Location: Kendall Square
Cuisine: French Canadian
Perhaps eating at a French Canadian restaurant on an 80 degree day wasn’t the best planning, but I did learn that no matter the climate good food is simply good food. It was the Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend and also my birthday. After a weekend of corn dogs and Budweiser it was time for some Quebecois refinery. After a 10 minute walk from Kendall for the restaurant you enter into a ivory yet cozy dining room. Greeted immediately, and 25 minutes early for the reservation I had made, I realized there was time to grab an aperitif. We were led up to a dimmer, wood paneled dining room with a small bar. The lights are a mix of candles and lamps, the space perfectly curated to the cuisine. The drink of choice was a “Continental Fix” which was: French gin, chartreuse, thyme, and oro blanco shrub. The drink came served in a Waterford Crystal glass, with a paper straw and a lemon. The weight of the glass alone transformed what could have been just a simple pre-dinner drink into an experience. The dimly lit bar, the wood panels, the glint of the light from a lamp off the groves of the glass; I was feeling Quebecois all before I was even shown to my table.
Once seated, the menus were scoured. Slightly different then the one you will find online the temptation to order Foie Gras for 2 at $125.00 was ever so tempting. After conferring with the waiter (who deserves a shout out here for knowing the menu and being personable throughout the entire meal) we went for the French-Canadian version of charcuterie. The sourdough bread was a perfect pairing for the array of meat and fat that was presented to us. The foie torchon was the perfect sampling for two of what a foie gras feast would look like, a feast that would be much better suited for the colder parts of the year. Minerally, savory, buttery, there are not enough words to properly describe the foie torchon; so all I can say is make sure it makes its way onto your table. The cultured butter was also a nice follow up to the foie torchon, it brought a sweet and salty punch after a gluttonous bite. Another star was the creton. Presented in a small mason jar, with a layer of fat/marrow that you blend with the weighted butter knife, once slathered on the sourdough bread the flavor is out of this world. Not wanting to leave anything on the table, we had two orders of sourdough to dip, spread dunk and maneuver.
Feeling sufficiently satisfied after consuming a plank of meat and fat, a second glass of wine was ordered: the 2014 Francois Cozin. A sufficient white, my one wish was that I had taken time and sufficiently researched the wine as aggressively I did the food menu. That said, there was never a chance for the wine to be the star of the show; the soft shell crab and the smoked half chicken delivered to our table and nirvana was reached. Each bite was flavorful and textured, complex yet approachable. It may be the best bite of a chicken I’ve ever had in a restaurant. The soft shell crab was breaded to perfection and the dip (which was creme fraiche or something close to it) could have been eaten with a spoon alone. There was minimal speaking during this course of the meal, both internally and externally to the waiter who nodded at our thumbs up from afar.
After the plates were licked clean, the question after every delectable meal came: dessert? The answer: yes, the parsnip cake. Before you judge the parsnip cake that you never gave a chance, the presentation was the only thing I had stopped and managed to get a poorly lit photo of. The earthy taste of the cake mixed with the whipped cream and the soaked apricots, which I believe were soaked in sherry or brandy but I was too full and happy to commit it to memory, was the perfect finish to the meal. It truly encapsulated the entire journey of eating at Café Du Pays: the unique yet familiar dichotomy, the sheer deliciousness of the food, the attention to quality and detail both on my plate and off it. I am quite sure I will be back for more Café Du Pays.