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Le Comptoir, Montreal

Le Comptoir takes charcuterie to the next level; Chef Ségué Lepage.

Let’s break it down. The namesake “comptoir,” repurposed from an old lab, offers great views of the kitchen and a surface for slapping when the food is just that good. The mouth-melting, house-cured charcuteries, served surprisingly young, challenge meat fatigue with lesser-known products like coppa di testa (Italian headcheese), lomo (Spanish-style pork loin) and ventrèche (French pancetta). As for the “vins,” sommelier Jack Jacob specializes almost entirely in organic wines from small-hold vineyards, with riveting finds from the Loire and Roussillon.

But this place is more than the sum of those parts: In fact, it’s more of a restaurant than it lets on, and that leaves a lot of freedom for Ségué Lepage (La Montée de Lait) and brother Noé to come up with their own inventive and laid-back cuisine. For an original take on a Montreal original, there’s a pressed smoked meat sandwich with cheddar and cumin mustard. The blackboard menu plays with taste and texture but also temperature, often in salads composed of warm and cool elements: roasted cauliflower with anchovy, arugula and bread crumbs; halibut with cucumber, feta, herbs and tempura onions; or fried ricotta with green-apple purée. It would be easy – dangerously easy considering the quality and the prices – to come here often (and eventually it would become clear if the choice of disco music was intended to be ironic or not).

Montreal’s buvettes occupy a particular cozy-chic niche – somewhere between wine bars and gastropubs – and this one has the city’s heartbeat at rest.

4807, boul. Saint-Laurent, 514-844-8467, comptoircharcuteriesetvins.ca