Le Chien Fumant (Montreal, QC)

As I mentioned in the previous review, we spent the last full weekend in February up in Quebec visiting Montreal and the surrounding countryside for the Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon dinner. But the fact that the Cabane a Sucre starts off in the morning made this more or less a required overnight stay in Montreal, so we decided to visit a few of our favorite Montreal watering holes (Le Cheval Blanc and Dieu du Ciel), and then ducked over to a place I had found online that focused on small plates (since we knew that the next day was going to be a feed-fest): Le Chien Fumant (“The Smoking Dog”), a small bistro in the “Eastern” part (have I mentioned, Montreal directional conventions seem okay, until you look at a map and realize that “North” is really more of a “West-Northwest” sort of direction) of the Plateau neighborhood.

Walking in, it was immediately obvious that Le Chien Fumant is one of the more popular bistros in that part of town, since it was thoroughly packed, even considering the fact that it was a Saturday night. Indeed, this is where a small problem cropped up: the previous party on our table was still only half-finished with their meal, so it was going to be a bit of a wait before we could get seated. But as the wait started to get a bit uncomfortable, the staff made it up to us by giving us a free charcuterie plate to nosh on while we waited. Considering that this was one of the things I was looking forward to (the restaurant has a nice charcuterie refrigerator right next to the front door), this was a nice little treat, and the charcuterie was very pleasant and nicely done, with some very rich pork flavors. I’d happily get this again.

As I mentioned above, the goal was to get a few small plates to let us explore the menu, without filling us up. The first was a relatively simple starter of a frisee salad and some grilled polenta. A simple dish, but it was perfectly executed: the polenta was right on the nice balance point between “firm” and “smooth”, with a nice crisp and a rich savorful flavor. The salad was nicely dressed, and served up with a nice cheese grated over it.

The next course was also a fairly simple one, but also nearly perfectly executed: thick and generous pork medallions roasted up and served in a pleasant sauce over a bad of mash: this wasn’t haute cuisine, but it was very nicely done: the interior moist, the flavor rich, and the skin nicely crisped.

The real attraction, however, was the beef carpaccio. Instead of being served up as the traditional carpaccio with cheese and lemon, this was served up Korean style, with a rich bulgogi-style marinate heavy with sesame notes. Usually the thing I really like about bulgogi is the crispness of the just-seared meat, but here it worked well with the perfectly thin-sliced slivers of quality ribeye meat. I’d get this again in a second.

About the idea of not filling up by getting small plates? This turned out to be a miscalculation on two different levels: first of all, the “small plates” at Le Chien Fumant are actually fairly generous, and the portions of the dinner at the Cabane a Sucre were enormous. Ideally, we should have just fasted. For several days. But you know, I’m still rather happy that we go to enjoy Le Chien Fumant, since the food was quite delicious, the staff friendly, and the ambiance cozy. I’ll definitely give them another try on another visit.

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