And so, a mere 250 years after the treaty of Paris, cooking anglo food in Montreal is cool again chez Maison Publique, Derek Dammann’s scrumptious, not-quite-literal French translation of the British public house. Consider the Welsh rarebit. The peasant classic of meaty broiled bread sure seems authentic, crispy cheese crusts and all, but the béchamel sauce is spiked with stout by Montreal brewer Dieu du Ciel!
Bushy-bearded floor manager Félix Léonard-Gagné hovers around the wall-mounted menu, which requires diners to get out of their seats and mingle. Gagné describes the salaison de boeuf as a cross between carpaccio and jerky, and, sure enough, the thin, chewy salt-cured rounds of filet explode with black pepper.
A single baked oyster is a showstopper. The meaty giant sea angel from Cortes Island, in Dammann’s native B.C., arrives in its ballet-slipper-size shell atop a mound of coarse salt. Pierce the broiled crust and plow through meaty oyster bits in a sauce of sliced mushroom and Marmite cream. The dish is nice and salty, as a marriage of oyster and brewer’s yeast ought to be, and seems to call for a frothy pint of lager. But Léonard-Gagné’s all-Canadian wine list offers a better partner: an aromatic, palate-reviving glass of Pearl Morissette riesling from Niagara, in the heart of Upper Canada.
All the gourmand punters end the night with a treat from Dammann’s soft- serve machine. The mint-rhubarb swirl – obviously, order the swirl! – is a twisted tower in a footed teacup, set on a gilt-edged saucer fit for a queen. Whether we’re talking Elizabeth or Marie Antoinette remains, as ever in this town, up for debate.
- BUTTER PLUS: Adding fat to butter? Whether duck fat (Supply and Demand) or barbecue drippings (Electric Mud BBQ), we say the more, the merrier.
- FOOD-FRIENDLY REDS: Versatile, high-acid, low-tannin red grapes, like zweigelt, lacrima, frappato and gamay, have moved to the top of the sommelier’s speed-dial list. Don’t call us, cab sauv, we’ll call you.
- LAMB BELLY: The new pork belly.
- SMALL PLATES, SMALLER TABLES: If you’re going to ask us to order four dishes per person to share, you’d better have a plan for where to put them. Yes, we are still working on all of these.
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