Friday, 5 July 2013

Bailey's Epic Adventure: La Belle Province

Every now and then in life, a series of events serendipitously come together to provide you with an opportunity you cannot pass up. When the universe gives a gift like this to you, you simply must go with the flow and see what kind of magic is about to happen.

Yes, it is one of those restaurants with no sign. You have to be in the know.
For me, this happened last weekend. After a series of circumstances united fortuitously, I found myself in La Belle Province (or Quebec, for our non-Canadian audiences). Quebec is a wonderful place. North of the 49th parallel, Quebec is the indisputable home of poutine, unpasteurized cheese, and a deliciously laissez-faire European attitude (it may be the last place in North America where it is socially acceptable to smoke just about anywhere).

For the last five years or so, it has occurred to me that nothing bad ever happens in Quebec. Honestly, I have never had one mauvaise expérience whilst dallying about this province. Not even that time I went to my uncle’s cottage and there were bats trying to share a bed with me. Not even that time I showed up to my ski lessons brutally hung on cheap red wine. Not even that time my best friend and I scammed a field trip to Montreal in high school with the school band, even though we weren’t in the band, and we were ostracized for the majority of the trip. It’s always great. Honestly. If you have never had the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend it.

Ari making magic
Let’s get back to the present. On Sunday evening, I found myself, with some amazing company, at Bungalow in Montreal. I honestly have been trying to figure out the angle I can take to write this for a week, trying to decide how I can write it without sounding like I’m gushing. My conclusion is that this cannot be done. I will simply have to gush. It is unavoidable. If I were ever to be the Bachelorette, (and we won’t worry about the probability of this) this would absolutely be one of the dream dates they would have to set up for me.
This is Joe Cool. Obviously. 

Let me start with the amazing chef, Ari. When you sit in Ari’s restaurant, you feel like you may actually be sitting at his kitchen table, sharing a meal with him. I was won over instantly by the open kitchen concept, but after his amazing selection of menu items for us to taste, I was finally told by one of my dining companions that I may be overusing the word “amazing” (I don’t think 34 times in 15 minutes is really THAT excessive), but I could not help it. I can’t describe how special we were made to feel that evening.

I was charmed by Ari, and his colleague Joe (Joe Cool to be precise), right off the bat, but I was really won over when Ari scolded one person in my party, who shall remain nameless, for ordering his filet mignon MEDIUM. (We all know how I feel about meat cooked above the medium-rare mark). But, this meat was the meat of the altar of the gods. I am not kidding. The amazing Jameson and blue cheese sauce only enhanced it. (Unrelated side note: what is it about Jameson these days? It’s the drink of hipsters all of a sudden and not just McNulty from The Wire). The fabulous 2011 Côte du Rhône we were drinking didn’t do much harm either.

It delights me when I can hang out in kitchens.
The filet mignon was not the only fabulous part of the meal though. The entire menu consisted of a tomato and mozzarella salad (my favourite salad of all time), crab cakes, steak tartare (another highlight for me) tilapia ceviche (which consisted of the most flavourful, fresh cilantro, perfect citrus ripeness and something to provide quite the kick) and finally some grilled octopus, which is simmered for numerous hours before they grill it, which you would not doubt, because the octopus was so tender it practically melted in your mouth. As you can imagine, we could not have possibly eaten another bite at this point. But there was a rack of pork ribs that were calling my name. And the lamb looked cooked to perfection.
These are the amazing pork ribs we couldn't quite fit in.

There were also drinks. A lot of drinks. If you are a fan of Anthony Bourdain, as we all know I am, you would know that he has filmed two shows in Montreal, both with his French partenaire dans le crime, Martin Picard. Both these episodes of The Layover and No Reservations show the two of them getting into various bits of trouble throughout the streets of Montreal, booze-fuelled and full of foie gras. After my evening at Bungalow, I am throwing the gauntlet down to Bourdain. My two-drink maximum (as you may recall from earlier this year) was quickly thrown out the window (who can say no to a third glass of a perfect vin rouge avec le beouf?) and I imbibed rather heavily. So heavily, in fact, I would like to put it out there that I think I can probably drink Anthony Bourdain under the table. I am Canadian, after all.

There is no recipe here, friends. I cannot compete with Ari and Joe. All I can tell you is go there. Go to Bungalow. Sit at the bar. Ask questions. Eat. Let the hospitality at Bungalow take you to another level of dining experience. And have a cocktail or two, just for me.

(And check it out, they have Facebook!)

No comments:

Post a Comment