Sitting at the four-seater bar facing the kitchen I glance at the basic kitchen of iX pour Bistro, and then down at my plate, then back to the kitchen. There is no way the plate of beurre blanc cod, which sits atop a delicate and flavourful sauce with just the right amount of citrus, was produced in that kitchen. I watched the chef, Benoit Lemieux, as much as possible and all I saw was a collection of green and white plastic sour cream containers — culinary delights are generally not found within the confines of a sour cream container.
Thanks, in part, to Trip Advisor reviews that rocketed the restaurant to number one status, iX pour Bistro is one of the hottest restaurants with those visiting Québec City. And gaining more popularity among locals who are learning about it through friends or family.
Located in an old pizzeria on 18th avenue in Québec’s Limoilou neighbourhood, iX pour Bistro is a small square building with two picture windows framed with red wooden shutters, and a small sign hanging from a pole a few feet to the side. It’s basic and easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for — In fact, we had a fun time explaining to our taxi driver where we were going.
iX pour Bistro is the baby of chef Benoit Lemieux, who opened the restaurant in 2012. At the time it was a one-man show, and it remained that way until eighteen months later when Vincent Ouzilleau joined Benoit, turning iX pour Bistro into a two-man restaurant. Vincent and Benoit have a rhythm, and it works well.
“We figured out that if we did 20-24 clients a night, just the two of us, with the timing between the tables, we are able to have fun here [kitchen] and have fun with our customers — who enjoy their time as well — and [we] do something that is different than a classic way of working in a restaurant“ says Vincent.
He is right, of course, dining at iX pour Bistro is indeed a fun experience; while Benoit quietly works in the kitchen preparing food, doing dishes, and making the occasional quip, Vincent’s energetic voice and addictive laugh carry through the tiny restaurant as he interacts with every customer.
On the Menu
The menu at iX pour Bistro changes regularly, with the exception of Lorette Onion soup (the recipe of Benoit’s mother), Goat cheese lamb loin, and foie gras signature — a dessert that, according to Vincent, one young customer exclaims it tastes like unicorn tears, while another says his tummy feels like a Care Bear after eating it.
Naturally, we had to order some for ourselves; a foie gras dessert is simply too hard to resist.
While we sometimes enjoy ordering dessert first, this time, we ate in order, starting with a bottle of wine. The wine list is extensive, written on chalkboards displayed on the walls of the bistro.
“You’ll notice we are crazy on the wine. It’s all privately imported. We only have one red and one white available by the glass. The rest you buy the bottle. If you don’t finish the bottle we [re]cork it so you can take it with you. It’s why we can have a crazy wine list. We have 465 different wines.“, says Vincent, who invites us to choose whatever wine we like, and then proceeds to talk us through the menu.
We start with an order of horse tataki which is smooth and topped with green onion and deconstructed bacon power. A daring dish, and a delicacy. After our starters, we try a small sampling and Lorette Onion soup (made with chicken broth) which warms us up as we wait for the main course.
When my order of Beurre Blanc Cod is placed in front of me I look at the kitchen, down at the plate sitting before me, and then back to the kitchen, “There is no way this dish came out of that kitchen”, I exclaim.
I’ve been watching the kitchen from where I sit and all I saw was a collection of plastic green and white sour cream containers, Benoit cooking at the stove or loading and unloading the dishwasher or working a counter hidden behind the bar in front of me. That secret counter is clearly where the magic happens, and as I eat my perfectly cooked cod and dream of bathing in its sauce, I wonder if there is a way I can take a quick peek (sadly, I never come up with an idea).
The kitchen is quite basic, and Benoit is the only person inside it, so how does he create beautifully balanced, and insanely delicious, dishes? Simple, he works hard. On most days Benoit is inside the kitchen by 9:00 a.m., which means he is doing 7-8 hours of food prep each day before opening the restaurant at 6:00 p.m. and cooking for 20-24 people each night — and if each person orders three courses, then at minimum, Benoit is preparing 60 plates each night.
It’s rare for us to dine in a restaurant where we fawn over every single dish that is served, but we did just that at iX pour Bistro. The waiting list for the restaurant is long, and after eating here we understand why that is the case; it’s a hidden local gem that serves gourmet food worthy of a four-star restaurant.
Find iX pour Bistro
1104, rue 18e • Québec City • G1J 1Z1
For reservations call: 1.418.914.8525
Cook Québécois (French-Canadian) Cuisine At Home!
When the French first landed in what we know now as Québec City they brought seeds and ingredients with them, however, that was not enough and they had to use meats, fish, grains, and herbs that were native to their new land as well. This marriage of ingredients, French and North American, helped to create what we know today as Québécois cuisine.
- Made in Quebec by Julian Armstrong: An essential cookbook for those wishing to not only make Québécois cuisine at home but to learn a little bit about the history and culture of the food made in Quebec.
- The Farm to Table Phrasebook: Master the Culture, Language, and Savoir Faire of French Cuisine by Victoria Mas: French cuisine is at the heart of Québécois cuisine, so it only makes sense that one should utilize this handy little phrasebook. We always have this handy, in Québec and France.
- Bienvenue au Québec by Christiane Thébaudin: This book is written in French, so you may need to use Google translate, but it is worth it. We recommend cipaille (sea pie) a traditional dish similar to shepherd’s pie, but better.
- Tourtière du Lac Saint-Jean (recipe): Traditional tourtière (meat pie) is made with beef, pork, veal and salt pork, not ground beef, and served during the holidays. This recipe is in French, but worth the time it takes to translate via Goole. Note: A tourtière is quite large. This recipe feeds 12 people.