Help in narrowing down Montreal options
Montreal Chowhounders were so helpful to us in April, (thanks especially to Carswell and rcianci!) that we’re looking for your help again for our trip next week. We’re bringing foodie friends who haven’t been to Montreal before. We’ll be in town Friday through Sunday, so will have 2 dinners, and 2 or 3 lunches. Last time, we loved Au Pied du Cochon and Les Infidels. We got a wonderful picnic lunch at Olive and Gourmando. This time, after checking the board, we’re also considering the following:
Au Petit Extra
We’ll probably return to APDC for one of the dinners, since it’s such a uniquely Quebec experience. What would be a great choice for the other dinner, something different from APDC in atmosphere and menu. Which places would be best choices for lunch? We’re also hoping to visit the Jean Talon market, so a lunch stop near there would be excellent.
Also, any recommendations for a place to listen to good music (jazz or local flavor) and have a drink or cocktail?
We’ll be staying near Parc LaFontaine, and we’re looking forward to walking to most places, but we will have a car.
My experience of Brunoise is similar to Sam Ottawa's. I've never had a meal there that was less than excellent. Their vanilla panacotta with passion fruit and basil syrup is outstanding. Many people think it is one of the best desserts in Montreal. The atmosphere is much more relaxed than at APdC. Zach Suhl is a gracious and accommodating host and the service is friendly and professional. Plus if you're staying near Parc Lafontaine, it's an easy walk for you and your friends.
I'll second the Byblos recommendation. I had a fabulous brunch there on my last visit, and the servers were wonderful. Try the rose petal & pistachio jam with your breads and a pot of Arabic coffee.
Beware that Le Petit Alep is closed on Sunday--I found that out last month. I did have some nice sausages & a good but expensive buffalo rib at the market instead, and the gelato at Havre aux Glaces was fantastic.
Upstairs is probably the best bet for jazz. I see that on this Sunday the 6th the group includes my Brooklyn, NY near-neighbor Dennis Mitcheltree, an excellent tenor player, but I think you'll be in town the following Sunday? I don't know if the former Biddle's, afterwards House of Jazz, is still open.
Next time in town I want to try the Cuban panino at Olive & Gourmando because I'm always on the lookout for interesting variants on the Cubano.
You'll eat well at any of the establishments you list. Personally, I put Yoyo and Les Héritiers in the second rank of BYOs, behind Le P'tit Plateau, La Colombe, Christophe (despite some unevenness) and, to go by recent reports from palates I trust, Le Bleu Raisin. And contrary to cricri7, I definitely wouldn't rank either resto ahead of Au Petit Extra based on food, value or Montrealishness.
A recent meal at À l'os was well executed, generously porportioned and tasty enough but the overall experience and price tag left me a little cold and in no hurry to return.
One thing to point out about your list: all the places serve fundamentally similar (i.e. market-based French) cuisine. Of course, that is what this city does best. Another MBFC resto you should consider is La Montée de Lait.
Lunch places are almost too numerous to mention. A few faves: Réservoir, Olive et Gourmando, Cluny ArtBar, Byblos, Milos, Le Petit Alep, Frite Alors! (though not the store on Rachel), Le Margaux.
Outside of the Jazz Festival, Montreal isn't really jazz central. My preferred venue is downtown's Upstairs www.upstairsjazz.com
I went to Christophe once and never would go there again. It was expensive and really ordinary. The service was less than ordinary also. Tastes are so personal. Yoyo is really the best for me. Le Bleu raisin is supposed to be really good. It is the owner and ex-chef of La prunelle, another BYOW on Duluth, who have opened that restaurant. La Prunelle was very good in the beginning but I stopped going because the prices went up and it was uneven.
Look at the menus on the Internet and go with your instincts. That's what I always say.
re: Le Bleu Raisin--I haven't been able to find any substantial threads on Chowhounds, nor any reviews of it either. The website is in French, and though I might understand most of the words, I can't get a feel for the place. Could you tell me more about it? Right now, we have reservations for APDC (my friendds want to try it, and we're happy to go back!) and I'm trying to make one for Le P'tit Plateau. LPP's phone has a message that says they're on vacation for July, but will be back in August. Does anyone know if it's open yet?
