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Montreal sushi?

My wife and I are planning are first trip to Montreal for four days at the end of August to celebrate her birthday. We are both very excited! I have been combing through the overwhelming amount of suggestions on this board and others. The only "definites" so far are Pied au Cochon and probably La Banquise for Poutine (so many differing poutine opinions!). I’ll probably also try L’Express and just wander around Jean Talon market and see whatever grabs my attention and tastebuds.

However, we were watching No Reservations Tokyo the other night and my wife said “Wow, I’d love to have sushi for my birthday.” Which got me to thinking “Does Montreal have any good sushi?” We are coming from Brooklyn and she used to live on the West Coast so we will know if it’s crap. Is this even a good idea? I’d hate to take her someplace and be really disappointed…should I take the risk or just try to find some charming bistro instead? Ideas?

Any sushi suggestions? Or, for that matter, any other restaurant suggestions? Or, how about any good pubs with local brews I can’t find in the states? We are staying at the Place De Armes Hotel on St. Jacques but are big walkers and ride subways every day. Our budget is about $20 per entrée.

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  1. While there is decent sushi to be found in Montreal, it's not something I'd run out of my way for if I was visiting the city. You can get much better sushi in NY, in my experience. We have so many wonderful little bistros, all of which will run around $20 - $30 for a main course (be warned, the word entree here means an appetizer, the main course is called a plat principal), that you'd be far better off trying one of those instead, IMHO.

    As for brews, there was a very detailed thread on that not too long ago. Off the top of my head, recommendations would be Dieu du Ciel and L'Amere a Boire, but there are a few other very good ones as well.

    1. Montreal is not a world-class sushi town. See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/476202 and threads linked to therein for some ideas. Not that I've tried them all, but my favourites are Jun-i and, for new-fangled, Tri Express. Also, note that the much-praised Sushi Volant has called it a day.

      You'll find some good recent beer suggestions in this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/540609

      10 Replies
      1. re: carswell

        OK...I think the sushi idea is sleeping with the fishes...I looked at the Dieu du Ciel website and that looks great. Is L'Express an example of a nice bistro or is it just mediocre? What are some nice bistros?

        I know it's unfair to ask people to recommend a few things from an entire city but if people were to ever come to NYC I'd say go to:
        Spotted Pig (great atmosphere and food but can be a mob scene)
        Prune (higher end dining but it won't break the bank)
        DiFara's Pizza (a helluva trek into the wilds of Brooklyn but the best pizza you will ever eat in your life)
        Lucali's Pizza (still Brooklyn but in a trendier part- the second best pizza you'll ever eat and you won't have to wait two hours to get it)
        Blind Tiger Ale House (amazing beer selection in a very cool part of town- West Village)
        Little Owl (American bistro fare that never disappoints)
        Babbo (when you care enough to empty your wallet)
        Macaron (a little French sandwich/sweet shop in the heart of tourist hell)
        Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown (the best soup dumplings in the US- the kind with the soup inside the dumpling)
        Momofuku Ssam (the service is almost as good as the food- get whatever ham they have on the menu served with the red-eye mustard and crusty bread)

        But even this list is a joke because these are just the places the stand out even though there are hundreds of others that are just as special in their own ways.

          1. re: pastoralia

            The big bistro most popular with Chowhounds is probably Leméac. For a great deal, go after 10 p.m. -- first course, main course and coffee/tea for $22 a shot, about a third less than it'd cost you before 10 p.m. (though the regular menu is more extensive than the late night special menu). The food at Holder in Old Montreal can be inconsistent but the place is a safe bet overall and has bistro atmosphere in spades. The menu at Au Petit Extra in the east end is not quite as chockablock with classic bistro dishes as, say, L'Express, but the food and wine list are good, the QPR high and the overall experience a winner.

            Don't overlook the small neighbourhood bistros, either. For food, wine and welcome, Au Cinquième Péché is hard to beat (and, if you do table d'hôte, within your budget) but there are plenty of others: Bistro Bienville, Cocagne, Le Jolifou, Cuisine et Dépendance, Le Bouchon de Liège, Le Margaux, M sur Masson, etc., etc.

            Another category is BYOs. Le P'tit Plateau (southwest French) tops my list but there are tens if not hundreds of others.

