MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec -- Although the village has several dining opportunities, force yourself to drive the five minutes it takes to reach Auberge Sauvignon, a charming mountainside restaurant just outside the resort. Owner Francine Moreau sets a tone of unmatched hospitality in the front of the house, with chef Marc Bujold providing the culinary wizardry to make this steakhouse and cozy bar a delicious and welcoming experience. Although the restaurant is planning renovations -- an expanded bar and new finishes in the dining room -- it would be difficult to improve on the formula that has kept locals satisfied for 25 years.
Both a restaurant and a bed-and-breakfast (there are seven comfortable rooms upstairs), Auberge Sauvignon is the kind of place where everyone does indeed know your name. If you are a repeat customer, sommelier Florent Sejuir will also probably remember your favorite wine. Sejuir has put together an excellent and affordable list of both French and New World wines, with about 150 wines available on a given night.
It's tempting to fill up on Bujold's new tapas menu, served only in the bar and priced between $3 and $13. Sip a glass of wine and snack on savories such as minced trout with tomato and tamarind salsa, oyster shooters with shallot mignonette, grilled sardines and yellow tomato tapenade, and roasted pepper and octopus salad served on a bed of hummus.
But don't get too full. Bujold is a master at the grill showcased in the restaurant's simple open kitchen. For the best view of the action, ask for table number one, situated directly in front of it.
Bujold fires up tender Canadian beef, veal chops, and farmed venison served with foie gras, along with a killer rack of lamb crusted with lavender and adorned with a perfect port wine sauce. His steaks are stellar, juicy and perfectly done, enhanced with a choice of sauce au poivre, bordelaise, or beurre blanc. On the side, a dollop of pureed sweet potatoes with roasted garlic is spiked with maple, and asparagus is grilled to smoky perfection.
Seafood lovers aren't left out. Options include seared sea scallops and shrimp with ginger butter, along with a catch of the day.
The emphasis, however, is on meat and local specialties like a rich and hearty cassoulet, served Toulousain style with duck confit, white beans, and pork. And while it's not always on the menu, the chef will whip up an appetizer of the best steak tartare you've ever eaten. All you have to do is ask.
Bujold is a wonderful chef, deft and creative, and smart enough to let ingredients shine without too much fussiness. I've been to Auberge Sauvignon three times in the past five years, and each meal is better than the last.
For dessert, there are profiteroles, key lime cheesecake, and a special sweet that changes daily. Or have crme brulee, speckled with vanilla beans and shimmering in creamy perfection.
Have a meal here, and Auberge Sauvignon will become one of those special places you return to anytime you're in the neighborhood.
Auberge Sauvignon, 2723 Chemin du Village, 819-425-5466, 888-669-5466, www.aubergesauvignon.com. A three-course dinner for two, about $84 (US dollars).