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Le Fin Gourmet
Photograph: Seal Fest / Phoque Fest

Seal Fest, the alternative culinary festival based on using seal meat, is back

If you've never had seal meat, now's your chance—six restaurants in Montreal are participating in this year's Seal Fest, plus three more off-island spots.

By JP Karwacki
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Seal Fest has returned to Montreal for another year of alternative proteins, this time with six restaurants on the island of Montreal and three bonus spots to hit up if you find yourself interested in getting a taste.

Running from now until September 19, Montrealers can experiment or enjoy all over again a taste of a 100% Canadian product: Meat from sealing Harp and Grey seals. There's actually a quota out on these marine mammals, forming an integral part of marine ecosystem management. As the organizing body notes, "in cases like in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where Northern Cod is likely to be soon extirpated (or outright destroyed) due to seal predation, sealing provides an ecosystem service and enables sustainable growth of commercial fisheries."

It's a wild, eco-friendly, and natural kind of protein sporting "many health benefits", and seal meat has been already used in menus across the city. For those wondering what it tastes like? Depending on its treatment by a chef, it can often taste like beef with an iron-rich flavor (but not as strong as liver).

Here's what's on the menu this year:

Chez Chose, 1879 Rue Bélanger

Seal tataki, fried oyster, lobster bisque and jalapeño sour cream. Served with a glass of wine. $25.

Les Îles en ville, 5335 Rue Wellington

Order up a seal burger with bacon and “Pied de vent” cheese, served with salad, homemade raspberry vinaigrette and beets and it's all paired with a Scotch Ale "Corne de brume" beer from À l’Abri de la tempête brewery.

The other option's a seal meat lasagna with “Pied de vent” cheese and homemade raspberry vinaigrette salad with beets that's served with a Terre Ferme beer from À l’Abri de la tempête brewery.

$31 to $33.25

Maison Saint-Paul, 343 Rue Saint Paul Est

Diners have three options to choose from:

A seal tartare with tarragon mousse, two-way egg yolk, shallots, capers and parsley.

A seal Tataki with pistachio and rosemary crust, berry and lemon gel, mint, onion pearl pickles.

A seal rillette garnished with field berry compote, chives, pickles, homemade bread and mustard.

$55.

Caribou Gourmand, 5308 Boul St-Laurent

The first option's a seal tataki, sour cream with seaweed, caribou mousse and mustard caviar, served with a semi-sweet Quebec white wine 2016 from L’Ange Gardien (Médaille d’or Coupe des Nations 2019). The second option is a seal tartare, marinade shallot, capers, seaweed, lime, sherry vinegar and Espelette pepper, served with croutons. $19.

Bar à Vin Liège, 465 Rue Notre-Dame (Repentigny)

Seal tataki, beet tartar with dill, beet marinated with rose and rose powder. It's served with a glass of organic red wine from Domaine Émile & Rose, le 5 Seaux grape variety. $20.

Le 279 Bistro, 279 Rue Saint Georges (Saint-Jérôme)

Here you'll get seal tataki served with a garlic flower salsa, cattail heart, seaside herbs, kumquats, and oats. They're also throwing in two amuse-bouches of a seal rillette & a seal tartare, plus a pairing with a glass of Châteaux Malbat blanc. $19.

Note that the restaurants Manitoba and the ITHQ (Institut de tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec) in Montreal, as well as the Limoges 67 SteakHouse in Terrebonne, are listed as participating but the Seal Fest website does not list their menus for the festival.

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