L’Echaude, Quebec City.

October 2015.

This was the first of two nights in the touristy Old Town of our wonderful French Canada capital, one of my three favourite cities in the country. We stayed in a beautiful hotel, wandered the art galleries, had lunch at the Château Frontenac, and withstood the tide of tourists from a cruise ship.

L’Echaude is a raucous bistro, entered through what seems like the front of the kitchen. Welcome is cheerful and efficient, and we are at once seated at a table in the centre of almost unprecedentedly fabulous crashing and shrieking noise. Thank god I’ve discovered (discovered on this evening in fact) that I can get away with removing and pocketing my hearing aids which results in a compromise between the deafness of dead implants like earplugs in my ears and the full assault of amplified high-frequency insanity. We were able to converse.

The menu is set up a bit strangely, with two sets of entrées and mains. In any event both are available. There are about five different tartares, and Robin went for the three-choices option. I had quail breast. The tartares were interesting and tasty although there was nothing beyond the main flavours with some mustard, salt and pepper, etc. The quail breast was set up with some accompaniments and a competent reduction sauce. Generally good solid bistro food.

Robin had a second appetizer as main: sweetbread. I found this peculiar in my experience for terrific crispiness because it was deep-fried, but its interior being soft to the point of mushy which didn’t improve the subtle organ taste being overwhelmed by deep frying. But again, otherwise a nice mouthful. My main was black pudding and foie gras which sounded fabulously appetizing. And it was very tasty. There was a large triangular solid of boudin noir, maybe a little bit heavy-handedly nutmeg flavoured and a bit crumbly, but good-tasting especially soaking up the nice reduction. There was a small piece of foie gras, a bit undercooked I think, but soft and delicious, a great contrast with the boudin.

We drank a young minor Marsannay from the shipper Latour which was respectable.

Service was attentive and friendly and the young secondary server discussed an upcoming trip to Burgundy. The clientele seemed an upper-middle-class mix of tourists and locals. We enjoyed our dinner in a friendly, physically and socially warm surrounding once I deamplified the noise. This place is definitely a fully convincing francophone bistro and there is no hint of affectation. For that kind of evening and that kind of food it’s a hefty dose of the real thing.

I would return if I ever get back here. Food 8.0, service 8.1, ambience 7.9, value 7.5.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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