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Best fine dining: Quebec City or Montreal?

I am planning to go to either Quebec City or Montreal soon. Based on the criterion "city with the best fine dining restaurants", which of the two would you recommend? Also, what are your top three restaurant recommendations (neither money nor cuisine is a limitation)?

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  1. Montreal is bigger than Quebec, so your choice of "best fine dining" will be better in MTL than in QC, mostly in "ethnic" choices (other than french and maybe italian).

    Having said that, Quebec has one of the best restaurant in the province, "Le Laurie-Raphael", other restaurants like "Toast", "L'initiale" and "L'utopie" are said to be good.

    In montreal, "Toqué!" is one of the "destination" restaurant in town so is "La Queue de Cochon" (not what one might call 'fine" dining, but still very good and worth its weight in foie gras!).

    Other selection on top of my head :

    "La Chronique", "Bronte" , "Le Club Chasse et Peche", "L'épicier".

    a notch under there are tons of very good and interresting selection :

    "La Montée de lait", "L'atelier", Leméac, Joe Beef, Decca77, ...

    I will leave the rest of the googling to you.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      For Ponocat: It is actually Le Pied de Cochon - not La Queue de cochon.

      1. re: Frenchie

        God, I always get it mixed up!!!!

        Thanks.

      2. re: Maximilien

        And there is now a Laurie Raphael in Montreal, at the Hotel le Germain. But there are many things to do in both cities, and you can eat very well in either case, so it really depends on what your other criteria might be, including how long you plan to visit for.

        1. re: cherylmtl

          The Laurie Raphael in Montreal is affiliated to the one in Quebec City but the reviews from the Montreal location have been less than stellar and not comparable to the highly touted Quebec City restaurant.

          1. re: cherylmtl

            Cherylmtl, it is interesting that you and maximilien mention Laurie Raphael. When I went to QC in 2006 (my only visit there so far), I posted an inquiry on Laurie Raphael on chowhound to try to get peoples' ideas on it. No one replied. (But, maybe this board is a lot more active now than it was in 2006.) I would have gone there anyway, without getting any chowhound input, but it turned out to be closed at the time I was there. Anyway, I will put it on the list for this trip. Thanks for your input.

            1. re: ponocat

              On the recommendation of a prof I did go to Laurie Raphael in Quebec City a couple of years ago. Excellent cuisine on par with anything in Ontario at that price range.

          2. re: Maximilien

            Maximilien. I think you have your restaurants mixed up a bit. Le Pied de Cochon is the temple of all things pork and fois gras, while Queue de Cheval is all about aged prime beef and overpriced wines. Both fine restaurants and indeed a destination in Montreal. but only a drop in the bucket because Montreal has so many good places that it would take a lifetime to eat in them all. My wife and I love Laloux also because to us it is the ideal french bistro.

            1. re: Maximilien

              You seem to know your stuff. Can you recommend where to get the best seared foie gras?

            2. Actually, it's Au Pied de Cochon (www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca).
              And it's definitely a must when in Montreal.
              And while cosmopolitan Montreal certainly seems the more obvious first choice for a travelling gastronome, if you are really looking for fine (as in white-tablecloth, elaborate multi-course tasting menu) dining, I'm really tempted to steer you towards Quebec City these days.

              -Toast! at the Hotel Le Priori is really a very special restaurant. The chef/co-owner trained at the French Laundry (not that that guarantees anything, necessarily) but the creativity and thoughtfulness behind a lot of the dishes is really impressive. And the host/co-owner is exceptionally good at his job.

