Recommendations for good BYOs (and good restaurants with great wine lists) in Montreal and Quebec City
I'm going to be in Montreal (2 nights) and Quebec City (4 nights) in early August. I'd really appreciate any recommendations for places that allow BYO and have excellent food. I won't say that price is no object, but I'm not adverse to paying for a great meal.
I collect small production wines (less than 400 cases made), mainly from California, and will probably be bringing some highly regarded Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauv. with me. Since there are three of us, I can bring 6 bottles from the States (I might bring only 4) and can guarantee that they are not wines that will be on a list or available thru the SAQ.
I'm also looking for places that have great food and a great wine list for at least one night. Any recommendations from locals for places that are off the regular tourist path would be greatly appreciated.
I will be staying in the Old City in both places, but don't need to limit myself to restaurants there. I'm willing to take a cab to almost anywhere if the meal is worth it.
Thanks in advance for any help.
A word to the wise about BYOs. On Thursdays through Saturdays, most have two seatings (5:30-6 p.m. and 8:30-9 p.m.) and are ruthless when it comes to clearing the room at the end of the first. Unless you like getting the bum's rush, opt for the second seating.
The city's best BYO is Le P'tit Plateau (330 Marie Anne East, 514 282-6342), which specializes in southwest French fare (the chef hails from Bordeaux). The space is small with Montreal atmosphere in spades. Tables are close together, service is friendly but brusque (a result of everyone ordering all at once, I think). The stemware is adequate for whites, too small for fine reds; I'd recommend bringing your own (the staff won't object). The foie gras au torchon is excellent and a bargain. The flagship dessert involving phyllo towers, morello cherries, candied orange peel, a confit prune and house-made Armagnac ice cream is great and the crème brûlée is one of the best in the city.
Le Bleu Raisin (5237 St-Denis, 514 271-2333) is more modern, market-driven French. Quite inventive at times, with the occasional miss. The experience is more like that in a formal restaurant, with tablecloths and very good stemware. The chef's a wine lover and has been known to spontaneously adapt dishes to fine bottles, especially if he's rewarded with a glass.
La Colombe (554 Duluth East corner St-Hubert, 514 849-8844) also ranks high, though I find it a little meat-centric and formulaic at times. Desserts tend to be very good (the chef's a dessert and chocolate expert). Good stemware, including flutes, and red wine-friendly food.
Christophe (1187 Van Horne, 514 4270-0850) has been a little uneven lately but can be quite strong (before coming to Montreal, Christophe was Giscard d'Estaing's private chef for several years). Modern French, never very heavy. Good stemware.
Others include À l'os (5207 St-Laurent, 514 270-7055; pricey; noisy; smells from open kitchen; good, sometimes very good, if predictable dishes, including the signature beef tenderloin on the bone; very good glasses and carafes), O'Thym (1112 de Maisonneuve East, 514 525-3443; "designed by committee" menu; not especially tolerant of wine geekiness), Yoyo (4720 Marquette, 514 524-4187; pleasant surroundings and staff interested in wine, but food that looks better than it tastes -- not that it tastes bad), Pégasse (1831 Gilford, 514 522-0487; ditto) and Zeste de Folie (3017 Masson, 514 727-0991; market French with a penchant for fruit and meat/fish combos and a little too much sugar for my palate), but I wouldn't rank them alongside the above.
As for Quebec City, the BYO phenomenon has never caught on like it has in Montreal. While it's been a while since I've dined out there, locals I know recommend La Girolle (1384 Sainte-Foy, 418 527-4141) for solid French, though it's not really downtown.
Will chime in with some restos and wine bars with good lists later.
As always, Carswell's recs are excellent. Can't go too wrong with any of these BYOBs. But I will chime in with a few personal observations.
I adore P'tit Plateau, the food is fabulous. But if you care about things like stemware, I would comment that I find the wine glasses highly inadequate, especially if you are bringing premium bottles. The food is hearty and should stand up well to the power of California wines, in particular the Cabs. But I am trying to recall if there is a lot on the menu that matches California Pinot. The menu is fairly limited, and I seem to recall that in the past, there weren't a lot of great matches for Pinot Noir on the menu (I love PInot, and always look for an excuse to drink it). I tend to bring a lot of Southern French wines to this resto, these have always been for me the best matches to the menu.
I like Bleu Raisin a lot, but I have found that some of the dishes that aren't as successful can be a real bear for wine-matching. When it works, it can be great, but I find this resto a little risky sometimes.
I know Carswell isn't as big a fan, but I think A L'os is an excellent choice for a special wine-pairing meal if you want the wines to be the focus. The food is very well-prepared, and as Carswell points out, is somewhat predictable. But that is exactly why I like it when I want to showcase a wine. The food is classically prepared, and does not try to compete with wine in the flavours used. The dishes are extremely wine friendly, and I have had good success matching wines to the menu, including New World Pinots and Cabs. The stemware is probably the best in the city for showcasing wines, at least in BYOBs. Some people find it a touch snooty, it is certainly fancier than most BYOBs in the city. I do not find A L'os noisier than any of the other places I've discussed.
If you are a fan of fois gras and sweet wine, definitely bring a nice bottle of sweet wine. Nearly all the good BYOBs have a fois offering, and they are usually very delicious.
