Monday, August 4, 2008

restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens

Establishment Aux Anciens Canadiens
Address 34, rue Saint-Louis - CP.175
Québec, QC G1R 4P3
1 418 692-1627
Type Québecois
Single Malt Caol Ila 12

We need to be clear about one thing, Ladies and Gentlemen. When a restaurant shows up on tours and the wait staff wears funny little outfits, CA Scotch Chick usually turns tail and takes her custom elsewhere. But what is one to do, when a restaurant noted as a tourist establishment just happens to have some of the best foie gras and tarte au sucre (Maple Syrup Pie) in Québec? 

Fortunately, the question was decided for the CA Scotch Couple when one of CA Scotch Gent's colleagues suggested restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens for a dinner rendezvous. They cheerfully put their pretensions aside and joined him, and boy, are they glad they did.

Part of the tourist attraction of restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens is that it is situated in the oldest house in Québec – the Maison Jacquet, and it really is a cool little establishment. With its thick walls and pegged wood, one can easily imagine curling up next to a fire on a cold Québec night with some Québecois comfort food. 

Actually, restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens never felt like a tourist attraction. There were no large loud groups. The clientele were mostly speaking french. Both the gentleman who met the CA Scotch Couple at the door and the waiters who served them wore the outfits one would expect wait staff to wear. It was really quite a pleasant dining atmosphere.

From the beginning the focus was on the foie gras. The CA Scotch Couple fell in love with foie gras while they lived in Belgium. And, yes, CA Scotch Chick is well aware that it is not politically correct to admit it. 

There are a variety of ways to serve foie gras from pâte de foie gras to seared foie gras, to parfait de foie gras, to mousse de foie gras. Aux Anciens Canadiens offered a Duck Foie Gras au Torchon with Toast. Foi gras au torchon is cooked in a towel, and it can be a sublime dish. CA Scotch Chick cheerfully ordered it, while CA Scotch Gent put in a request for the Garlic Escargot "Jean-Michel," with the understanding that they would divvy up the goods when the time came.

Duck Foie Gras au Torchon with Toast (rear)
Garlic Escargot "Jean Michel" (front)

Both dishes exceeded the CA Scotch Couple's wildest expectations. Although the toast offered as the backdrop for the foie gras was a bit pedestrian, the foie gras was on par with any they have had in Belgium or France. It was buttery, subtle, and oh so smooth. Moreover, Aux Anciens Canadiens did not skimp on the serving. The three slabs of foie gras were just right for the table to split. The escargot was presented in a garlic butter sauce that was so good everybody sopped it up with the table bread.

While, the remainder of meal could not maintain the momentum of its stellar beginning, it did have some bright spots. For the main dish, the CA Scotch Couple ordered two versions of the game pies. And, while CA Scotch Gent's Québec Meat Pie lacked flavor and CA Scotch Chick's Lac St- Jean Meat Pie was heavy on the salt, both had an amazing chutney that the waiter called "ketchup" that saved the day. It was crafted out of tomatoes, apples, and a variety of other goodies, and it was fantastic. 

Québec Meat Pie (Chutney on Left)

Lac St-Jean Meat Pie (Chutney in foreground)

The Tarte au Sucre was good but was a bit of a disappointment. CA Scotch Chick can't really describe what it was she thought she would be getting when she read about the maple syrup pie in cream, but what arrived was very much like pecan pie without the pecans. The maple syrup simply took the place of the Karo in the US. It was still good, but it wasn't as sublime as she had hoped – and there was too little of it for an effective table splitting.

CA Scotch Chick was remiss in her duties and did not explore the scotch menu at Aux Anciens Canadiens. If she had had her choice of single malt whiskys to pair with the meal, however, she would have chosen a Caol Ila 12. Its slight smokiness would have made a nice counterpoint to the foie gras, and it would have added a depth to the game pies that was lacking.

In all, restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens was a surprisingly excellent experience. There is even talk between the CA Scotch Couple of going back just for the foie gras. There are lots of adventures on the schedule, however, so we shall just have to see.

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