            Other Montreal unmissables -- besides the poutine, smoked meat and bagel triumvirate -- are Vietnamese, Middle Eastern (epitomized by Le Petit Alep, Alep and Daou for sitdown, Apo and countless sharwarma joints for takeout, Mahrouse and Boshali for pastries) and Portuguese (especially grilled chicken from Portugalia, Romados, Mavi, etc.). All of this has been covered extensively and recently, so poke through the thread listing and use the search function. And pay special attention to:
            Quintessential Montreal http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/399473
            Inexpensive Places Not to Miss http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/512945
            Best Hole in the Wall? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/411132

            1. re: carswell

              Thanks carswell...I'm going to do some research on those. And neighborhood bistros are great to just come across so I'll keep my eye out. What are the best foodie neighborhoods? Mile End?

              What do you think of La Banquise for Poutine. I'm not looking for stuff with peas and bacon, etc. I just want the basic. There's a place here in Brooklyn called Sheep Station that is run by a woman from Montreal and her poutine is freakin' amazing so I'd hate to go to Montreal only to discover my favorite poutine is in my backyard (but then again I guess that's not such a bad thing).

              1. re: pastoralia

                La Banquise IS the place for poutine ... just order the "plain" ol'poutine.

                1. re: pastoralia

                  La Banquise is a board favorite.

                  Check here to learn about other fine poutines:

                  http://montrealpoutine.com/reviews.html

                  1. re: pastoralia

                    The plain poutine at La Banquaise is great, but I also strongly recommend the bacon poutine and especially the one with chicken and peas. I know that it sounds weird but it's absolutely delicious.

                    BTW, it isn't a sushi place, but anything with raw or cured salmon at APdC is insanely wonderful. I've probably had 5 different salmon preparations, each more delicious than the last.

                    1. re: pastoralia

                      I find La Banquise to be overrated. Not something I would go out of my way for but it IS open 24 hours. One of the best poutines I've had in town is at Paul Patates on Charlevoix and Coleraine Streets in Point St. Charles. Not only is their poutine pretty good but their in-house made spruce beer is awesome. Also, not too far away on Centre Street just below Shearer you can find what I think is one of the top three smoked meats in town at Quebec Smoked Meat. Just a deli counter place with guys in white frocks selling really good meats, no tables. Grab a couple pounds, a loaf of bread and some mustard and eat by the canal just a few blocks away. All in all, Point St. Charles isn't quite the food wasteland it's made out to be.

                  2. re: pastoralia

                    We are from New York. My recommendation is skip the sushi, and go for "authentic".

                    Given your recommendations, in Montreal you may like:
                    * Dieu du Ciel, a little more Medieval than Blind Tiger, with everything brewed right there. Obviously subjective, but try Summer Soltice, a sour p-lambic; the rose hibiscus; and whatever cask ale they have.
                    * Social Club, an authentic Italian coffee shop. Not as good as Ninth Street Espresso, but awesome atmosphere.
                    * Chez Claudette for poutine. Their galvaude (chicken and peas) is far superior to La Banquise, larger meat pieces. But La Banquise does have a much more authentic atmosphere, so maybe prefer that.
                    * Schwartz's. Again, inferior to Katz's, but the atmosphere is authentic.
                    * Haven't been to Pied au Cochon yet. Can't recommend it either way.

                    1. re: bravura

                      Thanks for the tips. In 24 hours I'll be there!

                2. Actually, I'd like to recommend a sushi place (though I really like Dieu du Ciel, but that's a completely different type of restaurant).
                  The best sushi in Montreal (in my experience) is Masako Sushi Bar, at 5050 Côte-des-Neiges. Be sure to order the Dragon Eye rolls to start, they're amazing! :)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: amelie1980

                    I'd be surprised if it comes anywhere close to what the OP can get in New York...certainly it wouldn't be worth running out of their way for.

                    1. re: cherylmtl

                      It's certainly the best in Côte des Neiges these days. But despite its being within easy walking distance of my flat, I usually find myself schlepping to Sushi Volant (sob!), Jun-i or Mikado Monkland when jonesing for sushi.

