Guidance needed for a group of chefs/sommeliers
Hello hounds of mtl. I am a former Montrealer, now living in Chicago, where I work as a sommelier. I'm organizing a 3 day trip this summer for a group of chefs, sommeliers and a couple of non-professional hardcore foodies. I have a pretty solid idea of where we want to go, a lot of ground to cover and not a ton of time, but I wanted to make sure we are not missing any place absolutely essential, especially newer places that have opened since 2006, when I left town. Also, I was pretty broke during most of my 7 years living in Mtl, so my first hand knowledge is more steamies and poutine than fine dining (although we are looking to cover the full range on this trip). My boss told me to try to find out "where the chefs eat", but I do not know anyone working in the industry in Montreal anymore. Price is not an object (although value is, not looking to spend for the sake of spending), these guys have no problem shelling out as long as the goods are delivered. Places that serve late are a bonus as we will probably eat 2 dinners most nights.
Anyway, here is my short list:
Le Club Chasse et Peche
Au Pied du Cochon
Joe Beef or Liverpool House (which one?)
L'Express (or Lemeac? somewhere else?)
Mas Cuisine (Brunoise was one of my very favorite meals)
Other places I had thought of/heard of:
We will also be hitting some more casual/quick places for a bite (Romados, Lester's, Banquise, etc.)
2491 Rue Notre-Dame W, Montreal, QC H3J1N6, CA
3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2W2M4, CA
3779 Rue Wellington, Verdun, QC H4G, CA
740 rue William, Montréal, QC H3C 1P1, CA
60 Rue Jean-Talon E, Montreal, QC H2R1S5, CA
Welcome to Montreal. Your list is solid!
Despite other comments on this topic, I think a group of food and wine lovers will much prefer L'express' classic Parisian style to Lemeac's subdued vibe. Only at l'express will you find classics like Oeuf en Gelee, Bone Marrow, Croque Monsieur, and Isle Flottante! The wine list is truly fantastic, and it's open til 2am. The bar is always crowded with chefs late night. We take this old-as-water spot for granted in Montreal, but it's amazing. And there's nothing like it in Chicago! A must.
If you're here within the next month, APDC's Cabane a Sucre could be a riot. If you arrive this summer, Joe Beef's garden-studded terrasse with its house-built smoker and greenhouse is a must-try. Both are paradise for true foodlovers and the wine lists are spectacular. True inspired cuisine.
You'll love DNA. Expertly prepared offal-heavy menu. Canada-centric wine list. Modern and relevant. Yes!
3 Petits Bouchons deserves to be added to your list. It's awesome food, and awesome mostly natural wine, as in vin nature. Really good first stop for wine and bouchonnailles.
Other wine bar musts: Pullman and Buvette. Wonderful lists and great vibe.
Great idea to go to Schwartz' for lunch. Also consider Wilensky's, Montreal's own smoked pastrami sandwich joint. If you want yours with no mustard, it's an extra fee. Old school egg soda machines on premises!
Chef friends were in town a few weeks back and also attempted two meals per night. Very ambitious! The second meal always seemed more boozy than the first... at least this was my impression!
I suggest the following meal #2 options, based on their experiences:
La Banquise: beers and many many variations of poutine. How can one go wrong!?
La Raclette: A classic smoked cheese BYO! Grab a couple bottles of Riesling and let the fun begin!
Garde Manger: Oysters, bloody caesars, and loud music
Chien Fumant: New kid on the block. Plateau eatery open til 2. Good food. Great chef-after-work vibe.
Something else to consider: In the summertime, Le Club Chasse et Peche serves lunch in the historic and gorgeous gardens of Chateau Ramsay, right across the street. A lovely setting!
Cuisine Szechuan is a great idea, as is Qing Hua Dumpling, or end your already too-long night in Chinatown at Mo-Nan or New Dynasty with Tsing Tao, Whole steamed fish, BBg duck and big chinatown-style oysters!
Skip the steakhouses in Montreal. You have us beat by miles and miles in Chicago!
Hope this helps. Enjoy!
2491 Rue Notre-Dame W, Montreal, QC H3J1N6, CA
1110 Rue Clark, Montreal, QC H2Z1K2, CA
Not sure if you will be venturing outside of the city, but I know of a great place on the south shore 45min out of town that works directly with the farmers in their region (like me!) to serve up really fresh and delicious (I guess french-style) cuisine. It's called Le Riverain and it's here in Ormstown. If you're up for an adventure, you should try it!
