The Stones seemed about right. Sure, it was an eclectic mix of music playing at Kitchen Galerie, not all of it head-bobbing stuff, and none of it at an agitating volume, but Jumping Jack Flash was the track that stuck with me.
Much was made of this bistro’s Jacks-of-all-trades chef-owners when Kitchen Galerie opened in 2007. These were two guys who pretty much did it all – shopped (conveniently, next door, at Jean-Talon Market) prepped, cooked, greeted, dished, served, poured, shmoozed and scrubbed up.
That was prior to their winning the top prize at the Montreal Gold Medal Plates last year, and then moving on to win the Canadian Culinary Championships in Vancouver this past February. Even the New York Times came calling then.
I’m wondering if these Jacks are still scouring their own pots? It seemed indelicate to ask as the delightful Jean-Philippe St-Denis delivered a platter of Eastern oysters (Glace Bay, N.S.) to our table. Besides, these commanded immediate attention. But this Easter Saturday visit, I counted three cooks in black KG T-shirts, a floating charmer doing bits of everything, plus a guy in an apron having a meal at the kitchen counter. And then there was St-Denis – welcoming, taking orders, finishing plates, bussing tables, fetching wine, shucking oysters, chatting up guests. (His co-owner, Matthieu Cloutier, was away.)
There’s a breezy vibe at play in this 22-seat room, and though the St-Denis-Cloutier team may now have a few more players in their merry band, Kitchen Galerie remains a restaurant with an appealingly democratic sort of structure.
The daily menu (yes, it changes every night) is a succinct table d’hÃ´te. You pay an additional tariff for luxury ingredients – these oysters, and the quartet of foie gras dishes on offer. And if the rÃ´ti de cÃ´te de boeuf pour deux calls your name (served with a tarragon gravy and roasted roots, and on display in all its monstrousness at the table next to ours), that will set you back $80. Add foie gras with shavings of black truffle (the “Super Size Me” option) and you’ll be slapping down $120.
But we didn’t. We contented ourselves with the beefy wafts from our neighbours, and focused on those oysters served with a sharp mignonette. Then shrimp, which kept company with a fennel salad. And finally the foie gras parfait. This arrived in luscious slices on caramelized cipollini onions, served with a boozy gÃ©lÃ©e and crisp toasts. We did not look up until we had made crumbs of it all.
The one letdown was the signature dishwasher-cooked pot de foie gras, crying out for much less salt.
The barramundi swam to the top of the pile as favourite main, with its firm, juicy flesh and its remarkably crispy, stand-up-ish, spice-rubbed skin.
It came balanced on a silky purÃ©e of cauliflower with pretty yellow beets and a dark, polished sauce. Delicious as well were the lamb shank on pappardelle noodles and a splendid plate of lobster ravioli.
Three desserts were on offer – a dark chocolate pie with a crowning mousse of white chocolate on crumbly shortcrust pastry, lemon curd with a meringue topper, and a textbook crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e. All were wicked.
It’s a joyful sort of party place, this Kitchen Galerie, filled with much merriment and movement and adorned with seriously accomplished food.