Thursday, December 10, 2015

Le Pégase

I love it when a friend of mine randomly suggests to go to a restaurant I haven't had the chance to try yet. At some point towards the end of August Khoa asked a bunch of us if we wanted to go to Le Pégase, located right on the Plateau Mont-Royal. It happened to be a coincidence, but none of the people invited (except for him) had been there before so it was something we all discovered together.

And how convenient and pleasant it seemed to me when I saw it was a bring your own wine. I'll be honest with you, I usually don't trust BYOW or BYOB. Why? Because most of those places serve food that does not meet my standards at all and compensate for the lack of quality by letting people bring their own alcohol so they can lower their standards by eating while intoxicated. Oh, that was harsh.

But Le Pégase isn't like one of those places. Besides, I know Khoa wouldn't recommend such a place if the quality of the food was off.

We had a reservation for six people at 6pm. Khoa, Virginie, Rio, Minh-Duc, Mingxin, and I all met up at Laurier metro station and walked there, which took us around 10 minutes. If you have never been there before you may have trouble finding the place. You have to know the door number because the restaurant is located inside what used to be a house ... and the front still looks like a regular house.

Our lovely waiter showed us the way to our table and opened our wine bottles to let them breathe. The place is rather small inside, around 30 seats, but they have a terrace in the back so you can enjoy some sun and air in the Summer without being bothered by people passing by and the cars on the street.

We placed our orders while our waiter carefully explained us that evening's menu. Depending on the chef's mood and the ingredients available, there may be some variations from the printed (and the online) menu, which is quite interesting and happens to be a pleasant surprise. A bus boy brought us two servings of chicken liver pâté and two baskets of freshly cut baguette and crispy thin baguette slices.

The liver pâté was quite delicious on its own and if it weren't because I am sometimes self conscious about the way I look when I eat in public I would have probably eaten both servings on my own.

We all had the soupe du jour, which was a simple cream of broccoli. By the way it is not served that way, it was simply Minh-Duc having fun with the presentation of his bowl. He added the baguette crisp and the generous amount of black pepper.

When I dipped my spoon into the soup I was already mentally prepared for the possible saltiness that would overcome my taste buds. Since I barely use salt when I cook I am very sensitive to that specific ingredient and I find that Italian and French restaurants tend to overdo it. But it didn't taste salty at all. They managed to use just the right amount of salt and herbs to bring out the taste of fresh broccoli and cream. The soup was also very smooth and had a light consistency.

Five of us ordered entrées. Rio chose to go with a calamari and chick pea salad, seasoned with a light zesty dressing and garnished with radish sprouts.

The calamari was just the right texture, not too soft, not too rubbery. We found the combination slightly odd but for some reason it just seemed to fit, especially with the zesty dressing binding the flavors together.

For my part, I was in the mood for goat cheese profiteroles, served with a beet gel and emulsion.

The profiteroles were airy and crispy. With the soft filling of salty goat cheese it made every bite an interesting experience of textures. The beet gel added a nice touch but personally I would have probably used something more on the sweet side to compliment the goat cheese better.

Mingxin went for something quite manly, a wild tataki. I'll just go with the generic term of wild meat for the slightly dumb reason that I do not remember what it was and since the menu has changed since, well, I sort of played myself there. Truthfully I think it was bison. But maybe it wasn't. Hehe *taps myself on the hand*.

Wild meats are always tricky when it comes to serving them as is. Because they're tougher, some people might not like them when served as tataki, tartar, or even steak. The meat tasted delicious on its own and the garnish wasn't stealing the show, but for my part I found it a little too tough to be served that way.

At the opposite of Mingxin's tougher entrée, Khoa dared going for the salted mackerel, served with bacon and garnished with fresh greens.

If you don't like salty stuffs, don't go for the mackerel! I honestly really enjoyed it that way. It was soft and not chewy at all (fish tends to get chewy when salted and cured). You like it or you don't. The bacon and the peach sort of toned down the overall saltiness of the dish and also added some nice colors.

Minh-Duc went for a more traditional option, a small ratatouille served on crispy sheets of phyllo pastry and with a generous amount of frothy crème.

