My list: four nights of dinners
With the help of the wonderfully descriptive past posts on this board, I've put together a plan for four nights of dinners for when I visit Montreal with my boyfriend and my parents next week, from Wed -- Sun. We are staying downtown, but have (obviously) decided to travel to where the good food is!
What do you think of this list, considering that:
--All four of us love to eat, but reasonably healthfully -- hence no foie gras/poutine quests, and no APdC;
--As teachers and artists, we're not rich, so we're really trying not to spend an arm and a leg (the trip itself is our Christmas present to each other), but we want to have some memorable meals;
--My father doesn't enjoy seafood;
--My mother is a bit hard of hearing, so anyplace that's terribly loud would make conversation difficult for her;
--We enjoy restaurants that are beautiful, cozy, atmospheric, creative, warm!
Please tell me: is this list repetitive? Anything you think I should change?
Night 1: L'Express (Is it really loud? Expensive? Should I replace it with Au Petit Extra?)
Night 2: My parents are going to BU; my boyfriend and I to the 10:00 special at Leméac
Night 3: Bouchonné
Night 4: La Montée de Lait (this night is my birthday, and their four-course menu sounded fun and special)
For lunch, I'm hoping to get Lebanese food, pho/noodles, hit La Maison Bulgogi, check out holes-in-the-wall, etc. -- my parents will be on their own.
Many thanks for all your help.
These suggestions are all fabulous! Thanks so much -- I've been revising my list and will let you know what I finally settle on. La Maison Bulgogi has to stay on my list, though, because I'm absolutely obsessed with kimchi chigae, especially when it's cold, and someone here posted that they did a very good version. Honestly, I'd take a big, spicy, pungent bowl of wonderful kimchi chigae over any other food in the winter!
I think I'm going to substitute Au Petit Extra for L'Express, given the noise factor, and perhaps change our dinner at Bouchonné to lunch at 5e Péché -- like I said, we're really trying to make the most of a small budget. Some of the other suggestions here looked wonderful, but are just a tad too pricey for us. We could always hit Bouchonné for a glass of wine and some cheese later, after all!
Olive et Gourmando looks terrific, too.
Just one quick questions: how late is the Marché Jean Talon open? I definitely want to go.
Thanks again -- your help means a lot. I was in Montreal for the first time last December, but was traveling with some very finicky people. I'm over the moon to be able to actually EAT this time!
Marche JT closes at 5-6 depending on the day, but some vendors leave early especially if they have sold their share for the day. It is not in its glory days since most seasonal stalls are closed, but still a good experience especially since the hood around is also very chowish. I forgot another option there: crepes at the stall right on the northeastern entrance of the marche. Pretty good.
Yes yes, keep maison bulgogi on your list! It's inexpensive and really good! It'll help off set the costs of the rest of the meals. It is near Atwater metro, so it will be easy to get to.
If yo go to JeanTalon market, le Petit Alep is excellent and very reasonably priced. The food is beautifully spiced. I even like the hummus there, and I normally can't be bothered to order hummus because it is so easy to make at home. But their hummus is silky smooth and delicious. For all their dishes,they use very fresh spices, and you can taste the difference.
If the line up is too long at Olive and Gourmando, try les Bouchees gourmandes which is just across the street (leave o and g, cross the street, go left just a few shop entrances. the sign is wood and difficult to read). I went back again, and the real deal! Limited menu, but everything is lovingly prepared and delicious! And th chausson au pomme really is to die for. I posted recently on this place and I'll try to find you the link. Even if you make it to O and G, buyone of the chausson to go... they are now selling potted fois gras as well, we are planning to have it on Christmas day, can't wait!
the link to the post is:
But I've had to institute another rule. It is not expensive to eat well there, but I must not buy all the extra food to take home! Between the fois gras pot and the homemade chocolates and the extra chausson, our bill explodede that kst time i went. Oh, but it is all worth it...
For lunch, I think your choices should be destination-based. La Maison Bulgogi is a bit out of the way,tourist-wise, and there are equally good and cheap options in more interesting neighbourhoods. That whole week is Boxing Week, so there'll be lots of people-watching. Some suggestions:
Roast sandwich at Portugalia and poutine at Patati Patata, then browsing around the St-Laurent furniture shops and its funky side streets, stopping to get a pasteis de Nata at Bella Vista or Notre Dame du Rosaire;
Old Montreal has lots of activities until the end of December, Olive et Gourmando is a great place to have a bite in that area;
Marche Jean-Talon may not be in its summer glory, but you have nothing comparable in Boston, and is well worth a visit. Have a bison sausage on a stick or a samosa at one of the food counters;
If you do want to browse the shops in the downtown core, Il Focolaio has a pizza that is a cut above most in Montreal (in this area you could do the trek to Maison Bulgogi but it's a bit of a walk - unless you take the metro - buy a visitor pass).
I totally concur having a destination lunch, and I have to add a disclaimer. While eating a lunch at Olive and Gourmando after walking in the streets of Old Montreal is perhaps one of my perfect "a day in Montreal" lunches, there is a chance that you will find the place closed this time of the year since they tend to take a long winter vacation. So it is a good idea to call before making plans. Peeps have been raving about another little cafe across (whose name I cannot remember right now), and you can try it as your plan B.
