Beware Le Saint-Amour
First off, thanks to all the chowhounds whose posts helped me plan the dining for a recent trip to Montreal and Quebec City. Thought I'd share my thoughts for future visitors, and one warning in particular.
I've lived in New York and SF and this was my second visit to Montreal and first to Quebec City. Both are amazing food destinations.
If you are considering Le Saint-Amour in Quebec City, I would suggest avoiding it at all costs. We had a lunch there that was just the worst example of lazy cookery. Really embarrassing actually. Pork loin was overcooked, vegetables were wilted and brown, the asparagus looked like they'd been sitting under a heat lamp for fours, wrinkled beyond recognition. Red deer steak was tough. Sent the pork back and it returned slightly less overcooked. Also, this would have been forgivable if the food was first-rate, but the room, especially the back room, is exceedingly tacky, like an Olive Garden rendition of a supposedly romantic French restaurant. Seriously: pink tulip lights, plastic hanging plants, abominable paintings of ducks.
It's possible dinner is better, some chowhounds rave about the place, but it can't possibly be very good if this is their lunch, and such a meal at any time of day is simply inexcusable.
Much better was Panache, beautiful room, of course, and very good food and service. We went for their Thursday 4 course prix fixe, a good deal at $49. I believe it is a much simpler style dinner than the usual tasting menu, Truffle Arancini, Scallops, Quail stuffed with Boudin Blanc, Pot de Creme, but quite good.
Lapin Saute is a solid rendition of hearty French/Quebec country fare, rabbit focused, obviously.
Clocher Penche was really top-notch. We went for Sat brunch. One of the most creative brunch menus I've seen, and superbly executed.
In Montreal, Au Pied de Cochon was very good, though far from mind-blowing (gut-busting, yes).
Le Petit Alep was solid and interesting, thought can't say it convinced me that Montreal is a standard bearer for Middle Eastern food, as some have claimed.
As to the Bagel wars, we tried both St. Viateur and Fairmount (they are walkable to each other). Both excellent, warm, moist, smaller. St. Viateur has a slight edge I think, but they are quite similar. Better than New York bagels? I'd say just different. Never had fresher, and they certainly have a great setting (wood-fired oven, huge blocks of dough rising on the counter), but they are soft, and don't have the chewiness of a new york bagel. Can't see how well they'd work in a sandwich, but they are great on their own.
Lastly, Schwartz's smoked meat was a different style as well, lean, delicious, but sorry, in my book no contest to the fatty flavor of Katz's or Second Ave Deli. Nice to be able to sit at the counter and be served, rather than fight with the masses though. Definitely see for yourself.
BTW, if you're going to Montreal, didn't go this time, but as of a few years ago, I thought Toque was one of the better restaurants in North America.
I'm shocked to hear that because it was one of the best meals I've ever had, Quebec or otherwise, and imo far ahead of anything offered at Toque- was just there last month for their tasting menu. While I loved the atmosphere of Panache and Le Patriarche, I thought the food fared much better at Le Saint Amour and it was easily the culinary highlight of our trip. All our dishes were cooked to perfection, meats tender, savory and juicy and vegetables of the freshest quality. I thought the dining room was nicely decorated as well, at least in the evening setting. Perhaps a very strange off-day, or just not a lunchtime destination?