Now you have to be out of your mind to not like ratatouille. It's such a nice warming hearty meal. They obviously upped the game with the presentation and the use of phyllo pastry chips was a good idea. Instead of ending with an overlay of soft components there was some texture to play with.

After we were done with our entrées, and in the meantime the wine was already starting to warm us up, we received our beautiful main courses. Unfortunately I was too eager to take pictures and did not set my camera right, thus not being able to properly show you what our eyes saw that evening. But you can imagine we couldn't handle the wait and dug right into our food quite fast! And because we're such great friends, we obviously shared with each other.

The Chef's suggestion that evening was slow braised bison ribs with a smokey barbecue glaze served on a red coleslaw. Khoa and Mingxin were both too tempted and went for this magnificent piece of meat.

Tender, falling off the bone, juicy, savory ... do I have to say more? The barbecue sauce was surprisingly well balanced in terms of seasoning and seemed to complement that wild meat perfectly instead of concealing it like most ribs recipes do.

Rio also went for a good piece of meat, the classic bavette, on a bed of wax beans, and served with a mushroom gravy and a poached egg. Are you drooling yet?

Because he wanted to tease us (oh the tingling sensation I am feeling right now) Rio started off his course by pricking the egg with the side of his fork, letting the beautiful orange yolk run all over the meat. The bavette was juicy and tender. And that mushroom gravy? It was just what it needed.

For my part I went for what I always go for (if it's on the menu) : duck. They served their duck breast with Brussels sprout, gnocchi, and orange sauce.

To be honest with you ... I was slightly disappointed. I'm a big time duck eater and I didn't think about asking the waiter how the duck was done. I like mine on the pink side with the skin crispy. That one was more medium, with, well, no skin at all (oh god I love fat so much). It was still good as is, especially with the fluffy gnocchi and the orange sauce that complimented well the meat. But I have to admit I'm difficult when it comes to duck in general.

Minh-Duc dared going for the stuffed rabbit, served on a bed of roasted colorful carrots and potato purée.

Khoa insisted so much that I try the rabbit. Why? Because I actually have a pet rabbit ... But yes, I did give it a try. Boy was it good. This was probably one of the most delicate meats I have had in my life. I'm not kidding. Even the sides were delicate in terms of flavor to ensure we don't lose the texture and the flavor of the meat. I'll tell you something : I felt quite bad when I came home to my little guy.

Virginie took the beautiful fish of the day : juicy swordfish steaks with steamed bok choy and puréed vegetables.

This right there, just like the rabbit, was also quite an experience. You would cut into the fish and it didn't feel like fish. It felt like ... cutting through marshmallow. The fish was seasoned with a very light drizzle of citrus dressing. The flesh would melt right into your mouth. There was no need to overdo it : the fish itself would have been good even on its own.

But wait ... there's more!

We had to have dessert to complete this already near perfect dinner. Once again, making choices was hard, but for some reason we all seemed to have the same taste when it came to the sweet part of the meal.

Some of us ordered the apple tarte tatin, served with a ball of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce.

The tarte tatin was quite dense but so soft and not too sweet. It was simple, buttery, and the vanilla ice cream added a nice touch to the range of flavors.

Some of us decided to go for the death by chocolate : a chocolate mousse wrapped in a chocolate shell with a drizzle of chocolate ganache.

The death by chocolate was so well presented it was almost intimidating to plunge a spoon into it. All the different textures you feel as you break the shell and dig into the mousse makes it even more appealing to the senses. Oh and obviously it was delicious.

Some of us preferred to opt for the Tia Maria cheesecake, deconstructed and presented in a verrine with a layer of chocolate ganache at the bottom.

Sometimes things don't have to be overdone to be good. Focus on good key ingredients rather than just the wow factor. That's what the Tia Maria cheesecake is about. All you have to do is dig your spoon right into it without worrying about whether you look like a fool or not trying to figure out how to eat a simple dessert. And just enjoy it. *Says in Ramsay's voice* Beautiful.

I think after reading this lengthy post you pretty much figured out by now that I do recommend going to Le Pégase. The good thing is you can go there for pretty much any occasion. Seriously. The ambiance, the decor, and even the people make this place suitable for a date, to spend some time between friends, or even for a business meeting.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a nice bottle of wine (or two), give them a call, and enjoy!
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