Thursday, May 26, 2011

L'EAU À LA BOUCHE


This long weekend we decided to celebrate a special occasion by treating ourselves to a 2 night, 3 day stay at Chef Anne Desjardins' Restaurant-Hotel-Spa L'Eau à la Bouche. One of only a handful of dining rooms designated to be a restaurant of a grand chef relais and chateaux, amongst other very exclusive company such as restaurant Toque! in Montreal, this destination is truly a cut above the rest. A family business started in 1979 Chef Anne Desjardins and her husband Pierre Audette opened the doors of this restaurant and hotel to produce the best possible cuisine highlighting seasonality, Quebec produce and tranquility in the heart of the Laurentians. Today their son Emmanuel has has joined the kitchen team and recently they have added a spa facility to their property.

This was not our first visit To L'Eau à la bouche and as we have come to expect, everything about our experience was terrific. Accommodations range from quaint and lovely to some of the more extravagant rooms they offer. The spa H20, which offers a full range of spa treatments and massages as well as nordic baths has it's own restaurant which also serves excellent lunch and breakfast to guests. But if you're visiting, like us and this review, your focus is likely to be on the renowned restaurant L'Eau à la Bouche. The following will be a review of the 2 consecutive dinners we ate.

Service and the progression of meals at L'Eau à la Bouche are performed in the utmost highest regard and respect for the classic french form. In culinary school you are taught about meal progression and service procedures that are not practiced in 99% of restaurants one visits. When you're learning how to perform these tasks you think to yourself "who really does this? what year are we in?". Comments like this prove the naivety and inexperienced nature of a student. In an establishment of this caliber none of these seemingly outdated procedures from another era are overlooked, and the result is magnificent. The nostalgia of days in cooking school trying to memorize all these things you had convinced yourself you would never exercise or encounter come rushing back. The smiles might as well be painted on our faces.

NIGHT 1

Our formally dressed waiter arrives immediately after being seated, he introduces himself and the concept of the restaurant properly and offers us cocktails and a wine list. Our meal begins with one of several complimentary courses to come, the amuse bouche. A small and ornate bone china saucer arrives. On it are a small glass of fresh tomato gaspacho topped with a cucumber, cilantro foam and a solitary crouton drizzled with basil oil. It was light and fresh tasting, an inviting way to wet the appetite.

 Amuse Bouche - Tomato Gaspacho, Cucumber Cilantro Foam, Crouton Basil Oil

Our amuse-bouche course is proceeded by an offering of home made breads while we wait for our appetizers. Exquisitely cooked shrimp are served on a hearty warm chickpea purée with roasted garlic, a fresh tomato salsa provided acidic notes and a drizzle of rosemary oil finished the dish. Perfectly braised sweetbreads arrive perched on a half of a confit tomato with crispy thin french green beans and young asparagus all tied together with an excellent cardamom and dark beer cooking jus.

Pan Seared Shrimp, Chickpea Puree, Roasted Garlic, Tomato Salsa, Rosemary Oil
Veal Sweetbreads, Haricots Verts, Tomato Confit, Young Asparagus, Dark Beer & Cardamom Jus

For our mains we had chosen a duo of milk fed Quebec veal and a Gulf of St-Lawrence sea scallop dish. The duo of veal was a roasted veal filet paired with a braised veal cheek. The filet was very tender and well cooked, the cheek was so tender it was possible to push a butter knife through the center horizontally with zero resistance. The richness of the braised cheek was very well paired with the lean filet, each provided what the other lacked. This dish came served with delicate homemade agnolotti stuffed with a vibrant flavored roasted red pepper puree, toasted pine nuts and some of the best bounty the spring has to offer: fiddleheads and morel mushrooms. The dish was finished with cooking jus.
The scallop dish was as beautiful as it was delicious. Flawless unilaterally seared scallops were served atop a crisp and tart brunoise rhubarb salsa and paired with green onions, and leeks stuffed with a mousse of lobster, scallop and lemon confit. The dish was finished with a gin and juniper berry foam, its acidity balanced the dish very well.

