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Aug 27, 2009 02:02 PM

Dependable French for Friends' First Visit

I am planning on taking two friends of ours to Montréal for a weekend. We’ve been to dinner many times with them and they expressed a desire to try the “French” cuisine there. They’ve never been and are looking forward to it. We’ve been to Montréal about 8-10 times, more for attending Habs games than dining out but some places we’ve been to are Toque, Chez la Mere Michel, Caprices de Nicolas, les Chents, Lutetia (in Hotel de la Montagne) and Nuances at the casino.

I’ve searched and read enough responses on this board debating whether Montreal does “classic French” but I’m going to try to choose some places for our mid-September weekend.

They like professional service, nothing too experimental or “foodie”. They’re older (in their seventies, 20 years older than us). So nothing too boisterous for atmosphere or too cutting edge on the menu- no foams, things in a can, concepts that need 20 minutes to explain, etc.

I have some ideas from reading this board for the last few days and was wondering if anyone could chime in with their reactions. I’m always amazed at the number of places people here know intimately and appreciate any feedback. Our budget is around $250-300 with wine per dinner for four.

I’ve crossed out Au Pied de Cochon and Toque as places my wife probably would not like based on what I can see on the menu (APC) or does not want to revisit (Toque, we went back when it was in the old location and though I really enjoyed our meal there, it wasn’t her cup of tea, mostly because they wouldn’t allow only 3 out of our party of 4 to enjoy the tasting menu, despite our request and that didn’t go down too well with her).

These might seem a little stodgy to the more up-to-date regulars but here goes:

Staying at the Novotel downtown

Friday night:
Pre-dinner drinks at the St. James hotel (thanks to a recommendation here) and then walk over to Bonaparte and if the weather is nice a caleche drive around le Vieux afterwards (touristy I know). Have seen mixed reviews on Bonaparte but if it is dependable I think it should work from what I can gather about menu and ambience. I’ve never been there.

Saturday lunch:
Take metro to Jean Talon, and head to Petit Alep afterwards for lunch. Our friends are Armenian and I am anxious to try this with them guiding us through the menu. Selecting this place based on recommendations on this board.

Saturday dinner:
Wife is suggesting to go back to Chez la Mere Michel (anyone been recently?), but also considering Le Mas des Oliviers or L’Autre Saison, all close to our hotel.

Sunday lunch:
Thinking about La Montee or Laloux. Looking to poke our heads into a gallery or two after lunch before we have to get back in the car and head back to New York City.

Trying to find places that would present the expected selections- a sole meuniere, rack of lamb, a filet with béarnaise or mushroom sauces, perhaps some nice veal dishes, wife has a weakness for Grand Marnier soufflé, that kind of thing. Any help appreciated if you know other places better than what I have come up with.

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  1. These are dependable places, not the best but not the worst. No modern french cuisine like Decca77.

    Bistro Gourmet #1 on St-Mathieu / de Maisonneuve
    Bistro Gourmet #2 somewhere on St-Denis
    Bistro Olivieri on Cote-des-Neiges / St-Brillant (behind the bookstore)
    L'Aromate on Peel and Ste-Catherine

    3 Replies
    1. re: marblebag

      La Montée is closed on sundays; lunch is only monday to friday.

      I think Bonaparte is a classic french and a good choice for your expected selections.

      I would not consider L'Aromate on Peel, it's very ordinary, imo....

      1. re: marblebag

        I believe Bistro Gourmet #2 no longer exists - isn't it Le Continental or something like that now?

        1. re: cherylmtl

          Le Bistro gourmet 2 has not existed for over a year when Le Continental took over the space after theirs burned down. I heard that they have no plans to move back and will stay there.

          I had dinner many times at Bonaparte, but it was many years ago, and it always was delicious. It was a nice place with excellent food.

      2. when my good friend and french food enthusiast from toronto comes to visit we always go to l'express on st. denis. excellent service. great food. not overly pretensious. i don't think you can lose with l'express. i've never had a bad meal there. never a ho-hum one either.

        1. Le Paris might be good for classic french from what others have said on this board. Sorry I don't have any personal experience. Bonaparte is a good choice for what you are after.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hungryann

            It isn't as good as it used to be. But Le Paris is still wonderful IMHO.

          2. Though I don't live in Montreal, I'm going to toss out Le Club Chasse Et Peche. Had a lovely meal there, it's pretty old-school in environment (quiet, cozy) and the food was the best we had during our 5-day stay. And we ate out a lot! So good, we went back the next day for lunch, (which wasn't as good as dinner, but still good).

            Menu, photos:

            However, I think this puts you past your budget, but take a look and see if the price is right. It certainly was yummy!

   -- food. is. love.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jlunar

              If you're careful with your wine choices, you can definitely do CC+P for $300 for 4 people. Not the classic French dishes the OP is looking for, and I wouldn't call it quiet, but definitely comfortable, and one of my favourite Montreal restaurants. There are some dissenters on this board, but IMHO you can't go wrong with a meal there.

              1. re: cherylmtl

                Café Cherrier has nice dependable French food and a pleasant bistro ambiance.

            2. I went to Bonaparte once, about a year ago. They do do "classic French", but I was unimpressed with the nondescript brown sauce that covered my main course. Overall I did not care for the food.

              2 Replies
              1. re: souschef

                If taking a cab is not an issue, I suggest trying l'Inconnu. It has a very nice atmosphere, well decorated and the food is very, very good. It is French market cuisine, closed on Sundays and Mondays I believe though.

                1. re: nelya

                  I agree with the L'Inconnu recommendation, but I don't know if I would call it "Classic French".