Even though the “eat local” movement has only started to really ramp up in the last few years, a few restaurants have been championing amazing foods grown and produced in la belle province from their beginnings. Vallier is one of these restaurants and recently the restaurant went through a few changes, both behind the scene and out front but their modus operandi remains the same; feature the best that Quebec has to offer. We covered Vallier a few years ago and last week we returned to see how far they’ve come.
The look of the restaurant has completely changed and while I lament a few things I’ll miss (those gorgeous multi-coloured lamps for one) I am over the moon about the look. It’s an update that centralizes the bar, adds a deep green colour to compliment the beautiful wooden furniture, brings in plants to add a little life to the scene and much, much more. The update, while remaining familiar enough to not feel like they’ve completely gutted the place, brings Vallier swinging into 2017.
While the service has always been a plus at Vallier, our experience last week went above and beyond as we were warmly received by the restaurant. Yes, they knew we were there to review the place, but the service wasn’t about impressing us so much as it was about making us feel welcome and we felt very welcome. Both the hostess and the sommelier (who was our waiter for the evening) were delightful and their sense of humour was refreshing. The sommelier had an effervescent passion for wine and proudly strutted out his finest bottles of Canadian white, red, sparkling and even orange wine, including an amazing rose created and bottled on Isle d’Orleans.
We started our meal with a couple of delicious cocktails including the Labrador Tea Martini (Romeo’s Gin, absinthe, Maple Labrador tea syrup, fresh lime juice, egg white) and the Quebec Cucumber Fix (Tromba Tequila, mint kombucha, Emilie’s honey syrup, fresh lime juice, Quebec cucumber). Both are an excellent way to ease into a great evening out on the town.
We kicked things off with three different appetizers including a Quebec mozzarella di bufala, grilled octopus and a mushroom dish that came highly recommended. The mozzarella was fresh and cool and came with a tangy beet puree and wild berries. The grilled octopus was cooked well and was accompanied by zucchini, kale and smoked tomatoes. The tomatoes were some of the best I have ever had and the smoked flavour was both surprising and delightful.
The mushrooms, which were grown at a farm in Hochelaga from composed coffee grounds that were collected from around the city, are a great vegetarian option. Served on a bed of white beans, the dish has legs to stand on. One common theme through the beginning of the meal that may need to be looked at is the salt content. Too much salt is used in the dishes and it distracts from the flavours of the food. Everything from the cheese to the octopus to beans could use less salt.
For our main courses we chose the beef tartare and the duck confit sheperd’s pie. There are restaurants around the city that I go back to constantly for one particular dish and the sheperd’s pie at Vallier has been my go-to dish for years. Although it isn’t new to the menu the accompaniments are. Instead of a traditional homemade ketchup that the dish used to come with, they now serve a house made pureed ketchup and a corm and braised cabbage salad. The new additions don’t improve the dish but they don’t detract from it either. I would still continue to order this to the end of time. The tartar was good and while salt is once again a factor that could be worrisome, it was perfectly seasoned and has been vastly improved over the years which is wonderful.
Rounding out our meal we tried two different desserts that will no doubt please anyone with a bit of a sweet tooth. Both a healthy slice of cheesecake with a blueberry coulis and a generous piece of pear cake were delivered to the table. Although the cheesecake came out the clear winner of the two, the pear cake with Big Ben Porter caramel and caramelized popcorn satiated our appetite for sugar.
Overall our experience at Vallier was an impressive one. I’d recommend lightening up on the salt to let the hard work of the kitchen staff as well as the natural flavours and beauty of the food shine even brighter. Vallier continues to be an excellent choice in Old Montreal and a visit to the restaurant will be well worth your while.