Right now, while Montreal evenings are still warm, I can't think of a more pleasant place for a great dinner than chef Normand Laprise's new Brasserie T!, facing the beautiful new public esplanade callled Quartier des Spectacles.
Book one of the terrasse tables and spend an evening of fun people-watching, as Montrealers of all walks of life stroll past.
I arrived early and had a drink at the bar, which I highly recommend. They serve several very original cocktails created by barman Alexis Morrisseau that are very market-driven and seasonal. Right now, for example, they're offering this one, very reminiscent of a Brazilian caipirinha, with its muddled lime, yet lighter and fizzy:
The esplanade was designed with some very original water fountains that are like little holes in the pavement that spurt water at varying intervals, in a computerized and coreographed ballet of sorts. The tall jets of water change colours, too!
That's not to say that the view of the Esplanade is the best thing about T!, because it isn't. To me, the place serves some of the best casual bistro food in town. The high-quality of the ingredients is pretty evident, even in what could otherwise be considered very déjà vu, such as the charcuterie platter. At T!, it's everything but déjà vu: all made in-house, with a sure hand and top-notch meats:
I had as a main course a salmon that sounds deceptively simple on the menu: "salmon with dill". It's actually much more exciting that one might imagine: the salmon is slow cooked at a very low temperature, like it were "confit", and it has a meltingly buttery texture, almost as if it were raw. On the side, a large heap of fennel salad, the bulb sliced paper thin. The constrast in textures couldn't be more satisfying.
I shared a dessert with my friend M: a chocolate éclair that clearly had been sitting in the fridge, thereby losing some of its crackle and softness, but which was delicious all the same. And on the side, ruby red summer strawberries that were intensely flavourful. No, not your standard supermarket strawberry - that's clear.
In fact, I think that's precisely what makes this place: the awesome ingredients, which are barely messed with. I've once ordered beets. Just that. Roasted, a bit of parsley, etc. But.... what amazing beets they were!
Same goes for the gazpacho. Not the best looking. Croutons messily cut. But the cold soup was simply the essence of the summer's best tomatoes, enhanced by an almost too generous drizzle of top-of-the-line olive oil.
And then there's the famous "saucisse de Montreal" that's been advertised as the house specialty. Calling it that was quite a smart (if gimmicky) idea. It's made with pheasant meat and probably wouldn't sell nearly as much had it been called "pheasant sausage" instead of "montreal sausage"....
I loved the sweet-smokiness of this sausage, and how gently cooked it was - it seemed to crumble on the tongue, almost.
There it is: if I had sung the praises of Brasserie T! after my first visit (click here to read the post), now I've gone back twice and can safely say that it wasn't just beginner's luck. The place is very good, period.
1425 rue Jeanne-Mance (corner of St. Catherine), tel. (514) 282-0808