Dinner at L’Abattoir with Lee Cooper and Guest Chefs Fred Morin and David McMilan from Joe Beef!
Follow Me Foodie to a recap of the Visa Infinite dinner featuring Montreal’s Joe Beef at Vancouver’s L’Abattoir.
My hands were bloody greasy after this meal… well no blood, just grease. I was prepared though. When “Joe Beef” is featured on the menu I’m expecting to get my protein intake for the month and enough calories for a family of four. It was exactly as I imagined it and more. At the end of dinner my phone was slipping out of my hands. I kid you not there was an oil slick on my camera that I thought was permanent. No damage was done though… well not to my camera or phone at least, just to the diners. I was so full and lazy at the end of this dinner that I could barely move (as you can tell by my worm’s eye view photography of the featured chefs).
November 29 was the Visa Infinite Exclusive Dinner at L’Abattoir in Gastown, Vancouver. It featured special guest Fred Morin of Joe Beef in Montreal. The 12 course menu was a collaboration from both chefs and restaurants, but it was very obvious which dish was coming from who. L’Abattoir is elegant Pacific Northwest cuisine with French techniques and Joe Beef is a playful and liberal overindulgence of French fare with a focus on meats. This was no vegetarian meal and I wouldn’t even dare to ask for a substitution… not that I ever do anyway.
The ingredients for the Joe Beef courses were flown in from Quebec, and I imagined that needing a plane on its own. The French wine paired dinner started off rather gracefully, and there was no real “warm up” before I was slammed with offal, game, and family style portions of hearty Quebecois comfort food done with a modern twist. Both chefs and their courses were quite representable of who they are and how food is approached in their respective cities.
For those unfamiliar with Joe Beef, I’ve mentioned it in Follow Me Foodie to Montreal and Wilensky’s. It has a cult like following and it’s one of the most celebrated restaurants in Canada let alone in Montreal. Excited was an understatement when I was invited to this dinner and never did I expect to try the infamous Joe Beef in my hometown.
The Visa Infinite dining series brings together highly acclaimed Canadian chefs who travel to each other’s cities to cook legendary meals, and we get to try them without buying the plane ticket. It is ideal for any “in the know” food and wine enthusiast, but it’s also just a good time with enough wine to make you call a cab home. One of the biggest draws is that you are guaranteed to meet the chef, who may or may not be in house when you are visiting their actual restaurants. It is understandable that they can’t always be in house, but there is a satisfaction knowing that the food you’re eating at these dinners are coming from the hands of the creator himself.
Note: This dinner was a small taste (although big in volume) of what to expect at Joe Beef and L’Abattoir. The dinner was $145 per person (includes champagne or sparkling wine reception, food, wine pairings and gratuity. Each couple/person receives a copy of The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. Taxes extra.) I can only speak for this dinner, but it was an incredible value considering the quality of food, wine and overall experience. Due to the nature of the event I will keep my comments to a minimum, but for more information and tickets to the Visa Infinite Dining Series – see here.
On the table:
Lee Cooper, L’Abattoir, Vancouver
Fred Morin, Joe Beef, Montreal
MC &French Wine Ambassador: Nick Hamilton
Champagne Rosé Brut, Nicolas Feuillatte
- “I shouldn’t fill up on bread” crossed my mind, but it’s really hard to resist the famous bread basket at L’Abattoir.
- If you go there on a regular night it’s served warm and complimentary just like it was here.
- It is always a good sign when a restaurant cares enough to make and bake their own bread.
- Anchovy Twist: For some reason I couldn’t taste the anchovy this time, but it is supposed to be an anchovy twist unless they have changed it. It was a crispy yet soft and flaky twist with buttery puff pastry-like flavour and texture.
- Bacon Brioche: It was a soft brioche with diced bacon rolled into it and the bacon tasted more like ham. This was more buttery than I remembered it being and better than I remembered it tasting.
- Sesame Crisp: The flatbread crisp tastes Indian or Middle Eastern because it was spiced with lots of smoky cumin, sesame seeds and poppy seeds, but the cumin was strongest.
Chablis, Réserve de Vaudon, Joseph Drouhin 2009 (Bourgogne) – It was quite acidic with lots of citrus notes from green apples, lemon and lime. There was a chalky mineral characteristic and I liked it better paired with the steelhead than the sweetbreads. It cut the richness of the sweetbreads, but it complimented the freshness and clean flavours of the steelhead.
