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Mid-range to high-end Montreal restos: personal reccos

Prepared this list of suggestions for visiting friends and thought others might find it useful. All the standard disclaimers apply. It's hardly exhaustive; said friends were in town for only a few days. It's highly subjective, focusing mainly on places I like and/or thought they might like. My friends are wine lovers of the first rank, so smart wine lists loomed large among the selection critieria. Some obvious choices have been left out because I'm not a big fan (e.g. Toqué!) or because recent reports have been mixed and I've not had occasion to investigate further (e.g Brontë, Lucca). There's some overlap among the categories. The order is arbitrary.

- La Chronique (Outremont/Mile End). Resolutely modern, chef-driven, market-driven French. Good wine list. Unstuffy atmosphere. www.lachronique.qc.ca
- La Porte (western Plateau). Recently arrived husband and wife run a very classy French resto. Intimate decor, refined cooking, well-chosen wines. www.restaurantlaporte.com
- La Montée (downtown). The Plateau's Montée de Lait has changed names and location. Contemporary Quebec/French. Innovative, unfussy. Very good wine list focused on non-interventionist producers, many private imports. www.lamontee.ca/index_en.html
- DNA (Old Montreal). Slick decor and soundtrack. Dynamic kitchen and great house-made charctuerie. Wine list includes an impressive selection of Canadian bottles. www.dnarestaurant.com
- Graziella (Old Montreal). Contemporary Italian. Less is more. www.restaurantgraziella.ca
- Europea (downtown). Excellent if somewhat fussy contemporary French. Not cheap but good QPR. Very pricey chef's table in kitchen is said to be awe-inspiring. www.europea.ca
- Ferreira (downtown). Bustling nouvelle Portuguese bistro. Great setting, attractive staff and patrons, seafood-oriented menu. Said to have the largest Port collection in North America, though little of it's available by the glass... www.ferreiracafe.com
- Jun-i (Outremont/Mile End). The city's best sushi bar. Also serves a number of French-Italian-Asian fusion dishes. www.juni.ca
- Raza (Outremont/Mile End). Ultra-refined, often inspired nouvelle South American. Let down a little by the wine list (the chef's a teetotaller). Affordable East-End sister restaurant, Madre, is also worth a detour. www.restaurantraza.com

- Au Cinquième Péché (Plateau). One of my favourite spots in the city. Modern, often witty bistro with a Flanders slant (the chef and one of the FOH guys are from northern France). Features Quebec ingredients in season, including Magdalen Islands seal in spring and early summer. Always has pescatarian and vegetarian options. Desserts are crazy but delicious. Affordable but smart wine list and good by-the-glass selections. www.aucinquiemepeche.com
- Bistro Bienville (Plateau). Tiny bistro built around a small-dishes formula. Excellent cooking, enlightened wine list. Crowned with an EnRoute award a year or two ago. www.bistrobienville.com
- Le Jolifou (Rosemont). Popular bistro, a bit of a schlep but worth it. French cooking with a Latin American twist. Cool decor. Good QPR. www.jolifou.com
- Kitchen Gallerie (Villeray). Next to the Jean Talon Market. The two chefs do all the shopping, cooking, serving, clean-up. You don't get much more market-driven than this. Wine list betrays a young man's penchant for big wines. www.kitchengalerie.com
- Laloux (Plateau). One of the city's great spaces. Recently changed chefs, with big name Éric Gonzalez taking over. All reports to date have been positive. Interesting desserts and wine list. www.laloux.com
- Les Trois Petits Bouchons (Plateau). Resto/wine bar specializing in local ingredients and natural wines. Good food. Modern but casual decor. www.lestroispetitsbouchons.com
- Bouchonné (Mile End). Wine bar/resto. Run by the La Montée people. Just moved into bigger but no less funky digs. Mostly small dishes, mostly solid though I get the impression the new kitchen staff is working out the kinks. Wine list focuses on natural wines often from underappreciated appellations (e.g. Jura). Good by-the-glass list. Trendy. Open late. www.bouchonne.com
- Aszu (Old Montreal). Resto/wine bar. Somewhat fancier and more staid than the city's other wine bars but with an even bigger by-the-glass selection. Kitchen turns out some pretty good chow. After-22:00 bar menu. Pleasant if somewhat canyon-like terrace. www.aszu.ca
- Tapeo (Petite Patrie). Classic tapas bar that (FWIW) Gourmet raved about. Always fun. Located about 15-20 minutes by cab from downtown. www.restotapeo.com
- Pintxo (Plateau). Cozy modern Basque tapas resto. www.pintxo.ca
- Alep (Villeray). Outstandingly good Syrian-Armenian food and a surprisingly good wine list. Across the street from Jean Talon Market. Next door Le Petit Alep is a less formal (no reservations) alternative. http://restomontreal.ca/restaurants/i...
- Nizza (eastern downtown). Arguably the city's top Provençal resto (not that there's a lot of competition these days). Uneven but when good, very good. Power wine list with prices to match. Lovely terrace on an unlovely and busy street. www.nizza.ca
- Leméac (Outremont). Bustling contemporary bistro serving some refined takes on cuisine bourgeoise. Impressive wine list and serviceable by-the-glass selections. Pleasant terrace. After-22:00 special is one of the city's great deals. www.restaurantlemeac.com
- Holder (Old Montreal). Big, brash bistro. Very popular with multimedia types, local stars, etc. www.restaurantholder.com (obnoxious website -- open link in a new window, which will be resized)

