Maxim, l'Échaudé & Monsieur (can't remember his name)
Old Quebec: Auberge Saint Pierre
Weary from travel, but hopeful...We changed for dinner and made our way back down to the lobby.
The young man sprang from his chair. His uniform, a crisp white button down shirt and equally crisp jet black suit. He stood tall and pointed, all posture. His hair, dark and cropped short. His eyes framed by angular glasses, also black.
"Bonjour! I am Maxim. How may I help you?"
"Yes, we were hoping you could suggest a place for dinner?"
"Of course! Of course!"
With quiet finesse a map was retrieved from beneath the counter and a pen was clicked open.
"First there is l'Échaudé which is right down the street." Maxim smiled. "Yes. You'll want to stay in the Lower Town. Upper Town restaurants, well, they are as you say, tourist traps."
I smiled and nodded in appreciation.
"There is also SSS." Maxim searched for words. "They have an onion soup...It is...FROMAGE!...So much cheese!" He kissed his fingertips and giggled a bit to himself.
"Merci. Thank you." Roberto said.
Not knowing which we would lay designs on, we smiled and said merci once again before heading for the door.
Frommer's Montréal and Quebec City 2010
The most polished of the necklace of restaurants adorning this Vieux-Port corner, lÉchaudé is like a well-worn cashmere sweater—it goes well with both silk trousers and your favorite pair of jeans. Grilled meats and fishes and the seafood stews are an excellent value. Among classics on the menu are steak frites, duck confit, and salmon tartare. Less expected are the grilled horse meat fillet or the Cornish hen with lobster juice and ginger. The owner keeps an important cellar with hundreds of wines, with the full list posted online. The bistro is frequented mostly by locals of almost all ages (the very young are rarely seen) and visitors are attended to by a highly efficient staff. In summer, the small street in front of the patio becomes pedestrian only.
All of the many tables were taken outside. Packed like sardines under umbrellas at 6:30 p.m. We were impressed. Everyone seemed to be drinking chilled whites. All smiles. All kinds of dress. Oh, this is going to be lovely, I thought.
"Bonsoir!" Said the man.
"Bonsoir!" Said we.
"How can I help you."
He knew. He knew! I was grateful for not having to trip over parlez vous anglais.
"Do you have a table for two?" Roberto asked.
"Is inside okay?"
"Of course." We said smiling.
We followed the nice man with the cleanly shaven head wearing a light pink button down shirt and black trousers (again, so crisp) inside. A table right up front, in the corner. We were to be window dressing. Lovely, I thought. I'm so glad I wore my new plum dress.
The man gave us two menus and the wine list before smiling once again and walking away.
"Bonsoir! Blah deed de blah blah blah..."
"Parlez vous anglais?" Roberto rushed out.
"Of course!" The man smiled. "You both said bonsoir so well!"
We were flattered and of course he was being very kind. He looked to be about 50 years of age. Perhaps the long lost brother of Hubert Keller, but he wore his hair slicked back in a tight pony versus crazy and frizzed. I would go with this. He would be Hubert's brother tonight, and always. This was, after all, feeling very much like a dream.
I wish we could remember his name.
"Would you like to start with something to drink?"
"Actually, could you suggest a wine?"
"Yes, what were you thinking as far as food."
"Well, we'd like a red. Something that will work well with beef or duck or fish..."
This was so new to us, asking for suggestions. First from the concierge, Maxim and now from Monsieur, can't remember his name.
"This is a very nice pinot."