear escovitch I expect a really tangy and pickled fish, but this one wasn’t and I found it a bit bland.
- It wasn’t really tangy, or sweet and it wasn’t even that fishy for a mackerel. It was slightly fishy, but not pronounced like mackerel can be.
- It was creamy, oily and buttery with a slight iron aftertaste, which was unusual.
- It was topped with minced cucumber, celery, carrots and onions which were marinated and pickled and that’s typically how escovitch would be served, but it just didn’t translate as well.
- There was only one lonely honey mushroom which is almost like a Beech mushroom.
- The Honey mushroom tends to be a bit slimy after they’re cooked so I wasn’t really keen on it with the sashimi like texture of the fish.
- The crisp potato chips made for good contrast, but the main ingredient wasn’t really working.
Yves Cuilleron Syrah 2009, France – It was a jump from the Sauvignon Blanc and it had a medium finish with a bit of a spiciness from black pepper and a hint of leather. I was expecting a game meat to be paired with this and it was good, but not really for my flavour profile.
- Wrapped with cabbage leaves, red wine jus, oolong tea, salsify root & parmesan puree, parsnip chips
- It sounded delicious to me, but texturally I wasn’t feeling it.
- Guineafowl tastes like a combination of chicken and pheasant if you’ve never had it.
- The guineafowl was sous vide and very tender to the point of almost being like tofu.
- The stuffing seemed like a mixture of guineafowl dark meat and Honey mushrooms.
- The Honey mushrooms came across as tendons or fat and I couldn’t distinguish what was a mushroom and what was strips of guineafowl skin.
- There was actually a significant amount of guineafowl skin in the stuffing, but together with the slippery mushrooms it was just all a bit gelatinous and chewy.
- The thin cabbage leaf kept it together and worked visually, but it didn’t help with the slimy factor.
- On the other hand, the salsify root and parmesan puree was fantastic and I could have had a bowl of that.
- It was rich, creamy, smooth and velvety like a pommes puree. It had the nuttiness and saltiness of parmesan followed by a hint of truffle oil too. Loved that!
- I couldn’t taste the oolong tea and the red wine jus was syrupy with perhaps a hint of soy sauce (?).
- The portion wasn’t huge as expected, but the value of ingredients were a bit short and so was the end result. I’m hoping it was just this entree…
- Cake and cream of lemon, dehydrated meringue and confit lemon, marmalade and ice cream of olive oil
- Yes, I have a sweet tooth, but it’s not the reason why I thought this was 6/6. It’s actually because it was très excellent!
- This was so light and refreshing and bright and I loved it! I’ve never had anything like it! Great as a dessert or palate cleanser.
- There were several forms, components and textures of lemon that my palate was being taken on a lemon tree tour!
- It was a bit like a lemon pudding and the cake part seemed like dehydrated lemon pound cake crackers. It made for excellent texture!
- There was a creamy lemon curd and then a whipped cream scented with lemon and then a bright punch of lemon marmalade which was almost like a jelly, but more fluid.
- It was cold, creamy, crunchy, crispy and almost like a lemon cake, mousse, sorbet, ice cream, pudding, custard, curd, and tart all in one!
- It wasn’t too sweet or sour, but it was tart and it didn’t make your lips purse of your jaw hurt.
- This was only the pre-dessert and now I couldn’t wait for the real dessert!
The grand finale was the Apple Crumble! It was a show stopper and it came on a platter for four! It’s definitely the biggest apple crumble I’ve ever had and the most impressive presentations I’ve seen for one. It came smoking with a white chocolate “iceberg” made with liquid nitrogen.
- Cinnamon and nutmeg crumble, white chocolate espuma and apple gel, caramel and vanilla ice cream $14
- This was the end result!
- The liquid nitrogen aspect totally reminded me of Faloodeh Persian dessert I once had at The Apron. It was the whole molecular gastronomy thing which I’m infatuated with. I can see when people think it gets carried away, but I appreciate it for what it is.
- This was a very deconstructed apple crumble!
- It’s definitely not your traditional apple crumble, but it had all the aspects of an apple crumble.
- The “iceberg” was actually white chocolate espuma (foam), but made with liquid nitrogen so it becomes a frozen foam. I’ve had it before in another flavour and I like it.
- It’s almost like creamy ice that’s very airy and light, and it’s not crunchy like ice, but it is hard. It actually tasted like white chocolate mousse too.
- The apples were compressed with citrus and also caramelized so they were tender, naturally sweet and a bit tangy to balance.
- There were some apple gels mixed with the actual apples, and they made for another texture, but I’m not sure if they played an impact besides being unique.
- The ice cream was creamy, but could have used more vanilla bean seeds for that fragrant vanilla accent.
- The crumble tasted like a cookie crumb mixture of graham crackers, almonds and ginger snaps and it was sweet, crunchy, nutty and very fine like powder.
- The caramel sauce actually tasted like salted butterscotch, and it was great, but a bit burnt as well. I’m not sure if that was intentional though because it could have been a burnt salted caramel.
- It’s definitely not what you think of when you think “apple crumble” and I give it an A+ for creativity and presentation!
End of “Chef Chef” Menu.
Dinner was supposed to end at the Apple Crumble, but I couldn’t resist ordering “THE Carrot”. I saw another table order it and I was too intrigued to not order it! I had to! And so far the desserts were on a roll! So what’s another one?
- Carrot cake, cinnamon pudding, raw carrots, cocoa crumble, vanilla and cheese cream, raisin sauce and carrot sorbet $14
- This is definitely the best presentation I’ve seen for a carrot cake!
- I was immediately brought back to the Lindt Single Farm – Chocolate and soil dessert I’ve had at The Apron.
- Again, this is not your traditional Carrot Cake and I appreciated it for what it was, but it didn’t translate as well as the Apple Crumble.
- It was very deconstructed like the Apple Crumble, but it worked better with the crumble.
- It was good, but it did sound better on the menu and it didn’t come together as well.
- The carrot sorbet was served on the side and it tasted exactly like a frozen smooth carrot puree. It was very natural with the sweetness of baby carrots and a bit of citrus. I liked it for what it was!
- The cake part was inside the pot under the “dirt”.
- The “dirt” was a dark chocolate sable cookie and cocoa crumble and it worked with the carrot cake and added a bittersweet earthiness to it.
- The carrot cake was all crumbled, but I wanted more of it.
- There were clumps of cake, cream cheese frosting, cinnamon pudding, raisin puree and bits of raw baby carrots and I wish it had come together better.
- It was just a bit random getting chunks of plain frosting or pudding and I wanted to eat everything together.
- I ended up losing some of the flavours and I could have used something crispy or crunchy like walnuts.
- I was kind of digging around randomly for each component and I wish it was executed in layers and a bit more like a cake rather than parts of a cake.
- It was no doubt interesting and the presentation was brilliant, but I just got a bit lost in the execution.
- This just didn’t really feel like a “real dessert”, which can happen when desserts get so creative, but the Apple Crumble was creative and that really tasted like a dessert too!