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Chez L’épicier bringing touch of Montreal to Palm Beach

Posted On: 07-19-2015

By John Nelander Special to the Daily News

Palm Beach diners are in luck if they like their French cuisine with a slice of Canada on the side.

Chez L’épicier plans to open Wednesday, July 22, with food and personnel exported from a popular Montreal eatery that serves a menu packed with French-Canadian twists. That includes – naturally – a specialty cocktail made with maple syrup.

The restaurant has been a year in the making. A corner of the landmark Palmway Building at Royal Palm Way and South County Road was transformed from a long-vacant space into a quaint but elegant dining retreat with a casual touch.

The owners – Chef Laurent Godbout and his wife, Veronique Deneault – have been coming to the area for a decade and dreamed about opening a version of their Montreal restaurant, but family issues got in the way.

“It was about timing,” says Deneault, the hostess at Chez L’épicier. “But we passed by this corner shop about a year ago and I fell in love with the location. It’s exactly the same kind of location we have in Montreal, where we’re also about one block from the water.

“It has lots of windows, and the address in Montreal is 311 — here it’s 288. The feeling was exactly the same. We knew it was going to be here, for sure.

”But it was a long road to opening as the couple maneuvered with their attorney through town regulations, including a request for a special exception, which the Town Council approved last year along with a site plan.

The 4,454-square-foot space has been vacant for almost six years. The last long-term tenant was Amici Ristorante, which closed in 2004 after 10 years.

“It was really complicated to get the approval, and then during the construction we rebuilt everything – the walls, the ceilings,” Deneault said. ”It’s a brand new location now.

”The cuisine at Chez L’épicier, she said, “is French-based, but it’s not traditional French cuisine. It’s more new cuisine – farm to fork. We’re going to bring our roots from Canada, and the food will be different than the other restaurants around.

“We have a goat cheese and black olive macaroon that we offer guests, and that’s one of our specialties. My husband created a dessert called a chocolate club sandwich. It’s exactly like a club sandwich but it’s a dessert with chocolate cake, and instead of tomatoes it’s strawberries. It’s served with pineapple French fries and melon coleslaw, so it’s really fun.

“He loves to cook with fish. We have a poached salmon with mustard and milk sauce, with lots of vegetables. That’s been on the menu at Chez L’épicier since the opening.

”Godbout plans to lighten up the Palm Beach menu, using more olive oil and less cream and butter, Deneault said.

Chez L’épicier’s trademark cocktail is a classic sparkling apple cider with a splash of blueberry maple syrup, said Tristan Baylor, the general manager who moved from Montreal. His girlfriend, Sophie Trudel, is the pastry chef.

The restaurant will hire a mostly local staff of around 30 for the summer and 50-55 during the season. They’ll be trained by Baylor “to make sure we have the same ideology as we do in Montreal,” he said. “I’ll want to get to know the local customers just as I did in Montreal.

”Godbout plans to run the kitchen about 90 percent of the time for the first year, Baylor said.

The restaurant will be open initially five nights a week, Wednesday through Sunday. “When we feel comfortable, we’ll open Saturday and Sunday for brunch,” Deneault said.

Chez L’épicier – which literally means “At the grocer” in English – will also sell a few gourmet products, such as salad dressing, to take home.

In an email, Montreal Gazette food critic Lesley Chesterman said of Chez L’épicier: “In a nutshell, I’d say Godbout’s food is out there, with fancy plate presentations that you will either appreciate or leave you scratching your head. I like his food when it’s simple, but when he plays it fussy, it’s VERY fussy.

”Reviews of the Montreal restaurant have been generally positive on Yelp.com, with Chez L’épicier getting particularly high marks for its atmosphere and macaroon appetizers. One commenter called it “a wonderful place with a creative seasonal menu.

 

 

Source: John Nelander, July 19, 2015, Palm Beach Daily News

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