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Boston hounds need help for Montreal visit

Hello Montreal CHounds! We are visiting in August, and are looking for some recs for meals. We are vegetarians, but eat fish/seafood as well. We'd prefer to keep the price point down, but are interested in local favorites....any French that has many veg/fish options? We're staying on Rue Sherbrooke Est., but we'll have a car. A trip to the Botanical Garden will be in the plans, so something in that area would be nice as well. A few ideas I had so far are:

Le Commensal
Fuschia
Coloniale
Holder
Olive & Gourmando's
Fairmont Bagels

I would certainly appreciate feedback on these places, and any other suggestions you might have. We'd also love to hit a couple of top bakeries and chocolatiers!

Much thanks!

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  1. Since I am also from Boston, also visiting in August and staying on Rue Sherbrooke Est and will have a car, I'm jumping on to this thread too! We're just going for a long weekend, but I'm excited because I have only been to Montreal once and that was during winter. I'd like to try some local specialties and casual places, but have one or two nice lunches or dinners. (Also, are there any jazz clubs or similar nightspots that have good food?)

    Here are some of the things I was thinking, based on posts from this board:

    - Lunch at Jean Talon market (including ice cream from Havre aux Glace)
    - Bagels from both Fairmount and St. Viateur, so we can do a taste test
    - Poutine from Patati Patata
    - Croissants from Patisserie Gascogne
    - Pastries from Le Fromentier
    - Lunch at Santropol
    - Dinner at Europea

    Science Chick, I hope you don't mind me hopping on to your thread. Also, you have to check out this post where lots of Montreal hounds posted their own chow tours! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/528662

    6 Replies
    1. re: Pia

      Hi Pia, sounds like you have some good plans already - you might also want to check out these threads:

      Quintessential Montreal?
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/399473

      Best of Montreal?
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/464435

      Cheap and Delicious
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/404453

      Montreal Locals - What do you consider the best small hole in the wall resto?
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/411132

      If you do make it to Santropol, I have two tips: (1) be *sure* to go on a day when you can eat outside, and get a seat in the garden, and (2) be in the mood for basic soup & salad fare, or just go for drinks and dessert. The place is a Montreal legend (I even did a semester-long analysis of it in university!) but the food can lean towards bland and could be a disappointment unless you know what you're in for. The service can also be hit or miss.

      Edit - note to Science Chick - Santropol has lots of vegetarian options, including seitan pie and many of the sandwiches.

      re: jazz clubs w/food, I know Upstairs serves dinner, but I've never eaten there so I can't comment - http://www.upstairsjazz.com

      Have a fab trip!

      1. re: kpzoo

        Re: jazz clubs with food .. (after a quick consultation with jazz musician), your best bet is to eat somewhere suggested here and then head to Upstairs for the second set and have drinks. Or have a nice meal at the vegetarian Thai restaurant Chuch or tapas at Pintxo and go to Diese Onze on St-Denis afterwards. Here's a site to tell you what is playing:
        http://www.sortiesjazznights.com/

        I've heard the tapas at Sala Rossa are good too, which is also a music venue.
        http://www.casadelpopolo.com/casa/

        1. re: Plateaumaman

          Excellent, thanks for all the tips and jazz club suggestions! (Carswell too.) My trip isn't for a while, but I'll be sure to report back.

      2. re: Pia

        Pia, Re: croissant: I live very near a Patisserie Gascogne and I love it, but the croissant is very good but not the best. It is convenient, and acceptable, but my favorite croissant is at Fous Desserts. The regular croissant is a thing of beauty, the pear and chocolate croissant is heavenly, and I finally tried the almond croissant - covered in toasty almonds on the outside, rich with almond paste on the inside, almond extravaganza! You gotta go!!!!