L’Abattoir – Poached Steelhead, Potato, Horseradish
- This was one of my favourite courses of the night. It was a great way to start and it ended up being the lightest course too.
- It was a less indulgent version of their Confit of Albacore Tuna, well at least it was reminiscent of it.
- There was a great play on textures with the crispy fried potatoes on top and the poached steelhead was likely sous vide.
- It was buttery and rich in flavour, but it wasn’t heavy.
- It would have been great served on a plate though because it was kind of tricky to get at.
L’Abattoir – Fried Sweetbreads, Dungeness Crab Custard, White Truffle
- This was probably my favourite course of the night.
- I loved the shavings of truffle instead of the finely shredded “zest” of it which tends to lose its flavour.
- L’Abattoir makes one of my favourite sweetbread dishes in the city and it’s their Pan Fried Veal Sweetbreads on Toast, and this was kind of like that.
- It was a very rich dish and the demi glace was perhaps slightly over reduced, but I still loved it.
- I really dislike when sweetbreads are served in a giant chunk, but these ones were separated, cleaned well and almost like popcorn chicken.
- They were crispy on the outside and pillowy inside and I’m so glad it wasn’t truffle oil, but real truffles. It was a real treat.
- The crab custard was sweet, creamy and rich. It was a hybrid of a sabayon, hollandaise and aioli with the essence of seafood.
- It was almost like a crab benny and there were flaky moist pieces of crab in the custard too.
- I used the bacon brioche roll to wipe the bowl clean. It looked like a new dish after I finished.
Mercurey La Framboisiere, Faiveley 2009 (Bougogne) – It was a light bodied and smooth pinot noir with raspberry and orange notes. It was mild enough to go with fish and also a bit earthy and it paired quite nicely with the pigeon. I wish there had been a pinot glass for this, but it was still a good wine.
L’Abattoir – Pigeon Cured, Smoked and Aged, Mushroom, Apple
- Many people still freak out when they see “pigeon” on the menu, but I grew up with this stuff. I love it.
- It is not the pigeons that eat garbage, it’s just squab which is a domesticated young pigeon. It tastes like dark meat chicken meets duck.
- The presentation for this was interesting.
- The circular presentation was very L’Abattoir and the squab bone which looked like a twig, or a pigeon leg, was kind of Grant Achatz like. The food is not like Alinea though.
- The pigeon was very tender and likely sous vide, and the fat was well rendered with a thin layer still remaining.
- I wish the skin was seared crispy, but it was still good.
- The tangy herb poached apple wedge addition was reminiscent of duck and apple which is a classic flavour combination.
- I couldn’t even tell that it was wrapped with fat which was deep fried until crunchy. It tasted like a savoury thick pop chip or samosa like batter.
- The inside I think was some sort of ham (?) and I couldn’t really tell what the rest of the stuffing was. The flavours got a bit mixed, but it was an interesting concept.
Saint-Joseph White Les Granits, Chapoutier 2009 (Rhone) – We jumped back over to the whites, but it was a very full bodied white. It was bit floral and sweet with honey, smoky and slightly spicy.
- And the family style portions begin! It was straight into the Joe Beef portion of dinner… the very big portion of dinner.
- This didn’t look rich, but it was rich! It was very simple, but very good.
- The “Spaghetti Homard-Lobster” is a favourite at Joe Beef.
- The pasta was al dente and then the sauce was almost like a bisque meets a beurre blanc.
- I could taste the seafood crustaceans in the creamy buttery sauce which just coated the noodles ever so slightly, but it had good flavour.
- I could taste the savoury bacon infused into the sauce and the natural sweetness of the seafood with chunks of lobster throughout.
- The lobster got slightly overcooked, but the savoury umami factor in the sauce made me reach for more bread. Damn that bread basket.
- This was the lighter of the two pastas even considering the pig skin.
- When everyone is deep frying pig skin, or rendering it away, this was something new.
- Chris Consentino at Incanto restaurant in San Francisco was the documented “first” to come up with the idea for pig skin pasta.
- The execution is really interesting and the pig skin is cooked before it is put through a spaghetti cutter.