              -L'Utopie is unlike any other restaurant that I have been to thus far, in either Quebec City or Motnreal (but maybe I don't get out enough). Stéphan Modat's playfulness in the kitchen is a real joy and the sommelier is so generous with his knowledge and insights. I don't have my little notebook to hand (or I would give more details of what I ate there) but I do remember the most ingenious "palate cleanser": a slightly-larger-than-golf-ball-sized ceramic globe filled with keffir lime-scented almond milk and a tiny straw poking throughh the small hole in the top. Beside the globe, a small spoon holding maybe a 1/2 teaspoon's-worth of ingredients including salmon roe, a foam of wild carrot seed oil, a tiny dab of cauliflower purée, crushed caramelized almonds, and toasted sesame oil (might be forgetting a component or two!). In order to help transition the palate from a course of foie gras ice cream parfait (with hibiscus mousse, jellied rhubarb and cranberry cube, smoked cinnamon, and a crunchy sweet-salty muesli "cigar") to a course of Alaskan crab "canneloni" (in a clear kombu algae wrap with various cubes of citrus gelée and a canatalope purée), you took a little sip of almond milk, ate the contents of the spoon in one go, then finished the almond milk. The sweet, milky components and the briny-ness of the spoon's mélange really did wonders to help the palate move from the foie gras to the seafood dish. Anyway, just an example of what you could expect at L'Utopie. Molecular gastronomy with a definite touch of whimsy and really top notch ingredients (often local). Impressive wine list too. In addition to tasting menus they also offer the brilliant concept of the "menu bouteille": the sommelier regularly selects a wine from their cellar that he's excited about and would like to share, and the chef creates a menu around that wine. Same idea as a wine bar, but you simply order the bottle and enjoy how the different courses bring out different elements of the wine.

              -Panache at the Auberge Saint-Antoine is another great spot. The food can be very rich so pace yourself, but François Blais does some magical things with locally-sourced ingredients. Tiny, north shore scallops served on the half shell with a lemon, cranberry, and Champagne granita were just exquisite. Lots of game dishes, the sommelier is wonderful, and you should take the time to tour the lobby area of the hotel itself. The way in which the hotel has been designed to showcase the various artefects unearthed during construction (some dating back to the 17th century; also included is a french cannon ball - a very rare thing, if you can believe it, as most surviving cannon balls in North America are of English provenance) is impressive and commendable.

              Sorry about the architecture detour. Other delicious, recommended fine dining spots in Quebec City include L'Initiale and Laurie Raphael. Another tasty spot - but decidedly in the bistro camp - is le Café du Clocher Penché. I had a scrumptious boudin noir there and they carry great beers from local micro-brewery La Barberie. Have also heard good things about their brunch.

              At the complete opposite end of the dining spectrum, Quebec City is also home to the chain of Chez Ashton restaurants that make possibly the best poutine in the province.

              3 Replies
              1. re: lait cru

                Chez Ashton ... I miss the Hot Dog du Lac... Not that it's special but I only ever eat things like that in QC... Pain a la viande... hmmmm

                1. re: lait cru

                  Lait cru, your descriptions of L'Utopie make me want to drop everything and get on a plane to go there this very instant! Even though I have been to QC once and not to Montreal, I may choose to go back there again just to go to L'Utopie in the hopes of trying some of the types of dishes you had there. Thanks for your input.

                  1. re: ponocat

                    If you've never been to Mtl, why not do both? :-) It's an easy 2-hr-ish drive. Would be a shame to miss out on all we have to offer since you're coming from so far.

                2. Greetings Ponocat! I enjoyed reading the reviews on your food blog. You've had some great meals! Based on the restaurants you have reviewed, I am assuming you are looking for very high end restos and not hole-in-the-wall interesting places. Please feel free to let me know if I misunderstood.

                  There are some very good points made in the posts here. I'm a Montrealer, but I would agree with Lait Cru's point that if what you want is high-end fancy tasting menu meals, then Quebec City might fit your bill better. But then you will be limited to French based cuisine. There is much more variety in Montreal, but I think there are more high end fancy french based restos in Quebec City. My suggestions for each city:

                  Quebec City: Laurie-Raphael, Restaurant Toast are both excellent. I see from your site that you enjoyed L'Echaudee, and if you liked that restaurant, I think you'll enjoy these even better. I have not been to L'Utopie, Panache or Cafe du Clocher Penche, but these have all been reviewed elsewhere on this board, and recommended highly.

