Through the good shots and, sometimes, the not so good, our restaurant critics tell you about their experience, introduce the team in the dining room and in the kitchen, while explaining what motivated the choice of the restaurant. This week: the mysterious cocktail and oyster bar jjacques, in Quebec City.
Posted at 11:00 a.m.
Why talk about it?
The capital is no longer so “old” as that. The pretty restaurants, refreshments, izakayas and cocktail bars that have sprung up in recent years bear witness to this. One of the most intriguing establishments of the lot is undoubtedly jjacques, a cocktail and oyster bar opened in 2019 in the Saint-Roch district, on the lively rue Saint-Joseph. His particuliarity ? You have to look for your entrance, out of sight, on the side of the angels. Once the door is open, you enter another universe. We also crossed it in order to live and tell the experience.
Who are they ?
The same gang of friends behind the Asian restaurant Chez Tao! and the Mexican taqueria Julio opened jjacques. These night owls wanted to create a unique place in town: an elegant and out-of-the-ordinary cocktail and oyster bar to welcome customers who, like them, love nightlife, good liquids and good food. The place stands out for several reasons. Its location and its design, first — the place is windowless. Even if the entrance is hidden, the desire was not so much to create a “speakeasy”, explains Noémie Ducharme, one of the co-owners. “The goal is for people to go on a trip. At jjacques, you totally disconnect, you could be in New York, Montreal or New Delhi! »
If you arrive in front of jjacques by rue Saint-Joseph, this sibylline sentence, displayed on a closed door, will welcome you: “To find the light, follow the saint towards the city which opens the door to the kingdom of angels. Because yes, it is behind the building, on the improbable little alley-like street that is Notre-Dame-des-Anges, that you have to go, via rue de La Cité, to walk in. Between a container and some graffiti stands a metal door like the others; you have to press the bell to visit jjacques.
Even inside, the bar hides from sight, hidden behind heavy velvet curtains. Once the curtain is up, you enter with a certain delight into the narrow space, where the bar with its stools stretches out on one side, and plum-coloured benches on the other like so many little cocoons in which to take refuge, separated by vaporous cream-colored curtains. At the back, we discover another cute little room where a few high tables are scattered and where there is a second bar.
Here, seafood is king. The magnificent seafood towers are the main attraction. They can have one, two or three floors, then are garnished, depending on the height, with oysters, worked mussels and clams, razor clam and salmon tartars, whole lobster, snow crab or ceviche of scallops.
An intolerance to molluscs, however, made it impossible to taste all these delicacies from the sea. Prawns from Argentina, absolutely irresistible with their very tasty and well seasoned cocktail sauce, and the snow crab legs with their lemony mayonnaise were however a great alternative.
The rest of the menu is divided into plates to share. Vegetables (Brussels sprouts, roasted celeriac, etc.), fish (salmon gravlax, grilled mackerel), citrus burrata, lobster ravioli or a T-bone, for die-hard carnivores, are on the menu.
Most of the dishes that paraded during the evening charmed us. The endive salad stole the show: the bitterness of the leaves went wonderfully with the salty intensity of the white anchovies, the meaty side of the marinated artichokes, the cottage cheese a la ranch, slightly tangy, and the dill, for a bit of freshness. A beautiful composition, very successful, presented in the form of mouthfuls which were declared “perfect” by all of our table.
Equally appreciated was the grilled broccoli, a dish warmly recommended by our dynamic waitress. Presented on a creamy labneh, it was seasoned with candied lemon and flavored with dukkah, a Middle Eastern blend of spices, seeds and nuts.
The highlight of the evening came in the form of a fried whole fish. The sea bass, with flaky white flesh, was beautifully dressed with very crispy skin, without being overly oily. The fresh cucumber and mango salad, with cilantro and chili oil, was a perfect complement to balance it all out.
For dessert, the inspiration around the banana split was less convincing. The mix — torched bananas, peanut and white chocolate crumble, cabbage stuffed with homemade sorbet, whipped cream — leaned more toward confusion than harmony of flavors. The profiteroles, too cold, were brittle to the bite. A rare false note in a very successful evening.
In our glass
One of the reasons to attend jjacques is its liquid, impeccable program. The cocktail menu, signed by Vincent Thuaud and bar chef Frédéric Pouliot, is well worth the detour on its own. The drinks are declined according to a qualifier: Audacity, Melancholy, Serenity or Ecstasy. We are impressed by the techniques and amalgams put forward, for example a brandy infused with butter and peach for a variation around the old fashioned. We loved the White Panther, inspired by the Gibson Martini, which incorporates Belle-Isle aquavit (flavored with caraway and dill). A chic and highly satisfying cocktail with its marinated pearl onion.
The wine list is also to match. Wines of thirst, which go well with fine seafood, are predominant here with a penchant for nature and biodynamics, and a fine choice of bubbles and champagnes. We tasted the organic cava Cami de Flors, a very dry brut nature with a nice floral touch on the finish, and the always excellent macerated wine Vater & Son, by the German estate 2Naturkinder.
Good to know
The place is open late, but is not the place for a drinking party. In its manifesto, the bar presents its guidelines: courtesy, moderation, inclusion, etiquette. We advise you to “present yourself in your best light to put yourself in the ideal state of mind” to appreciate the finesse of the experience offered to its maximum.
Depending on your mood, you can simply come for a drink and a platter of oysters ($3 each, $30 for 12, $55 for 24) or go all out for the full experience. The invoice will follow according to your inclinations. Seafood towers range from $65 (one tier) to $195 (three tier). Plates to share run around $15 for starter sizes, and $25 to $35 for larger dishes.
jjacques is closed on Tuesdays. The rest of the week, doors open from 5:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. The kitchen is open until 1 a.m. Reservations strongly recommended.
341 Notre-Dame-des-Anges Street, Quebec