Also, a non-food question: Would the "Tam'Tam's be a fun way to end our visit before heading home? Any suggestions for lunch near there?
Any venues for Acadian/accoustic music?
Thanks again, for all of your help!
I visited Bleu Raisin about six weeks ago.
As you probably gathered from the sample menu on the site, it's French-inspired market cuisine, with featured ingredients such as foie gras (a variation on torchon preparation is the house specialty, and it's very good), ostrich (a wonderful tartare as an appetizer), magret, salmon (or perhaps it was trout), Quebec venison (farmed), etc.
Having been only once, I'm not sure how often they change the menu but I left with the impression it's pretty frequent. (One reason I won't bother trying to recall much detail about the specific dishes we had -- suffice to say they were sophisticated but not overly complex.)
I'd describe the atmosphere as being fairly relaxed and casual. The staff (husband-wife team plus a couple of employees) are warm and friendly, and service in English was no problem.
If you're familiar with Le P'tit Plateau or À L'Os, I'd say the cooking is in a similar vein, though it has its own character. In fact, if you're going to one of these places on the same short visit to Montreal, I personally would avoid going to a second one unless you just can't get enough of this kind of rich cooking.
Since Le Bleu Raisin is slightly off the beaten path, I'd guess it gives you your best odds of getting a table on short notice.
As for the wine we brought, we were happy with a mid-range Burgundy, a California zin complemented the meat dishes very nicely, and a low-end sweet Chenin -- which we should have opened early for those having foie -- was perfect with the killer St. Honoré cheesecake (maple alert for those who aren't into our national sugar).
A final note: there was no table d'hôte that night, and I'm pretty sure that's the norm.
Le P'tit Plateau was closed yesterday evening when we passed by. (Not a problem as it turned out, since we ended up having a fabulous meal at Au cinquième péché a block north on Mont-Royal and Drolet. Will try to post a short write-up this weekend.) If memory serves, in previous years they opened the second week of August, so try calling next Tuesday. The upside is you shouldn't have trouble getting a reservation.
Can't speak to the appropriateness of the tam-tam without knowing more about your age and predilections. The crowd tends to be young and intoxicants abound (they also tend to be consumed discretely due to the police presence). The current reconstruction of the Park-Pine intersection and restoration of the Cartier monument have forced the gathering to move from the momument plaza to the adjacent lawns. Personally, I'd rather spend the afternoon wandering through the wilder sections of the mountain with a pair of binocs and a bird guide (and anyway you still hear the drumming).
Nearby eats? Santropol with its lovely terrace is on the corner of Duluth and St-Urbain. Park north of Mont-Royal has lots of options. Greek Philinos www.philinos.com and Terrasse Lafayette (corner of Villeneuve and Jeanne-Mance) are among the better bets on Sunday. And if you're in the mood for brunch or a more upscale lunch, there's the ever recommendable Leméac www.restaurantlemeac.com on Laurier a few blocks west of Park.
As always, Carswell, you are a fount of wisdom and taste!
I'd like your opinion on this: do you think that as a total experience, Le P'tit Plateau might be too much like APDC? I know you mentioned that all the places I'd listed were "MBFC". But we would like a different type of experience on each night. I was only able to find one picture of LPP, and it looked like bare wooden tables. But maybe that picture doesn't accurately represent the restaurant? Since I haven't been able to reach LPP yet, I'm also considering Brunoise. As I mentioned, we ate at Les Infidels in April, and really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, and are looking for someplace that would have a less casual feel to it than APDC. What's your opinion? I haven't heard you mention Brunoise in any of your posts. What do you think?