                  2. Sushi in Montreal is an odd thing. Montreal can't even compete with Winnipeg when it comes to sushi, which makes no sense at all when you consider how much better everything else is. Why, you might ask? Well, 2 reasons that I can think of after having spoken to the owners of sushi bars in both cities:

                    1) There are not a lot of Japanese in Montreal. Thus, most sushi places are run by non-Japanese mostly trying to cash in on the popularity of sushi. I'm not saying that you can't make good sushi unless you are Japanese but trying to find a traditionally trained sushi chef is harder is all.

                    2) The quality of the sushi grade fish, especially Tuna, available in Montreal is lacking. Most inland cities get fish that has been flash frozen for sushi and flash frozen, IMHO, is the next best thing to REAL fresh fish. For reasons that I don't understand, this philosophy does not apply as much in Montreal and many people try to source the fresh stuff, even though the situation is hopeless as Montreal, despite being surrounded by water, is inland as far as sushi fish is concerned.

                    The third thing, which is sort of unrelated, is the local approach to sushi. Great sushi depends on two things: superbly prepared vinegared rice, and top quality fish. The more you add to it, the less. The local sushi places don't seem to get that and it's all a arms race to see who can fit more into their sushi or cover it with more sauces or pile it highest on the plate. This thinking fails for sushi which should let the goodness ingredients speak for themselves.

                    End rant.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: The Chemist

                      Since when were there a lot of Japanese in Winnipeg? Sorry, I don't agree with your theory, and I think you would be hard-pressed to find much in Winnipeg that compares favourably to Montreal, food-wise, although there are a few exceptions...

                      There is good sushi to be found in Montreal, if you discount the sushi-shop type emporia, and search out the places mentioned earlier in this thread, and the few others related to sushi. There is just much better sushi in New York, unfortunately, so it wouldn't be worthwhile for someone from there to come here (or pretty much anywhere else in Canada, with the exception of Vancouver) looking specifically for sushi that would be better than what they can get at home.

                      1. re: cherylmtl

                        I certainly agree on the third point. It seems that when people here think of sushi the first thing that comes to mind are elaborate maki filled with a ton of garnish. And that's what they use to gauge the quality of sushi here. I don't really know why this is the case, but I suspect that it has to do with the fact that it's hard to to convince the famously cheap Montrealers that a great piece of fish on ball of rice is worth paying for, and it's far easier to fool them with elaborate preparations.

                        1. re: cherylmtl

                          Having lived in both cities for some time and having been very much obsessed with sushi (going on more than a decade now), I can tell you that a much higher percentage of sushi bars in Winnipeg are owned by Japanese than those in Montreal. Again, this is not a guarantee of quality, but a very good correlate.

                          And I agree %100 that food (or most anything else) in Winnipeg cannot compare to that in Montreal... with two excpetions: WHen it comes to Sushi and Vietnamese, they have us trumped.

                          1. re: alexalready

                            Folks, we've removed a number of posts from this thread arguing about Winnipeg vs. Montreal sushi. These kinds of regional grudge matches really don't help anyone eat better, and they tend to get angry and flamey, as this one did. Please, if you have suggestions for where to get great sushi in Montreal, share them, but if avoid bashing either Winnipeg or Montreal's chow scenes.

                      2. When I first went to Oishii Sushi on Bernard (Mile End) a couple of years ago, I was greatly disappointed: despite innovative menu at very affordable prices, service was snail-pace and some of my friends got their main course before the rest of us received our appetizers. Many months later, I decided to give it another chance and to my surprise, the restaurant had changed ownership. It was a vast improvement - service was efficient, appetizers were fresh, sushi variety was innovative and vegetarian(!) friendly. I would steer away from the Thai stuff on their menu, though.

                        1. Beautiful sushi place downtown Montreal: restaurant "Takara" on the 5th level in Cours Mont-Royal. Very nice Japanese atmosphere and cook. Their sushi are the best in town.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tea_lover3

                            I like Takara very much, but I would not agree that they have the best sushi in town. It is very good, the sashimi is very nice quality, but the rolls can be a bit mushy or overdone. I feel they have other strengths, and enjoyed more of the cooked items. And I agree the atmosphere is excellent and the chef very nice.

                          2. Are there any opinions on the sushi offered at Soba and Sushi on Sherbrooke (NDG/Westmount) or Sushi 5 saisons in the same area? They were recently recommended to me from a friend.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: hungryann

                              Apparently the sushi at 5 saisons is quite good and pretty affordable as well. I've heard nothing but good things about it from others. As for Soba, I've only heard recommendations for their non-sushi items, which are apparently very good value.

