Restaurants come and go at an incredible rate in Quebec City. Within the last year, a minimum of five new restaurants have opened. Among these Les Sales Gosses, a bistro that prides itself on a bad boy image, measures its maleness with skulls and, well, a dirty, dirty name. Among its “masculine” menu, lamb testicles and pork ass. Nothing to seduce me.
The first time I walked by Les Sales Gosses was on the second day of its opening in July. I noticed pork as a major part of the menu. My first reaction was to compare it with my favourite bistro -a few street corners away- masters in the art of cooking the Turlo pork in Quebec City. I wasn’t immediately tempted by Les Sales Gosses’ menu.
Then a few months later, Les Sales Gosses came up in a discussion with my blogger-friend Sylvie. She mentioned trying the restaurant this summer and being rather charmed by the work of the sommelier, even more so than the chef’s. That was my cue to taste. I am always tempted to try restaurants that leave an impression, whether positive or not. Les Sales Gosses it would be, on a Wednesday evening with my friend Emily.
My first impression: the decor has no warmth or soul to it. Everything is just black or white. The long back wall of the restaurant is made of brick, but painted in white. What a waste! The black ceiling, dark wooden furniture and long, black banquette send an austere climate. Lighting over the table is a little too aggressive and the skull painted on the wall isn’t really welcoming. The decor feels as though Les Sales Gosses is trying really hard to mirror virility, and it shouldn’t.
And so the food…
Emily picked the elk tataki served with ice cider and black currant, creamy Brussel sprouts, sunchokes and meat jus vinaigrette. If you’re familiar with this blog, you know what I like to eat on a restaurant’s first visit, tartar. I chose deer with a mere instance of Meaux mustard and chives along fine potato juliennes.
Both meats stood out. Raw deer doesn’t have a strong taste, but the chef gave it all his attention. The elk was a little stronger, but the sweet cider, vinaigrette and Brussel sprouts balanced its flavour. A great introduction, with nothing dirty about it. Not a touch of attitude in my mouth.
The service was impeccable. Our waitress was a little too familiar at the beginning, but managed a flawless service. Our glasses of wine were filled regularly, we never ran out of water and she didn’t hesitate to call upon the somm when we started asking questions about the wine. I get great satisfaction and confidence in a waitress who doesn’t pretend to know it all. Shows one cares about giving a great service.
Emily’s barbecue beef blade (marinated in Jack Daniel’s and ginger, carrot purée, fingerling potatoes and mushrooms) and my pistachio-stuffed guinea fowl (sweet onion purée, creamy carrots and pearl onions, potato gnocchis) were delectable. The sweet onion purée had a very subtle taste of aniseed, a compliment to the very light pistachio taste. Unfortunately, the broth was too salty for my taste and much too overwhelming in flavour for such delicate flavours. But, I could tell the chef’s creative notion of flavour composition and desire to conquer the epicurious palate. Then came the seduction: pintade, gnocchi and purée danced lambada with my taste buds. So velvety smooth and in perfect medley that only a “dirty” dance could complement this delectation happening in my mouth. Maybe that’s where they take their name from…
The somm recommended a bottle of 2011 Damilo Barbera d’Asti, a mineral, medium bodied wine that could have benefitted from time spent in a carafe. He gave comprehensible wine descriptions and aromatic explanations without omitting availability at the SAQ. That’s when he joked about profit margins pointing to restaurateurs who “usually make lot’s of profit with the rest of their menu”. Ironically, our 50$ bottle at Les Sales Gosses is 23$ at the SAQ; is that considered a large profit?
Unlike what their name suggests, there was nothing rebellious about Les Sales Gosses in our meal. No punches of fire, coarse grill taste and opulent grease, but rather delicate touches of fine flavours to compliment superb meat. Apart from the eclectic and sometimes hard-electro musical playlist (why EDM in a bistro, why?), nothing reminded me of a rigid bistro suggested from restaurant’s overall decor. Oh and the testicles and pork ass.
Les Sales Gosses wants to be a neighbourhood bistro where good quality of food meets a well designed wine selection. Les Sales Gosses is charming and much more delicate with flavours than what the name appeals to. Unfortunately, the menu doesn’t have a wow factor that makes it stand out from other bistros in the city. It doesn’t (yet) have what it takes to win me over from my favourite bistro just a few street corners away.
Les Sales Gosses
620 Saint-Jospeh est, Québec QC G1K 3B8