                  Montreal: Toque and La Chronique would be great suggestions. They both offer excellent tasting menus. Other restaurants that don't necessarily have tasting menus,but would be excellent choices: Le Club Chasse et Peche, L'Epicier. These 4 places all have excellent menus based on great products, many from Quebec, and the food is based on mostly French technique. Lemeac is an excellent French bistro, if you want a classic experience. Au Pied du Cochon is also less formal than the first 4 restos I listed here; the food is excellent, but it is a more casual atmosphere, and you'd better like fois gras! Cafe Ferreira is a high-end Portuguese restaurant, I haven't been (but am really wanting to go soon), but others say it is excellent. Milos is still around, and it is a high-end Greek restaurant specializing in fish (but then again, you are coming from Hawaii! You are very used to good fish....). This is the original Milos, the owners opened an outpost in Manhattan later on.

                  I would say that Montreal's strength is not the high-end restaurants, but the plethora of really wonderful mid-range restaurants that dot our city. And the strengths of both Quebec City and Montreal are based on the French culture. So search out a really great croissant, French and Quebec raw milk cheeses, French wine, etc. If you want some recommendations for eating experiences other than high-end, feel free to ask, or to search the board.

                  Have a great trip!

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: moh

                    Thanks for your input, moh. You're right that I like the high-end places. That's because I cook a great deal myself, so when I go out I love to have meals that make me say to myself, "Now that's something different, something I don't necessarily even know how to make."

                    I'm making a list of the tips you and others are giving me here and will research them well before I decide. After all, the planning and dreaming is part of the fun!

                    1. re: ponocat

                      Ponocat:

                      Hope it's not too late for another suggestion. As a native from Quebec City, let me also add something else to the list. If you spend enough time in QC and are into Japanese stuff, Yuzu Sushi Bar (http://www.yuzu.ca/flashcontent/yuzus...) is definitely another good pick. It is a modern Japanese cuisine restaurant that has been receiving growing attention lately. It is 3 blocks away from L'Utopie (by the way, I second Lait Cru's description of L'Utopie's, Panache, LR and Ashton).

                      The last time I was there during Christmas Holidays, there was a Japanese couple who was in QC only to try Yuzu. Both were amazed by everything they had.

                      My recommendations: the beef tartar with quail egg and truffle is amazing, the black cod in black pepper crust is fabulous, and so was the foie gras tatin with caramelized asian pears. The young chef Vincent Morin uses a lot of local products.

                      If, however, you only have one night in QC, do not hesitate and try L'Utopie.

                      Hope you'll have a great time in my hometown!

                      1. re: gulliver

                        Thanks gulliver, I am still in the planning stage and will put Yuzu on my list. (I try to start planning trips well in advance so that I can do just this kind of research. If one has the time, why not?)

                        A question for you: do you recall anything else about the black cod with pepper crust? What was mixed with the black pepper? Was the cod cooked or un?

                        We have a lot of black cod here (we call it "walu") and your note above has prompted me to try doing something similar.

                        1. re: ponocat

                          Ponocat:

                          Re: Yuzu's black cod: there was some delicious black bean sauce with vegetables, steamed in some sort of banana leaf pouch, if I recall correctly, with rice, of course. Steamed, with something in it, but can remember what it was.

                          There is another fine dining place I would like to recommend: La Taniere. Wild game menu at its best. I mean, more than just deer: moose, wapiti, caribou, boar, etc. A lot of local products of course, with local cheese as well (I really miss my Quebecois cheese here in the US, does it show?). My sister went again last week with her husband. They had the 20-course menu (yes, 20, not a typo). They were amazed, as usual.

