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From PHX to YUL: Reviews of Montreal

My partner and I had five wonderful days in Montreal and I thought I would pass along our thoughts about the food we had when we were there. Let me just say that Montreal is a beautiful city and the people are exceptionally friendly. Despite how hard we worked at butchering the French language in order to make ourselves known, most people were honored that we at least tried and were more than happy to fill in the blanks or switch to English. It was a wonderful vacation and we will return to your city very soon.

But for now, on with the food...

Schwartz's - After getting settled in the hotel room, we bundled up and walked the 2.5 miles to Schwartz's. We walked into the place and were told to take a table anywhere (we arrived around 3 PM or so). We took a table near the front and a server arrived asking us if we needed anything to drink. One Coke Diete and one Black Cherry Soda later, we placed our order of two smoked meat sandwiches (extra fatty), two sour pickles, one dill pickle, and a plate of fries. The sandwiches were wonderful with lots of flavor and very tender. We were exceptionally pleased with the sandwiches. While I loved the sour pickles, my partner liked the dill pickle better. The fries were crisp and hot with a nice bit of salt. Our meal at Schwartz's was a great way to kick off the vacation.

L'Express - I had a bit of trepidation about going to L'Express as there is no real consensus on it. People seemed to either love it or hate it. We arrived around 10 PM and were immediately seated and given menus with English inserts. Our stoic waiter was quick to make suggestions and we ended up ordering the Cream of Mushroom Soup, the Quiche with Salad, the Beef Tartare and the Hangar Steak. The soup was perfect for the cold night and the addition of sorrel really made the soup stand out. The Quiche was probably the best I have had in quite some time. The crust was not soggy and the flavors were spot on. My partner loved the taste of the Beef Tartare but was somewhat put off by the texture. I thought my hangar steak was very good, and made only better by the big pat of herbed butter on top. The fries were excellent as well. Ending the meal, we ordered two of the chocolate truffles which were creamy and rich and very satisfying. Service started our somewhat reserved but by the end of the meal, our server had become much more friendly.

Ange & Ricky - This tiny little place was a gem for us. The people were super friendly and the fact that we got to try a few samples of the food was a nice addition. Our styrofoam containers were filled with rice, beans, plantains, braised goat, braised beef, stewed turkey and served with a cup of tomato soup. I wasn't really big on the goat as I thought it was a bit too gamey for my taste, but everything was lovingly prepared and the proud cook deserved all of the praise we gave her for a wonderful lunch. The lemonade with vanilla was a very unique treat for us.

Jean-Talon Market - I am so envious I could scream. Jean-Talon Market was all that I had hoped for and more. The place was busy and we peeked into each shop looking for anything that caught our eye. The produce was lovely and the people so friendly. We were like kids in a candy store when we stumbled into the fresh milk cheese shop and ordered a creamy cheese and a firm cheese and paired that with a rustic baguette. Incredible. Sadly, people here in the US think raw milk is a death sentence, so finding such cheese in Arizona is almost an exercise in futility.

Au Pied de Cochon - Wow. Just wow. What a phenomenal meal featuring a Tomato Tarte, the Apple, Endive and Blue Cheese Salad, the Cassoulet and the Happy Pork Chop. The tarte was like a mini pizza but with much more flavor. We were pleased the abundance of tomatoes didn't make the tarte too acidic. The salad was luscious with its mix of crunchy apples, bitter endive, and salty blue cheese. The walnuts were also a nice addition for some extra crunch. My Happy Pork Chop was fork tender despite being well over an inch thick. It was paired with cooked cabbage that had been tossed with a bit of dijon mustard and the whole thing was topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions. It was exquisite. The Cassoulet was served in a huge ceramic bowl. Chicken, Lamb, Sausage, Duck and a slice of foie gras were served with a rich and thick white bean and bacon stew. This dish was a heart stopper, but very delicious. Since we had already broken the record for decadence we went further by ordering the Chocolate Pot de Creme and the Maple Churros for dessert. We were not displeased in any way. The Pot de Creme was heaven and the churros were piping hot and crisp. The service was attentive and engaging and we were lucky enough to get to thank Martin Picard personally for a wonderful meal. The place was loud, brash, frenetic and a blast. This meal was the best meal of our trip.

