No. 42: Initiale
DOWN AMID THE TOURIST TRAPS IN THE ABSURDLY PICTURESQUE LOWER TOWN OF OLD QUEBEC, BEHIND THE HEAVY WOODEN DOORS OF WHAT WAS ONCE THE UNION BANK OF LOWER CANADA (ERECTED IN 1866), YOU FIND WILL FIND A GLORIOUS RESTAURANT.
This is the second location for Initiale, a fine-dining establishment now entering its 28th year, and its 28th straight year atop the local (haute-cuisine) food chain. The setting is supremely elegant, with soft lighting, the walls and chairs all cast in shades of beige and grey, the tables dressed in pressed tablecloths, and set formally—right down to the old-school restaurant insignia-embossed charger plates. The menu is at first glance classical French—especially with regard to the sauces. Where else these days would you find albufera sauce, or grand veneur, périgueux or a jus vandouvan? If you think of a place in this country that does, they don’t make them like chef-patron Yvan Lebrun.
But for all his devotion to classical detail, his food is also very contemporary, and local. How about a white civet of shrimp and scallops with Quebec morels? Or grilled cod with Kamouraska sea urchin and sauce maltaise (that’s blood orange hollandaise, if you’ve forgotten)? That aforementioned grand veneur sauce is paired with tenderloin local elk. This is cooking of the very highest order, and Lebrun’s deft touch extends to his magnificent desserts. The wine list is deep, long and francophile. Front of house is beautifully run by Lebrun’s wife and partner, Rolande Leclerc. It is both welcoming and deeply professional.
Monday to Friday
11:30 AM until 1:30 PM
Tuesday to Saturday
5:30 PM until 9:00 PM
IMAGES COURTESY OF INITIALE