- Au Pied de Cochon (Plateau). Is there anything that hasn't already been said about it? www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca
- Garde Manger (Old Montreal). Small home of Chuck Hughes (Chuck's Day Off). Starts out a resto becomes more lounge like as the evening progresses. Seafood and updated comfort food are specialties. 408 St-François-Xavier, 514 678-5044.
- Joe Beef (near the Atwater market). St-Henri's answer to Au Pied de Cochon. Down-home food on steroids. Interesting wine list. Not cheap. www.joebeef.ca
- Le Club Chasse et Pêche (Old Montreal). Should probably be listed under High End. Faux men's club decor. Signature dish is a witty "surf and turf" combo. A few recent reports have been less than glowing but I have nothing but praise for the food and wine. Lunch, especially in the garden of the Château Ramezay, can be fabulous. www.leclubchasseetpeche.com

Will post a similar list of BYOBs, lunch/brunch places and "ethnic" restos when I find time to whip it into shape.

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  1. You forgot L'Inconnu and Chez L'Epicier.

    1 Reply
    1. re: souschef


      As explained in the first paragraph, it's a far-from-exhaustive list. What's more, I've not been to L'Inconnu. Chez L'Épicier, on the other hand, is intentionally omitted.

      1. Fantastic list! Can't wait for the other two installments. Will bookmark for future reference. Thanks so much!!

        1. Thanks Carswell for taking the time to post this list.

          I am a big fan of CCP. But I would like to try something else, and DNA sounds interesting, based on a quick visit to their website.

          How wold you compare the two, based on a) food b) wine and c) service / experience?

          Is the wine list online complete or just new arrivals?
          I am not big on Canadian wines.

          1 Reply
          1. re: upupaway

            Sorry for the delayed reply. Work has been all-consuming for the last couple of weeks.

            I've only been to DNA once and that was for lunch a while back, so comparisons are even more odious than usual. With that disclaimer, I'd say DNA's food is every bit as good albeit more rustic, the service breezier but equally professional and the overall experience equally enjoyable. The decor doesn't do much for me though it wows others. As for the wine list, it may be in transition. My second-hand info is that they'd like it to be exclusively Canadian. However, the recent Globe and Mail review refers to non-Canadian bottles, of which they used to have many. Anyway, forced to choose between DNA's and CCP's lists, I'd take the latter -- among other things it features more of the small, iconoclastic, non-interventionist Old World producers that float my boat -- though there are plenty of bottles on DNA's list I'd be curious to try.

          2. Great list. I will not be as discreet as you though when it comes to LÉpicier. several years ago a group of us went and hubby picked up bill after a fantastic night of great wines, superior service and great food. a few weeks later we returned to celebrate an annaversary and after being ignored, and insulted we left. it was the first time a restaurant experience left me in tears.

            1 Reply
            1. re: crispy1

              what a valuable and precise list, which will be a very helpful reference to have on hand for trying out restaurants and entertaining visitors with less chance of being disappointed in quality of meal, Thanks so much for sharing your personal experiences and I too hope there will be updates!

              1. I second the "Carswell, you rock" comment. Eagerly anticipating your BYO list and hoping you have a chance to post it before my trip up there in early September.

                We are eating at DNA Saturday night and likely Bouchonne/Buvette chez Simonne Sunday night (since most other restaurants are closed, and also to keep our costs down a bit)... I have a reservation at CC&P for Friday night, but wondering if I should switch it to a BYO (again, with cost in mind). Loved CC&P a year ago, though...

