It was the last day of our whole trip; just short of two weeks. Our trip has been full of food, mostly good, some mediocre, and some disappointments. Since it was our last dinner, I really hoped that the meal we were about to have would be good to say the least, but the result way more than what we bargained for.
For our last dinner (May 13), we booked a reservation in Toqué! Originally, we didn’t plan to spend time outside of Montreal’s airport, but knowing about Toqué!, we had to stop just to eat at the restaurant.
Arriving outside the restaurant, the Toqué! sign stood tall. It was a tall yellow flower with a smile. It felt very playful and inviting.
Walking into the restaurant gave the same feeling. The restaurant was nicely lit; it wasn’t dark and intimidating like some fine dining places are. The restaurant itself was big, but it wasn’t too big that it felt impersonal. The acoustics were done well since there were plenty of people, but it didn’t feel annoying noisy.
We were welcomed right away. The servers wore light coloured uniforms: white shirts, light grey pants, and nice sneakers. All these components contributed to the same feeling I had before walking in. The ambiance makes you feel comfortable, it allows you to be yourself, unconscious of how you should behave and just be there to enjoy the food.
Oh! The food! The experience that night cannot compare close to any other meal I’ve had. Our table all ordered the gourmet menu, which offers seven courses. On the website it states, “Chef Normand Laprise will offer an elaborate mystery menu of seven inspired courses : seven dishes to be discovered one after another, presented in small, sampler portions; seven servings each more surprising than the last, with an optional selection of wines that are sure to enhance the seasonal products.” In this case, it’s one of those rare occasions where it really delivers every word promised.
The food came slowly course by course. Each course we received, we oooh-ed and aaahh-ed at it after taking the first bite. Then we would just quietly enjoy what each bite has to offer; savoring the flavours and textures. As we ate each course, we wondered what was next, if it would be better than the last. And each time, it was! Each course was distinctively different from one another, but everything cooked perfectly and flavours were always balanced. Each ingredient complemented each other. What was amazing was that each ingredient in the dish was pronounced and distinguishable. The flavours were very clean and fresh. It was all so delicious.
We really appreciate and admire the commitment Chef Normand has put into his food. Not only were we floored with the flavours, but also the components of each constructed dish. It could seem simple to an average person, but it’s so complex and intricate. It’s obvious that detail matters.
The service was impeccable. There were no hiccups and even the servers were aware of what ingredients each dish had and the process of how to make it. This is really impressive. It shows how everyone is working together and good communication is present. Most of the time, in other restaurants, the servers need to refer to kitchen staff regarding food questions.
Not only were the front of house people great, but also everyone in the back of house, especially Chef Normand Laprise. When I first walked past the kitchen, I was surprised by how big it was. It’s quite large for the size of the restaurant. It was also one of the cleanest kitchens I’ve seen and it was at the peak of service. Managing a kitchen like that is one talented Chef and crew.
Our server allowed us to enter the kitchen after our meal because I wanted to take some pictures. In the kitchen, we met Chef Normand. He greeted us and chatted with us for a long time. He is indeed a great character; someone generous, talented, passionate and humble.
By the end of the night, the whole experience inspired me about food again. The feelings and memories came flooding back; the long checklist of mis-en-place, the rush I got during service, the kitchen yelling out orders, the non-stop printing from the printer, and the 5 hours that felt like 30 minutes. It was a gratifying feeling that I’ve missed.
If ever given the opportunity to get back into the industry to work for Chef, I would have no hesitation. I would give up a few years; give up the 8-10 hour days, holidays, having lunch breaks, and getting to sit all day back to the 12 hour work days with no breaks, no holidays, and bad pay. The experience learned here will out weight all the luxuries of life.
It was a perfect meal, with perfect service. It was a perfect ending to our vacation. We left the restaurant satisfied and inspired. It was exactly what I needed. I’m glad that we saved the best for last.
Cold Tomato Soup with herb foam.Scallop ceviche with strawberry, strawberry water, rhubarb foam and herb oil.
Lobster with tomato and asparagus with foam of milk and asparagus.
There was also the foie gras option instead of the fish, which I didn't get. It's too bad I forgot to take a picture. I'm not a big fan of foie gras, but the one they has was so delicious!
Trout with zucchini, sour cream, beets and bell pepper chips. Yes! Bell pepper chips! I'm going to try making it at home.
Rabbit with spinach and rabbit confit.
Squab with elder berries, white asparagus, morels, french radish and guinea fowl sasuage and cauliflower puree.
Fresh goat cheese with potato foam, olive oil crouton and chevil.
Strawberry sorbet with white chocolate mouse, mable water sponge cake and strawberry chips.