Story by Doug Wallace
The number of restaurants per capita is high in Quebec City, no doubt to help feed the masses of tourists cramming themselves into patio chairs during the summer, money burning holes in their pockets. But year-round, this town happily turns out some of the best food in the country, due in large part to the skill of people of the surrounding farmland. Here is just a soupçon sampling:
• Enjoy a string of engaging small plates at Toast (17 rue Sault au Matelot, www.restauranttoast.com, 418-692-1334) tucked inside Le Priori Hôtel in the Old Port. Chef Christian Lemelin, who is in his early 30s, has a surprising restaurant resumé for someone so young. In the summer, the terrace here is one of the best-kept secrets in the city.
• When hot olives arrive at your table to start, you know you’re in for some culinary pampering. At Le Clocher Penché Bistrot (203 rue Saint-Joseph Est, www.clocherpenche.ca, 418-640-0597), formerly an old bank, elegant and homespun French dishes delight at every turn. Very attentive service gets you even deeper into the food experience: “I will be right back to talk about the dessert wine you’ve chosen. It comes from my hometown,” says the waiter.
• Across the street, all the cool kids with their hip eyewear are having steaks at the long bar at the casual Le Cercle (228 Saint-Joseph Est, www.le-cercle.ca, 418-948-8648). This is a big place, part of an even larger art and music scene. Video projections dance on the wall, lighting up the sea of haircuts having a good time; join right in.
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• Restaurant Panache at the Auberge Saint-Antoine (8 rue Saint-Antoine, www.saint-antoine.com, 888-692-2221) is a bit of old-world charm, boasting the winner of 2011’s culinary TV competition “Les Chefs!,” sous-chef Guillaume St-Pierre. Recognized wherever he goes, St-Pierre visits all the tables every shift — and has to wear a ballcap and sunglasses to the grocery store.
• Around the corner at the Relais & Châteaux-associated Restaurant Initiale (54 rue Saint-Pierre, www.restaurantinitiale.com, 418-694-1818) God is in the details — and there are a lot of them. Chef Yvan Lebrun offers fine dining at its utmost best, with little surprises thrown in (a refreshing mid-meal sorbet, a post-dessert sweet) to keep you on your toes.
• “Traditional cooking on a silver platter” is one of the mottos of Laurie Raphael (117 rue Dalhousie, www.laurieraphael.com, 418-692-4555); sensual food with a touch of crazy. This spot also gives cooking classes, sommelier’s dinners, even a dining etiquette class.
• Like most restaurants in Quebec City, Restaurant le Saint-Amour (48 rue Sainte-Ursule, www.saint-amour.com, 418 694-0667) focuses on the best products possible from local suppliers. It serves foie gras to die for, so it’s amusing that Paul McCartney would tuck into dinner here during the city’s 400th anniversary in 2008. And so can you! Bon appétit.
MAP OF THE SEVEN RESTAURANTS
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