                1. Agree with your assessment of Au Cinquieme Peche but I was at Bistro Bienville last week on Wednesday and they had no small dishes. I will go back whenever I get to Montreal again because it is an engaging little neighborhood place, but I would not call the cooking excellent.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mainahs

                    Saw your earlier review of both restaurants. Our different perceptions of Bistro Bienville illustrate the problems with basing a review, even a capsule review, on a single visit, which I and apparently you both did. When I was there, the menu offered a number of small dishes (two would fill a normal stomach) for singletons and a couple of large dishes meant for two diners to share. And the cooking *was* excellent, in many ways superior to what you get at big name bistros like Cocagne and Leméac. Some variation is to be expected, of course. Even the remarkably consistent Au Cinquième Péché has some nights that are better than others.

                    1. re: carswell

                      Well perhaps I was confused by my lack of understanding French. At the top of the one page menu were about 6 different dishes. I assumed them to be appetizers and ordered the quail salad. The five or six dishes listed below those were all for two and I asked for fish for one which they accommodated with a small bass.

                  2. Adding myself to the list of grateful CHers - thanks for compiling this awesome list! If only we could have this thread automatically emailed to every person who starts a thread with "Coming to Montreal for the first time! Where to eat?"

                    I would agree the CCP should probably be in the high end section, rather than the funkadelic.

                    As this is your personal list, I understand why you have left off a few places. I personally would have added Milos to the high end list, as this is an internationally known restaurant, the quality is excellent (although the prices certainly reflect this - gulp!) and we have to give a shout out to the fabulous lunch and late night deal ($22 for 3 courses), one of the best high-end deals in the city. Very inexpensive for perfectly prepared fish.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: moh

                      Milos has a late night deal? I never knew. How late are we talking about here? I've always wanted to try and reckon this may be first entry into the place.

                      1. re: mtlmaven

                        milos has been advertising their late night deal in newspapers, you can find details on their website, we almost ended up there last night but ended up at cafe ferreira for their latenight deal and a great time, terrific service, good food (gazpacho, grilled sardines, charbroiled chicken with good assorted veggies; cod and we were happy with portuguese wine recommended by staff) and ambience classy. We didnt have time to change so went in bluejeans despite our trepidations were well received and given table near front. Unfortunately a perfect evening ended up with parking tickets because of weird signs that no one could ever figure out that parking was not allowed late evening....

                        1. re: mtlmaven

                          They have late-night specials from 10 pm-midnight on Monday-Saturday, plus a special deal all evening Sunday. They also have a $20 lunch special that I quite enjoyed. All the deets on their site:


                      2. Will keep this list as a reference for my visits to Montreal! Thanks for posting this!

                        Besides Milos, does anyone know which places on this list happen to be open Sunday nights for dinner?

                        1. I had a great experience at Le Duel. Very original menu and knowledgeable staff. I was blown away by the dessert called "poutine" which really looked like a poutine: fries were made out of tempura battered pinapple stick, cheese was japanese lime (the name slips my mind right now) cheesecake and the sauce was a caramel based sauce. I would put it under the high end.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mak2k

                            That must have been a Laurent Godbout dish, it's kinda similar to the Dessert "Club Sandwich" he offers Chez l'épicier also served with Pineapple fries

                            1. re: westaust

                              As it is offered on the menu of Biron (located where duel was, the chef is David Biron) I'd bet it was a Biron dish. Especially b/c Biron likes the Asian ingredients more than Godbout. Perhaps it was a collaboration?

                            2. Carswell thanks so much for posting! You should offer guided tours to food in Montreal- we would come. Look forward to your next one, your recs have always guided our choices and this one is printed out for our next trip.

                              1. Excellent list! Carswell, I've been looking for your BYOB list because I'm going to be in Montreal in two weeks. If it's not ready yet, can you (or someone else on this thread) recommend a particularly good one that's convenient to Old Montreal? We won't have a car but don't mind walking a bit or taking a quick cab ride.

                                1. Hello Chowhounders,
                                  I have been in Montreal for a couple months now and have had the pleasure of singlehandedly working through much of Carswells excellent list of dining recommendations. Here are some thoughts on them:

                                  HIGH END
                                  - La Porte (western Plateau) - meal here was great, go to La Porte! the cuisine is equal to that of any of the top tier Montreal restaurants but it was empty when i went. I started with a foie gras terrine which was served with a glass of something excellent, the name of which escapes me; then i moved on to a pork dish which was served with a chorizo crust; it was also delicious. the petit fours at the end of the meal were also a highlight. Had a chat to the chefs wife (who was waitressing), she was very friendly. It sounds like their family never sleeps but as she put it 'that's passion!'.

