During the last night we were in Montreal for a company meeting just before Christmas, my boss took the North American sales and marketing staff out to dinner at one of his favorite places to dine at in the greater Montreal area, Restaurant le Folichon, located in the northern suburb of Terrebonne. I'd heard this place was really good and I was looking forward to our meal there that evening.
Restaurant le Folichon (which roughly means "pleasant restaurant") is owned by chef/proprietor Christian Ouellette. The restaurant is situated in an old small house in Vieux-Terrobonne, basically the older section of the city. It is only a block from the picturesque Riviere de Mille Iles (River of the Thousand Islands) and walking distance to shops and parks in the city. (see map) Chef Ouellette uses locally raised food products for his interpretation of French and Mediterranean food. It is essentially styled after a French auberge - a traditional French inn that uses only meats and vegetables raised in the region in which the restaurant is located.
The weather had turned cold during the day in Montreal and we took off from our hotel on the north side of Terrebonne and drove down a main road in an area that looked like any other place in North America - chain restaurants, stores, gas stations, etc. The only difference is that the signage was all in French. I've always said that if you can't afford to go to Europe, go to Montreal for a few days. (I also understand Quebec City has an even more European feel.)
We turned off the main road as we got toward the old section of Terrebonne and went down a side street until we found Restaurant le Folichon. The only problem was that there was some sort of winter parade going on that evening and the Old Terrebonne section of town was packed with people and parking was difficult to find. My boss was able to find a spot in a public parking lot - albeit illegally - and after I dropped off my passengers, I drove around for about 15 minutes before finding a place to park about six blocks due east of the restaurant. It had turned cold during the day and it was a cold walk back to the restaurant.
The main dining room is small and cozy. Wooden supports and ceiling beams are prominent in the room. The room was bathed in soft lighting from lights hanging from the ceiling and pointed toward artwork on the wall. There is a small dining area off to the side of the main dining room and an upstairs area for overflow dining or private parties. I understand that there is an outdoor patio area at Le Folichon that they open in the warmer months.
The menu at Restaurant le Folichon will vary depending upon the fresh foods and ingredients Chef Ouellete can procure on a daily basis. The evening we visited, the menu featured a five-course meal that consisted of a choice of soup or salad, an appetizer, a sorbet for palate cleansing, a main entree and a dessert.
But, first things first - we needed drinks. My boss ended up picking out a pinot noir from Domaine des Perdrix, a small winery in the Burgundy wine region of France. He ordered up a couple bottles for the table, but in the meantime, I needed something to tide me over until the wine opened up in taste. I was hoping they had the Boreale Blonde ale that I fell in love with on my visit last year to Montreal. Unfortunately, they didn't have it, so I settled for a Rickard's Red.
Since the menu was in French, I needed some help from my French speaking colleagues in interpreting the menu. I could make some things out, but a few other things were sort of difficult to make out. The menu featured locally raised deer, beef, lamb and bison, along with some seafood items. Restaruant le Folichon also had a traditional Southern France Bouillabaisse on the menu that night - a seafood and vegetable soup that is initially boiled, then simmered.
When it came time to order, I pretty much figured out what I was going to get. I went the basic route getting the beef filet for my main entree. Steamed fresh vegetables came with the filet, which I ordered rare. For the first course, I ordered the minestrone soup and for the appetizer, I got the foie gras. I hadn't had foie gras for quite some time, so I decided to sign up for that. Everyone at the table ordered a little bit of everything, so it was going to be interesting to see what came out.
Our soups and salads came out first. My minestrone came in a medium sized bowl and was very good. It featured clam shell pasta, small chunks of ground beef and an assortment of vegetables. For a cold Canadian evening, I'm glad I got it over the salad.
Next, the foie gras came out. It featured two small grilled fois gras patties on small toasted bread and topped with a brown sauce. Some assorted exotic vegetables were on the side as well as some torn bread to soak up the sauce. Now, I'm far from an expert on haute cuisine, but I have had fois gras on a handful of occasions on my trips to France. The fois gras at Restaurant le Folichon didn't compare in taste or texture to what I've had in Europe. While it was still good, I just felt that I'd had better in the past. I know, I know. That sounds pretentious talking about foie gras like that, but I know what I like.
After the foie gras and just before the main entree was served, our server presented us with a small cup of a red wine/grapefruit sorbet to cleanse our palate. It had a nice citrus taste with a nice little dry wine finish on the back side. It worked well in getting my taste buds ready for the main entree.
My filet entree was placed in front of me and it was a large chunk of beef adorned with a single French fry and swimming in a brown sauce. Assorted vegetables, including a broccoli stalk and a whole cooked turnip, accompanied the filet. I pretty much knew I was going to pass on the turnip and the broccoli stalk.
The filet, itself, was tender, but it was a little overcooked. I like my filet's rare, but this was more medium-rare. I couldn't complain, however. The flavor of the beef filet was still very good and it was juicy. I did enjoy the brown sauce that came with it. With the homemade bread they had on the table, I sopped up the excess sauce as I ate my filet. The Domaines des Perdrix pinot noir went extremely well with my filet. It had sort of an earthy taste and complemented my meal very well.
Seated next to me, one of my Canadian colleagues had the bouillabaisse. It featured large chunks of seafood in what was described to me as a nice light tomato-based broth that had a hint of a spicy taste. My colleague said it was very good, some of the best bouillabaisse he said he'd ever had. I don't care much for seafood in a tomato stock, but it did look enticing.
Down the table, my colleague, Ian, had the lamb shank. The locally raised lamb was tender and not too fatty, something that steers me away from lamb. I sort of wish I would have tried the lamb at Restaurant le Folichon because I know if I ever find a good lean lamb shank somewhere, I'd probably like it. Ian also said his lamb was very good.
Across the table from Ian, my colleague, Todd, had le Folichon's version of "surf and turf" - a lobster tail with locally-raised deer venison. Todd grew up on Prince Edward Island and I've known him for over 10 years. He's pretty discriminating in his tastes for seafood, but I've also found that he likes farm-raised game. I've never been fond of deer because of the gamey taste, but Todd said the farm-raised deer around the Montreal area is pretty good.
And directly across from me, my colleague, Chris, had the bison. He said he wished he would have gotten the beef filet, instead, as he found his bison to be a little overcooked - like my filet - and sort of dry. Even with the brown sauce that he also had on his bison, he didn't feel it was as good as other bison he had in the past.
It was getting late and many of us had early wake-up calls for early morning flights back home in the morning. When our server came around with the dessert menu, many of us said, "Non!" to dessert. A couple guys had espresso, and while I do like a good espresso from time to time, I didn't want that one late in the evening, especially when I needed to get to sleep as soon as I made it back to the hotel.
Restaurant le Folichon was a wonderful experience, one that I enjoyed thoroughly. Even though my filet was a little overcooked, it was still very good. I didn't like the fois gras as I have at other restaurants, but it was still a nice treat. My boss has been coming to le Folichon for years and I see why he keeps coming back. The food, the service and the cozy ambiance is very tough to beat. It was like being in a little rural restaurant/inn in the French countryside. Restaurant le Folichon was one of those culinary joys that I get to experience from time to time.