Duo of Quebec Milk Fed Veal (Roasted Filet/Braised Cheek) Roasted Red Pepper Agnolotti, Fiddle Heads, Morels, Pine Nuts, Cooking Jus
Gulf of St Lawrence Sea Scallops, Rhubarb Salsa, Leek Stuffed with Lobster and Lemon Confit, Green Onion, Gin and Juniper Foam

After our mains we are offered a cheese plate of Quebec cheeses but we decide to forgo it on this night. We are presented dessert menus and we choose a Val-Ambré crème brulée and a dish simply named "ivory and rhubarb". Crème brulée is our favorite classic dessert, we often share them at the end of meals and make them ourselves at home. This one was perfect and the maple flavor from the Val-Ambré was clearly distinguishable. It was paired with a really fun and tasty homemade maple ice cream sandwich sitting in a pile of tart and sweet homemade elderberry jam. "Ivory and rhubarb" was a smooth white chocolate custard sandwiched between two white chocolate tuiles topped with a crunchy tart brunoise of rhubarb and long pepper. Along side it was a sweet, white genoa cake topped with a large dice of rhubarb that were cooked sous-vide until they were tender enough to cut with the side of a fork and no longer tart in flavor. On the side was the only element of any plate we were served the entire weekend that wasn't spectacular in our opinion, a "pink sorbet" which tasted far too much of sweet champagne for our liking. After dessert we were served another complimentary course of mignardises along with our coffee. They were bite sized homemade chocolates filled with salted-butter caramel and fresh raspberries. 

Val-Ambré Crème Brulée, Maple Ice Cream Sandwich, Elderberry Jam
"Ivory & Rhubarb" White Genoa Cake, White Chocolate Custard, Rhubarb, Long Pepper, Pink Sorbet

NIGHT 2

On our second night our meal begins again with a complimentary amuse bouche, on this night it is a hot velvety soup of Jerusalem artichokes topped with a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped chives, it was so good we wished we could have had a whole serving.

Amuse Bouche - Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, Truffle Oil, Chives

We went with two different foie gras dishes for our appetizers because they both sounded great and we couldn't choose between them, so we chose both. Plus, hey! who knows what tomorrow brings right? It was May 22, 2011 and the world hadn't ended! A good a time as any to celebrate, don't you think? "Waiter, may we have a look at the wine list please?"

We order seared foie gras and foie gras au torchon. The seared foie gras is served with a roasted cipollini onion and a ragout of hearty barley and sweet green peas all finished with a grape must reduction. The foie gras had an ideally hard sear on it and it was silky smooth and fatty decadent. The fresh flavor of the peas and the sweetness extracted from reducing the grape must provided the classic sweet pairing you crave when eating something so rich and fatty and the barley soaked up all the goodness we didn't want to leave behind. The torchon was prepared perfectly. Torchon is a particularly long and involved procedure of deveining, seasoning, soaking in alcohol, rolling, poaching and cooling a lobe of foie gras before it can be cut and served cool to be spread on whatever you like. It resembles and is served in a similar fashion but is not to be confused or interchangeably used with pâté. The torchon was served with a six spice cider-caramel, french shallot marmalade and homemade brioche

Pan Seared Foie Gras, Barley Stew, Green Peas, Roasted Cipollini, Grape Must Reduction
Foie Gras Torchon, Shallot Marmalade, Six Spice Cider-Caramel, Brioche

Our mains were a plate of fabulous Quebec lamb two ways with root vegetables and guinea hen from Morgan's Farm in Weir no more than 10 minutes drive from the restaurant. The lamb loin was cooked sous-vide, it was ridiculously tender and perfectly cooked, served along side pieces of sweetly sticky lacquered braised shank meat. The lamb was sitting in a puddle of thyme and sherry cooking jus and served with crunchy barely sauteed, buttery glazed turnips and radishes as well as a few fingerling potatoes and a single olive oil poached cherry tomato. The guinea hen dish was terrific, never have we eaten guinea hen or chicken so tender and moist, ever. This moistness and tenderness was achieved by cooking a guinea hen breast supreme very slowly in an oven submerged in milk. It was plated with beets, lemon confit, and sage roasted chinese artichokes which taste exactly like jerusalem or sun-chokes except that they are about the size of little misshapen marbles. The dish was covered in a rich white flavorful velouté that undoubtedly had been derived from a rich guinea hen stock. 

