Les Trois Petits Bouchons hits all the right notes to make a girl sing
Restaurants can have moments of greatness and they can have moments of not-so-greatness. A critic can exalt, a critic can nitpick, but it is a rare and wonderful thing when a restaurant is so simply, innately good that articulating what works seems unnecessary. (I can hear you now: "Great! Perhaps she’ll hold her tongue for once.") Forgive me, I’m required to expound, if even just a little.
Les Trois Petits Bouchons has been open for over a year, earning praise from the food-attentive. This subterranean wine bistro is lovingly tended by sommelier Xavier Burini, Michel Charette and chef Audrey Dufresne. They have brought a delightful and distinct restaurant into the crowded world of the Plateau bistro. It’s pure joy to dine here.
Shelves of wine divide and define the space, turning this cellar into the coziest and most stylish of dining rooms. The service is warm, unpretentious, focused and professional. Questions were answered without hesitation; confident recommendations were given for both food and drink. The wine selection is impressive. Composed mostly of private imports (with many biodynamic wines), the list is full of intriguing discoveries and many wines are available by the glass. We were pleased to make the acquaintance of a sparkling, bronzy 2005 François Chidane Montlouis Brut.
The menu offers a manageable number of dishes, both for the diner to peruse and for the kitchen to execute. Our waiter suggested the tartine de champignons. Buttered, toasted country bread came piled with woodsy fungi, steeped in veal broth, which enriched the dish to no end. A tangle of lemon-kissed arugula sang soprano to the tartine’s earthy alto. Six oysters on the half-shell were dressed with scant slivers of scallion and a pinch of piment d’Espelette. I generally like my oysters unadorned – at most, a crack of pepper or mist of lemon juice – but the careful sprinkle of piment d’Espelette signalled that each one of my oysters had received the kitchen’s attention before making its way to me. It was… heart-warming.
For mains we ordered the scallops with risotto, and the grilled bavette of veal. Both were pure perfection in portion size, texture, flavour balance and presentation. The scallops were seared on one side, meaning caramelized sweetness melted into cool creaminess, in turn giving way to the milky risotto, which itself was punctuated with sprightly peas, asparagus and hidden riches of snails – a fluid, flawless dish. The veal was just exquisite – some of the most tender we’ve tried. For dessert, a Valrhona chocolate rice pudding called to us. Bitter cocoa kept the sweet in check, and pistachios added a welcome crunch.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this restaurant – or any really good restaurant – such a perfect experience, but I think it has to do with balance. The service is attentive but not fawning, the wine list is smart and fun, the food is classic yet creative, and I’m betting my next visit will be consistent with my last. Cheers to thoroughly testing my hunch.
Les Trois Petits Bouchons
4669 St-Denis; 514-285-4444
Dinner for two, before tax, tip and beverage: $45-$80