Pretty good list jeanpoutine, few comments:
Lemeac over L'Express for sure. The nice thing is that they offer an after 10:00 pm special for $22, you get to choose from a slightly smaller selection of the regular menu, but it is great still. Appetizer and main. The smoked salmon is made in house, the calf liver is to die for as is the short rib. WIne list at Lemeac has a lot of really fun importation privee wines (wines that are not sold normally in the SAQ), and you can find some really great stuff for not too expensive. But you can also pay more if you want.
Definitely Schwartzes over Lesters. No question.
Milos also offers late night deal, and lunch deal as well. Both are astounding deals for perfectly prepared fish, and their selection of Greek wines is solid. This might help you fit in another meal.
Another possible off the beaten track choice: Alep. Syrian food, with a very serious sommelier who loves his wines, has chosen some real gems, and the list is fun if you have a bunch of wine geeks who want something different. Their degustation menu is excellent, the best kibbe nayeh I have ever had, and a wonderful dish with terbialy sauce that is so unique and flavourful. MIght be a nice change from all the french-based cuisine you have on your list. This place is very unique, and very very good. If your group is a bit adventurous, then this place is a must-do. Let them know you are bringing sommeliers, and make sure the sommelier is there, he is a really lovely person with some very interesting choices to match the food. The food is out of this world, this is one of the best Middle Eastern restos I have eaten at.
I hope La Montee is open in some fashion when you are here. The food is outstanding, and the wine list has some real gems on it. If you see any of the Gerard Scheuller Alsatian wines, especially the Rieslings, and the Pinot Blanc is also lovely, make sure you get some. Also, any of the Leon Barral Faugeres are astounding, I am a particular fan of the Le Jadis. These are hard to find producers who make really amazing wines, and they will rock the sommeliers in your group.
To comment about the WIne Spectator list: I am a regular reader of Wine Spectator, and for the most part, I enjoy this magazine. I have in the past done a lot of traveling and dining around North America, and for the most part, I have found the food in these restaurants to be lacking, boring and not particularly special, with a few exceptions. The wine lists are extensive, and yes they hit the big names, but I often find it hard to find really interesting wines for reasonable prices. I am a bit of a wine geek, and so the big names are nice and all, but I'm not as excited by them, I'd rather see more obscure interesting wines that match well with the food. Re: the list of WS awards in Montreal, I like Moishes for a good steak, so if you want a good steak and a classic wine match (tannic strong wines), then sure, I'd go there for this experience. If you are buying a really special wine, then it is great to pair it with something simple like a steak, so you can enjoy the special qualities of the wine. Similarly, I think Toque is one of the better restos with a WS award, the food is impeccably prepared, ingredients are often local and beautifully sourced, the kitchen makes excellent effort to match food to wine. Some people think Toque is riding off its previous laurels, and that there are better restos out there for the price. I still think it is an excellent destination, a classic of its type of resto, so would have no hesitation bringing your group there.
Rib and Reef is a good steak house too, although I give a little edge to Moishes. Similar comments as to Moishes. But it is just a steak house, and I assure you it does not match the steak houses you can find in Chicago. So for me, the steak house thing would be better left off your list, it isn't specially Montreal, and there are to many other special Montreal experiences to try.
Beaver Club serves classic french-based cuisine. The menu is to my tastes very conservative, a bit of a hold-over from the grand old days. The wine list is big, loaded with names. If your group likes retro experiences, and is conservative, then yes, sure take then here. I won't say no to a dinner at Beaver Club, the food is very nicely done, wine service excellent, but if I were paying, I'd save my buck for something a little more interesting.
Piment Rouge is Chinese food for really rich white people who don't actually like Chinese food that much. It is very good, the food is nicely prepared, but it doesn't cut it if you like regular Chinese food. Very conservative. But the wine service is elegant, and the dumbed-down Chinese cuisine you get here is much more wine friendly than regular chinese. Again, if someone is paying for me, I'll go, but won't pay to go there myself.
So I guess you should decide what is the focus of the group you are bringing. Wine geeks, food geeks, people looking for a special experience? Or more conservative, looking for big treasure, bagging that rare old wine like hunters? I think this might help you to choose appropriately.
Would love to hear back with your impressions of your trip!