        1. re: moh

          Best Croissants thread
          www.chowhound.com/topics/515622

          Best Almond Croissants thread
          www.chowhound.com/topics/476648

          Best Chocolatines (and indirectly croissants) thread
          www.chowhound.com/topics/315477

        2. re: Pia

          The food at Upstairs is passable. In my experience, you go there for the music, not the food.

          Pop!, the wine bar connected to the upscale Laloux bistro, has very good to excellent food. They also have or had live muisc, including jazz, on Thursday, Friday and sometimes Saturday nights. There's no mention of a current schedule on their website, however, so you might want to call to inquire. www.popbaravin.com

        3. Haven't been to Le Commensal for some times, was ok, but it's a bit on the expensive side, you pay by weight, it's a vegetarian buffet, so potatoes and rice and stuff like that can add up very fast.

          Don't know a thing about "Fushia" or "Coloniale" .

          if you go to the Botanical Garden, you can try some of the new restaraunts on Masson St. ( "M Sur Masson", "Madre", and probably a couple more ) or maybe there are one or two on Ontario St. ( anyone ?? it's not my 'hood)

          I suggest you do a little "search" on this forum, there are a few posts with ample suggestions for you to peruse.

          1. I'd skip Le Commensal. Mediocre, expensive food, IMO. Instead, why not check out Aux Vivres (4631 St–Laurent) or Lola Rosa (545 Milton) , two veg. restaurants with very good food.

            If you eat eggs, check out Byblos (1499, Laurier E.) for a delicious Persian brunch. Bombay Mahal (1001 rue Jean-Talon W. at l'Acadie) has great Southern Indian at reasonable prices, it's also a BYOB and has lots of veggie options. Recommend the masala dosa (spicy potato in a giant "pancake") and channa samosa (veggie samosa smothered in chickpea curry) Go for lunch or early eve for best service.

            http://www.chow.com/tour/2178
            http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVE...

            For bakeries, check out these threads:

            Best Patisseries and Boulangeries in Old Montreal
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/522858
            - particularly Moh's Mile-End bakery tour

            Best boulangerie / patisseries in Montreal/Quebec City?
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/511711

            The best baguette
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/424434

            Croissants
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/515622

            The Great Montreal Bakery Hunt 2007
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433260

            Cocoa Locale cakes?
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/404732
            - incredible cupcakes & cakes -> must-try!

            For chocolates (and other chocolatey things) see:

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/482543
            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/499739

            Have a great trip!

            1. I, too, would avoid Le Commensal. It's more an overpriced salad bar than anything else. Haven't checked out Fuschia yet, but it's on my list to-do this week, so I'll get back to you! Worst case scenario you got a table d'hote for 10 bucks. Fairmount bagel is a must-try imo... make sure to get a bozo bagel!

              1. Oh yeah, about this part: "any French that has many veg/fish options"

                The short answer is: your choices are pretty limited there. The French scene here is heavily meat-oriented, which is why I rarely eat it. There are a few threads that discuss some options:

                Montreal - 4 star vegetarian? vegetarian poutine?
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/501625

                High End and Veg Friendly
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/405475

                Veggie/Fish Tasting menu Montreal ?
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/453397

                If you do find something, we would all appreciate it if you reported back on your experience, for the benefit of your fellow vegetarians visiting Montreal in the future!

                1. I like Fuschia a lot, for $10 you get a lovely veggie meal with beverage and dessert. Her meals are excellent, very well-flavoured, excellent ingredients, lots of lovely herbs and flowers. Nicely fits a budget, and I find the QPR excellent. The only significant downside is that she only has one meal choice a day, so you have to like what she has to offer that day. She posts the meal selection on her website each day. Cute place, in the middle of a funky neighbourhood.

                  I know a lot of people are down on Le Commensal, but I still like it a lot for veggie fare. They have an excellent selection of tempeh and seitan dishes which I love. You just have to be careful not to take too many of the heavy dishes (like the lasagna, and the cooked dishes), and take more of the lighter salads (which are also very good) and you can keep your bill close to $10-12. Of course, if you go to town, the prices go up to $15-20 to fill up like a piggie. Personally, I find that reasonable given the choice of dishes you can get. However, i am not a big fan of the vegan desserts, theylook nicer than they taste.

