Zeste De Folie
Well, after reading all the great reviews on this site about this place, I decided I had to try it out myself. I think it offers one of the best QPRs in Montreal. The decor was nice, clean and classy, grey walls, tiny discrete light fixtures and a couple of tasteful paintings hung unobtrusively. The staff were welcoming yet not overbearing. After ordering yet while waiting for appetizers they brought us each a shot of gazpacho that was nicely balanced with satisfying zings of coriander.
My date and I both took the Tables D'Hote, I began with the pave de saumon: two morsels of salmon marinated in a citrusy-sweet vinagrette served up with a crown of fresh herbs and some smoked salmon for decoration. Very nice for an appetizer albeit somewhat simple. She had the Foie Gras Creme Brulee with vanilla-infused apple and pear salad and a small green salad with a pop of orange nasturtiums. Although it was an extra 10 bucks, it was worth every penny. The idea of combining the burnt sugar topping everyone has come to love on creme brulee with a succulent foie-gras filling along with importing what is traditionally a desert over to the appetizer side of the menu was surprising and enjoyable. I won't harp here about the merits of foie gras, but the salty-creamyness of the filling, combined with the sugary crunch and the delicious a cotes was an unparalleled culinary experience.
The mains were equally impressive. She had the mignonettes de porc and I had the bison. Both of our meats were tender, succulent and marinated to perfection. Both meals were served up with riced mashed potatoes and some simple steamed vegetables. The simplicity of the plate nicely contrasted with the complexity of the flavours (the Bison came with a sweet onion and orange confit).
After the meal was done, they brought us tiny chocolate mint cakes while we waited for desert. We both ordered the creme brulee and were happily surprised to find out that the desert was not one, but three small cups of creme brulee: one blueberry, one mint and one tea-flavoured. These were served up with tiny homemade cookies that added an excellent touch. All three were incredible - not too sweet, and the flavours weren't overpowering. The house coffee was also quite good - I'm not usually a fan of drip but it was a sultry and elegant medium dark roast that finished everything off quite nicely.
All in all, the experience was unbelievable and majestic without feeling ridiculously pretentious. It ended up costing around 100$ for two - before tip and wine. That said, the fact that it's a BYOW place helps cut down your final bill a good deal (I brought along a bottle of Trapiche Malbec Fut de Chene - inexpensive and delicious). I can't stress enough how wonderful the staff was, it was surprising - I didn't feel as if I was in a restaurant at all - they were discreet yet warm and friendly without being overbearing. Their timing was impeccable.
As university students, it's not the type of place that one can go to every weekend, but for a special night out that won't break the bank, I can't think of anywhere better in Montreal.
I live near Le zeste de folie and love going there at least once every 2 months, they change their menus at around that interval of time, because the food is excellent! I just saw a review of Yoyo that said that it was ordinary and ever since I have been going to Le zeste de folie, I have difficulty going to other BYOW. My parents went to Yoyo recently and said that Le zeste de folie was better and we are picky eaters in the family!!
Their bavette de bison is incredible. I had it once and it was exquisite. Their salmon tartare is very good also. Their desserts are worth the trip also.
I recently had a chance to go, and I was pretty impressed. There were some misses, but many hits, and I enjoyed the food. I had the grilled corn and asparagus salad, it was very light and elegant. The corn was nicely grilled and the dressing was complex but not overbearing. It was a wonderful summer salad. Hubbie had the wild mushrooms with poached egg and chives, which was much richer. The sauce was full of umami, the egg added an incredible richness to the delicious mushrooms. This dish was insanely good, one of the best mushroom dishes I've had in a Montreal BYOB.
I then had the seared scallops in a mango-mandarine sauce. The scallops were sweet and perfectly cooked, tender and not at all rubbery. The sauce was bright and savoury despite all the fruit, and was an excellent match for the scallops. I was worried the sauce would be too sweet and acidic, but they balanced the sauce very nicely. But I did not enjoy the accompanying watercress and vegetable salad, which was overwhelmingly dominated by the watercress. There were also some bits of grit in the salad that diminished the quality of the dish.
The amuse bouche of roasted red pepper soup was light and summery, and very flavourful. A small piece of pear semifreddo before dessert was also a unique and creative touch.
I was a little disappointed by my dessert, which was angel food cake with a berry mousse, it was a little heavy and not very interesting. Perhaps I just chose wrong.
I really like the menu, they take some risks, and the menu is adjusted for the season. Their dishes are more creative than some of my favorite BYOB standbys. I also liked the fact that they have lovely stemware, which is nice if you are bringing special wines. And the service is excellent. I found the staff very accommodating (we had a friend with food restrictions, and they were very helpful). There were certainly some misses, but I think these misses are worth risking, as they are signs that the kitchen is engaged in the creative process, and are willing to risk mistakes to achieve excellence. La Zeste de Folie is a refreshing change from the sameness that pervades many of the French BYOBs in our city. I'll go again!
"I don't know if the grilling somehow negated the sweetness."
To my palate, grilling does negate the sweetness, partly by caramelizing some of the sugar, I suspect. It also brings out the corn flavour. Grilled on the cob and served with lime juice and cayenne salt is just about the only way I can enjoy the currently available corn varieties. I'm giving up on other preparation methods until some decent corn comes on the market.
I know for a fact that they buy their meat at La Boucherie du marche Jean-Talon so there is a good chance that they buy their corn there also. I had asked Sophie, part of the owner team/her husband is the chef, because I thought that their bavette was so tender that I was curious where they bought it.
I went 2 weeks ago and had a cold soup made from chicken stock, corn and coconut milk. It was excellent! I also had their bison bavette and it was really tender.
It still is one of my favorite restaurants!