- I’m guessing it is brined and braised because the pig skin was almost like jelly and it was melt in your mouth tender.
- It was obviously gelatinous, but not chewy. It tasted neutral though and just took on the flavours of the marinara sauce.
- I’m not sure how I felt about it next to the gnocchi, but I was happy to try it.
- The gnocchi was more dough like than potato like and it was another “simple in flavours” dish, but I’ll never forget the concept.
Cotes-de-Nuits-Villages Vaucrain, Daniel Rion 2009 (Bougogne) – It was back to a pinot noir. This was a light to medium bodied red with the flavour of cherries and tartness of cranberries.
Host: “I hope the horse tartare won’t be too much for you… are you okay with eating horse?”
Me: Is it horse mackerel or horse horse? Not that is really matters because I’ll eat both.
Host: Horse horse. Are you okay with that?
Me: I’ve eaten a tarantula. I’m okay with that. Actually… I’m quite excited because I’ve never tried it!
I’ve written about horse meat before (see here), but I’ve never had the opportunity to try it. The history of horse meat tartare traces back to Mongolia, greater Asia, Europe and South America, but nowadays it is rare. However it is still a common part of the main diet for Mongolia and Kazakhstan. I keep a really open mind with food and culture, so this didn’t bother me.
It was a mountain of horse tartar which Joe Beef brought from Quebec and it tasted exactly like beef tartare. It was rich and slightly reminiscent of kangaroo tartare, but in a blind taste test I don’t even know if I would be able to pick out which one was which.
I thought there was going to be a sous vide egg hidden in the mound, but there was no egg. It actually wasn’t that seasoned which I kind of liked because I wanted to taste the natural raw flavour of the horse meat since it was my first time. The pieces were cut into big chunks so I felt a bit barbaric, but horse meat is something I would eat and order again.
- Before this course came I was warned that it would be rich even for my diet.
- I wasn’t even expecting to get this because it wasn’t written on the menu, so it was a surprise!
- It was the famous “Foie Gras Double Down” at Joe Beef.
- This is Double Down Royalty – a high end version of KFC’s “Double Down”.
- Part of me was thinking “nooooo don’t do it! Don’t ruin such a lovely piece of foie gras by deep frying it and serving it with bacon and cheese!”
- Then the other part of me was thinking “will I be rude eating this with my hands?”
- If I’m going to do it, I’m doing it without the knife and fork. And I did.
- As much of a “once in a lifetime” thing it was, I would do it again if I had heartbeats to spare.
- The foie gras was a pretty giant lobe and it was battered and fried just like KFC extra crunchy fried chicken.
- It was likely a flour and buttermilk batter with breadcrumbs and it was a dense batter.
- Every bite was delicious foie gras drippings oozing out of the deep fried casing.
- I almost couldn’t taste the double smoked bacon and maple-syrup-smoked cheddar cheese even though there was a lot of it.
- There was mayo in it too which I couldn’t even taste it was so heavy.
- Apparently the mayo is made with duck-skin schmaltz, brown sugar apple juice and salt, but I lost all of that.
- I couldn’t even tell what was toasted brioche bread and what was batter, but I did enjoy each bite.
- Was it rich? Hell yes, but that is what is expected.
- If you’re going extreme then they did it right… except they forgot the fried egg.
- If you like this then you might want to put the Foie Gras Loco Moco at Animal in LA on your bucket list too.
Saint-Joseph Offerus, Chave Selection 2008 (Rhone) – Rhone is known for their Syrah. It was a medium to full bodied wine with lots of caper flavours and pepper. I found it quite spicy and I couldn’t get over the dominant capers. It was obviously dry and I wouldn’t mind it served even 1-2 years from now. The fruit flavours were on the thin side to me, but it had a long finish.
Joe Beef – Deer Neck A la Royale
- What? “A la Royale”? I thought I just had “a la royale” in the form of a sandwich… ?
- I would have appreciated this so much more if I had it 3 courses in, but after 8 courses and a “Foie Gras Double Down”, I was adjusting the belt on my dress. Why did I wear a belt anyway though? Dumb dumb.
- This was almost like a beef bourguignon and it was ideal comfort food for the winter.
