A quick review of my recent trip
Hi all, I just returned from your lovely (if rainy!) city. I think we covered a lot of ground - we planned the trip with no real idea of what to do in Montreal other than "eat"! Here's where we went, and my impressions:
Vinizza - we were staying in Little Italy and the woman who rented us her apartment recommended them. After a 10 hour drive, we wanted to stay local. We got a table without much of a wait, thankfully. We started with the calamari, which were cooked nicely but a little bland. Entrees were an anchovy and basil pizza and some very simple gnocchi in a tomato sauce. The pizza was wonderful - thin, chewy, crispy crust with just the right amount of cheese, sauce and anchovies. The gnocchi were cooked well; a few seconds longer and they would've been gummy. Overall, it was a nice place to catch a bite after a 10 hour drive.
Olive et Gourmando - I know a lot of people complain about the service, but we found the hostess to be friendly and helpful in explaining their sort of weird ordering system. They had sold out of a few things by the time we got there, but the cajun chicken sandwich and tomato sandwich were both very nice. Loved the bread and the tomatoes were really beautiful. Overall I think Montreal has some of the best bread on the continent!
Brasserie t! - My first impression was "the restaurant is in a double wide?" What a weird place for a restaurant! We had to wait a little after our reservation time, but it was well worth the wait! We had the salmon tartare, the duck terrine, the saucisson en brioche, coquilles st jacques, steak frites and the frozen nougat. The charcuterie was probably the low point but that's only in comparison - overall it was a very strong meal. A word of advice would be to come hungry; the portions are huge and a lot of the menu is very heavy.
Schwartz's - My fiancee is a huge fan of all things brisket. He loved the sandwich, I thought it was ok. I absolutely hated the pickle. I don't feel a strong need to return, but I'm glad I went. We met some very nice people sitting next to us.
La Banquise - I couldn't come to Montreal for the first time and not try poutine! It definitely vies with pupusas as my favorite drunk food. My only recommendation would be to not order apricot beer with poutine; that was definitely my mistake.
Réservoir Brasserie - Our local friend took us here for brunch on Sunday. What an amazing little find! I had this incredible dish of bacala gnocchi, octopus, squid and slow roasted tomatoes. I am gaga for this - I would eat it every morning if I could. The octopus was incredible.
Au Pied Du Cochon - This was actually our reason for visiting, and what a disappointment. I generally liked the food but the service was so amateur that I did the unspeakable and left a 10% tip. What went wrong: we were told the cromesquis were hot and to wait a minute before eating. After 30 seconds we bit in and they were still slightly frozen. Our tomato tartlet took 30 minutes to come, and we had to ask for it multiple times. They brought my fiancee the wrong beer. We had to ask them, after 30 minutes of putting our dishes on top of each other and putting our napkins up, to clear our plates. Of course, the check came within seconds and was whisked away as soon as I put my card down. We also had the plogue de champlain and the hot pot. The plogue was good but one-note and the hot pot was just too much (although I suspected that when I ordered it). Loved the boudin noir and pork belly, but the pork chop was really dry and I didn't much care for the other sausage. The service was so bad I actually skipped dessert, even after hearing such good things about the pudding chomeur.
On a side note, I think Montreal might have the best collection of microbrews outside of Seattle! We tried several and not a bad one in the bunch. We tried to go to Dieu de Ciel but it was way too hot and crowded. Thankfully we were able to try their beer elsewhere (at a bar with ostriches heads on the wall). Also we practically lived at Jean-Talon Marche every morning since it was less than 2 blocks away. We bought a quiche and heated it up in the mornings for breakfast, which was a great (and cheap) idea.
Thanks for a nice trip, Montreal! I can't wait to come back and try some of your less touristy places!
Olive et Gourmando
351 Rue Saint-Paul Ouest, Montreal, QC , CA
If I had that meal for my birthday I would've been really, really upset. Of the places I tried, Brasserie t! and Resevoir were both head and shoulders above Pied du Cochon, although I'm not sure either are really special occassion worthy (disclaimer; I tend to go wild on birthday dinners).
I feel it necessary to reply to your post because you hit on so many of my own favourite places (though they are far from unusual choices in that regard).
First, Reservoir - this is a place that has grown on me so much over the years that its now become one of my favourite spots in the city. Not necessarily because their food is incredible, but because it is consistently good & creative, the prices low, and its the kind of place you can go to any time for any reason and not feel out of place (i.e. coffee, beers, dinner, brunch, to study, to sit on a terrace, etc etc.). Great seafood now as well, what with the Salle a Manger affiliation.
