Beaver Hall is located in the heart of downtown Montreal, just a few blocks away from the Hilton Bonaventure. We were looking for a place that served quality French cuisine in the 20-30$ entrée range, and our concierge recommended this eatery. I had a list of highly recommended restaurants from friends and family who spent time in Montreal, but none of them could accommodate a large group of students on such short notice. So we crossed our fingers that with a name like “Beaver Hall”, it didn’t turn out to be a Canadian sports pub.
Luckily, the clientele appeared to be business people and young professionals. The décor was nothing out of the ordinary, standard looking but warm and clean. When I think of a “French bistro”, this is the image that pops into my head.
On an unusual note, one of my friends noted that the booth where we sat had practically vertical back supports; good for our posture, but not the most comfortable seat I’ve been in. Our waiter was knowledgeable and helpful, translating the partially French menu and recommending dishes.
Our first bite was a sampler of white mackerel, celery, and green apple. The fish was lightly salted and tasty along with the crispy sweetness of the apple and celery. This little palate cleanser may have been my favorite part of the meal.
Next up was a trio of appetizers. The calamari had such promise, super fresh and one of the most tender I’ve ever had. It came with two sauces, a spicy cocktail sauce, and a light tartar sauce. Unfortunately, the calamari was coated in oil that tasted old and burnt, spoiling what could have been a really great dish.
We also ordered the beef carpaccio, which was decent but didn’t stand out as a memorable dish. It had a good flavor profile with arugula salad, parmesan, and portobello mushrooms topped with a light vinagrette. The beef itself was a tad on the chewy side, contributing to the mediocrity of the dish.
The last appetizer was a salmon tartate with lime and wakame, mullet roe, and soya reduction. It was constructed like a “bagel lox” with the salmon topped with a delicate biscuit and cream cheese. The fish itself was fresh, and went well texturally with the cracker and cream cheese, but like the carpaccio, it didn’t pop with anything special. The wakame and roe were difficult to distinguish as well. Also, the garnish of capers, radish, and red onions felt like unnecessary additions that didn’t add to the dish.
Jason ordered the wild mushroom cannelloni with asparagus and ricotta as his main course. The cannelloni was perfectly al dante and stuffed with a variety of mushrooms (portobello and crimini amongst others), all slathered in a sauce reminiscent of an upgraded Campbell’s mushroom soup. The sauce wasn’t too heavy, and didn’t overwhelm the natural flavor of the mushrooms. The two stalks of asparagus were tender and nicely cooked, the dish overall surprisingly filling considering it was just one tube of pasta.
I ordered the Beaver Hall cassoulet, which is the Southern French version of a rich, slow-cooked casserole of meat and beans. It was an incredibly hearty dish to say the least. There were three types of meat: a hunk of pork belly with more fat than I would normally eat (but did anyways), a piece of duck confit with fall-off-the-bone meat, and a section of pork sausage. The meat flavors were mild and blended in with the mellow tomatoes and beans, with everything topped with a dusting of bread crumbs. There weren’t any distinct flavors that stuck out, but that worked for this dish. Overall, a very warm and rustic dish that hit the spot on a cold day in Montreal.
For dessert we ordered the classic vanilla creme brule, which was an absolute steal at $5.50. The picture doesn’t do the brule justice, it was such a large portion that four of us had no problems sharing it (one person would have a tough time polishing off this by himself). Quality-wise, it would rank a solid 7.5/10, with a nice crispy top and balanced innards. The better creme brules deftly balance sweetness with a smooth texture, and this one hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t the best tasting creme brule I’ve ever had, but certainly the best value.
Last but not least, we shared an order of the flambeed crepe suzette which they prepared table-side. The crepes were soft and flavorful with a clean and tangy orange flavor, and just a hint of liquer. It had a natural orange flavor that didn’t taste artificial at all and had a good level of sweetness. My one complaint was that the crepes were a little soggy for my liking, but my friends didn’t have an issue with it. $8.50
Overall impressions: The service was friendly, helpful, and attentive, and the value of our food was unquestionable. However, the food quality and preparation was a miss for a few of the dishes, with the calamari in particular coming to mind. Some of the dishes were spot on, like the hearty cassoulet, the canneloni, and the creme brule, while some of the others were merely average. I’d recommend some of the dishes, but I feel that inconsistency prevents Beaver Hall from being in that top echelon of restaurants.
H’s Verdict – 3.5/5 stars
Restaurant website: http://www.beaverhall.ca/