MONTREAL — NORMAND LAPRISE and Claude Beausoleil may be making history. As chef and owner, respectively, of Le Citrus restaurant in Montreal, they are setting a precedent for this metropolis in its 350th year. Some say it's "California" cuisine, others call it "creative" or "staged" cuisine. But probably more accurately, the food here is cuisine inventive.
"We buy our products from all over the world," says Chef Laprise, hoisting crates from a recent delivery: blackberries from Costa Rica, raspberries from Chile, strawberries from California. Chervil and artichokes come from Israel, venison from New Zealand. "Freshness and quality" are what Le Citrus's cuisine is all about, says Laprise. He and Mr. Beausoleil boast that there is no meat freezer here. "We don't prepare in advance; everything goes out plate by plate," says Beausoleil.
In the evolution of Quebec's cuisine, Le Citrus represents a globalization that is infiltrating many cities. The cuisine is not defined by its immediate surroundings, seasons, traditions, and heritage. Theirs is not one cuisine, it is many cuisines, says Beausoleil. Just as Montreal is made up of many ethnic groups, Le Citrus reflects the idea of many cultures together. They order food with a sky's-the-limit attitude.
Neither Old World nor New World, Le Citrus's cuisine is "one world." Laprise delights to tell of his travels for food research. Recently he visited several restaurants in California, including Wolfgang Puck's Postrio in San Francisco.
Laprise's signature dish - the only dish that has stayed on the monthly menu - is his Tartare de saumon a l'avocat et ciboulette, meli-melo de chips maisons (Salmon tartare with p of avacado and chives topped with chips of the house - see photo). It is the raved-about favorite here.
"Ten years ago, the chef we received and applauded was French. This generation, they are all trying to do something new," says Hne-Andree Bizier, a food historian based in Montreal. She refers to Laprise as a creative genius.
Laprise says that even though skill is important in the kitchen, more important is that the staff be "as enthusiastic as I am, that they have my same passion."
As for strictly Quebec cuisine, the feeling here is that it is fading. "Ten years from now, it will be hard to find a national cuisine, because everybody tends to mix," says Bizier. Laprise takes a product and makes what he wants, such as starting with the idea of an Asian egg roll but using native asparagus and serving it as a complement to grilled swordfish in a carrot-juice sauce.