Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins: Giving good headcheese

Giving good headcheese

A variety of cured pork and wines that cure most ails at the bustling Le Comptoir
Photo: Melora Koepke

New wine bar on the block Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins gets it just right

Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins is an idea whose time has come: charcuterie. Sure, Les Trois Petits Bouchons does it well and the board at Brasserie T! has the right idea, but no one has pulled off a full menu of charcuterie-themed delicacies with the verve and élan that Ségué Lepage brings to his brand-new St-Laurent Blvd. wine bar.

It’s strange that a city with such superb pork on offer in the surrounding terroir has had, in the past, such a dearth of good charcutiers. Lepage, who apparently honed his skills in France and as a sous-chef at Circa in Vancouver, is very much on-trend with his menu of charcuterie-involved small plates as well as a more traditional meat board. But he’s also a serious practitioner – while poking around during a trip to the basement WC, I introduced myself to his gorgeous windowed salle de découpage and state-of-the-art fermenter, as well as a cold room where two full pig carcasses were hanging, waiting to be cured.

Le Comptoir’s subtitle, "charcuteries et vins," is a bit misleading, because though they have a wealth of charcuterie-themed small plates on the menu as well as an interesting selection of private-import wines, they serve up more than just pâtés and sliced meats. In the traditional French sense, charcuterie means transformed pig parts ("chair cuit," or cooked flesh), but Lepage also has some intriguing night menu dishes involving lamb shoulder confit and cold-smoked mackerel listed on the ardoise.

But we came for lunch, which was nice for a first pass because the place’s runaway popularity means that things get a little crazy at night, which is great – the neighbourhood, near several arts venues, needed another lively late kitchen.

Truthfully, I heart cured meats, and Lepage really knows his stuff. His $10 assiette de charcuterie (did I mention the place is drastically affordable?) featured a pretty line of lomo, pâté de campagne, coppa, porchetta di testa (Italian headcheese), saucisse sèche, fennel saucisson and soppresatta – there wasn’t a false note. The paper-thin lomo had just the right meaty tang, and the porchetta was downright erotic, melting on my tongue in a way I thought meat never could.

The lunch special, which includes a soup or salad (escarole, yellow beets and guanciale or cherry-tomato and ventrèche) and a main dish for under $15, is an amazing deal. My husband’s grilled cheese with old cheddar, marinated onions and pancetta came with a green-tomato ketchup that tasted just right, and just like his mom’s – but then, she comes from the Bas-St-Laurent, just like chef Lepage. My pan-seared gnocchi with confit pork and mustard sauce was an adventure in textures, and much lighter than it sounds – and the potted pork was perfect. For dessert, bread pudding with pears and Manjari chocolate cake was pure afterglow.

Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins

4807 St-Laurent; 514-844-8467

Lunch for two, before beverage, taxes and tip: $30

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