You don’t need me to tell you that the craft beer scene is booming. Mostly because this is a food and not a beer site, but also because, well, clearly it is a scene going through it’s own big bang. But through the food world here in Montreal (which is top notch-as if I need to tell you) I had been hearing that a new place was opening up that could very well be the best of both worlds. Luckily for you, my Phatsoes, I like both food and beer so I sacrificed myself for you and decided to shove obscene amounts of food into my face at Brasserie Harricana. The ever hungry and thirsty Pete decided I should not be a martyr on my own and joined me. And, new to this space, my friend/cousin-in-law, The Fugitive would be meeting us there too.
I happily discovered that the last Tuesday of each month they have “Tap Takeover” night and we’d be drinking some of Brasserie Dunham’s finest. This would mean, sadly, that I wouldn’t be sampling any of the housebrews from Harricana this night but hey, if the food is good you know I’ll be back and at some point just be shoving my face right under the taps and sampling whatever they’ve got. I look at it this way; if a highly regarded brewer like Dunham is working the taps here they must be off on the right foot. Wow, I just dealt with happiness and sadness in the same paragraph. Amazing! As we walk in I realize that for the first time since I can remember I am going to be eating in a Montreal restaurant with a completely clean slate. I don’t know a single person who’s been yet since it’s so new so I have no preconceptions whatsoever about this place.
Ok, maybe I should stop rambling and get down to it. I instantly loved the look of the place. The decor was a cool mix of old school Quebec brasserie and slick Asian/sushi place. The lighting was dim too which always makes me better looking so that’s a plus. As we wait for The Fugitive we sample some awesome beer and get nice and relaxed to some great tunes. Once he arrives we call over the manager/co-owner Marie Pier and explain we’d just like to try out a bunch of the food without really picking anything in particular from the menu. Oh, and if she could match up some beer pairings too that would be great.
As we’re waiting for the food to join us at our table The Fugitive decides to recount his origin story to Pete and I. It was a dark and stormy night (emotionally) in Toronto and The Fugitive was on a baseball/football road trip with some cousins. After a few cold ones they decided to walk around downtown Toronto in search of a late night poutine to ease the pain of a possible hangover. In Montreal this would take about 5 minutes but outside of Quebec…good luck. After about 45 minutes The Fugitive realizes he cannot wait any longer, he must use a restroom. Alas, with none readily available he found what most of us find in a pinch such as this; a wall down an alley. As he begins to take care of business one of the cousins calls out “Hey man, let’s go!” and he, like most men, replies with “Don’t talk to me now!” But then he hears a stranger calling out to him “Hey! You! What the expletive deletive are you doing?!” At this point he figures alright better make this one quick before I get myself mugged Toronto style (I think that’s when they give you money and force you to wear a Maple Leafs jersey). So he starts to briskly walk away when the aforementioned stranger spins him around by the arm and starts screaming. Not one to enjoy being spun around he pushes back and a tussle ensues. He gets tossed to the ground and has a knee crush his chest (and break a rib) and he then sees the word “Police” on the guy’s shirt. I am pretty sure that means the same thing it does here and so he begins to apologize and now understands that he was in essence whizzing on a cop station. Turns out they don’t like that. And thus a nickname was born. Did he score that elusive poutine? Who cares! We just got food at our table!
It turns out that Marie Pier figured we meant we wanted to eat ALL of the food so she brought us a plate that covered just about everything to start. Oysters with stout mignonette(!), pickled onions, pickled carrots, pickled umm pickles, homemade chips, kick ass hummus, aged cheddar, devilled eggs, and celery with a blue cheese spread. Hot damn that is a ton of food! Everything was really good but the highlights for me were the oysters, the pickles-which Marie Pier beamed about being a family recipe she borrowed from her mom, and the cheddar. That plate was one hell of a way to start a meal. She also brought us 4 small glasses of beer to match certain parts of the plate so this night is obviously gonna get crazy. There seemed to be a bit of a miscommunication between the wait staff and the kitchen here and we waited for a bit before our next food arrival. I’m not one to need to rush out of a place though, and I had all this beer to still work on, so it’s not a deal breaker for me and I can chalk it up to opening jitters. Other than that, the staff here was great and we were having a great time.
You ever crave a poutine real bad but then think oh man I just can’t deal with the hassle of using a fork to eat today? Me too! Imagine if someone would take the magic of a poutine and put it in a hot dog bun. Guess what? Someone did. Up next was a sexy trio of hot dog buns. One stuffed with a poutine, one stuffed with a spaghetti meat sauce akin to what we here call a Michigan ( not sure what the American equivalent would be- a chili dog?), and lastly, a lobster roll. The ability to shove meat, gravy and cheese into my face whilst foregoing a fork is a beautiful moment. That moment doesn’t last long though because soon that food is gone. The star in this round is the lobster roll. While most places will go full on overkill with mayo these guys get it right and have a perfectly balanced, creamy flavor highlighted by a nice zingy citrus touch. I think I could have had 10 of those. This came with 3 more beers too. I gotta start pacing myself.
So now we await the main dishes and I fear, whether it’s the 78 beers I’ve had, or the giant plates of food, I am starting to feel a little full. I need a bit more beer to get a bit more tipsier so I can not care that I am full so that I can destroy the food that is coming. This proves to be a wise move once I see what is up next. Our server, bent over with the immense weight of our food, hobbles over with a braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes and green beans, a char broiled steak, some super sexy ribs on another bed of mashed potatoes and green beans, a side of fries, and a side of some roasted beets with their greens. I did mention that we were only 3 dudes eating, right? Oh, and here come 3 more beers. Alright, time to pull up my pants and get serious which is weird for me cause usually I take off my pants before I get serious. As you all know I am of Ukrainian descent so the fact that she has served me an assortment of pickled foods AND beets has certainly won her extra points in my books. The 3 meats each had a nice smokey quality to them and none even required a knife to cut them with. I could have easily eaten any of these plates with 2 spoons, seriously. I always love me some lamb and the slow cooking of this bad boy was great. The ribs had a nice crust on them to counter the “tender to the point of falling off the bones” action going on. But the steak…oh baby, the steak. Expertly charred to form a similar crust that the ribs had, brilliantly seasoned, and still perfectly medium rare in the middle. Traditional steakhouses should take note. No fancy tricks done to this piece of meat but I would put it up there with one of the better steaks I’ve had in a while. Oh, and there were 3 more beers.
There is no room for any dessert tonight but Marie Pier still brings us a little chocolate truffle action which caps off the meal perfectly with the bit of stout I had left to polish off. Many pounds of food and 81 beers later I feel good, I know I look good and I can tell I am getting smarter and more charming by the minute. I’m also starting to realize how much I just love everyone and want to hug them. I wasn’t sure what to expect here because with the beer scene growing the way it is we can start to expect to see some duds opening up just in the hopes of riding the coat tails of the pioneers of the craft beer movement. I can safely say that with the quality of the food, the great look of the place, and the potential to have about 15 house beers on tap that things look promising here. So promising in fact that I am not even ashamed that I reference an old Scorpions song in the title of the review. Don’t know who The Scorpions are? Go ask your parents. Want good food and good beer? Go to Harricana.