May 12, 2016
I remember like it was just yesterday: it was March and I had just plopped down $200 to support Chartier’s Kickstarter project. I was paying for a meal for two at what was going to be Beaumont’s newest and greatest French-Canadian restaurant and going to experience all that was promised to me by the campaign video. Fast forward over a year later and now I’m writing about my first eats at Chartier. I have so much to say — brace yourself for photographs of dinner and brunch, and lots of swooning.
French cuisine was actually my first love of food. Being Vietnamese, the French baguette is what I grew up with. I didn’t see sliced white bread until much later. I was taught by my mother that all broths needed to be crystal clear, how to tell if a croissant was legit, and how to make a mean beef stew that was reminiscent of French colonial times. When I first saw Chartier’s Kickstarter campaign, all I could think of was, “I need this in my life. I need good French food.” I wasn’t alone, and with 558 other backers, owners Sylvia and Darren Cheverie were able to raise over $100,000 to bring make their lifelong dreams come true.
First off, let me say that Beaumont is nowhere near as far as I thought it would be. In my head, Beaumont was two hours outside of Edmonton. In reality: it’s a half hour away from the downtown core. Um, what? It’s also a hop, skip, and jump away from anybody residing south of the river. Get yourself onto the Henday and you’re golden. Trip to Ikea or South Edmonton Common for shopping soon? Go to Chartier for a meal.
A straight road once you turn south onto 50th Street, Chartier is located right in the heart of Beaumont. It’s just so cute! I’ve never been to Beaumont before and to be honest, I’ve been missing out! The interior space is rustic and in the quaintest way possible: old church pews, barnwood scavenged from the area, and lovely incandescent lighting decorate the room. There’s even a feature wall with the names of all their Kickstarter supporters! If somebody asked me where they should dine solely based on rustic charm, Chartier would be it. Even their spoons make you giggle.
I wasn’t sure if Joe was up for the drive (he prefers noodles and close proximity to home) so my first meal at Chartier was with my always-up-for-it friend Diane. We didn’t even know where to begin with the menu. Everything sounded wonderful. Our server, Leah was no help — she loved all the dishes as well but did mention that the pork jowl cakes were a great way to start. It was at this point that Chef Steve Brochu came out and said that he would take care of us and would just keep the dishes coming until we said stop. Oh no…
We started off with the feature of the night: Coho Salmon Ceviche with charred fresh ramps, grapefruit slices, and sourdough bread and salted butter. I was happy to see local business Effing Seafood spread his love all the way to Beaumont! Texturally, the ceviche was fantastic and loved the bites of charred ramp. I don’t think I’ve really had ramps before…
The Pork Jowl Cakes came out next and both Diane and I were swooning at just the plating of it. Talk about Instagrammer’s dream come true. Pork jowl (or cheek) is one of my favourite parts of the pig, and one that I’m familiar with from all the ramen escapades! Pan fried and formed into cakes, this was one of the most memorable dishes for the night. I was surprised by the lack of fillers used in the cake — amazing amount of tender pork crammed into a taste bomb. Combined with a black pepper jam and an apple rocket slaw, this dish really took it to the next level, a well-balanced bite of tart, sweet, savoury and also the arugula’s pepperiness. Is that a word? Anyways, it comes out piping hot, so be careful and control yourself.
You can’t really go to a French-Canadian restaurant and not order the Poutine. Our appetizer sized Canadian staple came with triple-cooked handcut french fries, cheese curds, and a gluten-free Montreal gravy. The menu says it’s “magic” and I believe it. Cheese curds currently not made in house quite yet but they were squeaky so I was happy! It’s the fries that get all the love, the best bits and pieces being the ones with crispy skin. We both couldn’t stop eating!
Half way done our poutine, I started to wonder if Chef Brochu was actually serious about not stopping until we told him to. Thankfully our server Leah was always there to check up on us and probably passed on the word that Diane and I were slowing down. Our last appetizer for the night was the Crispy Duck. The dish was true to its description, crispy (and apparently, gluten-free!). The use of blue cheese and rosemary in the ganache was pleasant as a sauce although hard-pressed to find if I hadn’t reread the menu. It was also described with sriracha, which surprisingly didn’t overpower any other flavours in the dish, albeit question usage in a French-Canadian restaurant. I didn’t know what to think about the smoked broccoli, although I think personal taste really comes to play as Diane absolutely loved it!
