Toque! is one of, if not the best, restaurant in Montreal.
It’s Friday night, and Jude and I slip in the front door. Known for it’s creative and delicious menu, Toque! focuses on sourcing seasonally and locally. With superb attention to acoustics, Toque! is quiet – a rare find in a bustling Montreal restaurant. The decor strikes me instantly. Both boldly coloured, yet subdued in atmosphere the patterned carpet and striped walls somehow go together seamlessly. It takes me a while to realize that the uniform the wait staff are wearing is actually a uniform. The lightweight blouses worn by the women echo the pattern of the carpet, but manage to look natural and comfortable. The stripes on the men’s button up’s subtly match the striped panels of the walls without being contrived in the slightest.
We walk past the wine cellar. Floor to ceiling glass walls display wine bottles suspended from the above with long metal rods. Below, we see down into shelves and shelves of carefully stored vintages.
We sit down and laugh delightedly, it is slightly sureal to be sitting down for dinner in this restaurant we have heard so much about. As it happens, this week is Taste MTL, and Toque! is participating. Taste MTL is an event that many Montreal restaurant participate in, where each restaurant serves a set menu at a fixed price for an entire week. The idea is to make dining out more accesible. It is a great way to try new restaurants as a guest, or attract new guests as a restaurant. Taste MTL makes it possible for us to afford this evening out.
There are two options each for appetizer, main, and dessert. We order the full menu, and share each course. We also order the recommended wines that go with each course. We eat arctic char, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, quail, cranberries, duck, beets, potato puree, cavatelli (even better than at Au Pied de Cochon), squash ice-cream, squash and white chocolate mousse, apple tart, caramalized sugar ice-cream, and macarons (flavoured, we think, with pink peppercorns). We sample two kinds of white, two kinds of red, a prosecco, and a honey wine. Near the end of the meal the impeccable service slows down. There is a long wait time between dessert and the macarons, which are brought out separately as a final touch to a spectacular meal. Our waiter, Patrice, stops by to chat, but doesn’t bring our bill. And then he appears:
“Would you ladies like to see the kitchen?” And with that comment we are whisked behind the scenes.
You see it’s not just because it is Taste MTL that we are a Toque! Pierre (the brother of JB, my sister’s boyfriend) works in the kitchen at Toque! and was the one to secure our reservation. Pierre meets us in the kitchen and shows us the spacious and ingeniously laid out space. He says it is the best designed kitchen he has ever worked in.
I spot clip boards hanging against the back wall, and itch to know what is on shopping lists and cleaning duties. However, the three walk in refrigerators that Pierre shows us distracts me with a fit of envy. Highly specialized equipment is carefully tucked into every corner, and each section is laid out for easy communication and efficient production. It is beautiful – every restauranteur’s dream.
We kiss Pierre good-night and head back into the chilly Montreal night. Deciding to walk home, we pull on mittens and scarves over our full and satisfied selves: this was, without doubt, a perfect evening.