Dinner bets around Le National/ The Village
I have done some board search, but couldn't come up with a place that was consistently recommended around the Village. I am planning a dinner before a show at the National and I am clueless about where to go. We were thinking about Au Petit Extra, but we have just done a round of French BYOB and want to branch out a little bit. Anything chow-worthy around those environs? All parameters are open...
Thanks everyone. We ended up at Au Petit Extra, and unfortunately I have to concur with foodismyfriend about its "not so specialness". Everything about it was "just ok". My sweetbreads were unfortunately tough and chewy inside. A salad of baby spinach and serrano ham was oddly adorned with raw enoki mushrooms (which took a lot from the warmth and richness of the ham) and had a stray whole coffee bean inside (at least it wasn't a bug).
And worst, the bread was STALE. Not nicely chewy, nor deliberately crunchy, really stale, a day (or perhaps two day) old bread served with rock hard butter. I always brag about how the bread is wonderful in this city to my friends back in the US of A. With all the abundance and culinary tradition of breadmaking, I see no excuse serving stale bread at a respectable (or even semi-respectable) restaurant in this town. Good thing is I was able to stick to my diet since the bread wasn't much appetizing.
We also had an odd experience about our wine. We had to send back our corked bottle (which our server also gracefully suggested us to). But then we realized that the label for the new bottle was different. Since we already felt uncomfortable sending our wine back (and didn't check the original vintage), we didn't make a big fuss out of it; but I think we were served a more recent vintage (which was perhaps cheaper). Anyhoo, the wine was good, but it added another layer of discomfort to our experience.
Overall, the food wasn't too bad (and much better than most of the stuff that passes as French down the border) but in terms of price/quality it went way down in my list of repeat visits. Since it is a licensed restaurant I don't see any reason to skip more excellent BYOW places that give better food for your buck; or places that are licensed and serve food that is a dozen notches up (even if it is a little more expensive).
My creme brulee was good, not too runny nor too thick. Partner's "Phoenix", a rich chocolate cake with chocolate cream and some berry coulis (me thinks it was raspberry, but just had a bite) was nice too but he said he preferred the brulee; so at least we ended up with something sweet.
But unfortunately... I was a little bit disappointed, especially after the check. Damn wine adds so much to the bill. Note to self: BYO is your best friend.
Duel, if you don't mind spending a fair bit of money, is a unique dining experience. The night we went the food was very good and very inventive. The vibe is hip but not formal, and the price tag is pricey. (wine list is especially expensive).
Mozza, as recommended by Em24, is a great low-cost choice. The pasta is always fresh and there are loads of choices--great service.
I haven't been lately, so it might not be fair, but Au Petit Extra, for me, is just kind of so-so French food. I always think of it as an option if I can't think of anything else, but I've never found it extra special in any kind of way. If you are looking for safe and you like Italian, go for Mozza.
Right next to le National is a place called Mozza - it's a very little italian restaurant, you need reservations. It has been consistently good for me. I would not go out of my way to eat there, but when I am in the area, it is the best bet I have found. It's not at all expensive. You get an appetizer, a ceasar salad and either pasta or pizza for one price below 20$ for sure. And on the plus side, it's BYO, there is an SAQ right next door, and Le National on the other side. I always eat there when I am attending a show in the area.
Haven't been recently but Miyako (1439 Amherst, 514 521-5329) was always a pretty good sushi bar.
Haven't ever been to Duel and keep hearing mixed reports, some of them from people who went on the same evening, but it might be worth a shot. You could take one for the team, be our chowish guinea pig! www.restaurantduel.com
Au Petit Extra is a sure bet. Last fall, Alain Loivel, now of Le P'tit Plateau but the chef who made APE's reputation, told me he thought current chef Nathalie Major was doing a bang-up job these days. High praise.
I would probably stick with Au Petit Extra.
There is some semi-decent stuff like:
-Tabla: Indian place on Ste. Catherine near rue de la Visitation... Obviously doesn't hold a candle to the selection and price of places on Jean Talon.
-Bato Thai: Thai place that is alright, but you'd be better off getting something at Bangkok for sure
-Cafe Mi Burrito: This is more like guilty pleasure food for me, since you probably know the state of Mexican food in Montreal
But yeah, even though it's predictable French stuff, Au Petit Extra is pretty good and is ultimately a safer bet.