Lard-caked cretons spread, foie gras and home-style pâté chinois meat hash? Check. Ragoût de pattes de cochon, or pig leg stew? Sure. But possibly the last item you would expect at dinner in Quebec is a razor clam. Elongated and exotic-looking, the shellfish seems a better fit for seafood-obsessed Spain, where fishmongers on the coast actually sell bunches wrapped in paper to sprinkle with lemon and devour raw.
Yet surprise, surprise: This isn't a stranger at all. The clam, for its shape known also as the "Atlantic Jackknife," is native to Canadian waters. And it's on the menu in tiny St-Jovite - a village northeast of Montreal - at Sebastien Houle's restaurant sEb, l'artisan culinaire, which specializes in virtuoso presentation of such offbeat locavore finds.
Situated minutes from Mont Tremblant ski resort, four-year-old sEb offers "fine Quebec cuisine" influenced by the years that Montreal-born Houle spent browsing markets from India to Australia as he crisscrossed the ocean aboard mega-yachts such as Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Tatoosh, for which he was executive chef. The white and wood-panelled walls adorned with didgeridoos and African masks are decidedly chalet-global-chic; the crowd, befitting Tremblant's reputation as the "Aspen of the East," is an A-list après-ski one including regulars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
From its reasonably priced table d'hôte, try the North Atlantic puffer fish with lemon emulsion, the braised, locally sourced lamb, and crunchy pumpkin crumble with sorbet of Quebec apple cider. And those clams. Prepared in a smooth teriyaki-sake reduction, they're simply heaven.
444 rue St-Georges, St-Jovite; 819-429-6991; www.resto-seb.com
Special to The Globe and Mail
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