Quebec City: a feast of flavorsIn a city proud of its French heritage and culinary tradition, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Quebec City is famous for its gastronomic excellence. Quebecers take their food — and its preparation and presentation — extremely seriously. Here are several standouts, most within walking distance and within the walls of magical Old Quebec.
— Janet Thomas
Le Champlain, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, 1 Rue des Carrières, (418) 266-3905, fairmont.com/frontenac
To see Château Frontenac for the first time is to be transported to a castle-and-turrets fairy tale. The undisputed iconic grande dame of Old Quebec City, the Frontenac stays current with modern luxuries and amenities. Signature restaurant Le Champlain is an evening’s event of fine dining with French and continental specialties like duck breast fillet with honey from the Château’s rooftop, and classics like chateaubriand and bananas foster prepared tableside.
Restaurant Initiale, 54 Rue Saint-Pierre, (418) 694-1818, restaurantinitiale.com
Sleek and sophisticated would well describe both the decor and the food at this fine Relais & Châteaux eatery situated near the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City’s oldest historical district. Chef Yvan Lebrun and co-owner Rolande Leclerc meticulously oversee dishes from the land and sea, including the finest and freshest scallops, halibut, foie gras, and venison.
Restaurant Toast!, 17 Rue du Sault-au-Matelot, (418) 692-1334, restauranttoast.com
Dine inside or out at this modern, lively restaurant tucked inside Le Priori hotel in Old Port Quebec. Design accents of bright red and martini olives add pizzazz to the decor. Owners Stéphane D’Anjou and Christian Lemelin boldly cover all the bases with the cuisine, including Charlevoix emu tartare, grilled octopus, bison sirloin, and Quebec lobster and homemade black blood pudding croustade.
Le Saint-Amour, 48 Rue Sainte-Ursule, (418) 694-0667, saint-amour.com
For more than 35 years, chef Jean-Luc Boulay has been welcoming guests to Le Saint-Amour, which feels like a gracious friend’s light and airy courtyard. Foie gras is an absolute specialty here, and you can savor it in many different forms — from a whimsical creme brulee-style amuse-bouche to a classic Armagnac foie gras terrine with apricot and red wine pear puree. Each dish is visually artistic, with small flowers, herbs, and sauces arranged just so. Sommelier assistant Jean-Michel Beaudet will pair a fine wine from the restaurant’s extensive selection.
Le Panache, Auberge Saint-Antoine, 8 Rue Saint-Antoine, (418) 692-1022, saint-antoine.com
Housed inside a 19th-century maritime warehouse along the Old Port, Auberge Saint-Antoine, a handsome Relais & Châteaux property, Panache features warm natural woods and exposed beams that make the two-story interior feel like a rustic but rich chateau. Begin dinner with a specialty cocktail like the Val Ambré made with hints of maple sap and continue with a starter of delicate ravioli filled with shrimp. Main courses include classic French specialties and impeccable seafood dishes like lobster with tomatoes.
Laurie Raphaël, 117 Dalhousie, (418) 692-4555, laurieraphael.com
Chef Daniel Vézina is tres popular, and his commitment to excellence and forward thinking is evident in the relaxed, sleek setting of Laurie Raphaël (named after his two children). The open kitchen lets patrons view the chefs at work on specialities like ballotine of guinea fowl from Besnier farm. Also expect to find expertly prepared foie gras, duck supreme, snow crab, and oysters. Demonstration dinners and cooking workshops round out the offerings here.
Le Train DU Massif De Charlevoix, (877) 536-2774, lemassif.com/train
Businessman and co-founder of Cirque du Soleil Daniel Gauthier has outdone himself on this project. For a multisensory sojourn from Quebec City, board this spacious luxury train filled with large viewing windows, music, and lively historical videos courtesy of your table’s personal iPad. The extensive menu is indicative of the Charlevoix region’s famed local growers and producers that create what has long been known as the Flavor Trail. Two outstanding selections from the four-course dinner onboard include parsleyed escargot terrine and braised venison osso buco. The state-of-the-art train hugs the ever-changing St. Lawrence River for much of its 87 miles and makes stops in quaint Baie-Saint-Paul (where new Hotel La Ferme awaits) and La Malbaie (home of the stately Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu). Some guests choose to stay over a few days, or you can make the trip to and from Quebec City in one very special day.