Places that I like with great food and interesting wine lists:
- Le Montee and the sister wine bar, Bouchonne. Food is stellar, and the wine list is bursting with unusual and delicious wines. The french wines on these lists are very special and different from the usual suspects seen on fine wine lists, and might be a nice contrast to the California wines you'll be enjoying at a BYOB. And the cheese offerings - wow. Perfectly ripened and delicious.
- Club Chasse et Peche: divine food, and nice wine list. Very classy establishment.
- Lemeac: Classic French bistro, fair and interesting wine list that matches well with the food.
- For something a little more unusual, Alep: Syrian (middle eastern) cuisine, with an eclectic and well-thought-out wine list, and a sommelier who has a real passion for matching the wines to this strongly flavoured cuisine. Food is fabulous, and the sommelier really opened my eyes to matching wine to this cuisine.
- La Chronique: Higher end, market-driven french-based cuisine. Excellent tasting menus, and good attention to wine-food pairings. Priciest place I've listed so far, by a lot. But it is a very elegant evening.
All these places have been discussed extensively on this board. Please also note that all these places are in Montreal.
Have a great trip!
>>Re Le P'tit Plateau. You're right that it's not the first place you'd think to take a Marsannay, that the cooking almost begs for wines from southwest France and their ilk (have successfully taken California Cabs and a Bea Sagrantino and chef Loivel was once enthralled with a Ridge Geyserville someone had brought, his first ever Zin). California Pinots of the "I can't believe it's not Syrah" school would fit right in, however. And there is the occasional dish that would work with at least some New World Pinots: the salmon, the grilled venison with zingy red wine reduction and some of the variations on the duck breast theme, for example.
>>Bleu Raisin: It helps to let the chef know what you're bringing beforehand, either when making the reservation or right after arriving at the resto. That said, I don't know how good his English is and I don't know how familiar with or interested in New World wines he is.
>>«I do not find A L'os noisier than any of the other places I've discussed.» Then I've been unlucky on my three visits there. Last time, there was a large and boisterous party and the noise level was high enough not only to prevent conversation but to interfere with concentration. We had a table next to the kitchen and the combined noise and cooking odours made it hard to appreciate the wines -- far from ideal when you've opened some fine bottles. Le P'tit Plateau can be noisy but in a white noise kind of way; I've never had to yell to make myself heard. Raisin Bleu I think of as almost hushed by comparison.
Great wine list suggestions. Will chime in with a few more when work permits (August is a ways off).
During a recent visit to Montreal took a group of friends to Les Heritiers- first time in a few years (prefer La Calombe (#1) and Petit Plateau (#2)). The atmosphere and service were great, and so was the food for the most part. I was a little surprised/disappointed that the menu seemed identical to what it was several years ago, which suggests a certain lack of creativity or interest from the kitchen. The appetizers were fab, the sorbet in vodka an awesome kick, and the mains sampled were all good, but perhaps not as good as the first courses. Overall, a worthwhile experience.
Recently back to Montreal, we waited too long to make reservations and couldn't get a table at le P.P or la calombe and ended up at Yo-Yo. In all, given the price, came away very disappointed. Chewy duck (and veal- how can veal be tough!?), a waitress who was outside smoking every time you turned around, an no soup included in the price....just not up to par with the others I would say. Surprised that the place was so busy given the competition that is out there.
Re Le P'tit Plateau -- I take visitors here 2-3 times a year, to show off tremendous food, and the Montreal BYOB tradition. I had one esteemed professional visitor, who made a fuss to have not wine, but Montreal beer with dinner. I was a bit sheepish at pulling out the six-packs, but the excellent staff did not bat an eye, kept the waiting beer for us in cold storage, and brought it out when appropriate. Tremendous professionalism. -- and dinner was, as always, fabulous.
Thanks for the recommendations. I think I'll have to try La Colombe and Le Bleu Raisin with Le P'tit Plateau as a definite maybe (I'm not carting stemware with me, my wife thinks I'm wine geeky enough as it is).
Too bad there aren't more places in Quebec City as I'm spending more time there than Montreal. (been to Montreal several times, never been to QC)
My trip to Canada ended yesterday, over 1500 miles driving, countless miles walking up and down the hills in Quebec City, and lots of good food.
We only spent two nights in Montreal, and the first we went to ModAVin in the Old Port. The food was very good, especially the lamb. There was live music (a jazz guitar and singer) and a decent wine list. Service was very good and friendly. The second night we went to La Colombe (thank you carswell for the recommendation) My son and I started with the seared foie gras and had an '88 Ch. Caillou Sauterne to go with it. Entrees were the confit lamb shank for my son, venison filet for me, and halibut for the wife. We brought a '00 Caro to go with the meat (my wife doesn't drink). Dessert was a chocolate concoction that was to die for.
In Quebec the memorable meal was at le Saint Amour. I chose it because it has a 12,000 bottle cellar, but it is pricy. I can't remember what the others had (other than the foie gras 7 ways for my son to start) but I had the 5 course Inspiration meal. Started with a green spinich shooter with parmesan cheese foam, then vegetable cream soup with a valsamic vinegar reduction and morel essence sabayon. It was followed by a butterfish carpaccio with salmon tatrare, shrimp and avocado mango and green lemon emulsion. Next was the glazed organic duck breast with seared wild mushrooms and a prot wine juice. I ended with the Saint Amour Fantacy (three delicious desserts) and coffee. We had an '03 E. Guigal Hermitage to go with the meal. Service was excellent, very old world, the restaurant is beautiful, the food fantastic, and the entire night expensive. But worth it.