It's a really neat French-Canadian restaurant whose owner is from Montreal but immigrated to New York to become a Broadway actor in the 60s. Then he went on to open his own restaurant in Soho with a specific French-Canadian/Acadian flavor. He's an uber energetic and talented person - when we walked in he also came in with a bunch of flowers while singing and dancing a tune.
We were seated near a booth that boasted a cool buddhist sculpture painting and nice chandeliers. There was a long table in the middle that was under reservations. Most people there seemed to have reservations, although when we went it around 6.30 there were hardly anyone there.
We chatted with the friendly owner for a while before ordering. For starters, we ordered the Quebec clam chowder that hubby absolutely insisted that I got. You can mix and choose two1/2 entrees, almost like samplers. I got the jumbo shrimp with sweet corn relish and the herb-crusted cod with potato leek puree and roasted pepper. Hubby got the black bass with sauce verte and grouper with artichoke and cauliflower puree.
We were served with a roll of sourdough bread when we were seated. It was really nice and crusty with a soft interior. Hubby really liked his, especially with the extra creamy butter sprinkled with some brown crystalized salt that looked like brown sugar. I actually thought it was sugar and smothered a lot of it on my bread, but then realized it was salt ><. (Brown sugar + bread would have been nice though!)
I waited until my soup arrived to dig in, and I'm glad that I did, because the clam chowder was absolutely divine. It was uber creamy, with a lot of potato and onion and clams at the bottom. The seasoning was just right, and the two pieces of toast blended nicely with the smooth texture. It was probably the best clam chowder I've ever had.
Quebec Clam Chowder
Here's a closer look at that bowl of deliciousness:
You can see that the soup is bursting with content and flavor, something that doesn't always happen with clam chowder soups, especially because I don't like it extra milky or buttery. But this was just perfect. The onions on top added a nice touch of color. I couldn't help but agreeing with the restaurant's motto - Quebec sait faire (mais pas la guerre).
With some help from hubby, I managed to finish my soup and my bread (he ate most of the bread though). After a few minutes of chatting with the owner (who pops up with every table now and then to check up on satisfied/dissatisfied customers), our main entrees arrived.
Herb-Crusted Cod + Jumbo Shrimp
It was beautifully arranged on a plate, although it it kind of emphasized the small portions. The herb-crusted grouper was on the left, and the jumbo shrimp on the right. There was a small portion of greens with vinegraite dressing up at the top.
Black Bass + Grouper
The pictures turned out pretty dark because it was a rainy day that night and by the time we got our food it was getting dark. The tables were filling in at this time - everyone who came in looked like they were old friends of the owner's, hugging either him or the waiter. I could definitely see why - this is your neighborhood joint to chat with old friends and neighbors.
We also ordered a side of brussel sprouts, bacon and apples, under the recommendation of hubby's coworker. I really liked this dish as it was pretty tangy and sweet. The apple and bacon combination was nice, and I even detected a hint of maple syrup drizzled on top.
I don't know if you can make out this picture, but it's hubby's grouper. All the fish were uber fresh and nicely cooked to a tender but firm interior. But I thought it could have been more flavorful because well, being Chinese, the fish is usually heavily seasoned. I didn't really enjoy my herb-crusted cod because I wasn't used to the herbs (too strong for my liking), and the cod itself was kind of tasteless.
But the jumbo shrimp (pictured above) was really nice - charcoal grilled to a perfection. I think they must have marinated these babies beforehand because the meat was well seasoned.
I traded one of my jumbo shrimps for a bite of hubby's black bass. It was pretty nice, but again, the fish was not that seasoned. I guess that's why there are so many purees with the fish dishes, so you can soak it in the sauce like French people do.
I don't know why they didn't refill our bread like other restaurants, because it would have been a bit more filling than having just the limited amount of fish and other veggies.
So alas, I finished everything on my plate - and I was still hungry!
By now, the reservations were filling in steadily. There were a group of people from Montreal who started sing O Canada. I joined in for a while, but then they stopped, and I was kind of disappointed. Then the owner came in with a birthday cake and started a birthday song for a table near the window. The whole restaurant joined in.
The table next to us ordered a whole plate of raw oysters, and I really wanted to try one after they were saying how delicious it was. We contemplated getting a dessert from Le Pascadeux (like the Quebec City Sugar Pie or the Caramelized Bananas with Vanilla Ice cream), but decided against it because hubby wanted to take me to his favorite dessert place nearby.
So we wandered around Soho for a bit before going to...Eileen's Cheesecake! It's a really small hole-in-the-wall with more than 10 flavors of cheesecakes. We got a blueberry cheesecake and small coffee.
Oh my goodness I have to say that it was the best cheesecake I've ever had in NYC. No wonder it's been boasted such a title. Mostly, the cheesecake was rich but not too overwhelming like a lot of other cheesecakes. The blueberries were real and wasn't drenched in a super sweet syrupy sauce. The main thing is that it retains all the original flavors without being too overbearing on your system.
We sat at one of the tables and enjoyed our cheesecake. I really wanted another one, but somehow found the willpower to resist myself. Behind us were two Chinese people debating which cheesecake they should get, and a table of two Japanese teenagers gossiping and giggling away. It's a very neighborhood friendly joint, just like Le Pescadeux.
**** (4/5 - mostly for the ambience, not so much for the food)
Kids-sort-of-friendly (reservations is a must!)
Not much room for kids