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help! Toronto vs. Montreal

  • j

I've got a coworker coming in from Montreal today who claims everything in Montreal is better than Toronto. I love my city, and I want to show him the best Toronto has to offer (on a work budget). I'm not too familiar with Montreal, but if there's anything here that we do a lot better, please let me know! The only thing I can think of is Asian food (but only because of their limited Chinatown), but I'm not sure if he'll venture into Chinatown. How does our sushi compare?

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  1. My first reco is Japango for sushi (for the great price as it aint no Kaji). Japango is superior to just about anywhere. I am sure that it will be enjoyed emmensely if he likes sushi.

    more to come....

    1. Don't do Asian cuisine...what a way to leave Toronto! Take him out to the St. Lawrence Market area...JK Wine Bar perhaps? If Asian is a must...head to Izakaya. The small town market culture in St. Lawrence is similar to old town Montreal. If you have the bucks to spare...head to Jump, Ki, Bymark or Vertical in the financial district. By the way, most things in Montreal are better than in Toronto!

      11 Replies
      1. re: The Macallan 18

        Sorry but have to heavily disagree with Izakaya. Also, can't imagine the harm in having Asian cuisine in Toronto of all places, and I agree that Izakaya is so "off" it doesnt seem like asian cuisine even though it is supposed to be.

        I also can't imagine our St Lawrence area holding a candle to old town. First of all they are completely different and second, ours has minimal charm compared IMO.

        Another place I recommend along with Japango is Torito in Kensington Market!

        1. re: deelicious

          with all due respect, i would not bring a guest to kensington market if you wanted to impress them about toronto. It is so dirty, run down, and generally not my favourite place. imho, the most beautiful part of toronto is the distillery district, and instead of lunch, just go to soma chocolate and gorge on chocolate! lol!!!

          1. re: icey

            The Distillery District, so far, has the feel of an underperforming theme park. There's lots of potential there, but no life - hell, on most nights, hardly any people at all. I'd give it a miss.

            1. re: estragon

              Agreed, but I was also thinking to reco Soma as a fabulous pitstop. I know there are hundreds of people if not thousands that appreciate the unique charm of kensington and dont see it as nasty dirty.

            2. re: icey

              It depends on what you like. To some, Kensington is dirty and run down; but others enjoy the fact that it's a bit rough around the edges and has some gritty charm, quirky characters, and authentic foods that are hard to find elsewhere in Toronto. To some, the Distillery is beautiful , clean and pleasant. To others, it's a boring upscale tourist trap, an shopping mall without a roof, marketing overpriced food and knicknacks towards yuppy tourists. Take your pick.

              Personally, I like and dislike aspects of both places, and think both are worth visiting for their own reasons. There are great and mediocre restaurants in both places, too. "Jamsy" will probably know which the Montreal visitor might like more.

              1. re: Gary

                The Jean-Talon Market area in Montreal beats Kensington Market any day.

                1. re: Food Tourist

                  I totally disagree, Market to Market Kensington has better food, more options, and more flavour, with the exception of that little place to buy desserts in Jean-Talon. The cheese places are cheaper in Toronto, although J-T has more options. Kensington is also the only place where I can find hard-to-get mexican products and hand made tortillas.

            1. re: The Macallan 18

              No Asian in Toronto? Do you even know this city? Our Asian food with the possible exception of Viet destroys anything Montreal has to offer. And that's without going further into the GTA, where you can make an argument that Toronto could be one of the top 3 cities in the Western world to obtain Asian food in all its permutations.

              1. re: FEDup

                There is no way that Toronto Thai food even approaches Montreal's offerings. I don't know about other styles of Asian cuisine.

                1. re: vorpal

                  I live in Montreal and I have to disagree. Thai food, as well as any Asian food, Vietnamese included is way better in Toronto then here. As about every ethnic food, with probable exception of Portuguese. But even with Portuguese I'm not sure.

                  Montreal shines in French cuisine, smoked meat and bagels. Et, bien sure, apportez votre vin - with no corking fees. That's it.

            2. Does Montreal have Korean? Or Jamaican? I think you might be better off going for interesting ethnic haunts rather than fancier places. No Vietnamese, Montreal has that. When I lived in Montreal a decade ago all the samosas in town were puportedly made by one shop, so maybe Indian is better here? Scary thought...

