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MTLàTABLE: The iconic Chez Lévêque has been a Montreal landmark for more than 50 years

    Just over 50 years ago, Pierre Lévêque became the owner of La Lucarne, a small steak house on Laurier Avenue, already elegantly adorned with warm, inviting storefronts. The name changed to Chez Lévêque and a Montreal landmark was born.

    Still in the hands of the Lévêque family, this Parisian Brasserie continues to shine with a  menu very much taking on a Lyon, France vibe. I was therefore quite pleased to experience this place for the very first time.

    The restaurant serves up classic and exquisite French cuisine, using fresh, local produce. Everything is homemade, from terrines, pudding and rillettes to desserts and jams. Chez Lévêque is renowned for its fresh seafood, its famous lobster bisque, fish soup and offal prepared to perfection.  

    At Chez Lévêque the dishes are prepared with the best ingredients and the freshest produce that the team orders directly from its longstanding suppliers: fishermen, farmers and cultivators, whose passion and extraordinary effort to please their customers’ palates. There are white tablecloths, elegant service, meals and dishes at once simple and succulent filled with rich aromas, vegetables from the market and fresh produce, a vast selection of wine and spirits and a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The dining room is spread over two floors, accommodating 120 people. This does not include a trendy seasonal terrasse which seats 170, something I hope to experience next summer.

    We were greeted by maître d’hôtel Yann Nkank, a truly charismatic individual who has been serving in this ambassador/coordinator role for more than 12 years. He traditionally weaves his way towards each table, knowing most customers on a first-name basis. “We have a lot of regulars,” he said. “And what I love to see is multiple generations of the same families carrying on that tradition.”

    You will find the menu featuring the likes of comforting stews, the freshest seafood ( sometimes selected or even caught in the ocean by Pierre Lévêque himself), the most tender meat cuts and a variety of salads, soups, gratinées, toast and grilled sandwiches, pies and puff pastries, cheese, bread and sumptuous desserts made in-house by the chef-pâtissier.  

    Diners are first greeted by terrines and breads, expertly made in their kitchen.

    A pioneer of French gastronomy in Quebec, Chez Lévêque specializes in perfectly mastered French classics.

    How do they keep bringing in a new and younger clientele?  Well, there are special  $29 menus at noon and 9 p.m.

    From November 3 to 19, Chez Lévêque is part of the  MTLàTABLE food festival. At this time you can get a five-course meal for only $83. I had a nice preview, mixed in with some of their more popular dishes that do not appear on this menu.

    The first service is a choice between the soup of the day or Lévêque’s “rillettes,” with fine herb crouton. I chose the latter.

    On to the second service, you can select between rabbit and prune pie, Québec poultry liver mousse with, a  brioche and onion jam, Royal salmon with saffron sauce, snail puff pastry with a creamy Chablis sauce, or black and white pudding pie with caramelized apples and green pepper sauce. Since I heard so much about the latter two -and they are certainly not items you find on too many menus-  I asked to try them. It was the right decision for they were superb.

    The third service is  Lévêque’s “Trou Normand.”

    For my visit, though, I got to try two items that are not part of é MTLàTABLE: the pike quenelles with a Nantua sauce, yet another specialty of the house.  Being a huge fan of duck,  I was thrilled when my server said that the   Lévêque family wanted me to try the legs of duck item, crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked inside, with some dandy scalloped potatoes on the side.

    For the fourth service, you can have the veal stew and creamy white sauce with mushroom,  the calf liver with raspberry vinegar, My lord Cassoulet, a salmon cutlet with white butter sauce, or beef or salmon tartare

    Finally, we get to dessert. There is the key lime pie, iced nougat with Chartreuse, creme brulee with bourbon vanilla flavor, Lévêque’ profitéroles (three flavours), or their famous floating island with pistachio English cream. Wow, hands down the latter stands out as one of the best desserts I can remember in some time. Chez Lévêque is located at 1030 Avenue Laurier Ouest in Outremont.  It is open Monday to Thursday, 11 am to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 11 pm; and Sunday, 11 am to 10 pm. You can call 514-279-7355  or log on to https://en.chezleveque.ca/

    Mike Cohen

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