                                  - Europea (downtown) - i ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings. the fairy floss dessert they serve is ridiculous and rather incongruent with their otherwise 'fussy' approach to dining. the space itself is also ridiculous (there is a spiral staircase in the middle that is constantly being run up and down; being a waiter here must be terrible). they gave me some cake to take home too which was nice as one can savour the meal a little longer. i left here VERY full. overall very good but if you care about money you probably have better options; very very expensive. from the sound of it you would be better off going to CeP though i have not had the pleasure of dining there yet.

                                  - Ferreira (downtown) - i've been here 3 times in 2 months and have had an incredible meal every single time. the sardines are incredible and served with a delicious tomato tapenade. i've eaten most the other appetizers as well and would heartily recommend just sharing the mixed plate of seafood. the olive oil that is served with their bread is also delicious and leaves one sastisfied without balsalmic (though this available on request). i ate the salt cod the first time i went, it was delicious but the bones were infuriating; i would not order this dish again. i have also eaten the pork and clams which are served with fried potatos (the same dish chez doval serves but better) which was very good. the wine they serve is all portuguese, you can get a pretty decent bottle around the $65 mark. the space itself is always extremely busy, which is surprising; the only issue in my mind with Ferreira is the food is expensive; $100 a head is a starting point w/ wine. still, very nice to finish a great meal and not have that heavy feeling you get after french cuisine. service is very very good. though the port is all listed by the bottle i wouldn't be surprised if you could ask for a glass of something. i have been given a complimentary glass of port here before so i assume they are opening bottles that aren't being fully consumed by a table.

                                  - Au Cinquième Péché (Plateau) - sometimes i wonder if Carswell works here he is so fond of it, but after enjoying a few meals here myself i understand his enthusiasm; unusual produce (marrow, sweetbreads, veal brain, smoked seal sausage, various foie gras preparations) served perfectly, nothing too complicated. I also enjoyed eating some smoked seal (at the tail end of the seal clubbing season unfortunately; otherwise they prefer a tartare preparation apparently which sounds evil/awesome). Veal Sweet Breads are excellent. I have not been able to make it to dessert as of yet however; but if you have a powerful powerful hunger, they have a $13 option to get soup or salad, dessert, and coffee with your meal. Wines by the glass are quite good and around $8-10. Service is fantastic. Restaurant gets very busy, make a reservation.

                                  - Laloux (Plateau) - Only eaten here once but the meal was great, i began with a seared Foie Gras preparation which was served with an apple jelly, butternut squash and some other things. It was small but delicious. I drank it with whatever their Riesling by the glass is and that did not dissapoint either. For a main course i ate the calf liver which was served with a 2006 Saint-Emillion Grand Cruz which had an overpowering amount of sediment in it unfortunately. Still, the meal was great over all; similar fare to ACP but possibly a better place to bring a hungry lover; the space is certainly less clostrophobic. Also, POP is next door if you want to get your drink on before or after dinner (and lets be honest, who doesn't?).

                                  - Au Pied de Cochon (Plateau) - my experience here was great. i think any of the controversy related to peoples meals here is because they come with some kind of expectations of what the food should or shouldn't be (on the one hand they are serving 'junk food', on the other hand the restaurant is considered fine dining). My suggestion is to kick back and drink some of the house beer (pretty good), don't bother with the foie gras, try the poutine, and consider ordering the salad w/ apples and blue cheese (massive massive pieces of blue cheese) which is incredible. also, a warning - i ordered the pigs feet with foie gras ($45, compared to the pigs feet at $21); it is absolutely MASSIVE. i assumed the difference in cost was due to the foie gras but i now believe they are just two different dishes. the dish itself is delicious and i would recommend splitting it since i really think it encapsulates everything the restaurant is about. I think next time i go, i will feast on the pigs head for two and drink a few beers. With or without company, that remains to be seen. But i am coming for that pigs scalp. And i WILL get my scalp.

                                  1. Huge props to you carswell for an awesome post. Great job.

                                    1. Carswell are there any newer additions to this list? Headed to Montreal this weekend and will be using this list as a guide! Thinking La Porte sounds interesting..... But up for anything!

                                      La Porte Restaurant
                                      3627 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2X2V5, CA

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: AprilVT

                                        For new additions, look at the 2010 "opening" thread (and maybe the most recent posts of the 2009 opening thread).

                                        For example, Aszu closed down and was replaced by "Les Accords" (http://accords.ca/
                                        I went to "La Porte" just after it opened and as far as I remember is was very nice.

                                        1. re: Maximilien

                                          I'm curious about that place. I have to say though, it doesn't seem like the most welcoming space. Especially during the day - so dark in there! Why they have those curtains up all the time is truly beyond me....

