What is the secret to tables that last and do so with grace and relevance?

What first gave me the desire to visit (for the first time, I admit) Le St-Urbain, established in 2008 in the Ahuntsic district, was when the establishment revised its prices drop. While going out to a restaurant is more and more of a luxury, I wanted to see how this comes about.

Chef Marc-André Royal is one of those people who seem to have an inexhaustible reserve of energy. During the pandemic, he was not in the camp of the discouraged and pessimistic, but in that of those who rolled up their sleeves and adapted. I remember the rainbow croissants from his bakery La Bête à pain which, suddenly, appeared on my social networks. The kind of thing that makes you smile through a dark time.

In addition to being a seasoned chef – there is Le St-Urbain, his baby, and the big family of La Bête à pain (Ahuntsic, Griffintown, Laval and a fourth branch soon) – Marc-André is passionate about hunting, fishing and outdoor. Since the beginning, his partner has been Chantal Gervais, in management and on the wine list. At St-Urbain, he has been supported for five years by chef de cuisine Lindsay McLaren and a loyal team – there have been front-of-house staff at his side since day one!

This tight-knit family feel is felt as soon as you set foot in St-Urbain. On this Friday evening at the end of April, the dining room is full, the sound of conversations, the clinking of glasses and the action in the open kitchen form a gentle hubbub that immediately puts me in a good mood. Yes, the vibe is good here.

With its elegant but fairly simple bistro look, its blackboard on the wall listing the daily specials, the aesthetic of the St-Urbain dining room has something quite timeless and comforting. A place sheltered from the tumult, where we come to visit old friends. It is undoubtedly thanks to this that the place can count on a loyal, even unwavering, clientele.

The cuisine served here is somewhere between bistro and market cuisine. The chef sources his supplies from Ferme de Rue, an urban farm located nearby, allowing him to rely on extremely fresh market garden products. You will see the seasonal products parade one after the other. During our visit, fiddleheads, shrimp, snow crab and halibut, in particular, were featured.

And that price drop? It is expressed in particular in simpler, but gourmet starters. At $12 each: smoked trout croquettes with spicy aioli – all tender beneath their crispy exterior – or these freshly landed Nordic shrimp, to peel and dip in a turmeric and lemon aioli, a simple delight, but oh how satisfying, to eat with your fingers.

Snow crab is a luxury item; the plate is more expensive, at $22, but I don’t regret for a second having succumbed to this salad where the delicate taste of the crustacean is enhanced by the addition of herbs, including chervil. It’s fresh, tangy, very tasty.

For the main course, I found the halibut a little overcooked. A shame, because the accompaniments – all green and tender fiddleheads, asparagus purée and miso mousse – were impeccable. But I loved the ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms, soft as a cloud.

Satisfied, we have to move on to the dessert round, even if the long filaments of hot donuts, caramel sauce and fleur de sel, a classic of this table, catch our eye. We’ll see you again, St-Urbain!

The wine list offers a nice mix of more classic vintages with some artisan and Quebec wines. Organic or biodynamic wines occupy a privileged place. We tasted the Blanc-Sain, an organic chardonnay from Arnaud Combier – usually not my favorite vintage, but whose buttery side was balanced by a lovely freshness. The place also offers a few cocktails highlighting local alcohols and products.

Starters ranging from $12 to $24, desserts like a créme with duck cappelletti or green salad at $14, more substantial dishes between $26 and $34; $12 for desserts. Don’t want to choose? The kitchen has you covered for $95, in five courses.

The dining room can accommodate people with reduced mobility. Very few vegetarian choices, but pescetarians will be delighted. The sunny terrace is now open. In action from Wednesday to Saturday evenings, and newly for dinners on Thursdays and Fridays. Reservations recommended.