                              1. re: hungryann

                                I used to live in the area and ate a lot of sushi from Soba and Sushi. Its definitely above average for Montreal, especially given that its relatively cheap too. We still go back from time to time. The dining room isn't fancy though if that's important to you.

                              2. i had terrible but really terrible sushi at tokyo sushi (on ste-cathrine, next to PM). The fish was sub par, straight from the freezer to the cutting board, rice was too wet, and kamikaze didn't even have the spicy mayo. They get points for nice looking restaurant, but i felt jibbed (20 bucks). Heck, kanda was better (which says alot)

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: mak2k

                                  i actually had a pretty good experience at tokyo sushi. really exceeded my expectations of what kind of quality they would have in an all you can eat sushi place. the fish was moderately fresh, and the rice was alright. the only beef i had was the ratio of fish to rice, but then again, it is an all you can eat place. it was good enough that i would go again. i've never been to kanda, but it looks a lot more shabbier then tokyo sushi as far as quality goes.
                                  i've heard that quality there varies a lot from other people, so maybe you went on an off day :/

                                  1. re: sharkbait88

                                    "moderately fresh" as a descriptor for fish at a sushi place does not fill me with confidence.

                                      1. re: wattacetti

                                        haha, alright, hows a 7/10 on freshness scale? i mean, for me, and the fact that its at an all you can eat makes that alright, since i didn't have too high of expectations in the first place.
                                        of course, if your looking for THEE best sushi, don't even bother looking at sushi buffets. but for a reasonably priced all you can eat, it doesnt do too badly. the fish was tender, and most importantly didn't make me sick.
                                        although my friend ordered the fried salmon belly and said it was horrible.

                                        1. re: sharkbait88

                                          I always thought all-you-can-eat sushi joints bombarded the diner with rice because they want to be stingy with the fish.

                                          But this ringing endorsement makes me think they might be trying to protect the customer from the fish.

                                          1. re: Mr F

                                            i admit defeat, just saying its not that bad understanding that it doesnt present itself as an authentic expensive a la carte sushi place.

                                            1. re: sharkbait88

                                              I've never quite gotten why Kanda on Bishop is trashed so often. They had the most amazing sushi deal ever at 80 cents a piece (take out) up until a few months ago. I partook of that special price probably 30 or 40 times. Never disappointed. You got the straight goods, no discards. Occasionally the salmon on the wrong axis, you just turned it around and ate it from the side.
                                              The place is jammed with line-ups all the time for the all you can eat menu, a guaranteed turnover on the fish, which matters.
                                              I mean you can go to Juni and get the most sublime sushi in Montreal and pay $6.50 for 2 pieces of the most amazing arctic char ever but, hey, this is a chowhound board. Juni works for the moneyed set but you have to look elsewhere for "finds". The now lamented 80 cent Bishop St. Kanda take-out was a chowhound find.

                                              1. re: everyonelovessushi

                                                i haven't tried kanda, but for me, a starving student (no pun intended :)), i'll get what i can. as much as i would love to pursue my foodie interests, there are just some things that i won't be able to afford (or at least as often as i like) on my student budget.

                                                1. re: sharkbait88

                                                  Have you tried Odaki across the street (I think that's how it's spelled)? I've heard mixed stuff about that place as well.

                                    1. I tried Zenya on Ste-Catherine recently. It had been recommended to me by a Japanese acquaintance who lived in Montreal for a few years and according to her, Zenya was the best sushi and most authentic restaurant in Montreal. The sushi/sashimi combo I had was very good and very fresh. I am not sure how it compares to Tri express or Jun-I (the board favorites) as I've never been there. I tried my friend,s tempura and it was excellent and he raved about the salmon teriyaki and gyoza in his bento box. All in all it's a great option for sushi in downtown.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: hungryann

                                        I've been to Zenya several times and enjoyed it. Koji works there, well, at least he did. Haven't visited Montreal in a year.

                                      2. The best sushi in Montreal is a very well kept secret. Only true sushi lovers might know about this place. Tri Express, located on the corner or Laurier and Marquette was started-up by the best Sushi chef in town, Tri. He used to be the chef and partner at Treehouse and Kaizen, but left the restaurants to start his own beautiful little place. It is little (10 tables), cozy, perfectly setup, and his sushi is out of this world. Noone has tasted sushi until they taste Tri's sushi. And I have been to Japan and eaten plenty of sushi there...