Quebec Lamb 2 Ways (Sous Vide Loin/Braised Shank) Thyme & Sherry Cooking Jus, Potatoes, Root Vegetables
Guinea Hen Oven Cooked in Milk, Sage Roasted Chinese Artichoke, Lemon Confit, Beets, Sauce Velouté

After our meal we had wine remaining, so we chose to have the additional cheese course to finish our bottle with. Our waiter returned with a tray of 5 or 6 beautiful room temperature Quebec cheeses from Yannick Fromagerie, he proceeds to explain them all very well, we choose three types: Tomme d'Elles, Grand Manitou and Jac le Chevrier. All of them can be found in the Quebec section at the Yannick website cited above. They were served with homemade apricot walnut bread, a pineapple and caramelized onion chutney and sliced apple. Every time we opt for the cheese course at a restaurant lately we're elated that we did, it's an excellent way to finish a meal and we feel as though not enough people realize that. Next time you're offered a cheese plate, go for it! We promise you'll be happy you did.

Cheese Plate - From Bottom-Top: Tomme d'Elles, Jac le Chevrier, Grand Manitou

After our overindulgent meal we decided to keep desserts relatively light by sharing the abundantly chocolaty dish and ordering the lightest dessert offering available which was the homemade ice cream & sorbet trio. The Ice cream and Sorbets were all perfectly smooth, zero unpleasant crystalized texture and abundant flavor, our favorite was the wild strawberry flavor, the other two were chocolate and rhubarb. The chocolate dessert was Called "Le Grand Valrhona" it was a gluten-free chocolate brownie, chocolate pana cotta, homemade cacao marshmallow, Manjari jelly, Jivara and green cardamom truffles and 70% cacao Guanaja sorbet. it was garnished with berries and finished with both dark and milk chocolate sauces. Basically they did everything they could think of to provide different textures with different types of Valrhona brand chocolate. the result was decadent, classy, beautiful and tasted excellent, our favorite elements were the truffles, sorbet and the pana cotta. Our Dessert course was once again proceeded by a complimentary mignardises course, this time of meringues and walnut financiers.

Trio of House Ice Creams and Sorbets L-R Rhubarb, Chocolate, Wild Strawberry
"Le Grand Valrhona" - Valrhona Brand Chocolate Marshamallow, Truffles, Pana Cotta, Sorbet, Brownie, Jelly

Our weekend at L'Eau à la Bouche was nothing short of exceptional. It's true that the restaurant can be 
quite pricey, but anything of this caliber usually is. We recommend making a weekend vacation of it and eating there as part of various packages offered on their website which include everything from meals to hotel accommodations, spa treatments and even cooking classes with Chefs Anne and Emmanuel Desjardins themselves. In these packages absolutely nothing is compromised about the experience, nothing is off limits all meals are à la carte. The entire team at L'Eau à la Bouche are masters of their craft. Absolutely nothing - especially not the client, are ever taken for granted. They blend outstanding seasonal Quebec produce with world class technique and innovation to produce stellar dishes, as well as service and an overall experience that showcase what the hospitality industry is truly all about. It's no wonder that they have earned and achieved the highly sought after designation of Grand chef and distinction of Relais & Chateau by the Relais & Chateaux association, in addition to an enumerable amount of other achievements and accolades. In our humble opinion, L'Eau à la Bouche is in a league of their own, right up there with the best names and restaurants in the business, bar-none. Although it is not something we can afford to do regularly, we will certainly continue to return to their dining room and spend time at their Hotel & Spa to celebrate other special occasions in our future. Saving the money to go has always been an overwhelming success in the past and it succeeded once again on this visit. Thank you to the chefs and all of the staff for a wonderful weekend getaway.

L'Eau à la Bouche
3000 Boul. Sainte-Adèle
Sainte-Adèle, QC
450-229-2991


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