Le Hobbit (Quebec, QC)

After two solids days out in the Carnaval de Quebec (including one night trip to see the parade), and since Quebec actually has quite a large number of good restaurants, we thought that it would be nice to go out for a nice dinner on our last night. After checking a few review sites and looking at various restaurant web pages, we settled on Le Hobbit.

Located on Rue Saint-Jean in one of the little shopping districts just outside of Vieux Quebec (it’s just up the hill from Place d’Youville),
Le Hobbit is basically a nicely decorated slightly upscale French bistro. Coming in the from the cold, they quickly seated us (being a Sunday night, it wasn’t terribly busy) in a nicely appointed dining room, and we got to sit back and warm up as we perused the menu. The menu was indeed your basic bistro fair, consisting primarily of some light starters, some nicely assembled salads, and main courses segregated into “land” and “sea”. Local ingredients featured quite prominently on the menu, especially the local lamb, venison, and duck dishes.

After spending a little bit of time perusing the menu, we settled upon a pair of starters while we figured out our main courses, splitting a venison carpaccio and a brie fondue over our table of four. The venison was a great start to the meal: perfect, thin little rounds of venison, served up with some seasoned oils, some greens, and some nicely aged shaved parmesan, this was a tender and tasty dish. The venison was perfectly tender, not over- or under-seasoned, and both the herbed oil, some light salt crystals, some coarse pepper, and the shaved parm combined to give a real treat of texture and flavor. The other appetizer was a brie fondue, served up with some light croutons and little salads of both arugula and mâche. It was a rather nicely done little fondue, although between the carpaccio (also served up with arugula) and the brie, we had a little bit of salad overload.

That said, Carol and I also proceeded on to a warm spinach salad that was served with bacon, apples and aged cheddar. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a sucker for salads featuring lardons on bacon, but this salad really delivered. The combination of the thin-sliced apples, the salty lardons, and the bits of sharp cheddar worked nicely with the dressed (and very crisp) spinach to make a good salad. The salad was also quite generous, so that everyone at our table managed to get a pretty substantial portion.

For my entree, I went for their duck confit. I always enjoy a nicely done confit (the last I had was at Republic in Manchester, NH, back in September). Served up on a very generous bed of vegetables, with a side a pototoes gratin, and accompanied with a nice, sweet-but-not-overpowering cranberry compote, this was everything a good confit should be: nice, crispy and flavorful skin and nicely cooked and still juicy interior. I was quite pleased with it (it was probably the best confit I’ve had in a few years), although I did have a little bit of menu envy for my friend Ariane’s dish, who got the duck off the special menu. Nicely sliced and seared duck in green peppercorn sauce, it looked quite excellent. I probably should have begged some of this from her.

Closing out the meal, both sides of the table opted for the crème brûlée. I’ll be honest, the picture of their crème brûlée on their web site was one of the little details that nudged me into choosing Le Hobbit over a couple of competing restaurants, since I’ve always had quite the weakness for a good brûlée. Indeed, I’m pretty much like the crème brûlée scene from the movie Amelie, in that I’m always delighted by having the chance to crack the crust on a good crème brûlée. This one didn’t disappointed. The crème brûlée itself was perfectly creamy on the inside, with a pleasant vanilla note and a nicely-perfected crust that was firm and brittle without any sogginess. On top, it was served up with several fresh fruits (including a hush cherry, which I’m not sure I’ve seen as a dessert ingredient before, but it worked) and a large art piece of drizzled caramelized sugar. The last of these I thought was a little overkill (the dish itself has a nice caramelized sugar top), but it certainly looked neat.

In a city with several high-end restaurants, the overall prices and quality at Le Hobbit were quite good. From the first starter to the dessert, each course was nicely executed and delicious. The overall dining experience was pleasant as well, with a nice, inviting restaurant space and a friendly staff. I’ll certainly consider coming back on my next trip up here.

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