Many a great restaurant has been defeated by the challenge of staying fresh and relevant for a decade— never mind two and counting.
But Toqué! somehow marches on, more nimbly today than ever, as if the preceding 22 years were just practice for this one. Its founding culinary idea was to create a new, proudly local and modern Québécois cuisine that nodded to French tradition but dispensed with its dutiful structures and formalities. That outlook long since made the transition from impertinent upstart to establishment, and in the process has acquired greater finesse.
Chef Normand Laprise calls his ingredient-driven style “une cuisine de produits.” From Boileau venison to St-Canut suckling pigs, many of the products he helped nurture to market are now mainstays of the best dining menus across the country. Laprise likes them to star on his plates undisguised, preferring instead to highlight their natural qualities with playful and unexpected contrasts of flavour and texture. His compositions are often whimsical and always colourful. Picture a spring salad of slivered razor clam, tangerine segments, julienned radish, dill fronds and trout roe. Or, an autumnal plate of roast venison with beet, miso, bok choy, king oyster mushrooms and bordelaise.
The décor, anchored by a burnt orange bar, is playfully colourful. The wine list is deep. Service is professional and discreet, running like clockwork under the watch of business partner and front-of-house manager Christine Lamarche.