No. 49: Candide
551 SAINT MARTIN STREET, MONTREAL, QUEBEC
Candide is deeply committed to serving what’s local and seasonal, and—deliberate or not—its messaging on this front begins long before you pick up the menu.
Where else but in Quebec would you find a small restaurant named after an 18th-century novel by Voltaire, built into the former refectory of a deconsecrated church? Exactly. Yet once you find the place, which is accessed via a discreet laneway off Notre Dame and surrounded by green space, you cannot help but like the setting. The space is small, lined with brick and pale wood wainscoting, with modern, triangular light fixtures dangling over bare wood tables—hewn, apparently, from St. Joseph’s former pews. Despite the austerity, it is convivial. The restaurant opened in late 2015. Its chef is John Winter Russell, who previously attracted positive attention at Van Horne (now defunct). His idea for the place is vegetable-forward cookery, heavy on grains and fruits (season permitting), where formerly starring proteins (fish, meat) take a back seat. Foraged goods are big (sourced from Quebec suppliers like Gaspésie Sauvage, and before that the much-missed Societé-Originale). The culinary inspiration is clearly New Nordic—with local and personal twists. To begin, a cocktail: say, parsnip gin from a local micro-distillery (Piger Henricus) mixed with apple and Labrador tea. From there, lean on sommelier Emily Campeau to recommend something unusual from her list, which is heavy on natural, organic and bio-dynamic, as is de rigueur in Montreal, and more important, features plenty of good choices under $65. The pricing of the tasting menus is similarly modest (a full four courses is just $47). Presaging the food to come, menu descriptions are stark: “pheasant, rye, gooseberries,” or “mackerel, endive, garlic flowers.” But combinations can be richly satisfying in their vegetable-forward novelty. Hot-smoked sturgeon plays off fermented cabbage beautifully (like a summertime Alsatian choucroute). Mussels come with the sweet complement of leeks, balanced with tart green tomato. Unlike the novel from which it takes its name, this place is far too serious to make you laugh. But there is some interesting cooking happening here.
Wednesday to Sunday
5:00 PM until 11:00 PM
FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY John Winter Russell, RESTARAUNT INTERIOR BY Mickael A Bandassak