The creation of David McMillan and Fred Morin has once again lived up to its stunning reputation. After years of eating at countless restaurants to fulfill my hobby of searching for awe-inspiring food, it is not easy to impress my taste buds, but Joe Beef has manage to do so with ease for the past two years. I originally tried the restaurant last summer as it seems to be synonymous with the city of Montréal. The chefs pay homage to truly indulgent Québec cuisine, embracing ingredients such as foie gras, maple syrup, and cream, but they also present their own definition of succulence and extravagance simply for their own pleasure. McMillan and Morin make the food they enjoy and if others enjoy it, it is merely a perk.
When you first walk into Joe Beef, the atmosphere is unexpected for one of the top 100 restaurants in the world. It is surprisingly casual, a refreshing quality from a restaurant with such superior food. Charles McKiernan, nicknamed Joe Beef, was a well-known pub owner in Montréal and served as the inspiration for the name of the restaurant. Everything associated with the distinguished restaurant evokes a sense of a tavern: the closely spaced wooden seating that encourages conversation amongst strangers, the handwritten menu board (no paper wasting here), and the personable, friendly, and amusing staff. The lack of formality and kindness seen in the eatery definitely enhances the already remarkable experience at Joe Beef.
Dinner began with their house-brewed Joe Beef beer. It was a true to form classic Pilsner with the perfect hop and flavour profile. Also, the beer was light on the palate providing a start to the meal which would not interfere with the courses to come. Accompanying the beer was a plate of rye bread baked with added caraway seeds, unsalted butter, and a crisp Kosher dill pickle. This bread plate seemed to honour the Jewish heritage associated with Montréal.
Next up was the appetizers: Foie Gras Double Down and Cornflake Eel Nuggets. The Double Down is a Joe Beef classic that cannot be avoided, it is a must try. The sandwich consisted of peppery fried chicken posing as the bread, stuffed with foie gras, bacon, and melted cheese. All of these divine ingredient were further improved by the light drizzle of a slightly sweet, yet subtle and delicate maple syrup. It may sound unappealing at first but trust me, I throughly enjoyed the sandwich even though usually I could do without both foie gras and maple syrup. The foie gras provided a needed fattiness to cut the sweet maple syrup, and the bacon seemed to compliment the flavours of the spiced seasoning on the chicken bread, as I like to refer to it. After finishing the sandwich, you think you are satisfied, until you dip you fork into the remaining mixture of maple syrup and fat. The mix composes an irresistible, mouthwatering flavour.
Simultaneously, the table enjoyed the smoked eel nuggets served with honey dijon mustard, tartar, and barbecue dipping sauces. The fried eel was inherently and pleasantly salty and a squeeze of lemon on top of a nugget brought out a more intense eel essence. I could honestly sit at the table for hours and pop eel nuggets over and over again. That is the easiest way to describe how good this unexpected fish preparation was.
After appetizers came my main meal, an enticing halibut dish with smoked tomatoes, navy beans, a pimento pepper crust, and a light tomato butter sauce. This was probably the best piece of halibut I have ever had and revealed the pride and joy Joe Beef puts into sourcing quality ingredients. The creative addition of a pimento crust on the fish was a clever way to add spice to the white fish without overpowering the halibut. The balance of flavours in this dish could not have been improved, all ingredients worked together harmoniously to lead to a truly original dish.
Finally came a dessert I will dream about for many weeks to come. I am not exaggerating when I say this was one my favourite dessert I have ever tasted. I was disappointed that I finished it so quickly, and was tempted to order another one. It was blueberry sorbet made with Québec blueberries handpicked from down the road swirled with homemade vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with miniature blueberries signature to Québec and little chocolate chunks. This heap of ice cream and sorbet was adorned with three freshly baked madeline cookies. The slightly dry texture of the cookies when mixed in the mouth with the refreshing ice cream flavours was magical. The textural juxtaposition undeniably improved the dessert. This dessert was so delicious that even my best attempts to describe it will never do the dish justice.
Overall, Joe Beef has yet to disappoint. The servers, the chefs, the food, everything about the restaurant is worth making the trip to Montréal. If you know how to enjoy good food, Joe Beef is a must-see.