Restaurant L’Orignal, 479 Saint-Alexis (corner Notre Dame)
I had the opportunity to experience L’Orignal a while back. This restaurant features wild game and does it with panache. Owner Travis Champion, an expert in wild meat, grew up in New Brunswick eating it most of his life. He admits there aren’t many restaurants of this type in Montreal. “I think Montrealers are afraid of trying it,” he said. Montreal should be thankful he had the vision to open this restaurant.
Champion said that the food at L’Orignal is better because of what is being put into beef and other farm animals these days. “The additives aren’t necessarily good for you. All our ingredients are natural.”
He’s right as wild game is leaner and better for you. The food is cooked mostly in a French cuisine style but there are options to this. Head cook Marco Santos is bringing a little bit of his Portuguese background to the menu. A lot of the meat is braised as to bring out the flavour. “Here we like to have the meat speak for itself. We only add things to it to enhance your dining experience,” said Champion.
Wild game the new meat for a healthier lifestyle and the menu showed it.
We began with Glacier Bay oysters shucked by Daniel Mocken. They are his passion and it showed. It runs in his family as his sister is the Ontario Oyster shucking champion. The oysters on the menu were Glacier Bay oysters from New Brunswick. Nice light flavour of salt and tastes like buttered lobster. Topped off with red wine and shallots. A second topping was a Bloody Caesar style. I tried them all and couldn’t make up my mind which way was better as they were all fantastic. In the end it was the red wine and shallots which stuck in mind as it was so amazing. They were paired with an Italian Prosciutto.
Did I mention the six-course meal came with its own unique wine especially chosen by Nickyou Stimon? He said every choice of wine is meant to accompany something. “When you pair a food and wine together they start complimenting each other. Getting them working in synergy together is hard, but when you do, both are amazing,” said Stimon. I would recommend asking Stimon to assist you in a choosing your wine as the tastes were out of this world.
The second course was a Tuna Tartar that had an air of Japanese cuisine to it and was very tasty. A Pinot Noir from New Zealand accompanied the tuna tartar.
Next on the list was a Côtes du Rhône from George Venia to enhance the Duck Tartar. The wine was interesting enough to make you go back for more wine and duck tartar. The combination was everything that was promised.
A fellow diner said she found the Black Cod delicious. The Black Cod almost made me write a note to my mother asking her why we didn’t eat like this. Sorry mom but I nearly died and went to heaven. A wine from central Italy called Bucci went with the Black Cod.
When the venison was served, it came with an Australian Shiraz from Rams Leap. The texture and taste of this offering was fit for the most discerning taste buds.
The next wine was a Chardana from Sardinia that enhanced a bison/caribou ragout. The ragout was fantastic. I could taste the wild mushrooms combined with onions, garlic and fresh herbs, especially the thyme and basil. The mixture was put together with red wine and reduced for three hours. Some of the wines from Sardinia are 100 years old and the tannins are evident. “It’s crying out for food because it’s so chewy,” said Stimon.
Marko Santos, the head cook, said his passion for cooking wild game is new but something he enjoys. He incorporates classic recipes with wild game and this allows people to try something new that are still familiar. Both the cook and the restaurant know people are looking for healthy meals and their menu reflects that while pleasing your palete.
In addition to their regular menu they feature new specials every day at this restaurant. I would recommend this friendly old world restaurant to anyone looking for something special whether it’s a date, meeting or just plain looking for a great meal in a cozy but elegant atmosphere.
Meanwhile at home, I have started to have dinner parties. These are a fun way to get together with friends and reconnect while having a great meal.
My first one of the year featured three Beausol oysters with two garlic scampi tails as the entrees. The main meal was an Almond-Chive Trout dish (recipe below), homemade scalloped potatoes and a salad with a Japanese dressing.
The second of the year saw green and black olive pastes with fresh bread and olives as the entrees. The main meal was a Pepper Pie Au Gratin (recipe below). Grand Chief Matthew Mukash went back for seconds. While this meal takes a little time to prepare, it is well worth it. Dessert was cheesecake.
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsps chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 (1-ounce) slices white bread, torn
1/2 tsp salt, divided
4 (6-ounce) trout fillets (about 1 inch thick)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a food processor; add 1/4 tsp salt. Process until finely chopped.
Sprinkle trout with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Top fillets evenly with breadcrumb mixture; press gently to adhere. Place fillets on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 400° for 10-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with lemon wedges.
Pepper Pie Au Gratin
This recipe was taken from the Wild & Wonderful Goose and Game cookbook. It can be ordered for $5.95 from Blueberries and Polar Bear Publishing, P.O. Box 304, Churchill, Manitoba, R0B 0E0. I highly recommend all their cookbooks.
2 lbs potatoes peeled and cut into eighths
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (I used shitake)
1 1/2 lbs ground caribou, moose or other wild meat (I used caribou)
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt or substitute
1/2 tsp pepper
14 oz can of corn
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup diced pepper, red, green, yellow or a mixture
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt or substitute
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup grated medium chedder cheese (or more if you wish)
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and sauté until onions begin to soften. Add mushrooms and cook until they are golden. Transfer to an eight-cup shallow casserole dish.
In the same pan, cook the ground meat until it is cooked through. Drain and add to the onion mixture.
Now, add the beef stock, tomato paste, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp salt or substitute and 1/2 tsp pepper to the frying pan. Bring it to a boil. Add to the meat mixture, mixing well.
Spread the corn over the meat mixture.
To the frying pan, add 1 tbsp of oil and the peppers and sauté over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Spread over the corn.
When the potatoes are tender, remove from the heat and drain. Add the milk, eggs, 1/2 tsp salt or substitute and 1/8 tsp pepper. Beat until fluffy. Stir in grated cheese and spread over the peppers.
Bake, uncovered, at 425°Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350° and continue to bake for another 20 minutes or longer, until top is golden brown.
Ed note: I added more cheese to the top.