Here’s the last post of my restaurant series on Québec City, where I also visited Patente et Machin, then food truck Panache Mobile. I also stayed at Château Bonne-Entente, the subject of a post to come.
We actually never planned on eating at Bistro SSS on Saint-Paul Street, near the Old Port. When I asked my social media peeps for gourmet addresses in the National Capital, my first criteria was: No bistros please! I wanted to explore a more “ethnic” Québec City, I said. I was met with sarcastic laughter from locals who provided 2-3 addresses with multiple warnings about the dearth of foreign cuisine in their city. The best and most recommended was Hosaka-Ya, which it turns out was closed for summer holidays.
Because it was hot and sunny, since we wanted to hang in Québec and given that my men were more open to trust after a succesful evening at Patente et Machin, they agreed to a French-style bistro, not their usual haunt of choice. I had my heart set on Toast! from the same team as SSS. Christian Lemelin, chef at both establishments, won Best Québec Chef last year, quite the achievement. But there were no tables available at the time we requested.
So we settled on affiliated Bistro SSS where a few outdoor tables line the sidewalk, with pedestrians actually strolling down in-between, a first for me. It was a beautiful summer night, everyone was smiling and relaxed, so why not? The setting, the street, the setting sun, all conspired to make the coming night magical.
Bistro SSS’s menu embraces a trendy americanized version of bistro touching all the bases, which is actually why I dragged my family there: foie gras (they were out), crab cakes, tartares, designer poutines and burgers, the menu choices were tailored for my junk food carnivores. Like so many children, kiddo tends to dive head first into the bread basket, so I ordered salmon spread and popcorn shrimp for him, while his parents splurged on BBQ duck wings and foie gras & piglet pogos (both excellent). In the end, my famished son ate the spread, the shrimp, one pogo and all but one duck wing. I cancelled his main dish.
First ahem moment of the evening, the popcorn shrimp were fairly generic and the salmon spread reminiscent of something you could whip up at home in a jiffy. We had planned to share, but it arrived in the smallest ramekin, without olives or crudités, meaning the bread bucket (of delicious baguette) could never be up to the task by its lonesome. Yet it took forever and ever to be replenished, with the smile that characterized the competent service as a whole though.
I saw the homemade blood pudding arrive with a touch of wariness. The pudding itself was excellent, but I just didn’t get the side of leafy greens and cold pasta in dressing, which inevitably mixed with the hot mash. Even now, when I uploaded the picture for this post, I started once more shaking my head in disbelief. Monsieur, for his part, nibbled with little enthusiasm the pork ribs which, though fall-of-the-bone tender, lacked smoke and zest. “Maybe if you didn’t eat everything cooked to death, you might have enjoyed the tartares more, they seem to be more of a house specialty,” I teased snarkily.
Now, let’s talk dessert. I’ve been known to bemoan how sundae has fallen by the wayside trendwise. A good parfait is hard to find these days. So I was happy to see quite a few on the SSS dessert menu. I set my sight on the daily special, a meeting of chocolate, berries and two ice creams. Kiddo, suddenly hungry again, asked for brownie. Good for him, it was rich, dense and intensely chocolaty. My “sundae,” on the other hand, turned out to be almost the same ingredients served in a bowl rather than a plate, with different ice cream flavours and that’s it. Good, but my search for an honest-to-goodness sundae goes on…
The verdict? I’ve seen reviews where Bistro SSS is described as gastronomy meets snack, but the food leaned heavily — and most times successfully — on the latter side. Of course, there’s something decidedly copy-paste to the menu that hits all the crowd-pleasers, which is basically why I chose it. Sometimes, I imagine chefs going over their menu with a pencil: Salmon? Check. Pasta? Check. Tartare? Check. BBQ Chicken? Check. Bavette? Check. Designer Poutine? Check. All that was missing at Bistro SSS is the ubiquitous homemade cold-cut platter…
If my men were less junk food, our experience might have wandered more towards the carpaccio, tartares and goat fondue that beckoned strongly. If I were an actual fine dining critic, I could just command the menfolk to order more original, or vegetable-base, fare. I only wish.
71 St-Paul Street, Old-Port, Québec City, G1K 3V8