- It was hearty, meaty and full of flavour… and also served with the deer neck vertebrae. I was tempted to take it home as a souvenir.
- The mashed potatoes were more like a pommes purée and they were super creamy with lots of butter and cream. Delicious! It was almost like polenta.
- The deer neck was incredibly tender and also very moist and juicy.
- I was very impressed because deer is a rather lean meat and leaner than beef, but this wasn’t dry.
- Deer is a game meat, but I find lamb (especially the rack) gamier in flavour. This actually wasn’t that gamey at all. It tastes like beef if you’ve never had it.
- It was executed like a pot roast (perhaps brined and braised) and infused with aromatics like carrots, onions, celery and garlic.
- There was no overpowering herb and it had great depth of flavour and natural sweetness.
- The roasted carrots and parsnips were all candied, sweet and tender and it was a very homestyle dish.
Joe Beef – Smoked Cheddar and Beignets
- If only these puppies were served with ice cream.
- They were super dense doughnuts and more like cake. They retained a lot of heat.
- There was very little aeration in the dough, but they were very moist and almost creamy.
- They were extremely rich and the smoked cheddar was only the slices melted on top.
- It was a sweet and savoury combo which I love, but they were quite sweet especially with the caramel sauce on top.
- The pickled plums helped cut the richness and sweetness.
Côte Rôtie Seigneur de Maugiron, Delas 2006 (Rhone) – It was another syrah from the Rhone region. I actually enjoyed this one more, but it kind of overpowered the cheese so I enjoyed them separately. This was a very good vintage wine. It was full of black cherry and black currant flavours with some smokiness and spice. It had a long finish and I think the time it had in the bottle made all the difference.
Dairy Farmers of Canada Cheese
- This was a bit hard to enjoy because they were served chilled instead of room temperature.
- I couldn’t taste them very well so I can’t comment.
- Borenkaas, Natural Pastures, British Columbia – This seemed to be the general favourite.
- Cow’s Extra Aged Cheddar, Cows Inc., PEI
- Velvet Blue, Golden Ears, British Columbia
L’Abattoir – Toasted Pain d’Epices, Caramelized Quince, Candy Cap Mushroom Mousse
- When mousse becomes the “palate cleanser” and the second lightest thing on the menu, you know you’ve overindulged in an incredibly rich meal.
- The candy cap mushroom mousse was my favourite part and most interesting component on the plate.
- Humphry Slocombe made Candy Cap Ice Cream a few years ago and I also tried it at Absinthe in San Francisco.
- Secret Location (in Gastown) is making an excellent one at the moment too, but this mousse version was fantastic.
- The candy cap mushroom is naturally a bit sweet and it tastes like maple with a bit of earthiness to it.
- This mousse also had lots of vanilla bean seeds so it was still very much a dessert and not savoury.
- It was a very well made light mousse with consistent and smooth texture. It was fluffy, but also creamy.
- The mousse had no oily or greasy mouthfeel and the cream was simply infused with the candy cap mushrooms.
- Personally I could have gone for more candy cap mushroom flavour, but the stuff is expensive and I think the majority of people would like less of it.
- On the topic of mushrooms I’ve also had an amazing Porcini Mushroom Toffee before at Dude, Sweet Chocolate.
- Mushrooms in dessert work really well if done properly.
What’s this?! No Petit Fours? Did I do something wrong? Kidding… I could have rolled out of there.
That Foie Gras dish is definitely cold weather food ! Love it ! The deer neck looks pretty good, too. The meal definitely is “Quebec-East Coast-Heavy” style…eat like this 3 nights a week and you’ll be groanin’…you ate well.
I had horse sashimi in a metal bar/izakaya in Japan. I remember really liking it. I think Guu had it on their menu recently.
so ….ya-my….good for Christmas dinner.we must try it.
wow…. was this a one time thing?…. I didn’t get to go to joe beef when I was in montreal…
You had me at fried foei…
The reaction to the horse would be typical of you; but, I guess people don’t know you yet! 🙂
Wow talk about a dream dinner 🙂 that double down looks amazing and I definitely would’ve sopped up those juices lol hahah I totally LOLed when I read that part about you eating tarantulas hahahaha 🙂 yum though, I totally think the price is worth it, I personally really like l’abattoir and the fact that you get booze and a book is really good 🙂