                  Another really neat institution: Robin Des Bois (Translates as Robin Hood). This is a restaurant whose profits go to worthy local charities around town, they have a nice selection of vegetarian dishes as well:

                  http://www.robindesbois.ca/menu/menu_...

                  Re: top bakeries and chocolatiers - this town is so great, because there are great places in many of the neighbourhoods that you can discover just by walking around. I am particularly fond of the places listed in the Miles End Bakery and espresso tour, including the added chocolate stops, but really, choose a fun neighbourhood and just start walking. It is an awesome way to eat.

                  1. These suggestions are just what we were looking for! Thanks so much and keep them coming! Any good breakfast ideas near Sherbrooke Est? We eat eggs, milk so anything good will work......

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Science Chick

                      Sherbrooke is an extremely long street. What's the cross-street and how far are you willing to go? A couple of places "out east":

                      I definitely recommend Byblos, as I mentioned before! (1499, Laurier E.) Homemade jams, unusual Persian egg dishes, and other yumminess! My fave is the oriental omelette, made w/rose-petal water, flour, cardamom and nuts. My hubbie likes the feta omelette. I pine for their orange-blossom jam almost daily. ;-)

                      http://www.geocities.com/cafebyblos/
                      http://www.montrealfood.com/restos/by...

                      There's also Ma'am Bolduc for hearty Québécois breakfast fare, with veg options including buckwheat crepes - 4351 Avenue De Lorimier.

                      1. re: kpzoo

                        I second Byblos - inexpensive, wonderful flavours, very unique. Very cute space as well. And close to Fous Desserts, so you can get in that croissant...

                    2. Au cinquième péché would be a good splurge place, far superior to Holder, especially from a pescitarian's standpoint. A table d'hôte meal starting with either their excellent soup or complex salads, followed by the sweet potato gnocchi and ending with one of their trippy desserts and coffee would run C$30. If your main was one of the fish options (currently crusted sea bream fillet with eggplant ravioli, bok choy with almonds and orange-anise vinaigrette OR roasted salmon fillet with sautéed artichokes and whelks, fennel purée and roasted tomato compote), you'd pay C$37. www.aucinquiemepeche.com

                      For breakfast ideas, see www.chowhound.com/topics/521670
                      In the east end, Byblos, Reservoir (weekend brunch and only a few doors east of the line of demarcation but...) and L'Express, the St-Denis bistro, are all good options.

                      Opinions differ on Le Commensal (do a board search on the name for proof), though my impression is that the naysayers far outnumber the yeasayers. Personally, I think it's the kind of place that gives vegetarianism a bad name.

                      What is this Coloniale whereof you speak?

                      1. Another Boston Chowhound here...during our trip in April, we stayed at Hotel Cantlie on Sherbrooke (near McGill). If you are anywhere near Downtown, 645 av du President Kennedy is one block south of rue Sherbrooke at the McGill Metro stop. There you will find Caffe Art Java (2nd location), practitioners of Latte art, and home to one of the finest Lattes I have ever had. You will find nothing like this in Boston at this time.
                        Best Coffee in Montreal:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/98712
                        Thanks to Carswell for contributing to that thread, and helping to answer numerous questions I have posted in the past.
                        Here is my recent request for gourmet food and kitchen accessories shopping:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/354640
                        I would recommend stopping at La Vieux Europe on St. Laurent on your way to either of the bagel places

                        1. Rosa and Aux Vivres are definitely far an above Le Commensal!

                          1. commensal is basically overpriced underflavored cafeteria food.

                            the above prices of 12-20 dollars are only realistic if you eat mostly a big green leafy salad. I am not sure their salads are worth that much. There is a ton of places in the downtown area that will construct a custom salad for you for way less.