                                        -----
                                        Tri Express
                                        1650 Av Laurier E, Montreal, QC H2J1J2, CA

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: nanomed

                                          Tri is awesome. Definatly worth the trip across town for a visit.

                                          1. re: nanomed

                                            «The best sushi in Montreal is a very well kept secret.»

                                            Huh?! It's been much discussed on this board and other online fora and reviewed by all the major local newspapers. Hardly a secret, well kept or otherwise.

                                            My overall experience at Tri Express has been far less positive than yours. Quality has varied from very good to blah. Though the rice is usually first rate, on occasion it's been too sweet or too loose. Service has varied from cool but pleasant to frigid and borderline sneering. Many of the new fangled combos seem odd, striving for novelty at the expense of intrinsic deliciousness, of gastronomic good sense. The traditional less-is-more aesthetic gets short shrift, as though the chef is bored or jaded. For all those reasons, I find the "no one has tasted sushi until they taste Tri's sushi" line a little over the top.

                                            1. re: carswell

                                              I just moved down the street from this establishment and Carswell is, as usual, spot on. The sushi is good, not great, and a lot of it tastes the same. My biggest beef is with the horrible, horrible service there. Very unfriendly, execpt for Tri himself, who is actually quite affable. Also no liquour licence, which means I won't be going back there often except to get take out.

                                              There is better to be found, even in Montreal.

                                              1. re: carswell

                                                Yeah i understand your opinion on this.

                                                It's always hard for any of us to translate our experiences to someone else. I've had amazing times at Tri's place..... part of the charm for me is him.... but also realizing that it is simple well made sushi from my experiences...
                                                My experiences there remind me of my youth and growing up eating tri's sushi.

                                                Yet i can see how people who want more of their sushi experiences can be left wanting more. less sauce. more fish varieties. better service. evolution in the menu and products being offered.

                                                This can be said of 90% of the sushi restaurants in the world... Yet tri's still get a nod as being special and very good in my opinion.

                                                1. re: carswell

                                                  I have found the staff at Tri quite friendly, but in all fairness I haven't been much in the last couple years since it became very popular.

                                                  I'm generally not a big fan of most North American style sushi but think Tri has branched out in a way that is different than most mainstream North American (how much mayo would you like on your roll, sir?) and I find that very interesting. It pushes the envelope in some respects and that is not always succesful but I'd rather try Tri's sushi than another Boston roll. Having said that I don't think iTri is an earth-shattering experience but it is one I would recommend as one of the two better sushi experiences in Montreal (it's a short dance card).

                                                  1. re: carswell

                                                    I am not going to start an argument about this because tastes are different. However, I will still call it a best kept secret because more than half of Montrealers still don't know about it - food lovers will of course know about it. Also, I love food enough to not emphasize on the service too much. Anyway, in general, people are nice to you when you are nice to them... Besides, I find that TriExpress is not the type of place you go to to get first class service; it is a homey sushi shack type of place, where people are just themselves. Lastly, compared to the sushi I ate in Japan for a an entire month, Tri is the closest comparison I found in Montreal - and I have tried alot of them - sushi is is my favorite specialty.

                                                  2. re: nanomed

                                                    This is the itamae who served me a norimaki conceived primarily for the color and shape of strawberries and pea shoots. Fortunately the fish inside the roll was already dead because it would have died from the embarassment as I spent the rest of my meal trying to eliminate the taste of underripe strawberries.

                                                    Sorry - too much wackiness for the sake of creativity. You can have mine.

                                                  3. I can't sat that I'm a sushi connoisseur nor pretend to be one.
                                                    I have tried the sushi at Japon and I liked it.
                                                    Has anyone else tried Japon ?

                                                    JAPON SUSHI BAR
                                                    1320, boul. Marcel-Laurin
                                                    Ville St-Laurent (Québec) H4R 1J9

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: satana_666

                                                      Japon used to be one of my favourite places in town, but my last visit in was very disappointing. The fish was mostly meh and the portions of fish on the nigiri were all-you-can-eat size, but at à la carte prices. You can read a bit more about it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6257...