RATHER LIKE ITS NAMESAKE, Montreal’s notorious 19th-century publican, Joe Beef the restaurant is an overachiever with personality to spare.The humble, 30-seat, back-to-basics culinary outpost that partner chefs David McMillan and Fred Morin opened on a sketchy stretch of Notre Dame West in 2005 has, over the intervening years, doubled its size and seating, added a proper bar and patio, acquired its own on-site smokehouse, trout pond and vegetable garden, and spawned two neighbouring restaurants, as well as a bestselling cookbook—with a sequel coming this fall. Even more unlikely than Joe Beef ’s evolution to culinary institution is the fact that it made the transition with its original ideals intact. The guiding idea is resolutely contemporary, but in every application it has one foot firmly and proudly planted in the past. The ostensible bric-a-brac of its decor is in fact quality stuff, a nod to the antique shops that for decades lined the local street.The wait staff are convivial, tattooed and casually familiar, but behind that hip veneer lurks an impressive well of knowledge and professionalism. And while the kitchen is averse to l’art culinaire’s pretention and fuss, the bag of tricks it applies to its top-quality ingredients is invariably French and old-school. Picture a big wedge of pâté en croute, luxuriously studded with moist chunks of rabbit, or a halibut tail coated with herring roe, liberally anointed with beurre blanc, or succulent sweetbreads, wrapped in crisp bacon and dressed with lobster sauce. Lobster and bacon meet again in the restaurant’s best-known dish: lobster spaghetti, with lardons, double cream and cognac. The wine list features innumerable quality pairings for everything, with a focus on natural wines and unconventional quality choices. The sum of those parts is not just a good meal, but a great time.
Tuesday to Saturday
6:00 PM until 12:00 AM
Photos By: Shrimp Cocktail-Courtesy Of Joe Beef. Jennifer May