I guess I can be a bit of a traditionalist, I’ve always adhered to the age-old dining convention of turning to wine or beer to accompany my meals. Avoiding hard liquor during dinner was one of those rules of etiquette that had been drilled into my head by my mother. Unfortunately, you’re simply guaranteed to have more fun when you break the rules, sorry mom! And that’s exactly what happened at the 4th edition of the tournée mixo-gastronomique that was held at Brasero Hardi in the Old Port last Wednesday. It is safe to say that I’ve officially been converted!
The tournée mixo-gastronomique, TMG pour les intimes, is a great new concept brought to us by Keven Dextrateur. TMG is an event that takes place at a different restaurant every month where a prix fixe tasting menu is paired with a selection of original cocktails. The restaurant creates a special three-course menu and well known Montreal based mixologist, Lawrence Picard, is in charge of regaling our taste buds by creating the perfect drink to complement every course. And let me tell you, we were in good hands.
We were served a generous salad of grilled octopus, fresh herbs and lardon. I have rarely had grilled octopus that was so tender, so I knew we were off to a good start. The parsley, dill and fennel really contributed to the freshness of the salad without being overpowering. The crisp saltiness of the sea asparagus and the pickled cucumbers were the perfect counterparts for the salad’s vinegary tones. The richness of the lardon finished it off perfectly. The salad was accompanied by the Waldorf Cocktail, a mix of Tequila Sauza Blue, lovage juice (which can be described as a sour celery), fennel, and fresh lime juice with a Meyer lemon salt rim. For some reason, I was expecting it to be close to a Caesar. Was I ever wrong. It was so light and citrusy, all the while having a savoury finish. It tied in perfectly with the salad.
I had never been to Brasero Hardi, but had heard nothing but good things. Chef Judith Laflamme has described it as a happy mix between a steakhouse and a bistro, where meat takes centre stage. And what’s more summery than grilled meat? Given that this was a degustation menu, I was pleasantly surprised when I was presented with a sizeable pork T-bone for our next course. It was resting on a bed of roast potatoes and asparagus and topped off with an amazing salsa verde, shaved asparagus and a mint garnish. It was paired with la Belle et le Bois, which consisted of cherry wood smoked Canadian Club whisky, griottes purée (dark sour cherries), Meyer lemon and amaranth syrup. The delectable smoky sweetness of the drink was the perfect counterpart for the grilled meat, adding a whole new depth to the meal.
And finally came the dessert, a fruit tartar served with orange water and pepper mignonette in a mason jar. The perfect bite, which united the fruit, the whipped cream and a spiced fruitcake, was sweet and fragrant all the while remaining delicate. The dessert was paired with an appropriately sweet cocktail with a Caribbean twist, the Brasera Colada. It featured, Brugal rum as well as Velvet Falernum, a sweet syrup often used in Caribbean cocktails, that had been infused with Indonesian pepper. It was then mixed with coconut water and fresh pineapple juice to create a very light and subtly spiced blend.
Although it was raining and the weather was less than pleasant, the courses and their pairings almost made me forget all about it. This was pretty much the perfect summer meal. It would have been even better if we could have enjoyed it in their courtyard. The historic stone walls, the vines concealing the fire escape, the fairy lights, this type of courtyard is part of what makes dining in the Old Port so spectacular in the summer. Brasero Hardi is one of those places that has an effortlessly trendy vibe with that added Old Port charm, where old and new mix seamlessly. I particularly liked the collection of vintage erotic photographs that greet you on your way to the bathroom.
TMG is the perfect way to discover great new restaurants and to explore the world of mixology. I can definitely say that Keven has come up with a winning formula. So much so, that he’s even been invited to take the concept to France. We just found out that the tournée mixo-gastronomique will be taking off in Reims in 2014!
Don’t miss the next edition of TMG, taking place at Barracca in the Plateau Mont-Royal. This tapas bar boasts 55 different types of rum from 20 different countries. Really looking forward to seeing what Lawrence will have concocted for this tapas inspired, rum soaked evening!