Reservation for 9 o’ clock. A group of 6, we pile into the doorway of the quaint, low-lit restaurant and wait awkwardly for our table. We are watched by the leftovers of the 6 o’ clock sitting. They linger over dessert and eye us knowingly. They revel in a certain wisdom: they know what is to come. The fruits of the kitchen’s labour sit smugly in their stomachs.
Our table is ready and we clamber through, single file in our winter things, careful not to let our bulky jackets knock over glasses and last mouthfuls. This place is small. This place is full. Good signs all around.
Le Bleu Raisin doesn’t give you much choice. As the blackboard menu indicates (in the daintiest of cursive), you choose your main, you choose your dessert, but the four plates that precede these chosen dishes are out of your control. I like this: it inspires a sense of adventure, it encourages the diner to step out of her or his comfort zone, and it introduces a lot of textured conversation to the table. Some in my party, however, left a few of their four tasting plates untouched (due to dislike or fear): I’d recommend the squeamish check out the menu here before you go.
Our plates proceeded as such…
Headcheese and Duck Heart: I ate the duck heart without knowing what it was and enjoyed it thoroughly. Never having tasted either of these dishes before, I don’t have much to compare them to, but the general consensus rested on delicious.
A small square of Foie Gras served with fresh, crusty bread for spreading: Very good. Creamy, rich, but not too much. My threshold for foie gras is low; Le Bleu Raisin served the perfect amount.
House-Smoked Salmon: Maybe my favourite of the four. Delicate, fleshy, really very smoky. Served with a smear of mustard-creme fraiche; perfect for further smearing.
A small pot of escargots, cream, wild mushrooms: Seriously amazing. Very rich, but once again, perfectly sized. The cream seemed steeped in the salty snails and delicate mushrooms: earthy and exquisite.
For the main, for me: duck. At Le Bleu Raisin the duck breast is seared only slightly and sliced paper thin. It lays beautifully atop a bed of star-anise scented beans and finds relief in small spears of white asparagus.
For dessert: maple syrup bread pudding. Tiny, but after a meal of this size, fitting. Soft in the interior, crackly on top like the best part of a crème brulee and sweet with a favourite of the sugar flavours.
Le Bleu Raisin asks you to bring your own wine. As the hours passed, we poured and emptied too many bottles to count, tasted delicious dish variety, and enjoyed the wonderful service. We didn’t get home until 2 o’clock in the morning; now that’s a good dinner party! If you live in Montreal, go, and bring friends when they visit. A truly friendly introduction to Montreal dining.
Le Bleu Raisin is located at 5237 Rue St. Denis. They do not have a website but you can call for reservations: (514) 271-2333. The menu detailed above is the $49 Menu Degustation.