I was proudly showcasing my blog to C-M, shamelessly boasting about my food journeys, when he asked, sincerely interested, “So what’s your opinion on le Leméac?”
That’s when my pride plunged from 100 to minus 10.
My neck started itching, my cheeks turned red. Rather embarrassed, I finally admitted, half mumbling, that I had never been.
Lucky for me, C-M happens to be a regular and to save my honour, he offered for us to have lunch with his good friend Emile Saine, one of the institution’s masterminds.
Two weeks later, the three of us were sitting around a table at 1045 Ave. Laurier W, staring at each other. The silence obviously didn’t last long. A few mandatory introductions were made and we were on our way to a good meal topped with many rounds of laughter.
Because you see, Emile, like his restaurant, is free of pretense and impeccably charming. Everyone here is family, the staff most of all. Clients, also, who made sure to come by our table to update Emile on their lives before leaving. And if le Leméac’s family spirit wasn’t obvious enough to you, Maxime, the 2nd generation Saine, was quickly wrapping up a few touches to the lunch service before joining us.He was at our table as soon as the oysters came out from the kitchen: a lavish plate of lovely Beausoleils and ShanDaph varieties. Plumpy and tasty, the latter are exclusively imported to the restaurant in Montreal. The raw and fresh delights were accompanied by an Armenia White Dry, a light and fruity wine dangerously too easy to enjoy.
Then came the appetizers, with Emile’s salmon first in line. Interestingly enough, le Leméac cold smokes its salmon, which gives it a dark pink pigment, delicate smoky flavor and great texture. For my part, I opted for the snail ragout. Tenderly fatty escargots mixed with portabella mushrooms and floating in delicate foam of basil (which the gents almost succeeded in convincing me to be flavored toad slime…) – by all (my) standards, a playful and exciting plate to discover. While waiting for the mains, we shortly contemplated whether a Bordeaux or a Bourgogne would be most appropriate for the second half of the meal. We eventually settled for the latter – and we weren’t disappointed! “If a man offers you anything but a Morey-Saint-Denis, he’s not worthy of your love”, was uncle Emile’s life advice for the day. Ruby red, with beautiful rounded tannings (as opposed to those wines that cause a mouth-puckering sensation), that dear Domaine Dujac was mouth fillingly generous – and a wonder with my duck magret that showed up not long after.First off, look at the size of this portion! An avid duck eater (culture obliges), I’ve rarely seen a portion this generous outside of Chinatown (or of my aunt’s kitchen). Of a beautiful pink color and ornamented with sporadic wasabi beans, the plate brought me back to familiar grounds; with a sweet and sour sauce reminiscent of the glorious Peking duck, bok choy and thematic raviolis. The poultry was a wonderful piece and I really tried hard to finish it … but C-M had to stop me to make sure I still had room for dessert.
Bonjour Baba au rhum. And this is how my wonderlunch at the iconic Leméac finally came to an end. By the time we left the establishment, the sun was out and there were only a few sporadic couples left – quite a contrast with the hustling and bustling restaurant I had walked into hours earlier.
Elegant, with great service and superb food, le Leméac is well worth a visit. And worry not if you’re hoping to give your wallet a rest after the holidays; the restaurant offers great brunches and an even more affordable late night menu at $25. Bon appétit!P.S.While I waited to be seated on that Thursday at 1:30pm, a couple behind me was hoping to get in early despite their 2pm reservation – no chance. So next time you come to Leméac, make sure you RSVP to avoid any disappointment.
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