Creperie Chez Suzette - We stumbled upon this place and thought we would try it out. It was completely touristy but the people were kind and helpful and we had a delightful view of the street below from the third floor. We ordered the Quiche Lorraine, the Quiche Provencal, two bowls of French Onion Soup, a basket of Garlic Cheese Bread and a mug of hot cider with a shot of raspberry liquor. The food was completely serviceable with the standouts being the hot cider and the salads that came with the quiches. There was nothing exciting or new here, but we did enjoy the meal and it kept up warm as we wandered through the Old Port section of Montreal.

Le Club Chasse et Peche - This was someplace I was very much looking forward to. The creative menu was very enticing. We were seated in the middle of the dining room and handed menus and that ended anything resembling attentive service. It took a significant amount of time before our server or anyone else for that matter arrived to at least acknowledge us. We placed our drink order (a gin and tonic and a rum and coke) and waited and waited and waited. Our server was knowledgeable about the menu and we ordered the Deer with Cashews and Chocolate Sauce, the Duck Two Ways, the Roast Quail appetizer and the Piglet Risotto. We also ordered the Vegetable with Panache, which would turn out to be one of the best things on the menu. Again, we went back to waiting and I knew it wasn't just the beat of the restaurant as people around us who were seated after us were well into their appetizers before we even ordered. When our appetizers arrived, I was pleased with the Roasted Quail. The mix of quail, hearts of palm and chestnuts was a winner. My partner was less pleased with the Piglett Risotto as the fois gras shavings on top had completely overpowered the dish and the risotto only came across as being salty.

Again, we fell off the face of the earth and could barely get a glass of water without having to flag down someone to ask for refills. There was a very long span of time between our first and second courses but when they arrived, we were at least pleased with them. My Duck Two Ways was very good, especially the duck hash. The Deer with Cashews and Chocolate Sauce was very creative, unique and flavorful. But the winner was the Vegetables with Panache which was just inspired. Then, we had a very troubling incident as our server asked if we would like a cheese course. We declined, opting instead to go for dessert. This obviously did not sit well with our server as he visibly grimaced at our decision. I have no idea why not ordering a cheese course was offensive to him, but there you have it. We did order the Chocolate Cake and the Maple Syrup Caramel Biscuit, both of which seemed to lack rich flavors. We asked for our bill and our server, for once, responded to our request in a timely fashion. Sadly, the service issues left a bad taste in our mouths and my partner and I both confessed that we should have gone back to Au Pied de Cochon.

La Quebecoise - We woke up to a blizzard and the best thing we could think of was to go get poutine. So, taking a cue from www.montrealpoutine.com, we headed to La Quebecoise, in a neighborhood in eastern Montreal. After walking from the Metro station to the restaurant, we had the place to ourselves and ordered a Smoked Meat Sandwich, a fried egg sandwich, a regular poutine and a poutine with smoked turkey. It was all incredibly comforting and the cheese curds were excellent with their squeaky goodness. The smoked meat sandwich was decent and the fried egg sandwich was just what I wanted and needed. The people were very helpful in translating the menu and we loved the diner atmosphere of the place. Then, we slowly made our way back to the Metro in the snow.

Zesto's Pizza - Well, this was one of the few places that was delivering pizza in the blizzard, so our hotel ordered us a pepperoni and mushroom pizza with a salad. The pizza was okay, but at 1:30 AM, we didn't care. We were just happy to have something to eat. The salad, however, was really quite good. The delivery person was hilarious and confessed that he loved blizzards because the tips are incredible.

We left the next morning and arrived back in Phoenix noticing that the 55 degree air seemed very warm. So we put on shorts and t-shirts and headed out for a late supper.

