The concept at Le Jolifou has recently been completely overhauled for Chef David Ferguson's version of Montreal's own little BBQ roadhouse, with a bit of an upscale twist. We arrive to a lively dining room on a Saturday night. The room is buzzing with conversation and the Canadiens final regular season game is playing on a small flat screen over the bar and a large one over the kitchen's counter where diners may be accommodated sitting around the open concept kitchen. We're greeted without delay by friendly staff, seated and presented with menus. The room is full of bright red chairs and punchy red accents, the table tops are covered in brown paper, a nice selection of wines by the glass are written in neon colored paint marker on a mural sized mirror.
We begin inspecting jars and containers on our table all marked using monogramed tags with Le Jolifou's logo on them, they're house made condiments like habanero hot sauce, even some cleverly named ones like "ketchipotle". The menu's first page offers information on beginner and advanced BBQ cooking classes and demonstrations held in the restaurant at the kitchen-side counter by chef David Ferguson. The price of participation includes dinner and optional wine pairing. Also not to be missed are elaborate "one of" dinner events for 40-50 people held at Le Jolifou on the last Monday of every month where Chef Ferguson creates innovative menus that go beyond the confines of the concept of the regular menu.
Our meal begins with "bouchées", bite sized items to wet your appetite and munch on while you decide on your order and have a cocktail. There are "lamb bites" served with house marinade and "codfish fritters" served with house habanero mayonnaise, we order 2 of each. Both offerings are deep fried, the codfish fritters were mashed potato and codfish quenelles that were crispy on the outside and soft in the inside with a small dice of potato mixed in for texture. The habanero mayo was very tasty and left a tolerable amount of heat lingering on your tongue. The lamb bites were ping pong ball sized croquettes of what resembled very closely the mouth-feel of a trotter cake. They were full of tender lamb, soft-centered and slightly fatty with a perfect hint of gristle in the best sense, all topped off with a crispy outer fried coating. The vinegary onion and green tomato marinade was a prefect condiment to cut and balance their decadently fatty composure.
Top - "Lamb Bites" Bottom - "Codfish Fritters" - 2.50$/ch.
As an appetizer we shared an order of fish tacos. We were explained that the fish tacos are prepared with a different fish at different times depending on season, freshness and availability. On this night the kitchen was using mackerel. Whole fillets of mackerel with the skin on were scored and grilled, then served on top of supple flour tortillas garnished with avocado, fresh greens, crema, diced tomato and a chile vinaigrette. They were light, brightly flavored, and yes - messy, but isn't that what a great taco experience is supposed to be? The fish was cooked perfectly, they were not lacking filling nor were they over-stuffed and no one ingredient overpowered any of the others. Every individual component in the taco had purpose, they all worked in harmony while still asserting themselves as individually identifiable flavors.
Fish Tacos - 14$
We ordered the brisket platter as well as a dish of braised beef cheeks with sweetbreads for our mains. The beef cheeks and sweetbreads were served with an extremely successful play on mexican refried beans using romano beans in the place of the usual red-kidney or black beans. Two onion rings also topped the cheek, which were intended to provide textural crunch but regrettably could have used a little more time in the deep fryer to become more golden crunchy and allow the onion itself to submit more of its crunch. A small salad of sautéed and chilled zucchini and rapini tossed with grated carrot and a great vinaigrette was served along side, far from the uninspired throw away side salads that restaurants often try to get away with. The brisket was unquestionably spectacular, the kind of spectacular that becomes your new defining status quo for the ideal preparation of any given dish - the standard to which all others will be held and compared to from that point forward. Thick pieces of brisket with molten pieces of fat left attached were piled in a dish and generously lacquered with a porcini mushroom studded red wine veal sauce that had an unbelievably luxurious consistency. The brisket was served with a side order of perfect french fries, but next time we go we will have to try one of their other additional sides of mashed potatoes with asiago cheese or black truffle.
Brisket Platter, Porcini, Red Wine Veal Sauce, Fries - 20$
Beef Cheek, Sweetbreads, Onion Rings, Refried Romano Beans, Salad - 24$
Somehow we found a little room to share a dessert and shared an order of what was described by our waitress as a cheese cake verrine. It turned out to be cheese cake served in a sundae glass topped with chocolate and caramel sauce, a cheese cake sundae! It was a fun and sweet way to end our meal at Le Jolifou.
Restaurant Le Jolifou is mixing Mexican influences with BBQ techniques of the southern United States and Quebec ingredients to create winning flavor combinations. It's like Tex-Mex meets foie gras. Case in point: menu items like the foie gras nacho platter with that sublime brisket on top, an item we intend to try next time we go. On our visit to Le Jolifou the food was great, the portions were ample, the service was prompt and the price represented excellent value. We're looking forward to our next visit.
Restaurant Le Jolifou
1840 Rue Beaubien, near Papineau