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L'Academie on St. Denis

We're thinking of taking a large (12) group to l'Academie, the St. Denis location on the long weekend in September. They accepted a reservation but rather reluctantly which is rather discouraging.
Since all of us are 'out of towners', it is difficult to know whether the staff will be reliable about keeping the reservation open on a Saturday night.

With (apparently) 3 floors of dining area, you'd think it would a great place to go for groups. The menu looks interesting and certainly reasonable.

What do the chowhounds have to say about this place? Besides that it is related to a cooking school and the food is "okay" (according to an old thread on cheap eats in the Plateau).

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  1. The place is a tourist trap. The food is mediocre. The service is rushed. I'm sure they don't like groups because groups tend to linger and they like to serve as many people as they can in one night. There are so many better places to eat in this town. You can do better.

    2 Replies
    1. re: SnackHappy

      I have phoned a number of places (my 'phone bill will be awful) and have found *no one* else willing to seat groups larger than 6 or at a pinch 8, on a Saturday night unless we come ridiculously early.
      Khyber Pass wanted us to come at 4 pm!
      Bazaar Anise wanted to seat us in their mezzanine but said it would cost $1800 (yes!) to eat there as a group.
      Cassis is also too small and Lemeac is too expensive because we won't be going at 10 pm. And so it goes.

      We have eaten in some wonderful places on other other visits but there were just 4 or sometimes 6 of us and price wasn't as important.
      With this group, the mains costing over $25 will be seen as expensive, although I know one can avoid ordering from the entrees to keep the costs reasonable. I was aiming for a total of around $25 a person.
      We'll be staying near Le Plateau so there are lots of choices.... until you try to reserve a large group!

      So what do you suggest?

      1. re: Paphos.SK

        I would try Bu. They usually have a long center table for larger groups. Their menu is small, but very good and their by the glass wine selection can't be beat. Well, they are a wine bar after all :)

        I find the atmosphere extremely comfortable and engaging. As a bonus, they're now offering a 5a7 special: three appetizers for $15. Add in a glass of wine, and you have a nice meal in my opinion!

    2. We just visited Montreal 2 weeks ago and found restaurant prices to be a bit higher than expected. If you are having difficulty finding a place and would consider something that's a bit more casual/nontrendy Terrasse Lafayette Pizza had excellent pizza, salad, apps and other Greek dishes - and it's BYOB. There was a group of 8 celebrating a?bday when we were there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: steeltowngrl

        Terrasse Lafayette is very good - I wind up there all the time with friends in that area, just as they wind up at Le Petit Alep in mine - though the latter has no room for groups.

        It is NOT an impressive space - just a notch over a greasy spoon, very plain casual dining room, though there is also a pleasant but unassuming terrasse. Lots of groups of families and co-workers go there to celebrate birthdays, office parties and other events. They are very friendly - it is a Greek place, and the fried calamari is usually excellent.

        It is indeed BYOW, and the nearby SAQ on Laurier has an excellent selection, while the SAQ Express on Mont-Royal is open until 10 pm but has a more limited selection.

        Perhaps others can recommend a slightly tonier place that also caters to groups that size.

      2. You could try Holder - they're pretty good about accommodating groups (they have a slightly shorter menu on offer for groups of more than 8 people, I believe). Au Petit Extra is also great for groups, as long as you reserve enough in advance to ensure they have place for you - their prices are a little closer to what you're looking to spend. Both places are large enough to easily accommodate a group of 12 on a Saturday.

        4 Replies
        1. re: cherylmtl

          Their prices would be much higher than they are willing to spend. The person is talking about 25$ per person and BYOW. Le petit extra and Holder are much more expensive than that.
          L'Academie is not a very good restaurant. It is a tourist trap indeed. You will wait in line outside and not be sure that they will take you.
          There is a greek place on Villeneuve called Le jardin de Puis(or puits) and it was quite good a couple of years ago. It was good food and BYOW. You could check this one out.
          Prices have gone up a bit in the BYOW's lately.
          I tried a restaurant a couple of months ago that I quite liked on St-Zotique street. It is called Da Enrico and it is a BYOW and it is Italian..not too expensive and quite good!

          1. re: cricri7

            Perhaps you read something that I didn't, but I didn't see it specified that it had to be BYOW, and none of the other restaurants he or she mentioned were - the criteria seemed to be a reasonable restaurant that could accommodate a group of 12. And Au Petit Extra will most certainly be under $25 pp for their prix fixe menu- unless they've raised their prices dramatically in the past few weeks since I was last there...

            1. re: cherylmtl

              It was not specified but if you want reasonable, the wine will make sure that you don't get a reasonable bill:( You rarely find bottles under 35$ and glasses under 10$ nowadays in Montreal. She was talking about 25$ per person and I know that when you go to restaurants like Le petit extra, or others, it is difficult to manage this.

