The Keg in the Old Port of Montreal is a big, loud chain restaurant. It’s not the newest and trendiest hot spot, it’s not off the beaten path, it doesn’t have any pink lighting, doesn’t focus on seasonal ingredients and there is no fusion on the menu. As a result I feel like it is often overlooked, particularly in “foodie” circles. It shouldn’t be though, because it has never let me down when it comes to steak.
Last Thursday two buddies and I headed out for a late meal and sat in the bar area to catch the last few minutes of another abysmal Habs performance. As alluded to above, when I go to the Keg I go for one thing, steak, the baseball sirloin to be exact. All three of us ordered it medium rare. We expressed our individuality through our choice of appetizers – crab cakes, shrimp cocktail and French onion soup. Half way through our Keg sized Gin and Tonics the appetizers arrived.
The crab cakes were not good. They were dry, the crab meat was shredded beyond recognition, there was too much celery and red pepper filler and they generally lacked flavour, both inside and out. I am always surprised (if it’s always can I still be “surprised”?) by how many restaurants get crab cakes wrong. They are one of my favourite appetizers and I have recently become quite adept at making them at home so I don’t mind being extra critical. These ones were not up to snuff and the accompanying dill caper mayo didn’t help matters either, it tasted like an over-salted tartar sauce. The shrimp cocktail was better, but nothing spectacular. It’s difficult for a shrimp cocktail to wow, and this one didn’t. The shrimp were OK, but they could have been more firm. The cocktail sauce served alongside was also ordinary at best. I didn’t try the French onion soup, but it looked quite good and my friend enjoyed it. Overall the appetizers were average.
We weren’t at the Keg for appetizers though, we were there for steak. So, we ordered a bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon (decently priced at $53) and waited for the baseball sirloins to arrive. When they did, they did not disappoint. The baseball sirloin is, as its name suggests, a cut of top sirloin so thick that it looks like a baseball. The steak comes with a couple of token pieces of asparagus and red pepper (presumably so you can tell your Mom that you ate your vegetables) and your choice of side. I got mine with a Monte Carlo style baked potato, which in this case was a twice baked potato mixed with bacon bits. The sides were alright but the steak was the star of the show.
The sear on the steak was perfect, producing a hard flavourful crust (with an assist from the Keg’s spice blend) that sealed a near perfect medium rare interior (I’d say it was a tad over). About that interior, it’s nicely marbled with enough fat to ensure that the meat stays tender, juicy and full of flavour all the way through. Just an all around quality steak. I don’t often eat steak in restaurants since it’s something that can so easily be done better at home, but this one is always worth it at $25. If I consider price/quality ratio this baseball sirloin stands up against any steak in the city.
Here’s the deal – if you are in the mood for steak, go to the Keg and order the baseball sirloin. You won’t be disappointed. The appetizers and sides do not rise to the level of the steak though and are a bit hit and miss. So as I was writing this review I was torn as to what rating to give the Keg. The solution? A two pronged rating. I’d gladly recommend the Keg for steak. For anything else, you’re on your own.
The Keg Steakhouse and Bar – 25 Rue St-Paul Est