I like going to Montreal for company meetings. It's always great to get together with my colleagues from around the U.S. and Canada, and Montreal is such a great city. The only time I don't like going to Montreal is when it's winter time and it's cold. And this particular trip up there earlier this winter was exactly like that. One extremely cold evening while we were there, a large group of us went to dinner in the far north suburb of Terrebonne to a restaurant housed in a building built just after the turn of the 19th Century - Bâtiment B.
Downtown Terrebonne is a mixture of quaint little shops and restaurants. The village can trace its roots back to the early 17th century when the first settlement in the area - Lachanaie - was founded along the Rivière des Mille Îles (the River of a Thousand Islands). On one of the larger islands in the river, a flour mill was built in 1721 and a saw mill was built in 1725. Along about that same time a dam was built in the river to help with powering the mills and to regulate ice flows on the river in the winter. In 1803, a third building - a bakery - was built on what was then called Île des Moulins (Mills Island). A new flour mill was built a couple years later with a new saw mill built in the mid-1840's.
The dam had been fortified over the years, but on the early 1970's the owner of Île des Moulins decided to destroy the dam with dynamite to a flooding risk. The village of Terrebonne stepped in and acquired the island from the owner, rebuilt the damaged dam, and was able to get the island designated as a historic site in 1973. In 1979, the dam was rebuilt that included a pedestrian walking bridge from Île des Moulins to the larger Île Saint-Jean.
Five original buildings remain on Île des Moulins including Bâtiment B (B-Building) which was turned into a gastropub by three chefs - Mathieu André-Lajoie, Dominique Gagnon and Gabriel Poirier - who joined forces in the summer of 2013 to open the restaurant using locally grown foods with an ever changing menu. Many of the items they featured were locally-raised wild game, fresh seafood and farm-grown produce. As I've grown to know and appreciate on my trips to Quebec, there's a number of very interesting and very good wild game restaurants in the area.
Since Bâtiment B is located on an island (see map), there isn't any authorized vehicular traffic allowed on Île des Moulins. And parking in Terrebonne can be, well, rather challenging. We were let out of the van by one of my colleagues on the Terrebonne side of the island and walked across a short walkway to the restaurant. There's little to no signage on the building telling us that it was a restaurant, so we walked past the place once. That wasn't anything we wanted to do on a cold and windy evening - the weather was just brutal that night. Some of our colleagues parked across the river on Île Saint-Jean and walked across the pedestrian walkway on top of the dam - a much longer walk than we had to make from being let out on the Terrebonne side.
We met up in the bar area - I think there were 20 of us for dinner from our ever growing company. We enjoyed a number of tapas plates along with wine, mixed drinks and local beers while they prepared our table upstairs.
The bar area was located in front of the kitchen. You could easily look into the window and see the flurry of activity going on in there. The bar, itself, was rustic looking and had an old European look to it. Behind the bar was a dining area that opened up onto a deck that overlooked the river. One of my Montreal-area colleagues told me that the deck is one of the neatest places to be during the summer months as you are literally right above the water below the dam.
We were seated at a long table on the upper mezzanine level of Bâtiment B in sort of a narrow and cramped corner. Getting 20 people along the table was a bit of a challenge, but we were all able to squeeze in. Unfortunately, I was in the middle along the wall and my boss was seated next to me on one side. We were smacking each other's elbows from time to time during the dinner. But we get along very well, so much so that we sometimes share food off our plates when we dine together. With the family-style prix fixe menu we had that evening, we wouldn't have to do that this time. (Photo courtesy Walter Events)
The meal started out with a series of appetizers that were passed around the table. We had smoked sturgeon that was - well - interesting. It was smoky, but a little salty to my taste buds. Something new for me was having duck pestles that were basically duck legs. The legs were baked in sort of a sweet/sour sauce and were actually very good. Another appetizer were some ground wild hog patties. They were woefully dry and somewhat overcooked.
The entrees were interesting, to say the least. Even some of the Quebecois in the group were having trouble figuring out what some of the items on the menu were. In a big pot - three of which were brought to the table - was braised deer in a brown gravy stock. The meat was very tender and had an interesting, but good taste.
The best thing that I had was the deer tartare that is on lower left hand corner of the plate in the picture above right. It was simply fabulous in taste. It's sort of tough to describe the taste - the deer meat was tender and lean with capers, chopped onions and herbs mixed it.
We also had spaetzles with a tomato confit that was very good, as well. And the one seafood that we had brought about a large discussion the next day about exactly what we had. It was listed on the menu as "Loup de Mer" - basically Wolf of the Sea. There's a rare fish by the name of Wolf of the Sea, but I surmised that we didn't have that the night before. It turned out that "Loup de Mer" is also the same name as Mediterranean Sea Bass. A couple of my colleagues still dispute that, but I did enough looking on the Internet that told me it was the same thing as Mediterranean Sea Bass (or Branzino in Italian).
They also had braised barbecued deer ribs on the menu that night, too. They were good sized and slow-cooked in a barbecue sauce. I had a couple bites off of one rib and the sauce was sort of bland with a tomato base. There was a lot of food on the table and we got to try just a little bit of everything. But I kept going back for the deer tartare until it was completely gone.
The desserts featured an apple crisp (I'm not big on apples) and a small fruit mousse. But one of the things on the dessert tray was another thing I wasn't familiar with - ground cherries. When it was translated from the menu for us, a couple of us had to look up what they were. It's actually the flowering berry from a shrub that is indigenous to Europe, but was brought over to Eastern Canada by early French settlers. It's from the same family of the gooseberry and tomatillo bushes, and it has the texture of a small cherry tomato. It was faintly sweet and very juicy. I had more than one.
It seems like every time I got to Montreal, I expand my culinary horizons. This trip was absolutely no exception as Bâtiment B featured a number of interesting foods that I was not familiar with and had never tried before. The wild game, locally grown produce and fresh seafood they served that evening at Bâtiment B were all delicious and fascinating to me. Usually, restaurants can't handle large groups very well, but the prix fixe family-style meal they served to our group of 20 that evening came off without a hitch and was very delicious. I'm hoping that at some point I can get back to Bâtiment B in the summer months to have a beer or two on the deck and watch the river go by. (Photo courtesy Walter Events)