L’Express – Montreal, QC
This is an oldie but a goodie. Back in the summer of ’09, my wife and I and a couple of family friends took a little day trip to Montreal, QC, to a familiar brasserie called L’express. Some of you may know the 24 hour haven for late night gourmands located at Park Ave. S. in Manhattan which shares the same name. Well I’ve had the pictures stashed away for a rainy day, and while it’s not raining at the moment, it still seems like a good time to bring them out of the archives and share them with you all. As we were walking up Rue St. Denis on a sunny day in Montreal, we happened across L’express, it was settled in a beautiful, tree-lined street among independent clothing shops and quirky boutiques. Had we not retraced our steps we might have missed it, as the name was nowhere to be found except for in a cleverly tiled patio out front. Upon entering, it was like coming home, it had the same feeling of the L’express I’ve come to know and love in New York. The light was dim, the hand-cut wood bar was well-worn and darkened from many years of bygone smoking patrons.
The tile was dirty, and the chandeliers and brass accents had a great patina to them. We grabbed a seat towards the back of the restaurant under a skylight. First order of business, wine, and what a wine list it was. No surprise they had an amazing selection of ’05 Bordeauxs that I could have perused for a good hour. While most of them were out of our price range, a nice bottle caught my eye, a 2005 Blasson D’Issan from the Margaux appellation.
Needless to say, it was better than good, there really is nothing like a ’05 Bordeaux, I won’t try to explain it, but if you’re into wine, you need to seek out a bottle or two because it’s worth the effort in tracking them down, trust me on this. Anyway, on to the meal, to start, I had one of my all time favorite appetizers, Steak Tartare.
And oh how well the do it there. The nicely sized portion of the highest grade raw beef, had all the fixin’s, stone ground dijon mustard, fresh capers, red onions, garlic, worcestershire sauce, and a raw egg. It was so smooth and so tender. The fresh ground pepper gave it a nice kick, and the accompanying toast points lent a buttery mouth feel to the dish that is completely unique to steak tartare. For my main course, a plate of moelle osseuse, or bone marrow.
I know what you’re probably thinking now, “bone marrow…are you serious?”. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m as serious as a heart attack about bone marrow. Leave your preconceptions about what it looks like, or what you think it tastes like, because I can assure you, you will be pleasantly surprised if you try it. If you’re a fan of foie gras, bone marrow is right up your alley, so buttery, it literally melts in your mouth. It adds to the experience when you have to release the marrow from the actual thigh bone sections themselves. The dish was simple as simple could be, three hefty thigh bones filled to the brim with marrow, covered with a brussel sprout leaf, a half-dozen toast points, and a small bowl of sel gris for seasoning. It really doesn’t get better than this. All of this was capped off by a crazy Ile Flotante, with a hard caramel shell. It was a little like an egg custard cloud encased in solidified caramel, quite an experience.
While I was in my own little fantastic world of beef offerings, my wife was enjoying a nicely grilled Croque Monsieur with frites.
My friend Justin was sitting in front of one of the best orders of hanger steak and frites I’ve seen in a long time, served with an herb butter. Steak, cooked to perfection, seasoned well, and as tender as could be. The frites were thin, fried quick to leave them crispy, and served with mayonnaise. His wife chose the grilled filet of salmon, and while I’m not the biggest fan of cooked fish, was quite tasty.
A wonderful meal in a wonderful city, and it won’t be forgotten anytime soon. For anyone interested in visiting, if you happen to find yourself on Rue St. Denis on a nice summer day in Montreal, here’s the address.
L’Express Restaurant. 3927, Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC • 514-845-5333