              It is hard to get out of a restaurant now for under 60$, with tax and tips, so that is why I thought that BYOW was a solution and she was talking about L'Académie which is BYOW.

              I am sorry if you felt that I was knocking your recommandations. I just wanted to specify that the prices would be much higher than L'Academie. Sorry!

              1. re: cherylmtl

                Everyone has been really helpful making suggestions and it is really appreciated. Thanks!

                FYI, the price per person that I suggested as a target total was only for food (around 25$). I figure if someone in the group wants to have wine with their dinner, then BYOW is probably the best alternative but I wouldn't limit the restaurant choice on that basis.

                I am definitely put off L'Academie! It is good to have your insights, people, because there's definitely a valuable consensus here. Back to the telephone today. I'm going to check out Au Petit Extra and il Piatto Pieno and maybe Holder, if it is not too far from where we are all staying.

          2. You might want to consider il Piatto Pieno. ( www.piattopieno.com ) Although the food isn't great, but it is good. (I hope that makes sense) I haven't been in a while but I remember it being a really great place for large groups and is right in your price range.

            edit: It is a BYOW if I remember correctly.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Moosemeat

              Both Piatto Pieno and Da Enrico are BYOW, and both are rather old-fashioned red-sauce Italian - not bad, though - much better than L'Académie. Both seem to accomodate a lot of groups from offices, family parties and such. I think Piatto Pieno has a little more room than Da Enrico.

              1. re: lagatta

                I ate at Piatto Pieno last week, and for 25$, you get an appetizer, an entree, a coffee (espresso) and a desert. You get more than you pay for. I would definitely go back. They have a separate menu for large groups (basically, a shortened version of their regular menu).

            2. What about Le jardin de Panos on Duluth? It's a large Greek brochetterie, BYOW, and well within your price range.

              1. Try the Brasserie Brunoise - they have quite a bit of room & the food is great, something to keep both the adventurous and less adventurous happy.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Joy of food

                  Nice one - could fit the bill. Here is the web site for the OP: www.brunoise.ca

                  1. re: Joy of food

                    Elsewhere the Brasserie has gotten TERRIBLE reviews. I've heard it's nothing to compare to the original Brunoise.

                    1. re: eoj

                      It shouldn't be compared to the original - they're quite different in terms of what they serve. It's a brasserie, remember. I thought it was good for what it was, although not great by any means, but then it wasn't terribly expensive either. If you go expecting the same cuisine as Brunoise, then you will certainly be disappointed.

                  2. My suggestion is Ail Y'Ail Y'Ail!!! (I'm not overexcited; the exclamations are part of the name.)

                    Solid, seafood-oriented Portuguese fare with a few novel flourishes and, as the name suggests, a passion for garlic. The wine list is short and inexpensive and the caipirinhas are superb. The space is on the funky hole-in-the-wall side, but it's a very inviting setting in my experience.

                    The deal for large groups is that you will only be allowed to have a tapas-style table d'hôte, generally about $25/person. When you call to book, assuming they have space you will discuss what's going to be on your table d'hôte and what it will cost. That is, you have options but you have to plan the menu in advance. (The reason is that it's a small resto with a minimal kitchen staff, so to serve large groups efficiently they need to make a limited range of dishes.)

                    The menu is online at a site that would cause the mods to remove my post if I gave you a link; google it instead. It's worth having that menu handy if you decide you want to explore this option.

                    4563 St-Laurent
                    tel. 514 849-8185

                    If that all sounds like too much hassle, then you might try the Club Espagnol du Québec (Spanish Social Club). They have tons of experience serving large groups, there's no obligatory table d'hôte (AFAIK), and you can easily stuff yourselves for about $20/person. Food is traditional and rather conventional tapas, but well executed. Skip the paella. Setting is very casual.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Mr F

                      Is Club Espagnol kid-friendly? We'd love to try it, and I am wondering if my 4 year old would look out of place?

                      1. re: foodismyfriend

                        Personally I don't think it would be a problem, as it's a big, bustling place with lots of families. That said, I can't say I definitely remember seeing young children there. I suggest either calling them and asking, or going in and looking around next time you're passing by.

                    2. I was at l'Academie on St. Denis with my wife during the second week of August, 2007. Let me summarize first by saying this is three floors of poor food, chain-restaurant style. For the prices we paid, we expected at least decent food. My wife's veal was terrible, and my pasta dish was competing for the prize of worst meal of the year. The only attraction of l'Academie is the bring-your-own wine and beer aspect, but other than that, there are dozens of restaurants within three blocks of this one which are at least decent, if not very good to excellent. Try Le Jardin de Panos around the corner on Duluth, about three short blocks east of St. Denis, for great greek style chicken brochettes and lamb chops, reasonably priced (similar to l'Academie prices) and the love big groups. Reservations apparently only taken for sittings up to 6:15pm or after 9:30pm, since they know they'll always be full.

