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Feb 11, 2009 04:29 PM

Looking for Valentine's Day dinner in Montreal

Hi, we're New Yorkers who are looking forward to going to Montreal for our first time this weekend -- and honestly we are looking forward to trying poutine and your bagels as much as (or more than) the gourmet dinners.

But here's the problem - we do want to have a nice evening out on Valentine's Day. I've read through many of the Chowhound threads (love the posts, especially Carswell's) but it just seems like a lot of Montreal's top restaurants are a little . .testosterone-y. For example, the word "loud" comes up in reviews a lot. And we love Anthony Bourdain, but we have him here, thank you very much.

So we're looking for a slightly lower-key, slightly romantic dining experience -- it sounds like Anise would have been perfect, if it still existed ... for those who know New York I'm thinking the equivalent of the old Alison on Dominick, or of a Peter Kelly restaurant.

Currently leaning towards Europea, but I would welcome any weigh-ins . ..

many many thanks in advance!

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  1. Time to get with the plan, thenewlyweds. moh is the new carswell. ;)

    Can't comment on Europea since I've not been in years. If you've been reading older threads, you've seen that it gets a lot of praise here.

    It's kind of the last minute but could also try your luck at La Chronique (modern, Cartesian, ecclectic, intimate), Raza (cool, minimalist decor, ultra-refined South American with French twists), La Montée (haven't been to the new downtown digs but reports are encouraging) and La Porte (modern French, warm intimate decor, with a candlelight dinner on the 14th), to name four restos at the somewhat higher end.

    For less fancy, head to one of the neighbourhood bistros (a recent meal at Au Cinquième Péché found them at the top of their game; tiny Bistro Bienville would be another good pick), BYOs (Le Bleu Raisin's worth taking a good bottle or two to; Le P'tit Plateau's stellar SW French cuisine and cozy setting are dimmed slightly by the brusque service) or wine bars (Bouchonné takes both the intimate and romantic crown and, while it can be a little noisy when full, it's never oppressive, especially if you snag a banquette table; Les 3 Petits Bouchons is a little slicker and more restaurant-like but still lots of fun).

    Le P'tit Plateau has never had a website and Le Bleu Raisin's appears to be offline. Sorry.

    8 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      To add to Carswell's exhaustive list, your idea of Europea would be excellent for a Valentine's dinner (if you can get a table at this point). I've been twice in the last three weeks, and it was brilliant both times. And we given tons of extras - the first time I thought the kitchen was giving away surplus, but the next night it was the same; must be the custom of the place. Many little (and not so little) things in between courses, even for people ordering a la carte. And order one dessert and you'll get 3, plus mignardises, plus cotton candy.... You definitely need to be hungry. Atmosphere is not hushed but not noisy, sort of relaxed chic.

      1. re: carswell

        Thanks for the recs --how friendly you Montrealers are!

        We indeed could not snag a table at Europea and ended with reservations at La Prunelle, which the hotel had to help with as my beginner's French didn't really process the idea of a six pm seating and a nine pm seating, especially dealing with an answering machine and not une personne. We are looking forward to it and will report back.

        Since we are here for a few days and we are going to take a look at the whole list possibly for Sunday, so the effort of posting won't be wasted. :>

        To add to the "what tourists think of Montreal food" body of knowledge, we got in late last night and immediately headed to Schwartz's, where the smoked meat was every bit as great as had been promised, as were the pickles, and we also loved that the place couldn't figure out whether it had been established in 1928 or 1930 (hubby's placemat said one thing, mine said another). We found the drinks a little odd though, as hubby reports Cott's Black Cherry soda is not as good as Dr. Brown's, and I loved my Barq's root beer but it had caffeine in it, unlike it's sister version in the U.S., so I was up at four.

        Next time we come we're bringing some Dr. Brown's (Black Cherry for hubby, Cel-Ray for me) with us.

        1. re: thenewlyweds

          More info for the hive mind (and so we can find it again)

          Cafe Olimpico rocked. I had a classic cafe au lait with one sugar (I usually take it with none) and thought it was the best coffee I'd ever had on this continent.

          Pountine at Patata was . .. well, we're glad we had it once, we're sure it was the best in town, but you guys can keep it. Ditto Fairmount bagels -- the sesame was better than the poppy, but the glaze on both was just too sweet for a New York palate.

          Great take-out chicken from Rosado's. Hipster vegetarian place in Mile End that we can't remember the name of --Gab something -- nice soup and very Williamsburg-y. Hot chocolate at Juliette et Chocolat like drinking chocolate slurry; hubby says the hot chocolate at the O. was much better.

          We had a fabulous time at the Atwater market -- I wish we had bought kilos and kilos of the maple pecans from the nut guy on the first floor. When we come back to Montreal (and we will) we will just do an apartment swap and cook.

          And La Prunelle -- there's a chef with a great and vivid imagination whose cooks can't quite execute all the ideas. Two dishes out of five (the grouper and one dessert tart) underdone, and yet the flavor combos were so great I would go again, because the hits, with skillful use of ingredients like cardamom and Charles-Aime Robert, outweighed the misses.

          One thing we liked the waiter called a "chomat," which is not a word I can find a translation for anywhere, which he insisted was a sort of pudding but which seemed to me to be more like a gateau -- but it tasted like there was a ginger cardamom thing going on which was delish.

          1. re: thenewlyweds

            There's no glaze on their bagels; you're just tasting pure wood oven-cooked bagels. I've never had NY-style bagels, but maybe they put something weird in/on them?

            Pata is not the best poutine in town, you can find better at almost any Lafleur's (and just as good fries, imo -actually I find everything about Pata highly overrated). La Banquise is the gold standard.

            Agreed that Romados is excellent, though. And Schwartz's is just one of the kind, beautiful Montreal-style soul food.

            1. re: thenewlyweds

              I think you're referring to Pouding chômeur.

              1. re: thenewlyweds

                «Ditto Fairmount bagels -- the sesame was better than the poppy, but the glaze on both was just too sweet for a New York palate.»

                You should have listened to those who recommended the St-Viateur bagel factory. The water the dough is simmered in before baking is less honeyed there, making for a less glazy exterior and less sweet flavour. One of several reasons why St-V bagels are superior.

                1. re: carswell

                  Well, ya learn sumtin' new every day... I prefer Fairmount though.

                  1. re: Shattered

                    I prefer St-Viateur myself, but it's mainly cuz there you can stare at the massive slab of dough on the counter.

          2. honey in the water, pouding chomeur -- I love you guys!

            Will try to repay the favors should you ever come to New York.