LPP and APDC are both bistroish, serve food with an earthy slant and have open kitchens, bare tables and plain wood chairs. LPP leans toward the French southwest; APDC is about witty takes on Quebec comfort food, not to mention wretched excess. LPP is smaller, more intimate in nearly every way but only slightly less casual than APDC. For a more "business casual" experience, Brunoise is hard to beat -- chic decor, tablecloths and linen napkins, art-that-hides-art service, elegant plating, smart wine program and delicious food. Actually, I've recommended it often and my only regret is that the price hikes that have come with its deserved success mean I don't go as often as I used to.
At this time of year, Jean Talon Market is a lunch destination in itself.
Breaded Gaspé scallops or cod from the stand across from Les Volailles du Marché, corn on the cob from various places, charcuterie from the Iles de la Madeleine (stand on the north end of the new section -- they seem to have kidnapped a master Italian or perhaps Spanish charcutier), heritage/organic tomatoes from the adjacent stand, cheese from Qui Lait Cru or Hamel, ice cream or sorbet from Havre aux Glaces, fresh berries from more or less everywhere, sausages and other grilled foods from various places, the list goes on...there are picnic tables available though it can be tough to find a place to sit if you're there at a busy time.
Also in the market, Le Tartarin generally has some interesting fare. Lately they've been serving the same special every time I've walked by: cuisse de canard confit on a bed of mesclun with new potatoes, served with an excellent lentil soup. Just $9, which is about the price of the duck alone in a store.
Your options are all good ones and I'm sure your guests won't be disappointed by any of them.
As you may know, Les Héritiers, Yoyo and À L'Os are BYOs. All serve well-executed french-inspired fare. Le Petit Extra is not BYO, but has an interesting menu, and I've often brought out-of-town guests (I'm an ex-Montrealer, and still consider myself a local)there to good reviews.
Brunoise is one of my favourites though. Dinner is Table d'Hôte, and I've never failed to experience superior service and delicious food. Prices have gone up since they originally opened (justifiably, but unfortunately), but it remains a "must" for me, and is still excellent value (39-50 for the 3 courses). Don't let the Table d'Hôte menu scare you away - you can check it out in advance: http://www.brunoise.ca/
As for lunches, O&G is a favourite in Old Montreal, and Le Petit Alep is a great suggestion near Jean-Talon. You could also combine your market trip with a visit to Little Italy.
Near Jean-Talon, you could try Au Petit Alep, a Syrian resto that has delicious, affordable food.
Petit Alep, 191, rue Jean-Talon Est, Montréal, (514) 270-9361
There are also countless Vietnamese places nearby (one on the Northwest corner of Jean-Talon and St. Denis is especially good). If you don't mind a lack of atmosphere you can have some nice meals there.
Of course, since you will be right in Little Italy, there are a lot of Italien places around... perhaps someone else can recommend a good one?
I ate at three of those places....Yoyo, les Héritiers et le petit extra. This last one is not BYOW. It was good in the past, but it is more bistro and more noisy. The food is not as good as the two first. Yoyo is definitely the better one. I had ...I'm sorry I don't know the words in English...it is called "ris de veau" with a foie gras sauce. They were the best I had. Don't be taken back by "ris de veau", I think it is the liver part, my father had "cerf". My mother had a crab salad as an appetizer. I had a "cerf" tartare as an appetizer. And you bring you wine. It had been a couple of years since we had gone there and we wondered why it had been so long. You got to have their "gâteau beauceron" as a dessert. Les Héritiers was good but not worth the stop. I would go to L'os or au pied de cochon before.
Ris de veau is sweetbreads and it's not liver, I do believe it's a gland that is mostly made out of proteins. :-)
As for food options in and around Marché Jean-Talon. There are plenty. Petit Alep is a very good spot. You could also try Trattoria da Noi for homey italian cooking. But if you really want to live marché Jean-Talon, you could just buy veggies and fruits as well a great bread, cheese from any of the merchants and cold cuts. By the way, there's a Iles-de-la-Madeleine kios in front of the Veau de Charlevoix store that sells a prosciutto type of ham to die for. Many places also sell prepared goods ready to go like baguette hot-dogs, calamari, charbroiled chicken skewers and many more.