Another good sightseeing-lunching trip could be, as Venusia stated, Marche Jean Talon/ Little Italy area. I just took a friend from Boston and he was amazed; "you must then see it during summer", I said. Start with a coffee at Cafe Italy, or Cannoli at Alati Caserta and then walk around the stalls and graze a little bit. There is fantastic ice cream, good sausage and other little bite things (perhaps as close to street food as we can get), and if you need a sitdown food, there is Alep, Petit Alep, and a little bit further Daou for Syrian and Lebanese fare. There is also good places to find pho around the marche, but I don't know them enough to make a solid recommendation.
Another interesting option could be walking and shopping in Plateau, both St Denis and Mont Royal, but also perhaps side streets. Dress well, it is cold; but you will see people not minding that. There was just a glowing review in the Mirror about the lunch special at Au Cinqueme Peche and I believe a lot of the people in this board also like this place a lot. That would be another French bistro experience though, so beware if you don't want too much repetition.
One of the things my Bostonian friend raved about was the fries in town. He had fries with almost every meal and couldn't believe that most places in Montreal still serve hand cut, non-frozen old fashioned fries that have textural variations rather than a homogenous crisp stick. It is something we take for granted. So definitely, have some; perhaps make a light lunch out of it with some beer and leave room for more grazing. Patati Patata could be a good option as long as your parents are ok with the space and seating arrangements; it is definitely no frills. Frit Alors also has places that are a little bit more accomodating spacewise (still not much of an atmosphere, lots of Tin Tin references and all), and depending on who is working at the frying station your fries could range from good to heavenly.
I find L'Express noisy - it's all tile and mirror and the sound just bounces around - and my parents complained that they had a very forgettable meal this past week. They usually love it. Have you considered Pintxo for dinner? Basque tapas that are delicious and creative and the atmosphere is really nice. I went to Au Cinquieme Peche for lunch and didn't enjoy it as much as Bistro Justine which is quite nearby.
Interesting comment about Au 5e péché. Care to expand? Haven't been for lunch but it's so consistently good for dinner that I have a hard time imagining the cuisine being less than enjoyable at noon, especially as their regular evening chef is manning the stoves. FWIW a couple of weeks ago, A. J. Kenik, of ...an endless banquet and the only Mirror reviewer who makes me sit up and take notice, fairly raved about the lunchtime experience. www.montrealmirror.com/2007/120607/re...
BTW, Bistro Justine is on Van Horne in Outremont, so not really nearby. You're probably thinking of its St-Denis branch, Justine Bar à Vin.
Yes, you are right, I mean Justine Bar à Vin on St-Denis. I found their $11/lunch special and big choice of wines to be a better value than the lunch at Au Cinquième Péché. And I had also heard raves about Au Cinquième Péché from a Parisian friend so I had great expectations .. the choices at lunch were rather limited. It's hard to remember, frankly, as it was not very memorable. One person had a rather copious but uninteresting salmon pasta, another a very simple fish dish and I had, I think, roasted pintade which was the best choice but with boring vegetables on the side. The atmosphere was rather staid, the wine a bit expensive. Reservoir at lunch is more fun and interesting. I'd be interested to know what others enjoyed so much?
Sounds like a great list! But I think Carswell's point about the repetition is valid. Where are you coming from? If good french/bistro food is a rarity, then go to town, all these places are great. But if this isn't as much of a novelty, perhaps we can find a more exotic alternative for one of the nights!
I much prefer Au Petit Extra to L'Express, both for food and atmosphere.
In addition,I agree with what Carswell suggests - Le Jolifou or Madre are wonderful options - Raza might be a little on the pricier side for your criteria. Another option to consider would be M sur Masson (in spite of the comments about it earlier this week).
Montee de Lait sounds like a fun idea for a birthday - just keep in mind it's very tiny. But very good.
Thanks for the feedback so far -- cherylmtl, may I ask why you prefer Au Petit Extra to L'Express?
The "scene" at L'Express that carswell mentioned would probably not be in evidence by the time we arrived -- alas, my parents aren't night owls, so we're having dinner at 6:00! (Ugh.) My boyfriend and I plan to head out for a digestif after dinner, though -- we hate eating early!
Au Petit Extra feels more like a cozy neighbourhood bistro (albeit on the slightly larger scale, after several expansions), but the service is always friendly, the food always consistently good - to me, it's just an enjoyable experience, and is basically one of my favourite Montreal restaurants. L'Express can be good, but not consistently, is more expensive, certainly not what I would consider friendly at all (not unfriendly, but I feel always feel welcome at Petit Extra, whereas at L'Express, I feel like just another patron that has to be out of there before the next reservation for the table I'm at shows up...) And you're going to L'Express for the scene regardless of the day or time you're there - it's just a very different atmosphere. But that's just my .02.
Looks good but you're hitting two bistros (L'Express and Leméac) and two restos run by the same owner/chef (Bouchonné and La Montée de Lait). Also, be aware that you're going to L'Express as much for the scene as for the food.
Went with a friend to Au cinquième péché last Saturday and had yet another totally delightful meal. Friend made a point of telling me and the staff that he'd definitely be back. That might make a good alternative to La Montée de Lait.
For something even more different, you might consider Le Jolifou, Raza or Madre, all places that combine French technique with Latin American influences.