Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by Pamela
I remember the first time I walked passed Bistro St-Malo. It was not long after moving to Québec City, and early enough in the morning that there were freshly baked baguettes hanging from the door. “How French!”, I thought at the time. Back then, however, it was known as Café St-Malo.
Opening in the early 1980s, Café St-Malo was known for its exposed stone walls and wooden beams, views of rue Saint-Paul, and a menu filled with traditional French cuisine. A neighbourhood institution. When the restaurant was sold in 2018, after staffing struggles, the new owners – Philippe Racine (chef), and Philippe Fournier (sous-chef) – decided to keep the spirit of Café St-Malo alive.
Renamed Bistro St-Malo, the new owners spruced up the décor and added a bar with seating. The menu was also refreshed, and a handful of Mediterranean dishes were added to the traditional French menu.
I dined at Bistro St-Malo on a Wednesday evening, sitting on the outdoor patio as the sun set in the distance. When I arrived, I was greeted by Yannick, a tall waiter with a twinkle in his eye, and an animated presence, who promised to take care of me for the evening.
Although the steamed mussels appear to be the dish of choice on my visit, I decided to order tuna tartare. I’ll have to come back to try the steamed mussels, as well as a bowl of their French Onion soup. While I wait, I order a St-Malo cocktail, which is bright green and fruity.
The tuna tartare arrives with a small side salad. It’s buttery, with little bursts of grapefruit, and I eat it as slowly as I can. A light and refreshing way to start my supper. I’ve tried several tuna, salmon, and tartare in Québec City over the years, and in many places, I find, overdress. Thankfully, Bistro St-Malo does not do this, and it is now among my favourites.
Choosing the main course was more challenging, as there were so many interesting dishes to choose from. I’m curious about the cassoulet, as well as the sweetbreads. Duck confit and Steak frites are tempting classics as well. On the suggestion of Yannick, I order the lobster cannelloni, which he tells me is not done the Italian way. I’m not entirely sure what that means. Perhaps he’s referring to the stuffing, which is lobster, lobster, and more lobster.
The cannelloni arrives, bathing in a creaming asparagus and mint sauce, topped with pickled fennel and grapefruit salad, as well as a row of grilled asparagus spears. The pasta is filled with so much lobster that it barely holds together once it has been cut. Perhaps that is on purpose, as it gives me an excuse to scoop up sauce with each bite. The mint elevates the sauce to a point where I would probably drink it if that was an option.
The wine list has a wide selection of red wines, with a few whites and rosées. Of course, there are bubbles as well. Many of the wines are from France, however, you will find wines from Spain, Italy, New Zealand, and Canada as well. I chose a Sauvignon from France, which paired nicely with the cannelloni.
The cannelloni portion is generous, without feeling overly heavy or rich. Something I appreciate, as this allows me to order dessert.
As much as I adore crème brûlée, I order the Tarte Tatin, which has been recommended by Yannick, as well as a handful of friends. A classic French dessert, Tarte Tatin is generally apples caramelized in butter and sugar pilled on buttery pastry, just before it’s baked.
When the Tarte Tatin arrives at my table, the warm buttery pasty is resting in a pool of caramel and topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s decadent, comforting, and worthy of every extra calorie.
Bistro St-Malo is one of those restaurants where friends and neighbours speak its name in awed reverence. In fact, some still call it Café St-Malo. I may have taken a couple of years to dine at Bistro St-Malo, but I can guarantee I will be dining there again before summer ends this year. Possibly more than once.
lgbtqia2s+ safe space
eat at bistro st-malo
lgbtqia2s+ safe space • neighbourhood: old port (vieux-port) • 75 rue saint-paul • 418-692-2004 • bistrostmalo.com • reservations recommended
note: This restaurant experience was in partnership with Hôtel Nomad Québec, a boutique hotel in Old Québec’s Upper Town. In fact, this article also appears on their blog. All opinions expressed in this article are my own, and a true representation of my experience. In fact, I will happily return to Le Fin Gourmet and spend my hard-earned money because I am still dreaming about those morels!