While we were planning our trip to Montreal, one place we really wanted to check out for dinner was Garde Manger. My mom is a huge fan of Chuck Hughes and his show Chuck’s Day Off on Food TV so I tried to call in about a month before our trip to make reservations. Unfortunately, our visit coincided with a long weekend and the small size of the restaurant was also unable to accommodate our party of eight. However, once we arrived in Montreal, my parents happened to be wandering past the restaurant and my ever so persuasive dad wandered in and was able to finagle a reservation. The only caveat was that we’d have to split our party up and go on separate nights. It would have been nice if we could all go together but we decided that it would be an ok compromise to split up so we’d have an opportunity to eat at Garde Manger.
Jenkins, Grick, Snoopy, and I ended up visiting on the first evening and we almost walked past Garde Manger’s non-descript entrance (above). Luckily, there is a mini chalk board in the foyer that confirms you are at the right place.
While we perused the chalk board menu, both Snoopy and I decided to indulge in the (non-alcoholic) drink of the day, a fizzy ginger lemonade. It was pretty refreshing and had a nice balance of ginger and lemony flavour.
We decided to order a bunch of dishes to share. First came the jerk crab. The crab was sweet but it was actually a little hard to pick out the crab flavour since the jerk flavour was really strong. This was a really spicy and in-your-face dish which had us reaching for our drinks to wash down the spiciness. The all spice was really evident here and I think this seasoning would have went well with almost any type of meat but Jenkins felt that the jerk seasoning here overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the crab.
We also had to try that lobster poutine since that was one of Chuck’s winning dishes from the Iron Chef America show. The gravy here was slightly milder so it actually went well with the meaty lobster and the fries were crispy on the outside yet soaked up the gravy flavour. The cheese curds were all pretty melted but also went nicely with the lobster.
The duck breast was nicely seared and came medium trending medium rare. To me, the real star of this dish was actually the creamed corn, which was buttery and creamy without overpowering the sweet and slightly crispy corn. The corn wasn’t really crispy but I liked how it was perfectly cooked without being mushy…you know what I mean. If I could have ordered the corn on its own, I definitely would have.
We also ordered a fried cod, which came with a vinegary coleslaw and some type of peach chutney. The breading on the cod was thicker than I was accustomed to but it made the exterior super crispy and protected some of the moisture in the fish. However, as with the duck breast, I actually enjoyed the coleslaw side more, which had a terrific crunch and a slightly mustardy vinaigrette dressing.
For dessert, we decided to share a couple of items as well. We had really wanted to order more but we had already spent the entire day stuffing our faces so there was only so much we could cram in at dinner. First came some cinnamon sugar doughnuts with some whipped cinnamon mascarpone cream and a hint of lemon. The doughnuts were fried perfectly and the crispy exterior gave way to a moist and airy inside. I dolloped healthy amounts of the delicious mascarpone cream onto my doughnut and thoroughly enjoyed each bite.
We also decided to indulge in a deep fried Mars bar, which also came with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. The batter on the Mars bar was similar to what we had in the cod but the thick crust seemed to work better with the chocolate bar than the fish. The crust actually tempered the extreme sweetness of the Mars bar, which was nicely melted inside but not searing hot, like I thought it would be. Compared to the chocolate bar, the vanilla ice cream didn’t seem sweet at all but I think that worked out well in this case.
We quite enjoyed our meal at Garde Manger but perhaps because we were so hyped to go, we were surprised to find that some of the dishes fell short of expectation. For me, I actually enjoyed my desserts much more than the appetizers and mains but I’m not sure if that’s attributed to the dishes we ordered. That being said, we were told that the jerk chicken and lobster poutine were some of the most popular items on the menu. Service was excellent and very attentive throughout the evening though. As a side note, when my parents went the following night, they reported that they enjoyed the dishes that the ordered and service was also great for them.
408 Rue St-Francois-Xavier, Montreal