Toast!, Québec City.

October 2015.

This was the second of two evenings in town. We were looking forward to a “fine dining” type of dinner and this didn’t entirely disappoint but wasn’t in quite the international league we were hoping for. The restaurant appears to be two separate rooms on one side of, and behind, a respectable hotel in the Old Town.

We were shown into the back room, and were delighted at the quiet peaceful atmosphere among four occupied tables (out of about ten). This mutual enjoyment disappeared with the arrival of four coarse older middle-aged anglophone women at the room’s central dining table. Our experience was beaten into the confines of our own conversation. Server was a fast-moving friendly informed guy who, once the room filled up, had far too much to do, but managed to do it.

Our starters were bison tartare and a complicated tomato dish. The latter was perked up by shrimp and a meat flavour that connected up beautifully with the sweet acidic tomatoes. The tartare was tasty, featuring mustard and capers, just a bit chewy.

The mains were a stuffed quail breast and cassoulet. The quail tender and tasty with cream cheese stuffing. The cassoulet was done in a style I’ve seen a few times recently, where the beans, probably along with some stock and seasoning, are cooked and then get the major elements added on top shortly before serving, presumably ideally cooked. The last time I had this it wasn’t bad at all, with crispy pork belly and succulent sausage, along with nicely-prepared duck sitting on top of the braised and seasoned beans. But this time the sausage was dry, the duck tasty but for some reason I had to think carefully to identify what it was, and the pork overcooked.

Cassoulet is a stew, the glory of which for me is the melding of flavours, and especially the repeated pushing down of the cooked crispy top layer. This late put-together approach didn’t seem to work as well this time.

Server recommended a Châteauneuf-du-Pape which was substantial but short of charming.

This is a classy restaurant that must be having some financial trouble because they are understaffed on the front end, and they presented a bill for pretty close to $300 after tip for a very nice but uneven “fine dining” experience. I’d look elsewhere next time I’m in this wonderful town.

Food 7.5 (wide range 6.0-9.0), service 8.4, ambience 7.8, value 6.6.

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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