In a city invariably celebrated for its bistros, Les 400 coups is where you want to go to reconsider steak tartare. Hand-chopped for palpable texture, mixed with cheeky morsels of carrot and dotted with anchovy mayo and croutons, it’s finished with a quenelle of mustard ice cream – as if raw beef weren’t ephemeral enough.
Les 400 coups, besides being a play on the address and the Truffaut film, is a French expression meaning to push the limits. The notoriously restless A-list team of chef Marc-André Jetté, pastry chef Patrice Demers and sommelière Marie-Josée Beaudoin (who all worked together at Laloux and Newtown) put themselves to the test here. Their dramatic beaux-arts room – black walls, white marble bar, soaring mural of St-Germain-des-Prés, the Paris neighbourhood that could be Montreal’s mother ship – bubbles with the gossip of local television personalities. The faint odeur de antique shop only reinforces the modernity of their Québécois cuisine. (The staff’s grey cutaway vestons, not so much.)
Jetté’s palate is wide open, and he draws from across the globe – Arctic char in a Peking duck bouillon, striped bass with Marcona almonds and curry emulsion, spelt spaghetti with sea urchin butter – yet his approach is strikingly clean and contained, even compact. Demers offers the pot de crème that made his reputation at Les Chèvres, but his outdoorsy Vert – iced green apple served over pistachios, young cilantro shoots, olive oil and white-chocolate yogurt – is a symphony in green. This is where Quebec’s apples want to be reincarnated.400, rue Notre-Dame E., 514-985-0400, les400coups.ca