For our mains, we were served the Tourtière, a meat pie with bison, pork, and confit duck. The pie crust was flaky, the fillings well mixed and tender. I couldn’t quite put together where I’ve had this before when I realized that it’s been a part of my childhood all along. Memories of my mother making the Vietnamese dish, pâté chaud, came flooding back to me and boy did I get excited! Served with brussel sprouts and a housemade rhubarb relish, this was a winning dish!
Usually cubed and braised in a red wine sauce to make a stew, I wasn’t expecting a bigger cut on our Beef Bourguignon plate. Because I already had that visualization in mind, I thought the dish needed a touch more sauce or moisture. Granted, when eaten with the smashed pear and bacon roasted mushrooms (oh lordy!), the entrée was much better. A kudos to whoever peppered the dish, seriously makes a world of difference!
You know the deal, there’s always room for dessert. The Tarte au Sucre comes with a housemade salted whiskey ice cream. I mean, come on. The flavours were on point and the texture of the ice cream was smooth. It’s a butter tart cousin and perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Chartier’s Creme Brûlée rotates flavours and that night’s feature was orange. Our custard was perfectly set and smooth, creamy in consistency and had a great vanilla flavour. I found it difficult to find any citrus notes from my bites that night but neither of us seemed to mind.
Dinner at Chartier in Beaumont was outstanding and I was already planning my next meal there. There’s just so many other dishes to try and my goodness, there’s even a bread window that pops up on weekdays to catch! It shouldn’t surprise anybody then that I was back at Chartier within the month to try out brunch.
Joe humoured me for the second visit — he claims to not understand brunch — but was looking forward to seeing what I had been raving about all week. It’s a shame Chartier doesn’t offer a patio, it would have been perfect for a sunny afternoon!
We both started off with local roaster Iconoclast coffee before ordering our meals. Joe chose the Eggs Donovan, poached eggs with shaved Montreal smoked meat, pickle, and a delightful dijon hollandaise over a housemade English muffin. I’m not the biggest fan of mustard but the amount of dijon is just right on this dish. I also think that pickles should make more appearances at brunch. Genius. The fries were crisp and perfect, much like it’s poutine cousin, and Joe was finished with his dish before I could blink. I take it he doesn’t mind brunch so much when it’s this good.
I didn’t think it was too early for a bit of Duck and Waffle, the chicken-alternative being my favourite for any time of day. Might have bit off more than I could chew (physically), the dish is massive! As Chef Brochu stated as the dish came out, “It’s a bit fiendish.” But OH MAN, was it good. A sweet Cap N’ Crunch crusted duck thigh, whole wheat waffle, and berry preserve with thickened maple syrup, the dish comes across like it would be a sugar high but was actually quite savoury. I had to keep fighting away Joe’s fork as it reached over to steal a waffle square numerous times. I don’t even know if I want to try anything else on the brunch menu… how can you top this??
Okay, maybe you can. We ended up taking a Cinnamon Bun for the road. I don’t know how people will take it when I say this, but I think Cinnzeo cinnamon buns are the bomb. And never have I tasted a restaurant-made cinnamon bun that has come close to it until now. Chartier’s cinnamon bun is perfect. I kid you not. It’s enormous (sorry, no pics, I ate it all) and comes just doused with a cream cheese icing. I basically have to time my weekday errands perfectly now for that elusive bread window just to get this again! Or come back for brunch. 🙂
With a dinner and a brunch under my belt, I can confidently say that I am so, so, SO jealous that Beaumont has Chartier to call its own. Both meals were two of the best I’ve had this year so far and I just can’t wait to come back! The food and the atmosphere is fantastic, and to top it off, either Darren and Sylvia Cheverie are on the floor and to make sure service is smooth and that customers are happy. It absolutely love it when I see chefs and owners going to tables and getting to know their customers. If you haven’t been yet, please put this at the top of your list of eats! I’m going to call it right now, one of the best restaurants to open for 2016. Trust me.