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help me impress my parents! (french bistro)

My parents are coming to visit this weekend, and they're still a bit mad at me for moving faraway to the frozen north. So I need some recommendations to help them see how wonderful a city I now live in.

My mom spent years in Paris, and the fact that Montreal is francophone is one of its biggest redeeming qualities in her eyes. :) I thought we should go to a good French bistro on Saturday night. We ate at L'Express this summer when she visited, so I'd like to try something new. Above all I want something not too too expensive and pretentious, and preferably in the Plateau (lower or upper) so that they experience "my" neighborhood.

I see these names popping up: Au Petit Extra, L'Entre Miche, Le P'tit Plateau... The first two are more downtown, so I'd rather some other suggestions. Thoughts on P'tit Plateau? Has anyone been to La Prunelle on Duluth?

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  1. One word: Leméac. This weekend there is a special Montreal High Lights menu in addition to the regular menu. www.restaurantlemeac.com

    Have been to La Prunelle (which is BYO) a couple of times and was not particularly impressed. In all honesty its biggest asset is the space -- in summer only. It's a long, narrow room open on two sides. It's on a quiet stretch of Duluth, with the bustle of St-Denis in earshot. Quite a lovely spot on a hot summer night, but overall not a restaurant likely to impress.

    1. Au Petit Extra is in the east end, near the corner of Ontario and Papineau, not downtown. It's a great affordable choice.

      On the Plateau, Le P'tit Plateau is a fantastic BYO with excellent southwestern French cooking (had some of their confit de canard for dinner last night, easily the best in the city). Service is brusque and seating is tight. Reservations are de rigueur and you should go for the second seating (8:45 p.m.) unless you relish the thought of being given the bum's rush at 8:30.

      Le Continental is a L'Express-type bistro just up the street from its model. Cocagne, more or less across the street from L'Express, is a little edgier in terms of decor and cooking and none the worse for it.

      Don't write off the neighbourhood bistros. La Montée de Lait, Justine Bistro à Vin, Les Trois Bouchons, Brunoise, etc. My current favourite is Au Cinquième Péché, corner of Mont Royal and Drolet (i.e. one block north of Le P'tit Plateau). Great food that somehow manages to be both traditional and modern, good prices, a decent selection of wines by the glass, a pleasant, totally unpretentious decor and a welcome that's as professional as it is warm. The indefatigable Haldane reviewed it a few weeks ago: www.hour.ca/food/food.aspx?iIDArticle...

      1. Au Pied du Cochon is Quebecois comfort food with a gourmet twist and there is really no other option here to tell you the truth. It is the best restaurant I have ever been to, I have been to all the restaurants mentioned above!

        5 Replies
        1. re: bitetoeat

          >>there is really no other option here to tell you the truth<<

          Oh, please. I've long supported Picard's endeavours and years ago was the first person on this board to write a lengthy, glowing review -- www.chowhound.com/topics/96862 -- of APDC, but to talk about the Pig's Trotter as overshadowing every other option is as silly as it is misleading.

          Frankly, all the APDC hype is beginning to grate, as is the scene. It's become a resto you have to pump yourself up for and sometimes steel yourself against, a temple to wretched excess frequented by Bourdain wannabes, and a place increasingly focused on servicing high rollers (the upselling the last couple of times I've gone has bordered on the ridiculous). Yes, it's unique. Yes, it can be excellent (though over the years I've had as many lacklustre meals there as superlative ones). No, it's no longer the establishment I'd choose were I condemned to eat at only one resto for the rest of my life. Heck, it's no longer the place I choose when I want good food in a relaxed setting. And it's certainly not a place to recommend to someone who's asking for "something not too too expensive."

          1. re: carswell

            Needed to be said I guess. Agree that this notion that APdC is somehow the only choice is an insult to the Montreal dining scene. I am very sorry to hear about the upselling. Is it still possible to get a reasonably priced meal there if one is careful?

            1. re: rcianci

              >>Is it still possible to get a reasonably priced meal there if one is careful?<<

              Probably, though between fending off the servers pushing $60 entrée servings of Abitibi caviar and the sommelier strongly recommending ever-pricer bottles, stealing glances at some of the more outrageous concoctions sailing by the table and trying to choose from among the many temptations on the menu, I've not really paid much attention to the question during recent visits. Besides, low-ending it seems so beside the point at that place.

              1. re: carswell

                You are probably right, but I'd like to continue to be able to tell people they can get in and out of there for around $40 per person and still have a good time. It is supposed to be a "bistro of the people" is it not?

            2. re: carswell

              I agree with your post Carswell and find that more and more, this is the case at some of the more high end restaurants in Montreal. Take for example the "holier than thou" attitude recently displayed by Joe Beef (see other posts) with regards to cancelling a reservation or the beyond pretentious feel of places like Buona Notte. I would much prefer to spend my time and money in places that value customers by feeding them something good at a fair price. I don't mind paying a bit more for an experience, but what ensures that I return to restaurants is how I am treated and the price/quality ratio.

          2. Thanks so much everyone for the suggestions! Mr. F, good to know about La Prunelle-- I walk by it a lot and have always wondered. Carswell, I'm very tempted by Au Cinquième Péché! But I also made reservations at P'tit Plateau for their later seating, and will put the choice to my family.

            I have read lots about APDC on these boards, but, as Carswell alludes to in his post, I was looking for something with a bit less hype (and $$).

            1 Reply
            1. re: roarlaura

              I don't know what "too expensive" is for you, but I just want to mention that there's a delicious menu at Leméac after 10 pm. It's $22 for a three-course meal plus regular coffee or tea. My boyfriend adores their boudin and I am partial to the chevre chaud and the onglet. The pot-au-feu de saumon is also very very good. Ask about a dessert of the week - last time we went we had an amazing triology of chocolate desserts that made me melt. Yum!

            2. Les Heritiers for a real country french bistro, or les infideles for a more eclectic feel. both in the plateau...both BYO.

              2 Replies
              1. re: shopgirl

                Yes! And if you go to les infideles, get the caribou. It's defintely worth the supplement on the table d'hote price.

                1. re: mainsqueeze

                  Oh! Absolutely!!! And their rabbit ravioli in a reduction is so good you'll want to lick your plate clean!