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May 18, 2011 11:08 AM

Toque' or Better

SF Foodie visiting Montreal for first time. Love top restos anywhere in the world. Want to try one of the most inventinve, upscale, high-intent restos in Montreal. The established reviewers all focus on Toque' but some recent reviews by diners suggest it has gone downhill, gotten lazy.

Any help welcome including great-eating alternatives in the "nose in the air category". :-}

Will also try Schwartz and other less pricey places on other nights, but do want one blowout meal.

Thanks in advance for your comments.

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  1. this thread was posted yesterday and might be of some use

    8 Replies
    1. re: kpaxonite

      Thanks. I am first hoping for comments on Toque". Here is SF, I can give you my personal rating for the top five classic, great restaurants where the food is both inventive and falls within at least a few boundaries of the usual classic lines.

      Restaurants like Per Se (NYC), