As one of our country’s biggest provinces, Quebec’s vast territory is rich with great people who’ve made the best of the land they’ve inherited. Families of farmers, fishermen, hunters and artisans from the far reaches of this beautiful place we call home provide us with some of the best food the world can offer and our chefs take that food and transform it into something spectacular.
Caribou Gourmand on Saint-Laurent in Montreal’s busy Mile-End neighbourhood has been open for about a year now and their take on cuisine du terroir is both wonderfully unique and entirely engaging.
Late one evening last week Vincent, Véro and I went to Caribou Gourmand to try it out first hand. It was a relatively dry summer night meaning that it has only rained once during the day (a real gift from Mother Nature this year) so the restaurant’s large front windows were open. The restaurant was filled with the warm summer air that cooled us with each light breeze that drifted up along the Main. To cool off even further, we began the night with a little bubbly as we perused the menu, figuring out what we wanted to try. It wasn’t an easy task but with a little help from the chef we narrowed it down to three appetizers, three entrees and three desserts that we would share.
Spearheaded by a couple of young expats from Normandy, France, Caribou (a name given to the French who return from Canada) Gourmand is every bit a product of the influence that Canada has had on both Guillaume and Inès while their Norman heritage remain rooted in the details of the food they prepare. Much like the couple, their food is unpretentious and that was evident from the first bite. At Caribou Gourmand, the menu changes with the season putting the fresh food that’s available at the moment front and centre.
To begin our meal we were served a snow crab roll, harp seal tataki and generous helping of foie gras. The snow crab (which comes a large buttery roll) was perfectly seasoned, served at room temperature and prepared with gremolata, celery and coconut milk. The foie gras was served on a sliced of lightly toasted, homemade corn bread which was an interesting way to present it. Fans of foie gras will love that they kept it simple. The dish we all wanted to try the most was the seal. I’ve had seal meat before and it was frightful but the chefs at Caribou Gourmand prepared it so that it was tender yet flavourful. That gamey meat taste paired perfectly with wild berries and the Gin granita (like a Gin and tonic jelly) that came with it. I highly recommend the seal.
For our main courses we were served plates of Atlantic cod, hanger steak and barbecued ribs. The cod was baked to perfection and flaked apart at the touch of a fork. It was served on a bed of wild rice and market vegetables including little green beans. Topped with an oatmeal and bacon crust, the cod might have been my favourite dish of the night and definitely worth a trying again.
For red meat lovers the steak was also perfectly prepared and served with deliciously salty fries. They kept this one simple which served it perfectly. Although I never order ribs in a restaurant, every time I try them I’m reminded how much I love them. At Caribou Gourmand the ribs are succulent and they fall right off the bone. The barbecue spices have just the right amount of kick and the dish is completed with roasted potatoes and grilled corn.
Dessert is something I think I never have room for until it’s devoured and I’m left wanting more. That was the case at Caribou Gourmand when a chocolate mousse, a rhubarb tart and a maple creme brûlée. The chocolate mouse was decadent and served in a mason jar with meringue crumble. The butter rhubarb tart was sweet but retain that distinct rhubarb flavour that evokes the greatest memories of eating rhubarb right out of my grandmother’s garden. Nothing is more Canadian than maple and the chefs didn’t hold back with adding as much maple as possible to their creme brûlée.
A love for our culture and the food we produce is the heart of this restaurant’s raison d’être. Even the decor is influenced our country’s vast forests. At it’s heart as well is something that we are all familiar with; family. This young family who have chosen to make Canada and Quebec their home are contributing to our culture by looking at it from their unique perspective and adding their own flavour which is a perfectly Canadian thing to do.