Restaurant review | Joe Beef: Entering adulthood

Do established Montreal restaurants still live up to their reputation? We (re)visit them on occasion, a question of reconnecting with these restaurants that stand the test of time. Joe Beef has just undergone a makeover and, as its chef-co-owner Frédéric Morin says, left the “do-it-yourself” era to enter adulthood.



The experience

There is an unparalleled warmth in this restaurant which, in 2002, set up shop on a Notre-Dame Ouest street that does not at all resemble the string of cafes, restaurants and fashionable boutiques of today. Despite recent renovations, led by co-owner Allison Cunningham, with her impeccable taste (pretty wallpaper, new wooden cabinets, refreshed bathrooms, etc.), the soul of Joe Beef still wanders happily around. one of three intimate dining rooms to the other.

  • Our small corner table, with a view of the rest of the “car”

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Our small corner table, with a view of the rest of the “car”

  • The “train carriage” section

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    The “train carriage” section

  • Entering Joe Beef, you arrive in this section with superb paintings, including those by Peter Hoffer.

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Entering Joe Beef, you arrive in this section with superb paintings, including those by Peter Hoffer.

  • Here, the second room of Joe Beef, where the oyster bar is located

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Here, the second room of Joe Beef, where the oyster bar is located

1/4

On a chilly Friday evening, my lucky lady and I were placed in the “train carriage” section, which used to be the covered terrace where, I must admit, I have already spent some great moments of excess. !

It is clear that the turbulent teenager that Joe was has indeed entered adulthood in recent years. It deserves to be re-tamed by Montrealers who may have abandoned it to the fate of tourists, at the time when it was almost impossible to book there.

Halfway through the meal, my thirty-year-old friend and I noticed that the clientele in our forest green wagon with its sienna benches was rather young and quiet. Less quiet, on the other hand, is the playlist, which stands out a little too much when the speakers start spewing Def Leppard. But you could still say that’s part of the “charm”.

At the other tables there are couples and small groups who don’t move too much air. The big guns of Burgundy and Beaujolais do not follow one another “as in the old days”. A pint of beer here, a cocktail there. Laura Piasek, assistant sommelier, confirms that people are drinking less. Question of health or wallet? Probably both.

PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

The cellar is filled by Max Campbell and his assistant Laura Piasek.

Also reasonable, we move directly to the bottle that will accompany the meal, although we have been praised for the martini. It will be a white from the Burgundian microdomain of Jérémy Recchione, Mâcon-Davayé appellation, which will sometimes prove to be in agreement, sometimes in disagreement with our dishes. But no matter, the wine is delicious, tense, salivating, with subtle notes of cooked pears which will shine on one of my favorite services of the evening: the salad!

Who would have thought that a big bowl of bitter lettuce, garnished with three dumplings of cream cheese with herbs (dominantly tarragon), would one day steal the show from Joe Beef?

The rest of the meal is very faithful to the idea that we can have of this table born from a love of French classics, but also from a deep anchoring in Quebec culture, all marked by the sense of humor and irreverence of chef-co-owner Frédéric Morin. For example, the kitsch shrimp cocktail with mysterious origins regains its nobility here, with plump crustaceans from the Gulf of Florida (while waiting for our little ones “from Matane”), coated in a horseradish sauce that is just spicy enough.

  • Shrimp cocktail

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Shrimp cocktail

  • Flank of marrow in meurette

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Flank of marrow in meurette

  • Bovine Tartar

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Bovine Tartar

  • Bitter lettuce salad

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Bitter lettuce salad

  • Eggplant and anchovies

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Eggplant and anchovies

  • Royal hare-style rabbit

    PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

    Royal hare-style rabbit

1/6

I love the comforting eggs en meurette, a Burgundian dish that is not on menus in Montreal. Here, we replace the poached eggs with a tasty marrow flank, placed on the traditional red wine sauce, onions, mushrooms and bacon. The “royal hare” is another classic, but very high-flying. Here, the hot galantine stuffed with foie gras and truffles is made from rabbit. It is served in thick slices topped with a blood-related red wine sauce. We chose to accompany this marvel with creamed white asparagus generously enriched with truffle (a gift for, let’s say, “special” customers).

The sgroppino, a flute of lemon sorbet and candied zest drowned in bubbles (we may have been served the luxury version, with champagne instead of prosecco!), plays the role of dessert as much as it does digestive. It’s more of a cocktail than a dessert. Marjoram according to (Fernand) Point, on the other hand, is the paragon of layer cakes, which will delight sweet tooths craving chocolate and praline.

Who are they ?

PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

Part of the current Joe Beef team. Foreground: Benji Greenberg, executive chef, Allison Cunningham, co-owner, Christopher Morgan, director and partner, Ben Lang, sous chef. On the bench: Patrick Thibault, artistic director, Hélène Lemonde, assistant to the maître d’hôtel, Isabelle Savard, maître d’hôtel, Laura Piasek, assistant to the sommelier, Jean-Philippe Miron, executive chef, James Graham Simpkins, director general, Frédéric Morin, chef and co-owner.

Initially, there were three of them: Frédéric Morin, Allison Cunningham and David McMillan. The latter left the ship – or rather the train, knowing Mr. Morin’s love for this means of transport – in 2021. Marc-Olivier Frappier and Vanya Filipovic also decided to stand on their own two feet with Mon Lapin. Other alumni have become associates. There are countless chefs, sommeliers and other renowned restaurant workers who have passed through the kitchens and dining room of Joe Beef and other members of the family (Liverpool House, Vin Papillon and McKiernan).

Today, the institution runs like clockwork thanks to a team of true professionals well invested in their profession. I couldn’t have had a nicer surprise than being served by Alexis Demers, member of the Menu Extra collective and formerly of Mousso, while meeting James Graham Simpkins, now general manager of the group’s four restaurants.

In the kitchen, there is a bit of movement these days. Head chef Benji Greenberg soon leaves to take care of his growing family, then bring a deli project into the world. Sous chef Ben Lang, formerly of L’Abattoir in Vancouver, will move up in rank. It is always Jean-Philippe Miron and Frédéric Morin who design the menus. The wines are chosen by another stalwart, Max Campbell, and his assistant Laura Piasek.

The costs

PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, THE PRESS

Joe Beef is a precursor of the popularity of Notre-Dame Street West.

There was a time when eating at Joe Beef cost quite a bit more than in less publicized signature restaurants. Today, the prices of a bistronomic restaurant have almost reached those of Joe Beef. In short, as long as you pay a lot, you might as well pay for genius cuisine, expert service, wines that sing and a setting of rare individuality, where each object has a story. Our (generous) meal for two, with a hundred-dollar bottle, cost $360 with tax and tip. But by opting for the caviar service, the lobster spaghetti, a piece of beef and a grand cru at the bottom of the wine list, the bill could of course swell into the four figures.

Information

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Group of 6 people maximum.

2491, rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal

Visit the Joe Beef website


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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