A new star, Les Cavistes, has recently appeared on St. Denis Street in the past month, with no accompanying fanfare. Quietly making its presence felt among some of the stiffest competition in the city, there are many reasons to sing the praises of this restaurant / import wine shop and you’ll soon find out why.
Magnificent décor, impeccable food, and an excellent wine selection — to go! In fact, it’s one of the rare places where you can actually eat and leave the restaurant with a bottle of wine under your arm.
Without going into a long drawn out explanation, all the liquor sold in Quebec must pass through a state monopoly called the Société des alcools. We usually call it the SAQ (‘ess, ah, kew’ in French while Anglos call it the ‘sac’) and all the wine sold in bars and restaurants must be consumed on the premises.
There are two ways to get around this. First of all you can go to a ‘bring your own wine restaurant,’ also known as a BYOB or BYOW restaurant, or you can to Les Cavistes, where if you have something to eat, you can take a bottle home with you.
So, why would you want to take some wine home with you and not drink it all over dinner? Well, for one thing, their wine selection is a lot more adventurous than what you can find at most SAQ outlets, and the prices are very reasonable for the quality and choice. Les Cavistes does not mark up their prices as much as restaurants. The average price per bottle is about $24. Not too bad considering most restaurants charge double (even triple) the SAQ list price.
I have to say though, it’s not just the wine that is good — the food is excellent as well! Here are some of the dishes I tried along with the wines that were paired with the food. I started off my meal with a platter of seafood paired with a Brandol 2008, Domaine de la Bastide Blanche, and a selection of deli meats accompanied by a Montagne Saint-Emilion 2004, Château Chapelle Ségur. The octopus salad was exquisite (not too chewy or rubbery like it can be when it’s not prepared properly) and beautifully presented, and the mousse de foie de volaille (a type of light, whipped paté made from chicken livers) was exceptional.
For the main dishes, the grilled bison bavette (bavette is a typical French cut of meat, like a nicer version of a flank steak) was cooked to perfection and served with pan-fried Jerusalem artichokes and a Deep Red 2005, Paul Dolan Wines, Mendocino. The scallops with corn niblets and yellow pepper sauce were marvellous and beautifully turned out, especially when paired with the Dolcetto D’Asti “Mandola” 2007, Erede di Chiappone.
The dessert was a real surprise: a hot dog bun, prepared like French toast, served with homemade vanilla ice cream and a glass of Pinot noir “Director’s Cut” 2006, Sonoma Coast, Francis Ford Coppola Presents. If you ever told me I would eat a hot dog bun for dessert, especially in such a nice restaurant, I would never have believed you — but, honestly, it was delicious!
Insider tip: Every second Wednesday, they organize a vintners’ evening, where wine growers and importers present their products and they hold wine tasting sessions. The next one is scheduled for Wed. Dec. 9 and the featured winery will be the Coppola House (he’s not just making films these days) so you’ll get a chance to taste some of their different varieties of wine.
Are you a wine lover? If you want to know more about the best places to sip some vino, check out Tamy’s post on her favourite Montreal Wine Bars.
4115 St. Denis, Montreal, QC, H2W 2M7, 514 903-5089
Open everyday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Dress code: casual chic
Reservations are recommended
Average bill (before tax, tip and alcohol): $40 per person