Second, Pied de Cochon - I should preface this by saying that PdC is one of my all-time favourite restaurants in the world. But heres the deal - the last 2 times I have been there (and this has been corroborated by a few other people I've talked to in recent months) the food has come out wrong. This is most often the case for the cromesquis (they recently changed this serving from one large cube to two small ones, though I can't imagine why this would be a problem), though I've found many of the dishes have also been VERY inconsistent. This typically has involved dishes coming out cold or uncooked. I don't know what the problem is, but it must be fixed immediately - this has been happening for months. As for the service, it can also be hit and miss. One of my favourite waiters in the world works at PdC, and he is always excellent. However, there are two others who I find are completely unsatisfactory, and I've noticed that this is more the case when I have brought visitors there who do not speak French. I'm not claiming a language bias necessarily, but its an odd coincidence if not. Its also unusual considering that PdCs clientelle must be 70% non-quebecois tourists at this point. I'm sorry about your experience, and it really bothers me that I must agree with you on their poor performance as of late.
Finally, I hope you do come back soon, but don't necessarily flee from the touristy places. Some of the most visited restos in the city (i.e. Chasse et Peche, 5ieme peche, DNA, Joe Beef, etc.) are that way because their food is so incredible. This is not to say you should avoid less touristed places, but definitely don't miss out on the places I mentioned above because of their appeal to visitors. They are excellent despite their fame!
And in response to eatwell, I think you should not necessarily change your plans for the bday celebration - PdC can still be excellent - but just keep in mind that there is a not-insignificant chance of something not being as good as it could be/once was. Some of the servers seem to be well aware of the food issues, so probably won't hesitate (or even be surprised) if you need to send something back. This is a terrible state of affairs for a restaurant to be in, but the food is so good that I would still recommend the place regardless.
Thanks for the report!
funny dont recall waiter mentioning specials in times i visited PdC, as for birthday celebration i wouldnt go there first of all heavy meat emphasis does not appeal to everyone and ambience/decor is not special in my view for celebrations +it is true service is haphazard
thanks reiflame for taking the time to give feedback on your foodie tour of montreal and interesting comments (:
Thanks Fin, I definitely look forward to returning. It was our first trip so I felt like we should do some of the tourist-famous places. DNA and Joe Beef are high on the list for our return!
Max, they never mentioned any specials. We were there on Sunday - maybe they didn't have any or maybe the server was too lazy to tell us. The later would not surprise me, given the tone of the rest of the meal.
Just my two kopecks but when you're back I wouldn't be rushing for Joe Beef (I had large portions of really sloppy cooking presented by vapid servers - not a combination to make me want to go back even if someone else was paying). I think you'll find it very similar to your experience with APDC.
DNA would be worth a visit. Wine list with a really good selection of Canadian wines available alongside the regular regions, interesting food and all that orange leather and chrome.
2491 Rue Notre-Dame W, Montreal, QC H3J1N6, CA
I agree with wattacetti on Joe Beef, not worth your while. ..
Check out L'Express. In all the years I have been going they are the most consistent and lovely in their category.
Reiflame, are there any gems in Seattle that you frequent and would recommend?
3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2W2M4, CA
Yes, we had the cromesquis and the plogue de champlain. The plogue is so overpoweringly maple that the actual taste of the fois is hidden. The cromesquis would've been good except the disconnect of the server telling us they were hot and having them be luke-warm was really disconcerting. I'm still not sure if it's actually supposed to be luke warm or what.
You can do so much better in Montreal; Au Pied Du Cochon does not live up in any way to the hype.
Here my opinions on a couple places you tried. pied du Cochon is probably one of the most over rated restaurants in the city. It's really not great, they just like to pile up fat on top of fat and I just don't care for it, although the food Gras itself is pretty good.
Also not sure why banquise is considered to have the best Poutine. IMO it pretty much sucks. Next time try out patati patata. Schwartz is another tourist trap which isn't that good but couldn't recommend you one that's better since I'm not huge on smoke meat. When I do go there I order mine medium/fat otherwise it's way too dry.
Olive and gourmando is a pretty good sandwich place. I enjoy they're bread very much, so good choice there. And as far as the other places you went to I've never been so I've got nothing to say. Hope you enjoyed and lucky for you , you missed the big storm we're having today!;)