Another "tapas" style restaurant we went to while I was up in Montreal for company meetings was a place called Grange Wine + Bouffe (Wine and Beef). It was very similar to Pullman, the restaurant we'd visited after I had arrived in Montreal. While the concept wasn't much different, the decor decidedly was.
Dave Bernier and Martin Beauchamb are partners in Grange. They also own the wildly popular Cafe des Eclusiers located on the St. Lawrence River near the port of Montreal, not far from Grange. Cafe des Eclusiers boasts that they have the largest outdoor patio in Montreal and it's probably true as the large patio overlooks the river. The story has it that Bernier was traveling through Europe looking for different varieties of wine to buy and bring back to Cafe des Eclusiers. He found a number of rather small and rustic restaurants that served small portions of food along with great wine. Upon his return, he talked Beauchamb into opening up a small restaurant similar to the ones he encountered during his trip.
Grange Vin + Bouffe is located in a section of the city known as Old-Montreal, just a couple blocks from the St. Lawrence (see map). It's an area that's going through some gentrification, but it's also an area where it can get pretty rough after dark. It was about six in the evening when we pulled up in front of Grange.
As I said with Pullman, their decor is sort of a contemporary industrial motif that gives it an edgy feel to the place. With Grange, it's more of a contemporary rustic decor - sort of like they'd found an old barn, cleaned it up, put in some nice tables and chairs and opened a restaurant. There was a lot of brick and wood throughout the place, old light bulbs that hung from cables strung from the ceiling, but there was sort of a homey feeling to the restaurant. (The bar area of Grange - below left.)
There were eight of us that evening and we settled around a large table near the good sized bar toward the back of the restaurant. In the picture above and to the right, here is my colleague, Todd, patiently waiting for the rest of us to show up.
When we did all show up, we were given menus by our waiter. Once again, I deferred to my colleague Ian who is much more well-versed in European wines than I certainly am. And he picked out a winner - a 2005 Le Filigare Maria Vittoria chianti classico reserva from Italy. It was robust and overly flavorful. I love wines that just "pop" in your mouth when you take a full drink.
Grange's head chef Tommy Matteau specializes in Quebec terroir cuisine - something that I sort of found is pretty popular in Montreal during my visit. The concept is very similar to what is served at a French auberge- basically a small country in that only serves food grown, raised or caught in the immediate area. There are dishes that feature braised piglet shanks, grilled portobello mushrooms with Manchego cheese, and barbecued duck breast. Grange also featured a raw bar that served freshly shucked oysters on the half-shell, chilled shrimp and an interesting concoction of fresh snow crab, served on watercress and then topped with lime infused tomatoes.
I just let the Quebecers in our group order stuff up. We got a little bit of everything - Foie Gras mousse with pistachios and a sort of jelly; cognac beef tartar, mini bison burgers, and green bean poutine. Poutine (peu-TIN) is sort of the regional "comfort food" in Quebec. It consists of french fries mixed in with cheese curds and topped with a brown gravy. I've had it, it's OK. Grange's green bean poutine had, naturally, green beans instead of french fries, then they mixed in caramelized onions and cheese curds before topping it with not brown gravy but with a dijonnaise and marjoram sauce. It was actually pretty good.
We also got some roasted pickled beets with grilled slices of chorizo sausage, mixed with goat cheese and hazelnuts and topped with real honey. That was pretty good, too. An interesting dish we got was the marinated octopus and shrimp, mixed with white beans. I was a little apprehensive about the octopus, but it was actually very good.
We kept ordering stuff - salmon tartar, semi-cooked foie gras served on gingerbread chips, and some oysters. We even ordered up more of our favorites like the beef tartar and the mini bison burgers. It was all very, very good.
The restaurants in Montreal expand my horizons when it comes to innovative gastronomic taste explosions. Grange Vin + Bouffe was one more example of "outside the box" thinking that gives many restaurants in Montreal a cutting edge quality to their menus. You just can't find restaurants like this in the Midwest. Or maybe there's some in Chicago, but I certainly haven't found them yet.