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Aug 10, 2009 05:56 PM

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.
- La Porte (western Plateau). Recently arrived husband and wife run a very classy French resto. Intimate decor, refined cooking, well-chosen wines.
- 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.
- DNA (Old Montreal). Slick decor and soundtrack. Dynamic kitchen and great house-made charctuerie. Wine list includes an impressive selection of Canadian bottles.
- Graziella (Old Montreal). Contemporary Italian. Less is more.
- 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.
- 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...
- Jun-i (Outremont/Mile End). The city's best sushi bar. Also serves a number of French-Italian-Asian fusion dishes.
- 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.

- 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.
- 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.
- Le Jolifou (Rosemont). Popular bistro, a bit of a schlep but worth it. French cooking with a Latin American twist. Cool decor. Good QPR.
- 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.
- 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.
- Les Trois Petits Bouchons (Plateau). Resto/wine bar specializing in local ingredients and natural wines. Good food. Modern but casual decor.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tapeo (Petite Patrie). Classic tapas bar that (FWIW) Gourmet raved about. Always fun. Located about 15-20 minutes by cab from downtown.
- Pintxo (Plateau). Cozy modern Basque tapas resto.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Holder (Old Montreal). Big, brash bistro. Very popular with multimedia types, local stars, etc. (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?
- 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.
- 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.

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!