                          Location is kind of odd. It is a 15-20 minute drive from "downtown", almost in the country side. Can be pretty expensive ($100 per person + wine), but really, really worth it, IMHO. Hope other locals can second my thoughts on that place. Needless to say, you should have a look at their website. Hopefully they have an English version by now. If they don't, let me know if you need help with the translation.

                          Other suggestions:

                          1. Resto Michelangelo: if you're into Italian food. This place has won several awards from the Italian government for the best Italian food outside Italy. Fine italian dining, with probably one of the best/most impressive wine lists in Canada, according to my connoisseur friends (sorry, I can't drink). The owner, Nicola Cortina, is a sweet gentleman.

                          2. Resto Le Galopin: not too far from Michelangelo, by the bridge. Also somewhat into wild game/local products inspired menu, in the burbs of QC in Sainte-Foy.

                          Again, those places are not downtown QC but, once you'll see Quebec City, you will understand that nothing is really far.

                          PS: Please: poutine @ Chez Ashton (there are SEVERAL locations). Say hi to everyone for me.

                          PS #2: You finish your trip in Montreal... Try Toque!, or Au Pied de Cochon, with the Poutine au Foie Gras, La Plogue a Champlain, Duck in a Can, Tarte au Foie Gras et Sel, etc.

                          1. re: gulliver

                            OK, gulliver, I will try some black bean sauce on veggies and rice in a banana leaf (I am lucky enough to have bananas growing on my farm).

                            Your suggestion regarding La Taniere is intriguing. I do so enjoy game. (Today I made a venison and goose terrine. Took me all day! That is as close to game as I can get here.)

                            I am adding all of the places you note to my research list. Thanks for the suggestions.

                            1. re: ponocat

                              Before I forget, let me add another one: Le Saint-Amour (saint-amour.com). It is located inside the walls of Old Quebec, in a charming old house. It has been a favorite of local foodies for several years. I have not been for a few years, but some people recently told me it was still one of the best spots in town for fine cuisine.

                              I keep forgetting about the Old Quebec because most of the restaurants inside the walls are tourist traps, but the Saint-Amour is definitely worth it.

                              I'll keep thinking about it and add more suggestions later.

                              1. re: gulliver

                                In Quebec City, I highly reccomend Panache, although I think Lait cru has it down with all his commentary. Montreal is more wide open, so maybe more difficult to choose with so many great places of all sorts. There's enough been said already to keep you busy. Quebec and Montreal require two different trips, they are sooo different in every way.

                                1. re: soupnancy

                                  Thanks, soupnancy. I have finally decided on Quebec City. BTW, I am also going to PEI on this trip. I posted on another Board about it, but am not getting much. It occurs to me that some of you Quebec City and Montreal residents may have dined there and could help me out. Anyone have recommendations there?

                  2. while not high-end in appearance, i love going to Au Petit Extra. the food is divine and, if they threw down white tablecloths and hired snooty waifstaff, they could double the prices. i love to cook myself and am very good at it, so i do enjoy a surprise when i'm out. Au Petit does that well. the atmoshere is genuine, the menu very limited, the staff--friendly and expedicious. i go to montreal once or twice a year--just to eat. i've been going to Au Petit for 8 years--never have been disappointed! it's a bit off the beaten path--actually, way off the beaten path--but well worth the trip. and the wine list....is very big. i live just outside of manhattan and am getting hungry typing this. can't wait till july--my next trip to montreal.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: lonleybaker

                      We went to QC a few weeks agao and had a wonderful meal at Toast, we were staying at the hotel there. The food was delicious and the room had a wonderful cozy/cool vibe. We both loved it.

                      The next night we dined at Laurie Raphael, which was wonderful as well. I would say the quality of the food and presentation was comparable, but overall, I like Toast better, it was just really cozy.

                      1. re: juliemaeboyle

                        I just realized that I probably should have posted my summary of my Quebec City experience on this thread rather than starting a new one. It is at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/565721

                        I agree with your assessment of Toast. It was the highlight dining experience for me.