Maxime and Jérémy Daniel-Six can still remember the taste of their mother’s stuffed endives in béchamel sauce. Rich and meaty, it lingered on the tongue, providing sustenance during the cold winters in Northern France.
They also remember her rotating cast of dishes. “Our mom used to cook something different every day. Why can’t we do that?” says Maxime. “It wouldn’t be fair to serve the same thing every day.”
It is this honest and dynamic approach to seasonal French food that guides the cooking at Ma’tine, on Boulevard de Maissoneuve, with Jérémy on the savoury side and Maxime handling the patisseries.
“We knew that we were going into the same business, and we were always saying that we wanted to start a restaurant together,” says Jérémy.
After working in some of the best kitchens in Paris and New York, they had a taste of the dream with La Famille, the tiny and lauded eatery in the Plateau that Jérémy owned with another partner. But after it closed its doors in April 2013, the brothers had their sights set on something bigger.
Now, their skills are on full display at Ma’tine.
Since its opening on July 11, the restaurant has been enjoying a steady stream of visitors. Its Saturday brunch is extremely popular, drawing people near-and-far to venture out into this corner of the Village. Passersby trickle in on weekdays for Maxime’s handmade pastries and granola. Business people and media personnel from nearby Bell and Shaw take over the lunch counter for hearty, French salads and sandwiches. And between 5 and 7, Ma’tine’s selection of natural wines and rotating specials draws a sophisticated cocktail-hour crowd.
Bit by bit, the brothers are transforming their little corner of Boulevard de Maisonneuve into a food mecca.
“The idea was to bring market food at a reasonable price to people in the area,” says Jeremy. They try to keep lunch and 5-7 plates around $10 – and the portions generous. And though the menu changes regularly on the basis of whatever ingredients Jérémy sees at the market, the approach at Ma’tine remains wholly its own.
“People sometime ask me to change [this and that], but I won’t do that.” Jérémy says, emphatically. “My food is going to be this way, and that’s how it is.”
“We’re trying to put forth a personal way to cook,” adds Maxime.
The food at Ma’tine is entirely unpretentious —and unapologetically French. Though micro-leaves and sauce reductions have their place on Jérémy’s plates, the delivery is raw and unfussy, a true ode to sophisticated French country cooking. Maxime’s creations are works of art in butter, sugar and nuts.
“Every flavor you use should be felt,” Maxime says.
“It’s clean; we’re trying not to put more than three or four flavours on a plate,” Jérémy adds.
Though the brothers work only with the best ingredients and strive to collaborate with small-scale producers, they make no claims to focus on local or seasonal food.
“When you don’t have products from Quebec, you’re going to use products from other countries. We try to freeze and preserve, but at some point it’s going to be difficult to work with dry vegetables,” says Jérémy. “Winter might be the only time we play with exotic, imported products, like papaya or persimmon.”
“Every flavor you use should be felt.”
The end result of all this playing is as impactful as it is visually stunning. The root vegetables in my dishes taste like themselves —earthy, fragrant and toothsome. They are elevated by Jérémy’s sauces and purees –an herbaceous French Vadouvan curry pairs beautifully with beets, while slightly-singed turnips and carrots sing when piled atop of a squash and grapefruit puree.
The buttery bostocks and hearty granola available during breakfast and brunch showcase Maxime’s adherence to the art of French pastry. The muffins are studded with dry fruit, oatmeal and nuts. The brownies are nutty and deeply chocolatey, while the more elaborate pastries change regularly. Served with a cup of excellent café au lait, they make the perfect French breakfast.
Ma’tine is open 7-7 Tuesday to Friday, and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Go early on Saturdays for their famed brunch – it fills up fast! They’ll be closed for the holidays from December 21st to January 5th, inclusively. Check out their Facebook page for updates.