REVIEW: Champlain in the Château Frontenac

IMG_8212The Château Frontenac: Quebec City’s most prestigious symbol. Le Château has always been a hotel with a highly regarded restaurant, a famous Chef, splendid ballrooms and luxurious rooms. Le Château was the lifestyle of the rich and famous, the lieu of residence of the upper class and glamorous of this world. To me, le Château Frontenac was not part of my social standing and definitely not accessible.

Le Château is where I celebrated my high school graduation, the idyllic place to commemorate this rite of passage into adulthood. It is during this celebration that I tasted horseradish for the first time. I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting at a dinner table set up in the grand ballroom and putting what seemed like an enormous amount in my mouth out of pure curiosity. My eyes started to water, my mouth burned, my whole body started to heat up.

It’s at that time in my life when I started to notice food and single out tastes, flavours and spices. It’s when I started spending my paychecks in restaurants, worked as a waitress and developed my interest in flavours and aromas. Never would I have imagined that one day, food would occupy such an important place in my life.

You can now understand a bit more about the excitement I had when I received an invitation to eat at the Château Frontenac. Life works in mysterious ways where I believe everything happens for a reason.

Renovations

Fairmont Château Frontenac has invested over 75$ M in renovations to remodel and modernize a great part of this 120 year-old institution. The dinning setting has also been redesigned, but with respect to its history and traditions. Three distinct areas created for three different culinary experiences: Bistro Le Sam, the 1608 wine and cheese bar and Champlain Restaurant. All three overlook the Saint-Lawrence River, but it’s the Champlain’s long canopy overlooking the Dufferin Terrace that offers the most splendid view.

The meal

The grand crystal chandelier
The grand crystal chandelier

I arrived early and sat at the bar, Le Sam. The bartender offered an old-fashion as I tried to settle in my seat and not show too much excitement. Tonight I’m eating at the Château Frontenac. I managed to keep calm and focussed until I sat at the Table du Roi under the Champlain’s grand crystal chandelier. I felt like the most important person in the room, like I was about to live the most lavish culinary experience. And at that moment in time, it was an epic romantic culinary adventure.

Chef Stéphane Modat is a skillful culinary artist. He blends trends, traditions and textures to create expressive food art where every plate is a seductive play on flavours. It’s introduction for this evening: burnt lemon mousse Beausoleil oyster. Acidity meets sweetness and minerality. Love in a shell.

Then appeared the lobster tail, delicately perfumed with coconut milk. I especially enjoyed the exotic audacity of this plate, letting simple ingredients bring their own plot to the plate. This one a charming short story titled “With Love From Champlain” set in a European countryside château. A real page turner.

Modat’s dishes successively conquered my palate. Halibut, sunchoke and black garlic cream – my first experience with black garlic, one of the trendiest ingredients among young chefs in North America- morels, chanterelle, black truffles, deer, etc. etc. etc. Every ingredient its purpose, every essence presented with elegance where textures brought -in my mouth and with the Champlain’s new decor- pleasure in a timeless environment. Champlain has yet again conquered…my palate.

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