554 Duluth E., corner of Saint-Hubert. Mont-Royal or Sherbrooke métro. BYOB
RESERVATIONS: 849-8844. HOURS: 5 p.m. on. Closed Mon. NO-SMOKING SECTION: No. WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No. PRICES TABLE D'HÔTE: $22.95. CREDIT CARDS: Visa, Mastercard, Amex.
Of all the great French BYOBs in Montreal, La Colombe (the dove) stands apart as being just a little different. It has the elegance, intimacy and quiet decor of Les Héritiers, LEntrepont or Le Pégase, but it also has an identity all its own. A large part of that soul is Moustapha, the long-time chef of La Colombe, whose passion and professionalism gives him the strength, day-in, day-out, year after year, to keep turning out incredibly good cuisine française with a twist, for anyone who cares to come by and share his passion for good food.
La Colombe's location, at the corner of residential Saint-Hubert and Duluth, is attractive and it is especially enjoyable to gaze at the snow-laden trees and triplexes in winter, as you dine safe and warm inside.
Ah, but the food, you say? Well, from the moment you enter, the smells will captivate you: unlike many restaurants on Duluth, subtle aromas tantalize the nostrils in anticipation of an exquisite feast for the taste buds.
As an hors d'oeuvre, the soups are impressive, including a very elegant gazpacho made with fresh tomatoes in summer. Try the delicious and copious vol-au-vent descargots aux poireaux (tasted again recently); raviolis farcis au homard dans une bouillabaisse, or the crème de poisson au safran.
Again, unlike some restos, which come on strong with the first course but have no energy left for the second, La Colombe excels with their plats principaux, gaining force as the night goes on.
Their multi-coloured chalkboard has four table dhôte selections, two of which are usually fish dishes, a specialty here. Moustapha is fond of preparing such relatively unusual fare as Boston bluefish (tassergill au beurre blancdelicate and rich), shark or grouper. Also often on the menu: saumon à Porange (a classic tasted recently, perfectly cooked with a sweet tang), mignon de porc au miel et aux épices, gigot d'agneau du Québec à l'infusion de thym, and filet mignon au poivre vert (tender and succulent).
The conundrum here is that while the chef obviously has a sweet tooth (orange, porto, blueberries, maple syrup and other sweet flavourings often figure in his dishes), he definitely goes for the all-fruit, low sugar desserts!