              1. Is your friend a foodie or a bourgeois poseur?

                Montreal has us beat on cafes, French, Greek, bagels, and - for the most part - sheer romance. Where Toronto wins is, as others have mentioned, the sheer variety and quality of ethnic cuisines.

                Don't like Chinatown? Go to Lai Wah Heen for a fancy Chinese meal. Indian? How about the Host on Prince Arthur, or some of the more popular joints in Little India (Lahore Tikka House is my favourite). Sri Lankan? Rashnaa at Wellesley and Parliament. West Indian? Bacchus Roti, or Albert's Real Jamaican.

                And how about Cava for serious tapas?

                And if money is no object, Canoe, for great food and spectacular views.

                5 Replies
                1. re: estragon

                  "Montreal has us beat on cafes, French, Greek, bagels, and - for the most part - sheer romance. Where Toronto wins is, as others have mentioned, the sheer variety and quality of ethnic cuisines."

                  Agreed! OK maybe not about the bagel ;)

                  I am not sure what a "work budget" is, so I warn that Lai Wah Heen is on the spendy side!

                  1. re: estragon

                    I have no idea if he is a foodie or a bourgeois poseur. All I'm trying to do is prove that some things in Toronto are better than Montreal. We have a friendly rivalry between our respective cities.

                    I'm trying to stay on the "safer" side of the palate. I'm flexible will all foods, just don't want to scare him away with something that he considers too "ethnic". Coming from Montreal, I'm sure he's been exposed to the unusual, but I don't know HOW unusual or how far I can go. My usual haunts are typically on the odder side of the food spectrum.

                    Cava disappointed last time I was there. I'll not be venturing there again. I find Jump, Bymark, etc a little overrated. Price is a wee bit high on the work budget. Generally, maybe $50-75/person including wine?

                    Thanks everyone for their replies! Keep them coming.

                    1. re: jamsy

                      What about Ethiopian? (Lalibela for food; Ethiopian House for a nicer place) Chiado? A Chinese place in Markham? (I can't recommend a specific, but many others can)

                      1. re: jamsy

                        You may also try to show him our neighborhoods; there is nothing in Montréal, excepting Ville Marié, that looks like Rosedale, Forest Hill or even Leaside, with big front yards. Montréal is almost all duplex and triplex (even Hampstead starts looking like that). You can also try to win in the comfort of our restaurants, since, while superior in food quality, a lot of Montréal's restaurants have those horrible tables with four chairs glued to the wall, so nobody can comfortably move...

                        1. re: m_cyclops

                          Westmount and Outremont for example are hardly bastions of duplexes and triplexes. And there are tables and chairs that can be moved in restaurants.

                          Architecturally Montreal has far more history and style so I wouldn't try to impress on that count. However, a trip to the Islands, the Beaches, and/or High Park would be nice.

                    2. I go to Montreal at least twice a year, and here is my take on each city's strengths and weaknesses (have long decided not to choose between them:):

                      St. Lawrence Market does not compare to the sheer variety and fun of Jean Talon market, so may not impress. Kensington Market on the other hand may be seen as a fun unusual place for a Montrealer (you could say it's our version of St. Viateur's immigrant/anarchic feel, but with more bustle and hustle, more grittiness and more fun - St. viateur is defnitely gentifying at a fast pace, so your visitor experience some nostalgic connection to the area).

                      Montreal has some excellent ethnic restaurant, but is not particularly strong in Portuguese and Chiado would be an excellent choice. Also, there are lots of good Iranian and other Middle Eastern restos in Montreal, but most on the casual side, so 93 Harbord would be a unique selection. I find Indian/Pakistani cuisine in Montreal inferior to Toronto's and I'd say a visit to Lahore Tikka House is in order, for the food and fun atmosphere. As far as I know, there is no such place as the Pacific Mall in Montreal, so I'd take him there. There is decent sushi in Montreal so not sure if you can impress, unless you go to Kaji.

                      Nightlife is pretty hard to beat in Montreal, but bar-hopping on Queen West West should give him a sense that Toronto HAS a nightlife - I'd start at Sparrow on Ossington for a drink and a bite to eat (the crab cakes are perfectly crabby and delicious), before heading south west on Queen.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Kasia

                        Second 93 Harbord and Pacific Mall. Southern Accent may be a good bet too as, oddly enough, there really is a dearth of good Cajun cuisine in Montreal.