Was in Montreal for the tennis tournament and had made reservations at Au Cinquieme Peche and Bistro Bienville. My take is that these are two quite different restaurants. Bienville is a very small neighborhood place that was easy for me to miss on my first drive by and had good but not great food. The staff cares alot about giving you a good meal and all was tasty but not spectacular. Grilled quail was a good idea chopped with radishes, greens, citrus and peas however, the peas were not sweet and tender as they should have been (come on this is summer). I had a whole, small Mediterranean sea bass that was a little overdone. Also, I was sitting at the bar and when it was brought out and being prepared just a few feet from me, I could smell fishiness. The fish came with kasha, I think, mixed with tomatoes, cucumbers radishes and herbs. Quite good especially on a hot summer evening and there was a generous amount. I tried three glasses of wine and would say that in comparison to 5th Peche they were fair even though about the same price. But I would come back here in a heart beat. You are truly in a neighborhood place. One of the cook's wife and 2 y/o daughter came by and the little girl went to other relatives at a corner table and then in back of the bar (where the stoves are) and her father gave her some bits of food and she sat and chewed happily. Go to this restaurant and may their food continue to improve or maybe I was there on an off night.
Au Cinquieme Peche is on another level cooking wise. Here is an accomplished chef making more complex dishes. Perfectly fresh scallops sliced thin with beets that had a delicate beety flavor accompanied by shave fennel with radishes, celery leaves and red grapefruit. A hearty piece of veal with lobster mushrooms, very small tomatoes, fresh green beans and bits of marrow (I think)---delicious. I asked the waiters for wine suggestions and got one white and one red and both were very tasty. The restaurant is also in a very different setting than Bienville---on a busy commercial street (Mont-Royal).
The staff at both restaurants were very friendly and kind towards this non-French speaking tourist.
Thanks for your great report! I really like the way you contrast the two places.
I have not been to Bienville, but I assume it is a little cheaper than Au Cinquieme Peche. Your description of Bienville reminds of of all the great neighbourhood bistros we have here in Montreal. As you say, the food is often tasty but not necessarily spectacular, but these places are so comfortable and welcoming, they really make you feel at home. I love going to these kind of places.
I have already posted extensively on ACP, I am a real fan of this place. Very special.
Thank you for your trip report, it is making me want to go to both places. I wanted to try them for a very long time. I often go to New York on vacation and I notice the attitude towards tourists and patrons.....in Montreal, we know that we have to be nice to people if we want them to come back. We don't have the amount of tourists they have so we cater to people if we want them to come back. In New York, waiters are not always attentive. They rarely come back to ask you how is your food. In MOntreal, I rarely encountered a bad waiter. I had one bad experience at L'Actuel many years ago and it is the only one I can think of. I hope Montreal keeps this thing that sets us apart!