Long neglected or ignored, Canadian cuisine has, of late, earned back the place and attention it deserves. In the wake of the international Nordic cuisine renaissance led by the creativity of Danish Chef René Redzepi of Noma fame, inventive chefs are helping foodies rediscover the best that our Canadian regions and their products have to offer. One can expect a variety of game and fresh fish on the menu, as well as seasonal fruits, vegetables and roots from the Boreal forest, all served in creative dishes that have nothing to envy to celebrated French classics.
A true pioneer celebrating local gastronomy, Toqué! still surprises, 25 years after opening its doors in Montreal. Co-owners Normand Laprise and Christine Lamarche set out to create a farm to table restaurant where local produce is given center stage. Tagliatelle with pepper, rack of suckling pig and tuna belly are all presented with artistic flair. Its tasting menu, in fact, has become a rite of passage for Montreal foodies over the years.
Named as an homage to First Nations culture, the Canadian wilderness and forests, and the regional produce it offers, Manitoba serves a neo-Canadian cuisine, or cuisine du territoire. In an industrial setting in the Mile-Ex, the restaurant offers a seasonal menu, with summer dishes changing daily to celebrate fresh ingredients. One can indulge in sagamite croquettes made from corn, fresh asparagus, or sea buckthorn on summer days, while winter brings sea urchins, wild mushrooms and other seasonal products to the table. As for the cocktail list, it emphasizes local products and homemade syrups, and strictly favors alcohols from either Ontario or Quebec.
Chez Boulay is the result of the creative collaboration between Jean-Luc Boulay, a judge on the Quebec TV show Les chefs!, and Arnaud Marchand, one of the show’s young finalists. Together, they have opened this boreal bistro in the heart of Old Quebec City, where local produce steals the show. Trout, cattail hearts, samphire greens, venison and wild currants can all be found in the inventive dishes of the seasonal menu. Chez Boulay had the ambition of making foodies rediscover local products, and they have done a stellar job.
Château Mont-Saint-Anne’s Nordik bistro offers its own take on Nordic cuisine with a distinct Quebec twist, showcasing local produce and ingredients from the Côte-de-Beaupré region and beyond. Chef Jean-Noé Maldague has dreamed up an inspired menu of culinary creations featuring Matane shrimp, Mont Ferréol sea-buckthorn juice, and Charlevoix cheeses… all to be enjoyed at the foot of the Mont-Saint-Anne ski slopes, giving diners the opportunity to go from effort to comfort.
Villa Estevan, in the heart of the Gaspésie Metis Gardens, surprises with a menu encompassing ingredients from the forest and the vegetable garden. Plants, flowers, and roots can all be found on the menu, which evolves as they bloom and ripen seasonally. The restaurant also hosts culinary events around themes such as Gaspesian fishing, or cooking with local mushrooms and small game.
These restaurants are all offering a new, reinvented take on Canadian and Nordic cuisine, with a focus on fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients. Which one will you discover next?