3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2W2M4, CA
Most if not all of these restaurants do a lot of advertising. I've seen Rib n Reef ads on billboards at the airport, Toque and Milos with big ads in tourist magazines floating around town, Joe Beef blogging and heavy panning on the internet, and even free t-shirt give-aways (with loud designs) by Pied de Cochon. I'm not sure if you can say a restaurant is suspicious or poor quality because they promote themselves heavily or judge them based on the type of advertising they choose. These restaurants are successful in Montreal because they offer what their customers want, but also because they know how to spread the word whether it's television, internet, billboards or print advertising.
If you are wine oriented, Le Caviste is also very much wine oriented. It will plan the meal aroudn the wine choice, rather then the other way around if you so wish. Which I thought was a nice idea. I have yet to go (yes I are so lame.) but a somelier friend of mine raved about it, so it can't be that bad can it ?
For the sommeliers and the oenophiles in your group, these restaurants have big wine programs in the Montreal area and do regular wine tasting dinners:
Nuances at the Casino
Rib N Reef
Piment Rouge Windsor
I think all of these restaurants have won at least Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. They are also current/former four or five star (CAA), and four or five diamond (Exxon-Mobil) winners. I was invited to a Robert Mondavi / Opus One wine dinner hosted by wine maker Tim Mondavi a couple of years ago at Piment Rouge Windsor - it was amazing. Mondavi brought in their winery's chef from Napa Valley to cook with Piment Rouge's chefs, so it was kind of an east meets west dinner. I'm wondering if one of these restaurants could set up something like this for your group if you give them enough advance notice?
IM(not so humble)O Not one restaurant in your list is wine worthwhile and maybe food worthwhile( with Toque! being the exception)
Yeah, they might serve uber expensive wines (compared to other restaurants in the province), but nothing is exceptional or distinctive about their wine list; at least compared to other smaller restaurants in town.
And that's all i'm saying.
Maximilien, I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with you. These restaurants are worthwhile for wines because they have well developed wine programs that are among the best in Canada. Yes they do have expensive wines on their wine lists, but most also have many affordable choices at the same prices as the smaller restaurants. I often find great wines at these restaurants for $40 to $60 a bottle. Also, for these restaurants to win the Wine Spectator awards, they have a huge number of selections (most of them over 500+ types of wine to choose from), carefully organized thematically, presenting many wine growing regions of the world, many grape varietals and verticals of years/vintages in which wines are produced. These restaurants store wines in temperature and humidity controlled cellars for years if not decades. Restaurants like Moishes, Beaver Club and Piment Rouge have wines that they bought 20, 30, 50+ years ago that they have aged in their cellars that are no longer available at the SAQ. You can now find these old wines only at auction or in private collections. People value older and properly aged wines so they will be more expensive because they are rare.
Most of these restaurants have been around for many years and with time they also have developed the relationships with wineries to invite the wine makers to their restaurants to introduce their wines, talk and explain the nuances about their wines, the harvest, the fermentation process directly with these restaurants' customers. Many people enjoy going to wine dinners and meeting wine makers so they can better understand and learn about wines. I think these wine programs are worthwhile and add something unique to the food and wine scene in Montreal. I have nothing against smaller restaurants with smaller wine lists. On the contrary, I enjoy smaller restaurants and eat at smaller restaurants much more often than these bigger restaurants. But these big wine restaurants also have their place in our city. Jeanpoutine is bringing a group of sommeliers from Chicago. So in addition to going to the other smaller restaurants, why not also show them what Montreal has to offer in terms of our city's top wine programs? As for the quality of the food, I also have to disagree with you. These restaurants have good food too - for example, Moishes serves a great steak, Beaver Club serves amazing holiday brunches.
I'm just wondering, what's the use of having a massive wine list if the food doesn't follow suit? Isn't like owning a BMW with a Lada engine under the hood? I'd rather eat at a restaurant where the wine list is not as strong but the food is stellar. But that's just me.
From what I know and what I've seen in the past, a WS Award is not synonymous with great restaurant, it only means there's a big wine selection, nothing more, nothing less. The magazine doesn't really check the restaurants and over the years there have been many stories of people getting awards for restaurants that didn't even exist.
All this being said, I think that these awards should be taken with a big grain of salt.
I'm guessing that seasoned chefs and sommeliers would be bored to tears with our Wine Spec Award establishments (trust me Chicago has more and better than we do). However, places like Club Chasse et Peche with innovative menus and intelligent wine lists are far more likely to show them what Montreal does best.