                                          I know ultimately the most important thing is the food but still...

                                        2. re: AprilVT

                                          No noteworthy new places come to mind, AprilVT. Just omissions like Mas Cuisine and Le St-Urbain...

                                          La Porte would be pretty high on my list, too, especially now that La Montée is in transition.

                                          Also, there's a new chef at Laloux. The one meal I've had at the resto since he arrived was impressive but not exactly representative (a special menu conceived and prepared together with another chef).

                                          1. re: carswell

                                            Hi Carswell –

                                            I had lunch at Laloux a few weeks after Chef Gabrielse’s arrival. I found his menu to be every bit as impressive as those of his predecessor. Perhaps a little safe (salmon tartare, hake with beurre blanc and edamame) but well executed, beautifully plated and very tasty indeed.

                                            Looking at today’s menu it seems he’s starting to come out of his shell a bit, with exotic ingredients and slightly more complex ideas coming into play. I’m excited to see how this guy settles in.

                                            1. re: carswell

                                              I'll be in Montreal for the first time in 7 years at the end of May and wondered about cocktails at some of your suggested restaurants. Do you recommend any that have a bit of a bar scene with great cocktails in addition to wine? Looking for French, northern Italian, Mediterranean with entrees <$32. Thanks.

                                              1. re: Joanie

                                                In general, restaurants in Montreal do not do cocktails very well (other than simple generic cocktails).

                                                One exception would be Laloux (and sister Pop) with a short list of cocktails.

                                                I would suggest going to a bar before dinner ( for example : "Le Lab" , Assommoir (old mtl) or Baldwin, or "Phillips Lounge" or "Suite 701")


                                                1. re: Joanie

                                                  What Max said.

                                                  Of the listed restos, Laloux/Pop and Club Chasse & Pêche probably come closest, but it's not very close. Ferreira once made me a perfect dirty martini on the rocks. But that's about the extent of my cocktail experience; I'm a wine and beer person and just don't pay much attention to the spirits side of things.

                                            2. Excellent list! Good job, carswell! Will pass along to friends visiting Mtl.

                                              1. O'thym(medium priced French restaurant)
                                                1112 de Maisonneuve East(metro Berri-UQAM or Beaudry
                                                )This is a BYOB as they have no wine but do have about 8 types of mineral water including the subtly bubbly Badoit which is popular in Paris. The menu changes according to what's in the market and is on the chalk boards and will be cheerfully explained by the serving staff. On weekends, there is a 6PM sitting and a 9PM sitting. The atmosphere is casual as the attire of staff and patrons and never stuffy. Once the place fills up, the place is noisy with conversation. The menu speaks for itself but let me just detail that the "trou normand" or palate cleanser after appetizer ,was a pear sorbet with a touch of vodka, twist of lemon and a sprig of thyme on the night I always make a stop here in my hometown. It is easy to miss as the front isn't wide. It's on the south side of de Maisonneuve, just east of Amherst

                                                1. Thank you for this post. Very helpful! Any idea which would be a good choice for a Monday night????

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: kaconway

                                                    For various reasons, I tend to avoid eating out on Mondays. Of those I know are open on Mondays, I'd probably pick from among Ferreira, Pintxo, Laloux, Milos and Les Trois Petits Bouchons. The big bistros (e.g. Holder, Leméac) are also open on Monday, though my last couple of visits to Leméac have me wondering whether it hasn't jumped the shark.

                                                  2. Just wanted to chime in after a delicious meal at Bistro Bienville on Saturday night. It was our first time. Service was warm, sensitive, bilingual; they let us linger late. Even as the staff was sharing glasses of wine at the bar, they let us finish our dessert and conversation, refilled out water, the late hour elastic.

                                                    Utterly delicious, magnficiently composed crème d'oignon soup, with morsels of old cheddar, pancetta (?) and pistachop - unexpected flavours, delicious ($15?). Then the stuffed squid & shrimp risotto ($45), for two - the risotto was great, the shrimp supple, but I think it could have been served hotter, and the squid was perhaps a little gummy. But the pièce de resistance was their signature dessert - a pot of dark chocolate with fleur de sel, and two rice-crispie squares. But instead of feeling like gussied-up comfort food, this tasted like something subtle and remarkable, transcending its concept.

                                                    Total was about $180 for two, with wine, taxes and tip.

                                                      1. re: AprilVT

                                                        The infamous carswell has been absent from CH for quite some time, unfortunately. He now operates a wine blog. Much of the information is still accurate, however (except the now-defunct Nizza, Aszu, Bouchonné, Jolifou, Bistro Bienville, Raza, DNA, and La Montee).