Clairon, the Plateau’s newest farm-to-table restaurant, has arrived on Rachel Street, near St-Denis.
Owners Etienne Dufort and Maxime Descoteaux are calling their offerings “contemporary cuisine of the terroir’. Although, they admit, they aren’t inventing anything new here.
“We’re just doing Quebecois cuisine, but taking away the abundance aspect — the fat, the cheese — and bringing a more refined side without any pretension, while staying loyal to the ingredients as they are,” says Descoteaux. “It’s about traceability and proximity,” Durfort chimes in.
That wasn’t always the plan: while Clairon might be serving produce-oriented meat and vegetable dishes, the restaurant was originally imagined as a bakery, featuring desserts by Dufort’s mother, Claire (“Clairon”).
Dufort, for whom Clairon is his first project, worked tirelessly on a business plan for six months before reaching out to Descoteaux, a cook and longtime friend who, at the time, worked at Restaurant Bungalow on Mont-Royal Avenue, where he remains a partner.
“I managed to steal him”, Durfort laughs. Descoteaux’s arrival marked a departure from sweet courses.
“We sat down together at some point and and got talking,” explains Dufort, “and after like six hours realized that we had to do something a bit more...
“...top of the line” the pair blurt out in unison.
The menu reflects this, with dishes named very simply after their components — items like “Pork belly, fermented bean, pea sauce”, leave plenty to the imagination.
The majority of ingredients are sourced from producers within road-trip distance: the organic-only produce comes from Quebec, some even from Montreal; the pork is from a small farm in Saint-Ambroise-de-Kildare, an hour north of Montreal; and the beef from Prince Edward Island.
As a mostly dinner establishment, Clairon’s terrazzo bar boasts all-organic wines, as well as a selection Domaine Lafrance liquors, including Gin Dandy, Rouge Gorge (a vermouth cider), and Georges-Étienne, a Quebec-made apple brandy. In short, everything fits with the all-local approach.
The space, like the menu, is minimalistic yet flavourful. Designed by architect Dany Durand Courchesne, the long, slim locale is white, inside and out. By nightfall the big-window light gives way to dim, warm lights floating over the tables. A few of mother Claire’s canvases adorn the walls.
“No one had put love in this space since 1995,” says Dufort. “The cold room downstairs didn’t work— nothing worked.”
Yet it wasn’t all a mess: under four layers of (unwanted) linoleum flooring, the partners found a thick layer of terracotta earthenware tiling. “I wasn’t sure,” says Dufort, “I wanted to remove it,” says Dufort. “Dany was like ‘No, no, no, we’re not touching that!’”
As a statement, or perhaps as another ode to the locale’s previous life, the terracotta remains.
Dufort and Descoteaux, ages 27 and 28, respectively, seem only thrilled by their new undertaking, but acknowledge that “It’s a very big risk.”
“I think it’ll pay off,” says Dufort confidently, “because people are looking for this.”
STATUS — Clairon is open at 432 Rachel E (corner Rivard from 5 to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.
- Clairon [Official]