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Quebec
255, rue Saint-Paul | 418-614-2555
restaurantlegende.ca

My dinner date expresses Légende’s notion of boreal as “Northern Quebec before you reach the tundra.” This is the culinary hunting ground that Frédéric Laplante mythologizes at his capital-city bistro. The story begins as you enter through a grove of engineered birch “trees” and ends with a perfect maple syrup tart served with a tiny milkshake made peppery with green alder catkins, just one more part of a tree that I never dreamed could actually taste good.

By way of introduction, the seafood platter explores the northern stretches of the St. Lawrence, with silky monkfish liver torchon and tangy mussels marinated in escabeche. An elk carpaccio, sliced into a broad crimson rectangle, is dotted with a forest of creamy tofu crumble and golden sea-buckthorn berries. Half the berries are the real thing, barely distinguishable by sight from their doppelgängers – perfectly piped spheres of smooth sea-buckthorn purée.

Légende is the downtown offspring of La Tanière, that serious temple to gastronomy born on a country road in 1977. The progeny is louder, more urban and vibrant, more 2014: Where La Tanière offers a 20-course, five-hour tasting menu, Légende goes à la carte, with nearly every dish available in two sizes.

Be forewarned: You’ll regret ordering the small version (frankly, you’ll regret ordering just one) of the snow crab with shaved rhubarb and buckwheat-honey foam. The sunflower-oil mayonnaise that holds it all together respects the limits of boreal cooking. “No lemons allowed here,” says chef au passe Émile Tremblay, “so we cook an egg to 64.5°C, where the proteins are just right to create an emulsion.” Paired with a glass of rich and oily Mosel riesling, it’s the sort of dish that legends are made of.

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