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Apr 7, 2010 02:31 PM

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:

Le Local
La Chronique
La Montee
Kitchen Galerie
Garde Manger

We will also be hitting some more casual/quick places for a bite (Romados, Lester's, Banquise, etc.)



Joe Beef
2491 Rue Notre-Dame W, Montreal, QC H3J1N6, CA

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

Mas Cuisine
3779 Rue Wellington, Verdun, QC H4G, CA

Le Local
740 rue William, Montréal, QC H3C 1P1, CA

Kitchen Galerie
60 Rue Jean-Talon E, Montreal, QC H2R1S5, CA

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  1. 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);


    2 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      A couple more wine bars to consider: Bouchonné and Les Cavistes.

      1. re: Plateaumaman

        Bouchonné is no more (see other thread), replaced by La Montée which is moving back in the area and renaming itself to the original name "La Montée de Lait"

        Yep, forgot about "Les Cavistes".

        Also I could add "La Buvette Chez Simone".

    2. there's an interesting restaurant for people who want to try something unusual, Cuisine Szechuan

      1. 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.

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

        1. Lester's over Schwartz's??? That's just plain wrong!

          1. 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
            Beaver Club

            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?

            11 Replies
            1. re: panpam

              Bistro a Champlain has the biggest wine list in Quebec

              1. re: panpam

                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.

                1. re: Maximilien

                  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.

                  1. re: panpam

                    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.

                    1. re: Campofiorin

                      Strongly agree. A Wine Spectator award can simply be bought.


                    2. re: panpam

                      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.

                      1. re: eat2much

                        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! 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.

                        1. re: panpam

                          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.

                          1. re: panpam

                            yes but you've recommended mediocre high end restaurants

                            1. re: celfie

                              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.

                              1. re: Jasper1

                                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...

                                Joe Beef
                                2491 Rue Notre-Dame W, Montreal, QC H3J1N6, CA

                                Le Roi Du Plateau
                                51 Rue Rachel W, Montreal, QC H2W1G2, CA