So me, my husband & 2 of my girlfriends went to Garde-Manger for dinner last night. The build up to this tiny bistro style restaurant was pretty big since I made the reservations 3 weeks so we could get in! We strolled in at 9:30 and the restaurant was 3/4 full. Seated right away luckily next to one of the chalkboards with the menu written on it, otherwise the waitress would have had to dictate the whole menu. The menu was small about 6-8 appetizers and 6-8 mains. My girlfriends who usually love ordering multiple appetizers to share were having trouble finding more than 2 that they liked. I given my allergy to Gluten had trouble finding 1 I could eat other than a green salad.
In the end my girlfriends decided not to share and that they weren't that hungry. They ordered an avocado, tomato, cucumber salad with fried Cheddar cheese balls to start and then they both had the salmon tartar as their main (appetizer portion) My husband started with the pork belly and clams, followed by the halibut with pierogies. I (big eyes!) had 2 main courses cause I couldn't find anything that I liked on the appetizer menu. I started with the Scallops and Crab Salad, followed by Risotto with rock shrimp and a lobster broth.
Before I tell you about the food let me tell you about the atmosphere. It is on Saint Francois-Xavier in Old Montreal so the parking is a real bitch. The entire restaurant must seat about 25-30 people max. They have only 2 seatings 7:30 & 9:30 which I guess explains the wait to get a reservation. It is very dimly lit with a huge gothic or medieval type chandelier. (which my girlfriend would like in her bedroom!) There is a small bar, which I think you can eat at (I am assuming walk ins get that option) There is somewhat of an open kitchen, in the sense that we can see the chefs but not what they are cooking. It was very loud and only got louder as the night went on. 80's music was blaring from the speakers, much to our delight and a lot of chair dancing did occur! Basically if the food was bad the atmosphere of being a fun place would have saved it, however that was not the case.
The first courses arrived. My husband said his pork belly and clams were delicious, although deep fried pork belly can't be gross! The avocado salad was so good it was passed around the table, there is something to be said for fresh ripe ingredients, properly seasoned and tossed in a complementary vinaigrette, oh and the fried cheese balls didn't hurt either! My scallops and crab salad was delicious. The scallops were cooked perfectly and I was so happy to see crisp pieces of lardon to eat with them. The surprise on the plate was the crab salad. It was presented in a baked potato skin bowl, the crab was light and refreshing. Despite that it was a main course portion I finished it all.
There was quite a long delay between our 1st and 2nd course but I was happy so I could make room for my 2nd main course! The music was good and the people watching was fun! The mains arrived at which point my girlfriends were already full, but still said that the tartar was different and yummy. The salmon was mixed with some traditional and some non traditional ingredients, shallots, capers, green beans etc.
My husband said his halibut was very good but the pierogies were a bit of a disappointment, not as fresh and homemade as he thought. My risotto was great, good consistency, depth of flavour. My only criticism is that there were too many rock shrimp in it. But it was still delicious enough to finish!
We stayed for a few drinks after dinner, at which point the music was at full blast and the restaurant how now officially turned into a bar complete with a door man. All kinds of interesting people walked in. ( I have never seen shorts so short!) All in all the evening was very enjoyable and we all agreed that we would go back, the only thing that sucks is that we have to plan at least 3 weeks in advance to make a reservation.