I ate out quite a bit during the High Lights Festival, but one clear standout was my dinner at La Porte, a charming family-run restaurant on Saint-Laurent Boulevard…
The six-course tasting menu served up by father-and-son duo Eric and Tristan Martin of Lemmonier (a restaurant in Southern Belgium with a Michelin star) was quietly impressive: no fireworks, nothing overly creative but lots of solidly well-crafted plates paying homage to Belgium’s best-loved flavours: endives, a delicious little morsel that was an upscale play on the classic moules et frites (mussels and fries) and, at the end, chocolate, of course.
Eric Martin confirmed what his fellow countryman Yves Mattagne had told me a few nights earlier about the impressive quality of ingredients available in Montreal. With the local bounty, the Martins prepared a superb appetizer of raw sliced scallops with finely diced pig’s trotters and Jerusalem artichoke. Another hit was the roasted breast of pigeon with potato skin crisps and a medley of root vegetables. Of the two desserts, I preferred the humbler one: a perfectly puffed-out soufflé laced with orange and bits of melted chocolate, its crust wonderfully crisp and sweet.
Getting to see what guest chefs can do is fun, but what truly impressed me at La Porte was the obvious care with which it is run: wife Pascale in charge of the the service, husband Theirry Rouyé and their son Maxime manning the stoves. Even when cooking a temporary menu put together by visiting chefs, one can sense that the two guys running this kitchen know what they’re doing. And, apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so.
“It’s one of Montreal’s best-kept secrets,” said Marie-Claude Lortie, food critic at La Presse newspaper, who was also there to try the High Lights menu. “The food here is always well-done, very flavourful and creative, and the lunch is a steal.” I overheard another customer singing the restaurant’s praises, and soon discovered that he too was a long-time fan. “They are simply the best, and the cuisine, exceptional, using lots of ingredients from around here. I’m a regular at La Porte. It feels like it’s the High Lights festival every time I come,” says Stéphane Roy, who works for the renowned Cirque du Soleil.
Despite being originally from France, the Rouyés show uncommon devotion to the products of their adopted land, going as far as listing most of their purveyors on La Porte’s website. What the place lacks in fanciness (an extra server or two on the night of my visit would have greatly improved service, for example), they make up for with consistently excellent food.
La Porte, 3627 Saint-Laurent, (514) 282-4996