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Mar 31, 2010 10:44 AM

Gastro Tour in Montreal - Recap

I finally got back from my short gastro tour in Montreal. It was shorter than expected but I did manage to get some good food ;)

L'Express - had heard this was the best place in the city for authentic French cuisine. I sat at the bar and it was nice but I was unimpressed by their lack of a cocktail menu. But in all fairness, I'm sure the usual is wine... Ordered the bone marrow without realizing how intense it is. I could only get through a small portion before calling it quits. Followed that with the roasted quail over wild rice, which was also very rich. I couldn't get through it either. Dessert was a chocolate tart which really saved the meal for me. While it wasn't spectacular, it really lightened the heaviness of the meal. Which is odd considering it's dark chocolate. The service was pretty good and I was surprised to see part of my bone marrow appetizer was comped, but I heard they do that if you can't finish for whatever reason? I was honestly disappointed with the experience though - maybe what I was looking for was an innovative or exciting food experience and it was just 'ok'. Very authentic, very classic and really doesn't excite me unfortunately.

APDC - they reserved a seat for me at the bar infront of allll the action and boy was it busy there, even at 9:30 pm on a Saturday! The atmosphere was fantastic and watching the kitchen run was incredible. They work at such a fast pace...I was totally amazed. I ordered the foie gras commeqoise as a starter. can't say I was a huge fan but that has more to do with me not liking foie gras warm (as I have learned on this trip). Next up with duck in a can. DUCK IN A CAN. It wasn't as intense as I had imagined which is a good thing! I ordered a side of veggies to offset the amount of fat I would be consuming and it's true, I did not finish my plate. At some point you just have to know when to say no more. It was truly delicious and it was at that point, I felt as though I had tasted the food I wanted to taste at L'Express. For dessert I ordered the Pudding Chomeur, and was told it was sickly sweet but I definitely handled it well! I wanted to try someone truly Quebecois and that was it. Service was warm, friendly and spot on. the locals who dined next to me were also really nice and eventually started to talk to them. Montreal is so friendly and warm.

I tried to make a reservation at Toque but they were closed on Mondays :( So I scrambled for a place to eat on Monday night... late Monday night. Stopped by Le Salle a Manger. The menu didn't really entice me but I heard it was a fun atmosphere and that is what I was looking for. Service was very attentive. There was a mistake with my entree so it took FOREVER to get my meal but I was entertained and they brought me the cold foie gras bite with brioche and apple and it was unbelievable. I shared it with some people I met but I wish I hadn't b/c it was that good! that's when I realized that I like foie gras cold vs. warm... When I got my entree, the veal shortrib, it was the size of a country! I picked away at it but there was no way I could finish. I'm surprised there is so much value for what you pay. The slaw was nice and the potatoes were so crispy. The veal was fork tender. As a dessert, I tried the hazelnut cake. Presentation was beautiful and tasted lovely. The service was spectacular and aside from the entree gaffe (which they handled well), I felt taken care of. They even offered to vacuum pack the rest of the meal, but since I was flying out the next day, I declined. The lack of good cocktails was a problem (everything was basic) but luckily one of the other servers is a mixmaster extraordinaire and he mascerated some pear and made a fruity pear martini concoction for me. Fantastic! It was brilliant just watching him do this with such fine attention to detail. We also had some shot of something else that is customary in between meals in France. So it was a VERY fun experience.

Scharwtz - Montreal smoked meat! Medium, with mustard and a pickle side. Incredible and nothing like it. I only had a chance to go once. It was crowded but I sat at the counter and my legs dangled from the barstool which was hard! This is truly an institution.

Poutine - did not get a chance to go to Le Banquise because I couldn't find it easily so I went to Patati Patata instead for poutine. Ordered it with roast beef on top. It was excellent though I am curious how it would have compared to Le Banquise? If you have any thoughts, please express them. The fries were crispy and tasty. The sauce was not overwhelming and the cheese squeaked just as it was supposed to. Could have down without the beef to be honest!

Bagels - picked some up from both places and I think they are both good. I got one fresh from the oven at Fairmont...unreal. I need to go home and slice them for the freezer right away as it's been a whole day...

Macarons - I found the Macarons at Europea much tastier than the ones I got at some store on Mont Royal Est. Strawberry flavor - my favorite.

Stopped by the popular bakery on Mont Royal Est as well. Can't remember what it is called but it's named after a French dessert. The ham and cheese croissant was just perfect.

Suite 88 for chocolates. Pretty good, haven't eaten them all yet...

There were so many places I wanted to stop by but didn't have time to - like Olive and Gourmand (closed on Mondays), Juliette et Chocolate (too busy), etc etc!

Overall, a fantastic time in Montreal! Thanks so much for the suggestions. And please feel free to suggest more so I know now what not to miss! Dammit, I forgot to eat crepes!

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  1. Great report! Thank you for taking the time to share your impressions of your visit...

    On the matter cocktails, well, we're more about wine in restaurants, and beer in bars. I don't think of my hometown as a cocktail place.. or heck the entire province. The SAQ (the provincial wine & spirits control board) is unimaginative and limited in its imports, so cocktail creativity is stifled here.

    For interesting cocktails, I go to NYC!

    3 Replies
    1. re: TheSnowpea

      Sad but true. Inventive cocktails must be especially sought out. Places like Jello Bar, Distillerie and Le Lab are mixology driven bars - but good luck getting a decent bite to eat (with the exception of L'Assomoir, I suppose).

      That being the case, the one 'best of both worlds' situation would be venerated French resto Laloux, whose adjacent wine bar Pop! does outstanding cocktails. Their "High Wind in Jamaica" is the stuff dreams are made of. I'm sure they'd happily oblige you over on the Laloux side.

      Restaurant Laloux
      250 Av Des Pins E, Montreal, QC H2W1P3, CA

      1. re: thebenc

        Thanks for the tip! I went to Laloux many, many moons ago (like, oh, 15 years ago or thereabouts), and I keep telling myself I am due for another visit. Maybe this "High Wind in Jamaica" will provide the impetus! (from the name, an improved Dark and Stormy?)

        1. re: thebenc

          I really enjoyed the Pop cup #1 as i love gin and there is something about cucumber in a cocktail that makes it delicious. I wish they had more cocktails to try!

      2. The shot that you had during the meal was Calvados (apple brandy); drunk like that it is called "Un Trou Normand".

        I suggest that on your next trip you try Le Maitre Chocolatier for chocolate. My favourite places for dinner are Europea and Milos, but I have far from covered the ground that carswell has, so check his personal reccos.

        1227, rue de la Montagne, Montreal, QC H3G1Z2, CA

        1. Thanks for your review. I've never thought of L'Express as a place for "innovative" food, it aims to be a classic Parisian bistro. And you wouldn't get a wide range of cocktails at such a place in Paris either.

          People in Québec mostly drink wine and beer; I believe we consume relatively less liquor than most provinces in English-speaking Canada.

          One thing we seem to be lacking these days is a top-flight crêperie (do go to Le Billig if you should ever make it to Québec City). I have heard that there are decent savoury crêpes (as well as sweet ones, obviously) at Juliette et Chocolat, though I've never been there, as I don't eat sweets. There is also a decent crêpe stand at Jean-Talon Market - and now they have some chairs and tables as well as very high stools at a bar-type counter.

          Jean-Talon Market
          7075 Avenue Casgrain, Montreal, QC H2S, CA

          L'Express Restaurant
          3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2W2M4, CA

          Le Billig
          526 Rue Saint-Jean, Quebec, QC G1R1P6, CA