David McMillan and Frederic Morin are the charismatic owners of Joe Beef, a gem of a restaurant in Montreal. A little tucked away from the downtown core, the quaint restaurant serves up classic comfort food to feed a crowd. Luckily for all of us who can’t make it there regularly, the Joe Beef boys now have a cookbook filled with some of their staple recipes. We caught up with the owners to ask them more about the cookbook, their love of food and their choice of decor for their restaurant.
Style at Home: Tell us a little bit about the ambiance of your Montreal restaurant, Joe Beef.
David McMillan: Joe Beef is a very cottagey, homey restaurant. We see the restaurant as an extension of our houses – we don’t see it as a public space. It’s our restaurant and we welcome visitors as we would guests in our home.
S@H: How would you describe the choice of decor in your restaurant?
DM: We built the restaurant with very little money – we put Joe Beef together for about $60,000. We emptied out part of my art collection, my dining room chairs, my mother’s Creuset pots and borrowed things from friends to make it aesthetically pleasing. We see it as a simple touch of cottage. There’s a giant chalkboard with handwritten items from the menu, red banquettes with brass nails, a Peter Hoffer painting in the dining room and brass candelabras. If I had a million dollars, I’d like to believe that the restaurant would look exactly the way it does ... with better plumbing! It looks to me like that little French restaurant in Paris that I’ve always wanted to go to.
S@H: For anyone who has just purchased your cookbook, which recipes would you suggest they make first to get the real Joe Beef experience at home?
Frederic Morin: It would have to be the lobster spaghetti! It’s surprisingly simple if you follow the steps and it turns out exactly like it does in the restaurant.
DM: The best part about it is that it’s a dish that really makes everybody happy. You can share it as an appetizer, you can adapt it by adding fresh green peas, you can throw in some wild mushrooms and it also makes a wonderful side dish if you’re having something like a steak. We find it more fun to eat than boiled lobster – boiled lobster is nice if you’re on vacation by the coast but a spaghetti lobster really is something different. The spaghetti acts like a sponge for the creamy sauce and it’s delicious.
FM: Another recipe we love is the aioli sauce – the concept is to gather seasonal produce on the table and to eat it with this flavourful garlic mayonnaise. You can use some cooked vegetables, some raw and dip them in the sauce.