Downtown Montreal offers many things to many people. We have one of the largest shopping districts in the country, more bars than can be counted and a thriving restaurant scene. Since 2007, Pois Penché has maintained a reputation as one of the finest French restaurants in the city and we finally had a chance to take a seat and check it out for ourselves. Time is a gift that most restaurants don’t have the luxury of earning. The scuffed wooden floor of an establishment with a loyal clientele is a great sign. It means many a busy waiter has bustled around the room, balancing trays of food all the way to people who keep coming back for more. It was one of the first things I noticed when I walked into Pois Penché and it’s a detail that I love in restaurants. The aging of a space in a way that shows it’s been travelled, worked in and loved isn’t something we should change, instead it should be cherished. Pois Penché Dining RoomLooking around Pois Penché’s dining room, the French influence is evident in everything from the riveted velour seating to the long aprons worn by the wait staff. While remaining rooted in tradition, mirror covered posts are a clever wink at the ornate corner cafes of Paris but reflect the traditional decor in a fun new, modern way.  The windows running along de Maisonneuve Boulevard and de la Montagne street allow plenty of natural light to cascade over the sunny sidewalk terrasse, cross the bar and spill into the restaurant, making it nice and bright during the day. Pois Penché kitchen Pois Penché 2-2Pois Penché balances a muted décor with a wonderful open kitchen and splashes of vibrant colour, which makes for a pleasant ambiance. The restaurant has a malleable atmosphere that can be quiet when necessary but let’s the patrons intensify the energy as the day ebbs and flows. The night we went, that energy oscillated from demure to chatty several times as the crowds came and went. Earlier in the evening we were given a brief tour of the downstairs, multi-purpose dining room, which was bright, cool, and spacious due to the brilliant white tiled floor and surrounding paintings. The adjacent wine cellar means the downstairs temperature needs to remain cool to preserve the private wine and champagne collection. You won’t find Moet or Veuve served here. Pois Penché 12Pois Penché 13When it came to ordering the food we took our time to choose wisely. French food is abundant in Montreal which means competition can be wildly fierce. We tried the burrata and fried crab cake to start. The burrata was creamy and fresh while the crab cake crunched and cracked revealing the creamy, crab filled centre. It was my first crab cake in 12 years and I ate it up. For the main course (all pictured above) we choose the salmon and beef tartar, the duck confit and the halibut. The halibut, served with a sweet potato puree was flaky and fresh, tasting only slightly of seafood. The duck confit tasted homemade (my landlady makes the best, this was almost as good). The beef tartar was great, not too ornamented with spices while the salmon tartar was the opposite, but deliciously so. Accented with yuzu, avocado wasabi puree and pickled diakon, the flavors exploded when tasted. For dessert we had the profiteroles with homemade vanilla ice cream and melted chocolate. We went all the way and also ordered the crème brûlée. Neither lasted very long and it was a delightful way to end our meal. Clef d’Or member, Patricio Cruz, impeccably led the table service during the evening. He took very good care of us and made sure no detail was left unhandled. Throughout the night I watched him and his team take care of the other tables, especially the tables in eavesdropping distance and everyone received the same courteous treatment, an important detail in any restaurant experience. Located on one of the busiest corners of downtown Montreal, Pois Penché is a destination French restaurant in our city. They have a few surprises up their sleeves in the coming months that will definitely draw your attention but don’t worry; the recipe that has made them a success isn’t about to change. Photo credit: David Major-Lapierre