Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dining Out Montreal: Restaurant Europea

There are two things I used to always love about Montreal in Quebec, Canada: the exchange rate with US dollars and the abundant offerings of French food, from bistro fare to fine dining.

Now that the US economy is going down the gutter, the exchange rate is no longer much of an advantage. But fine dining is still available at much better prices than what I am used to seeing in San Francisco or New York City.

On a recent trip to Montreal, my husband and I dined at Restaurant Europea. The menu offered a la carte selections, along with a table d'hote ("host's table") five-course menu and a nine-course tasting menu. We decided on the table d'hote ($53.50 Canadian), as we figured that our tactic of each ordering a different selection for each course would allow us to partake in an ample variety.

Before we could place our orders, however, our waitress offered us a complimentary sampling of three morsels, which were quite good as a whole. Husband and I both agreed the middle selection was the most delectable--a cured piece of meat wrapped around a dried piece of fruit. Not uncommon, but definitely palate pleasing.

When our waitress came around again, we placed our orders. A few minutes later, our "La mise en bouche" arrived, a teaser of lobster cream "cappuccino" with truffle oil and a small shaving of truffle.

Le Cappuccino de crème de homard, à l’huile de truffe
(no coffee involved, but the foamy texture was reminiscent of a cappuccino)

After that, the courses came in a fluid, continuous motion. They included:

Appetizer of pan-fried foie gras over a truffled celeriac puree, foie gras "au torchon" with pineapple chutney.

Appetizer of "minute made" bison tartar, watercress mesclun, carpaccio of smoked Boileau venaison, baby vegetables.

A complimentary tasting (I forgot what this was, but I believe it was a polenta of sort)

A complimentary tasting of "Light CO2 foam prepared with Caesar Salad."

Entree of slowly braised veal cheeks, fondant potatoes and parsnip puree.

Entree of roasted U10 scallop with prosciutto, Lac Brome confit duck raviole, shitake mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke, coconut emulsion.

Rum cake dessert.

A tray of bite-sized desserts, with tuxedo strawberries!

A complimentary basket full of delicious, tiny madeleines.

Chocolate macaroon presented on a crispy feuillantine, with chocolate ganache.

My after-dinner coffee, in the fanciest setup I've ever seen. It came with four different types of sugars and a bar of chocolate!

For slightly less than US $50 a person (if you don't include the coffee I ordered), the lavish meal was quite the bargain. We had numerous complimentary tastings, and by the end of the night I could barely take a bite of my dessert. We ended up bringing most of the madeleines home, which provided a memorable snack the next day.

Except for the Caesar Salad foam, which I thought was innovative but strange, all of the dishes were executed well. I expected something to be amiss, but the quality of the food was high and the service was good (though a tad bit slow towards the end). I'm not sure if Canadian food costs are lower, or maybe they just don't care about making money, but it's a gastronomic bargain I'll gladly come back to the next time I'm in Montreal.


Restaurant Europea
Montreal, QC Canada
4.5 smacking plums (highest is 5)