This puts an end to my two months of intense search for Montreal’s finest steaks at steakhouses, butchers and steak shops. The results of such search is always controversial: this or that one was perhaps forgotten, this or that one has the advantage of offering this or that whereas the other does not, bla bla bla. But the advantage I have is that I am not paid to do this, therefore do owe nothing to no one, it is my own hard earned money and all I care about is sharing what I think is fine or not. You take or you leave it.
So, I paid a visit to Boucherie Bio Saint-Vincent (Marché Jean Talon), known as one of Montreal finest butchers. What sets them apart is that the meat they sell comes from the Charolais cattle (as opposed to the wide offering of Canadian and US Black Angus), a breed that I know well thanks to my long years in France. Their Charolais is raised here locally in Quebec at les Fermes Saint-Vincent , grass fed, and the meat is aged for at least 21 days.
This is quality meat, there is no doubt about this, and at the simple visual inspection of the rib steak, I was impressed by the superb texture of the meat as well as great condition of the the bone that’s attached to it (recently, I was served at an upscale steakhouse with a rib steak which bone was bent in such an unappealing way that I had visions of the beast being mistreated…imagine how tiny were the chances for that steak to score high..those seem to be little details but a superb steak scores high on all fronts, even on such seemingly futile aspect).
The thing to set straight is that there is no debate over this being superior or not to the other steaks I have scored high earlier on. Charolais is known to feature a meat that’s essentially lean, so take this into account if you want to order this meat. This is grass fed, whereas all the steaks I reviewed earlier on were mostly corn finished. On the aspect of tenderness, I have no reproach to raise: it was perfectly tender, though expectedly a bit firmer than some of the Certified Canadian Black Angus rib steaks I have sample (normal, the Black Angus rib steaks had obviously higher marbling and were aged longer). On the aspect of the aging, Charolais beef being lean, you can’t really expect the deep aging effect of a long dry aged rib steak of the fattier (obviously not a bad thing when it comes to meat flavor) Canadian Black Angus breed, to take an example. That said, for my taste, and with the reminder that Charolais and Canadian Black Angus are great in their very own merits, Maitre Boucher Marc Bourg’s 40 days aged rib steak remains the most impressive cut of all the aged rib steaks I tried all along this rundown, especially for its texturally well accomplished marbling, deeper rich flavor of the fat, and an aging aspect that shone through superbly (fabulous gamey/nutty character).
So Voilà, my rundown of Montreal finest steaks and steakhouses is over. It is just meat, so as I wrote earlier on, your good luck lies in the hand of your butcher, his ability to select the finest meats out there. Serious butchers like Marchand du Bourg and Boucherie Bio Saint-Vincent (Marché Jean Talon) do not cheat with quality, so boot from there.
On an ending note, here are my suggestions for what I view as a top of the crop rib steak:
1.Pick a 2′ thick rib steak. It is just more appealing to watch, and if there’s anything
faulting, it is easier to spot.
2.Bone-in, not boneless. Again, better for the visual aspect, it adds flavor and nature never lies:
a bone in superb condition tells a bit about how well the animal might have been treated.
3.I personally prefer a beautiful dry aged bone-in rib steak than the fresh vivid red textured
younger ones. The trick here is to get a butcher who is ahead of his colleagues on virtually all fronts:
-it needs to be a serious butcher with the exceptional ability to shop for the finest meat possible.
A good way to know if your butcher rises to the challenge is to question him/her about his way of
selecting his/her meat. Just ensure you have informed yourself a lot about meats, have experienced a lot
with their subtleties, visited farms, are passionate about the subject, and trust your instinct:
good liars will always leave trails of BS on their way. Real serious butchers stick to strong principles
-rib steaks from some breeds and at higher grading do react better to proper aging technique.
for example, I find that a carefully selected quality Canadian Certified Black Angus is better rewarded — compared
to some other breeds — to a high standard dry aging technique. His marbling simply reacts well, its texture
showing a convincing beautiful and natural smoky-looking aging appearance. Lower grades do certainly suffer
from less convincing beautiful aging aspect, and non serious condition of aging (wrong temperatures, inappropriate aging room)
always lead to amateurish cuts
-a great butcher knows how to get the most of his aged rib steak. For example, I never trusted mixed aging techniques
such as wet aging then dry aging, etc. They just don’t provide beautiful aging texture, in my experience. Long dry aging
a nicely marbled and carefully selected meat provides simply better aged cuts. A butcher who seems to genuinely
understand this principle is a winner in my personal assessment.
-Look at how the aged rib steak meat is stored. It should be hanged, unless you are, of course, picking it from
a counter at a meat shop. But then again, I prefer the butcher who goes in his aging room and slice that cut
in from of me.
-if you see your aged meat sealed in plastic, look elsewhere. Aged meats need to breath
-a butcher who encourages you to spice your aged rib steak with pepper and sauces is basically suggesting
a recipe to kill the appreciation of the meat. After all, this is perhaps the sign that his rib steak is not enoughly
good to be appreciated in its full glory.
-butchers are like musicians. The better ones will fire more inspired vocal compositions. Notes if you want.
so if your butcher keeps repeating what all other keep saying, it is not one of the best. A sign of a great butcher
transpires in the little inspired gestures that makes a real difference in the enjoyment of your meat.
As an example, during this 2 months run down, Maitre Boucher Marc Bourg was the only one to suggest I lay the piece of meat in a specific position while its resting on the counter before being grilled. That is showing great understanding of meat, since indeed that position ensures proper continuation of the butcher’s hanging technique and improves tenderness. Great call.
-If your butcher seems to play little attention to details about the treatment of the cattle, the level of stress at slaughtering, the diet of the cattle…that is not a good butcher at all
4.Beautifully dry aging of a carefully selected high grade rib steak reacts well on a grill. No need of oiling the grill or your meat for real top quality dry aged cuts. You’ll kill its fabulous texture. Just lay that beautiful cut of rib steak on the bbq grill for the time that matches with the doneness you want to achieve. Do not go beyond medium rare! Do not add butter! No Pepper, Lol! Let it rest in aluminium foil and just pour a bit of fleur de sel on that beauty! Enjoy!
PS: If you know of any place where I can sample Simmental, please let me know.