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Marie-Claude Lortie Raises Her Glass to Martin Juneau's Cul-Sec

The hybrid concept works.

Xavier Girard Lachaîne

Chef Martin Juneau (Pastaga, Monsieur Crémeux) and company's restaurant-wine boutique, open since May, gets a look this week from La Presse critic Marie-Claude Lortie. Cul-Sec offers Montreal wine lovers a nice alternative from the government's SAQ monopoly, asserts Lortie, with its curated selection of private imports. The catch, of course, is that you have to purchase a dine-in or takeout meal. Not much of an inconvenience, the critic hints, when the food is this good.

Winners out of Cul-Sec's kitchen are a beet salad with fresh chèvre and pistachio crumbs; Norwegian trout and kale, sauced, sort of, à la Rockefeller; and the star dish of the night, a cod boudin: "L'autre assiette du jour s'avère tout aussi savoureuse: du boudin de morue, original, encore là très moelleux, fin, dont la chaleur juste assez salée entre en parfait contraste avec la fraîcheur d'un accompagnement de fines lames de fenouil."

Small quibbles range from the consistency of the Monsieur Crémeux-made ice cream sandwich to Cul-Sec's stools, which Lortie finds uncomfortable. But all that aside, Juneau's latest spot works. Lortie polishes off her meal, and takes her bottle of wine to go, vowing to return: "On entame la bouteille sans la finir, on la rapporte à la maison, comme on aurait pu tout emporter. Vive - enfin - un peu de flexibilité!" And bonus: Cul-Sec now serves weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CUL-SEC, cave et cantine

29 rue Beaubien Est, Montreal, QC H2S 1P7 (514) 439-8747