                            1. Thank you, Montreal chowhounds, both for your recommendations and your seemingly infinite patience with the constant stream of tourists on this board!

                              Here's what we did:

                              Friday: I had planned a fancy lunch at Le Club Chasse et Peche, but when the woman at the B&B mentioned an International Food Fest at Parc Jean-Drapeau, we instantly changed our plans. Bad move! $5 each to get in, and then there were lots of stands with heat-lamped food at more or less retail prices. Bleah. After some so-so sausage and a good smoothie from MooZoo, we cut our losses and left.

                              We stopped at Frite Alors for poutine. Good fries, good cheese, good gravy, but I don't see how it's much more than the sum of its parts. I guess if you get used to eating it, you might crave it, but it wasn't a revelatory experience or anything. We had a side salad with a nice sharp mustardy dressing.

                              Dinner at Ferreira -- very expensive, but we enjoyed it. Had the seafood rice casserole, with a comforting taste and lots of fresh shrimp, scallops, and clams, and the excellent seared tuna in a porcini mushroom sauce.

                              Saturday: Lunch at Marche Jean-Talon -- one of the two eating highlights of the trip. We had calamari with spicy mayo from Aqua Mare, an excellent empanada from the stand across from the crepe place, a vegetarian crepe (the crepe part tasted a lot like a dosa), a yummy Sublime smoothie from Mangue & Melon, and superb ice cream from Havre aux Glaces, the maple creme brulee and mango passion flavors. Boston is an ice cream town, but I think Montreal has it beat.

                              The other eating highlight: dinner at Europea. Wow. I was blown away not only by the food, but also at the value for money -- yes, it's a lot, but they had a selection of delicious breads (the olive was my favorite, followed by the walnut), and brought out several morsels in between courses like a risotto ball, a prune wrapped in bacon, some Caesar salad "foam" (the least successful, but most interesting), and the lobster "cappuccino." I got the sea bass entree and my husband got the venison -- both were delicious and perfectly cooked, with the venison in a lovely cherry-based sauce that was deep and not at all cloying. My favorite part was the "passport to dessert," with multiple dessert courses including heavenly warm madeleines, a small tower of goodies including a maple marshmallow, blueberry macaron, small canneles, chocolate-covered strawberries and candied orange rind, a chocolate course with three small desserts including caramel ice cream atop a crunchy chocolate wafer and a "baked hot chocolate" in a small cup, and a citrus course, another three small desserts with a Grand Marnier mini-souffle. All this for $15.50 a person, an incredible bargain. The multi-course dessert is starting to catch on in Manhattan and I think it really started with a place called Chikalicious, where they serve a three-course dessert for about $13, but their three courses is basically one of the small trays we got from Europea. I am a dessert person, so I especially loved that part of the meal.

                              Sunday: Bagels from Fairmount and St-Viateur. I have to say, I am amazed there's even a debate. St-Viateur hands down. The Fairmount bagels, while nicely textured, were bland and sweet.

                              We also got a few pastries from Gascogne, which I enjoyed. I was disappointed we didn't make it to Fous Desserts (we tried on Saturday, but it was so hot and we had already walked too far in the wrong direction, so we gave up).

                              We're looking forward to coming back!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Pia

                                Pia, thanks for the great report! That dessert at Europea sounds really delicious. The thought of the Grand Marnier souffle is awesome! I am clearly going to have to get my butt there soon.

                                I recently had a chance to try Ferreira, and I also really enjoyed it. They have a wonderful touch with fish, they really cook it to perfection.

                                1. re: Pia

                                  "I have to say, I am amazed there's even a debate. St-Viateur hands down. The Fairmount bagels, while nicely textured, were bland and sweet.
                                  "

                                  'atta girl.

                                  1. re: Pia

                                    I love reading what visitors thought. Thanks for coming back with your report.