Sherman's Food Adventures: St. Lawrence Restaurant

St. Lawrence Restaurant

Similar to my visit to The Botanist, this dinner at St. Lawrence has been a long time coming.  To be blunt, one reason it took so long was the rumour circulating that they do not appreciate picture-taking in the restaurant (flash or no flash).  However, much like The Botanist, the reviews were solid and people were raving about the French Canadian cuisine.  Fine, I'll bite.  So I agreed to meetup with Maggi, Kristina and David for a meal among friends and early enough that there would be some natural light for some pictures (smartphone and camera).  Turned out that they didn't say anything about the pictures, so the delay trying the place was stupidity on my part.

There was no doubt as to which dish we had to get no matter what - Oreilles de Crisse or fried pork rinds with maple syrup & spice.  Whimsically plated in a maple syrup can, these crunchy little bites overflowed onto the plate.  Whatever they seasoned these with, it should come with a warning that addiction is likely.  Just enough of a hint, the maple syrup was lightly sweet while balanced off by the savory spice.  I could literally eat a few plates of these myself.  The next dish was something quite rare in Vancouver.   As Kristina remarked, the Quenelle de Poisson resembled the French Canadian version of a Chinese fish ball or mousse.  She wasn't far off, but the quenelle was a lot more delicate and airy than the Chinese version.  It was sweet and fishy (in a good way) being complimented by the lobster cream sauce that was aromatic while easy on the salt.  The side of shrimp were buttery and perfectly prepared.

Our next 2 small dishes were comprised of Steak Tartare with chèvre noire & potato chips and Chicken & Duck Terrine.  If you know my tastes by now, I really like food that exhibits a certain level of acidity and tanginess.  Therefore, my personal bias ensured that I would like this tartare.  For others, it was a bit overwhelming in addition to the strong truffle essence.  The chunks of
chèvre noire were pretty impactful which also took away from the tender beef.  Again, I still enjoyed the tartare and the chips were the perfect vessel.  As for the terrine, it was a nice portion that featured large chunks of tender meat, fat, pistachios and spices.  All together, there was enough inherent meat flavours to make an impact.  Of course, the mustard was a welcomed condiment too as it brightened things up.

Onto our larger plates, we started with the feature of the day which was Crispy Veal Sweetbreads with red wine & truffle sauce, onion ring, chanterelles and corn.  This had to be some of the largest pieces of sweet breads I've ever eaten.  As such, beyond the crispy exterior, the centre was soft, tender and moist (partly due to execution and partly due to thickness).  With the woodiness of the mushrooms combined with the sweetness of the corn as well as the beautiful red wine sauce, there was enough umaminess for impact rather than relying on salt.  Although the Côte de Porc with fromage Oka & sauce charcutière didn't seem like a sexy dish, it turned out to be delicious.  Let's start with the pork chop itself, it was fully cooked while still moist and succulent.  It sported a caramelized sear and sat atop pomme puree with Oka cheese which was decadent being smooth, creamy and nutty.  The butcher's sauce was no slouch either being meaty and deeply flavourful (not salty though).

Staying with heavy and rich food (you get the theme here right?), we had the Steak St. Lawrence consisting of a medium-rare grilled hanger steak, bone marrow, sauce aux poivres & frites.  Due to the cut of meat, its inherent natural meat flavour was definitely at the forefront.  As evidenced in the picture, it was perfectly prepared.  I enjoyed soaking up every drop of the silky demi that was full-of-depth and completely cooked down.  Of course we couldn't dine at a French Canadian establishment without ordering the Tourtière de Ville au Cerf (Venison Meat Pie).  Oh wow, this was very good featuring flaky pastry that held up to the ingredients.  Inside, the meat filling was super tender, appealingly dense and flavourful.   There was a pretty noticeable finish of cloves and nutmeg after the initial hits of meatiness and sweet onion. Not to be outdone, the jus was pretty rich and gelationous.  Loved the sweet syrupy house ketchup on the side.

Onto the sweets, we got serious with the Riz au Lait Façon L’ami Jean (Rice Pudding with salted caramel).  This was for the table and sported candied walnuts and their version of cinnamon toast crunch on the top.  Usually rice pudding can be pretty plain, but this was nothing like that.  Beyond the creaminess of the base, the caramel added depth of sweetness.  This was all aided by the sweet crunch from the toppings.  As a person who can't stand really sweet anything, the Tarte au Sucre
(Sugar Pie & vanilla cream) was not really something I preferred.  However, it was actually quite good.  Now I wouldn't be able to finish the whole thing, but the 2 bites I had were rich, deeply sweet and densely creamy.  I guess this was the perfect way to end the meal as it represents St. Lawrence very well.  The food is heavy, rich and in some ways, in your face.  But they make no apologies as they offer up delicious traditional French Canadian cuisine.

The Good:
- They don't hold back and produce truly delicious French Canadian cuisine
- Attentive wait staff
- Developed flavours that aren't reliant on salt

The Bad:
- Really heavy (that is what the food is like)
- On the higher end of the pricing spectrum (I thought it was worth it)


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