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DROP BY FOR a meal here in April and you might get started with a princess scallop farmed off the Magdalen Islands, raw on the half shell, small, firm and sweet, adrift in elderberry water and doused with a fir needle-seasoned foam. Come May, water and foam both will more likely be flavoured with rhubarb.

In June, make it strawberry and basil. August will bring blueberry and tarragon; darkest winter, maybe vodka and Red Bull. And why not? No other chef marches in joyous lockstep with the seasons quite like Normand Laprise. He has been putting local ingredients stage front and centre at Toqué! for a quarter century. Many of the Quebec products that the best restaurants rely on from coast to coast—and stateside, too—were originally developed for Laprise, who challenged and nurtured his suppliers for decades before it was trendy. Think Boileau venison, Palmex foie gras, Gaspor (St-Canut) suckling pig and pré-salé lamb from l’île Verte. With that local wealth of choice Laprise creates what he calls “une cuisine de produits.”
He likes his ingredients to star on his plates undisguised, their natural qualities highlighted with playful and unexpected contrasts of flavour and texture. His compositions are often whimsical and always colourful. Techniques are grounded in the best French and Asian traditions, but their expression is entirely Québécois. Picture seared foie gras in clear pink essence of local strawberry and rhubarb, punctuated with diced strawberry-red pepper jelly. The decor, anchored by a burnt orange bar, is playfully polychromatic. 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. The best way to experience Toqué! is with a tasting menu along with wine pairings selected by brilliant sommelier Carl Villeneuve-Lepage.

Tuesday to Friday 11:30 AM until 1:45 PM
Tuesday to Thursday 5:30 PM until 10:00 PM
Friday, Saturday 5:30 PM until 10:30 PM

Photos By: Hans Laurendeau

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