Campofiorin and eat2much, I agree with you but only to a certain point. Yes, not all restaurants with massive wine lists are great restaurants. And of course Wine Spectator awards are not the be all and end all of restaurant ratings and has its issues, but so do other restaurant award systems. You can also find fault with the other restaurant award programs like Michelin, CAA, Dirona and Exxon-Mobil etc. There is even vote rigging and buying medals in the Olympics! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othe... No system is perfect.
And when you oversimplify and imply that restaurants with good wine programs have Lada engines (bad food), I'm sorry to say that is pure exaggeration and paints everything black and white when reality is somewhere in the middle. If you follow your exact same logic, then the opposite must be true too - you would then have to agree that restaurants with great food (BMW) have bad wine programs (Lada engines), which we know is of course not true. Some do, but some don't. Montreal has a lot to offer in terms of good food, but also good wine, and neither is at the exclusion of the other.
You're twisting my words. What I said is what's the use of having a great wine list if the food doesn't follow suit. Am I Saying that all restaurants with big wine lists are bad? No, I'm saying that there's no point in having a great list if the food doesn't do justice to the list. And IMHO, most restaurants you listed belong in that category.
The fact of the matter is that for Montreal, these wards dont't mean much. Each city is different of course but here, a massive wine program is not synonymous of quality in the plate.
I think it's a matter of opinion - different high end restaurant customers have different needs. Most of these restaurants mentioned by others - Chasse et Peche, Beaver Club, Toque, Piment Rouge, Nuances, Garde Manger, etc.etc. - are all well recognized high end restaurants in Montreal that have loyal customers. But they do have different types of customers and represent different niches of what people look for in high end dining. Places like Toque, Beaver Club and Piment Rouge, etc. are definitely more for the expense account to impress people, more formal... and get a lot of business people, politicians etc, while places like Garde Manger, Chasse et Peche, etc. are trendier and get more people into the uniqueness of the food, the scene, etc.
I agree, Jasper1, thats one way to put it.
IMO, Beaver Club or RibNReef or Nuances etc, are typical restaurants found in every large city, the kind you bring your grandmother to on her birthday.
Nothing wrong per se, but when you have a bunch of hipster-dufus foodies coming in from Chicago, they want Montreal-centric. Not necessarily trendy, although that helps, they want places that excite chef-types.
My thoughts run closely to others - L'express can be skipped
I'd suggest Joe Beef over Liverpool House.
Au Pied De Cochon is quintesential Quebec - an eye-popper for most visitors.
Yes Schwartz' over Lester's (if the line is too long, head across the street to La Cabane Portuguese for cheap drinks and a nosh, when the line dies down, dash back across).
Show your colleagues the joy (or pain) of poutine (search the board for favs).
Milos should knock your socks off, but bring your platinum card.
Romados has good chicken, but sometimes lined up and no place to eat (plus no drinks...). For something similar (with booze), Portugalia and Le Roi Du Plateau a few blocks west.
I always suggest an afternoon stroll up St. Laurent from Chinatown to about Mont-Royal. Theres a bit of a lull in the action (and up-hill) from deMaisonneuve to Sherbrooke, but otherwise plenty of cafes, european delis, dive bars, shops, bric-a-brac, and what-not.
If you're in the neighborhood and wanna kick back, not food driven, and especially not a wine destination, Le Saint Sulpice on St. Denis has a very nice open-air terrace out back, especially at night. La Paryse is around the corner...
2491 Rue Notre-Dame W, Montreal, QC H3J1N6, CA
Le Roi Du Plateau
51 Rue Rachel W, Montreal, QC H2W1G2, CA
If you're gonna eat smoked smeat, take them to Schwartz rather than Lester's.
I'd pick Leméac over L'Express unless you're looking for a true franch bistro vibe. Quality is better at Leméac IMO.
You could add a visit at Jean-Talon market.
3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2W2M4, CA
Recently wine producers came into town and went to the following places : "3 Petits Bouchons", "La Salle à Manger"; other wine worthy places : "BU", "Pullman", Accords (just opened), Lemeac.
I'd skip "L'Express" not worthy enough for food and wine. "La Montée" is moving from its downtown location back to the mile-end (maybe wait a little bit for a report).
Just to mention that places like "Au Pied DE Cochon", "Joe Beef", "La Salle à Manger" and maybe "Garde Manger" tend to go "big" on plates and might not be the best choices if you want to try to places in the same evening.
If I were you, I'd try to do a wine bar (BU, Pullman,...) for tapas and wine first and then do a diner after that in the same area (if possible);