Thanks, Montreal! We had a great time.

(There are more in-depth reviews of the places listed above at www.feastinginphoenix.com )

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  1. Hi Seth, thanks for your wonderfully detailed report (and the further details on your blog!) and congrats on braving Montreal in the winter. If you were impressed with the Jean-Talon Market this time of year, I'd strongly encourage you to return in the summer or early fall - not only does the produce area quadruple in size and variety, walking around town is a heck of a lot more pleasant. ;-) Come back soon!

    2 Replies
    1. re: kpzoo

      I'm impressed that you ventured PAST Jean-Talon market up to Ange et Ricky! They are very kind people and great Creole food for a song. Next time you come here (when it is warmer!) do stop in at Le Petit Alep across from the market, and try out Kitchen Galerie.

      1. re: kpzoo

        You're making me hungry!

        Yes, summertime in our city is also awesome, and if you come back in August, you can also score some chocolate covered fresh wild blueberries from the Trapist Monks in Lac St. Jean.

        You could actually just eat cheese the whole time here, and have a wonderful experience. The cheese in our provence is really out of this world.

      2. I checked out the site - the pictures really make the reviews! Sounds like CCeP was a let-down; I hope this was an isolated incident, but they do have a reputation for pretension.

        5 Replies
        1. re: phedre

          I have sent the pics of Ange & Ricky to some neighbourhood (Villeray-Petite-Italie-La Petite Patrie) foodies to remind them how good it is.

          Their fried chicken is lovely as well - not exactly the same as the Southern US version, but of the same culinary family. They also make excellent Haitian patties (pâté chaud), which are flakier than the Jamaican version.

          1. re: lagatta

            OOOH fried chicken.... I have been meaning to try this place for a while, now that is just going to put me over the edge...

            Description please?

            1. re: moh

              I finally made it up to Ange & Ricky. Overall, I enjoyed the place, and I agree that the owners are really wonderful. Her stewed dish and sauces were wonderfully flavoured, I really like her spicing. But I was a bit disappointed because the Tassot and the chicken were dry and chewy. The little piece of fried chicken skin... ooh that was yummy, but the meat itself was dry. Perhaps I was there on a bad day? I'll definitely go back and eat there again, but it wasn't food that I would crave. I'll stop by when biking in the hood.

              The lemonade with vanilla was quite lovely, and they have mango juice that is really wonderful. I accidently purchased a 1 liter bottle of the stuff and brought the rest home. Not too sweet and very mango flavoured. We made mango seltzers with a 50:50 ratio of mango juice and bubbly mineral water. Very nice as a non-alcoholic pre-wine tasting mocktail when served in champagne flutes.

              1. re: moh

                "But I was a bit disappointed because the Tassot and the chicken were dry and chewy."

                Although I'm not an expert, I think that's just the way Haitian food is prepared. They cook everything to death and you always need some sauce to help it go down. Otherwise, I love the place. The flavours are wonderful, the lemonade is divine and the service is super friendly.

                1. re: SnackHappy

                  Snackhappy, you may very well be right. There is no question the meat had a lot of flavour in a "beef jerky" kind of way. And her sauces are divine. Perhaps I'll ask for extra sauce next time. I think it is a personal preference thing, I like moist meat, and I favour undercooked meat (well, not chicken. But beef yes)

        2. Sorry your experience at CC&P wasn't as good as the rest or your visit. I've never found the service to be less than excellent: friendly, efficient, and most definitely not pretentious. Hope your experience was an aberration. Sounds like that server needs to pursue some other line of work.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rcianci

            Sorry to hear about your CC&P experience - I've been twice in the last year, including two weeks ago and both time the food was excellent along with the service. We ended up doing shots with our waiters last time I was there and we were given several free drinks by the manager.

          2. So glad you had a great time and completely agree about La Quebecoise: a true gem. Their breakfasts are the best deal in town and great quality. Their fries are heavenly with lots of salt and vinegar; I have scarfed down 2 small paper bags full in one sitting!