                      Or try Le Bistro Gourmet 2 right on St. Denis, about 100 feet south of l'Academie, on the other side of Duluth. Great French style food at very good prices, and very busy on Thurs., Fri. and Sat.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ivan_brown

                        My friends brought me to Le bistro gourmet 2 for my birthday this year and everyone was pleasantly surprised. It is not in the range of le bleu raisin/yoyo and those more expensive BYOW's but it fits the bill nicely and you don't have to sell your first kid to eat there:)

                        I went to L'Académie once 15 years ago and I swore that I would never be back. I am not a fan of Le jardin de panos however. If you want great lamb chops, you can go to Khyber pass just in front of Le jardin de panos and have their mashaba. I just love this soup. I go there once in a while because of this soup! I was there at the beginning of the summer and it cost me under 25$, without dessert and it was excellent.

                        1. re: ivan_brown

                          Bistro Gourmet 2 didn't live up to my expectations (which were set by Bistro Gourmet). It's a poor imitation of the original.

                        2. I have been to L'academie twice for large-ish birthday parties and both times were just incredibly sub par. As a vegetarian, I was left with a list of pastas, which would be fine except for the fact that everything on the menu is as run of the mill and boring as you can imagine. Their penne alla romanov was alright. Nothing memorable, but slightly better than the tortellini I had the first time. Then I picked up a bottle of the Classico crap in a moment of student poverty and realized that it was practically identical to the sauce I had at L'academie. So, yeah. That's a pretty good indication of what you're getting at L'academie.

                          Also, it's the kind of place that has little tubs of whipped Lactancia butter instead of nice pats of butter in little bowls. It sounds kind of silly, but if an "upscale" restaurant uses pre-packaged name brand stuff without even attempting to hide it, that's kind of telling.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: killedwithkarate

                            OMG!! Definitely canning the idea of going to L'Academie!
                            Thanks for the heads up everyone.

                            I tried phoning Au Petit Extra but they are apparently closed for renovations.
                            Will try Bistro Justine because someone e-mailed me and suggested it.
                            I already phoned Khyber Pass and they won't take a large group.
                            And, I should call Ail Y'Ail Y'Ail!!! as suggested by Mr F but I keep forgetting to call when it is early enough that they'll have time to talk to me.

                            I'll have lots to post by the end of this trip! Thanks for everyone's help. I hope you'll also look at my question for recommendations around du Parc. I posted a query a few days ago but no one answered (yet).

                          2. Thanks for everyone's help.
                            We went to Au Petit Extra (1690 rue Ontario Est). It was very good and between everyone we had a sampling of just about everything on the menu. They've renovated and apparently the new premises are receiving praise.

                            But what's with the dirty cutlery nonsense?
                            This was the third resto that I was in on this trip, that doesn't give you clean cutlery for each course. They just take the used knives and forks and put them on the table mat for the next course. I found this totally weird. Not to mention rather unpleasant.
                            This was not an ultra-expensive place but it was certainly more costly than say, Justine au vin bistro on St. Denis (also very good). Justine's appear to have enough flatware to provide clean utensils for each course!

                            And I would have liked a bread and butter plate. They brought baskets of baguette but nothing to put your serving on. It took quite a long time for the entrees to appear so we snacked on bread.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Paphos.SK

                              I know!!! I am a bit on the nutty side so I do it intentionally...I take my fork and knife and put them in the plate to see if they will put them back next to my plate. The ones who do better make GREAT food....haha....It is like a little game I play with myself. Don't judge me because of this:)

                              1. re: Paphos.SK

                                Drives me crazy but it's standard practice in many affordable bistros and BYOs.

                                1. re: Paphos.SK

                                  Well, unfortunate from a gastronomic point of view, but not "dirty" (unhygenic). Do you expect your friends to change cutlery with each course? Sure, it is nicer, but I can think of many, many things that would bother me more...

                                  1. re: lagatta

                                    Do you expect your friends to change cutlery with each course? (lagatta Sep 10, 2007 05:56PM)...
                                    Yup. And they do, too!

                                    1. re: Paphos.SK

                                      They must have a lot of cutlery! Or enjoy washing dishes during meals!

                                      I'd certainly expect it in an upscale restaurant - that sort of goes without saying - but not a little hole-in-the-wall place. There are reasons restos are more expensive, or cheaper.

                                      1. re: Paphos.SK

                                        This is a /massive/ pet peeve of my wife's and mine, too. I realize it's silly, but I made my way through university as a fine dining waiter and it's such a simple thing to do.

                                        We put on a lot of formal supper parties where I trot out my old skills and serve our guests and you can be sure that I clear and wash the cutlery between each course. :)