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Top Ten

Canada's best new restaurants


GARÇON!

Armed with only writing implements, a carry-on bag and a very hearty appetite, Chris Johns embarked on enRoute's fourth annual survey of Canada's Best New Restaurants. Here are his results:

1. Garçon! (Montreal)
Chef Jérôme Lefils'idiosyncratic menu pairs lamb's lettuce with porcini (dressed with truffle vinaigrette) and a beef bone leaking rich marrow. Mushrooms and chestnuts are sautéed in lard and served with luscious Quebec lamb loin. This is pure sensory delight for adventurous diners who are comfortable with a high level of pampering in a refined setting.

1112 Rue Sherbrooke O., Montreal, 514-843-4000

2. Rosemeade Dining Room (Victoria)
Bright, harmonious flavours abound at this old English inn: rare seared Alaskan scallops with bone marrow and veal jus, dandelion greens and a fennel purée; artichoke salad with sharp white-anchovy dressing; and raspberry chocolate fudge with a cookie dough ice cream cone and vodka-chilled raspberries.

429 Lampson St. (at the English Inn and Resort), Victoria, 250-412-7673

3. Le Club Chasse et Pêche (Montreal)
The menu gives little away: “Duck foie gras two ways: seared and parfait” only hints at the dark succulence of the creamy seared liver and jammy rhubarb. The signature dish, described as “new school surf and turf,” pairs poached lobster and braised brisket with a creamy celery root purée that brings silken acidity.

423 Rue Saint-Claude, Montreal, 514-861-1112

4. Raza (Montreal)
This unassuming restaurant's elevated Latin fare is a revelation. The crunchy foie gras empanada is slick on the inside with rich duck liver, pork and sweet apple chutney. Quarters of prosciutto-wrapped quail cradle tiny cubes of stuffing, anointed with guava barbecue sauce. Exotic and artfully presented, this is beatific food.

114 Avenue Laurier O., Montreal, 514-227-8712

5. George (Toronto)
Chef Lorenzo Loseto's small plates are not quite appetizers and not quite entrees. Instead, three small courses are recommended, followed by dessert. This approach means ribbons of pink beef tenderloin served as a composed salad with caramelized salsify and truffled quinoa; smoked sablefish with basil tempura and saffron-pickled vegetables; veal paired with a pecan potato pavé and chèvre mushroom gratin; and a chocolate frangipane tart enhanced by ginger ice cream.

111C Queen St. E., Toronto, 416-863-6006

6. Chambar Belgian Restaurant (Vancouver)
A formerly forlorn spot on the edge of Gastown is now one of the hottest destinations in town, thanks to an inspired blending of Belgian and Moroccan cuisine. You might begin with a trendy octopus carpaccio, move on to traditional Moroccan lamb tajine (think honey, figs and cinnamon) and end with Belgian waffles.

562 Beatty St., Vancouver, 604-879-7119

7. Ô Chalet (Montreal)
With its cowhide bar stools and maple-syrup-bucket light fixtures, this place is intentionally kitschy but not gimmicky. Imagine the best TV dinner you've ever tasted but with breaded, fried pork terrine and lobster in place of the Salisbury steak. The cordial staff and sophisticated cooking combine to create a feeling of soothing warmth and good clean fun.

1393 Boulevard René-Lévesque E., Montreal, 514-527-7070

8. Fleur de Sel (Lunenberg, N.S.)
Open May through December, this beautifully restored house-turned-restaurant offers locally sourced ingredients, carefully prepared with French techniques and Spanish influences. A hearty but delicate terrine layers ham hock with portobello mushrooms, all wrapped in Savoy cabbage. Baby squid are stuffed to bursting with saffron risotto and served with an expressionist slash of squid ink sauce. Book one of the cozy rooms upstairs and make a weekend of it.

53 Montague St., Lunenburg, N.S., 902-640-2121

9. Panache (Quebec)
Chef François Blais gives full expression to the best possible local ingredients. Pristine Arctic char is served as tartare. Goulu farms duck is spit-roasted and glazed with maple syrup. And the ice cream beignet, served on sabayon with caramelized apples… let's just say that 200 years from now, people will still be raving about it.

10 Rue Saint-Antoine (in the Auberge Saint-Antoine), Quebec City, 418-692-1022

10. Thuet Cuisine (Toronto)
He may be the enfant terrible of Canadian cuisine, but this time it's Marc Thuet's Alsatian-inspired food that's making headlines. Flavours are bold and aggressively confident: Lobster poached in muscat butter and dressed with sea urchin is rich in the extreme; an ethereal cauliflower mousse accompanies the veal.

609 King St. W., Toronto, 416-603-2777

Read the complete reviews in the November issue of enRoute.

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Main Photo: MARTIN GIRARD / SHOOT STUDIO

November 2005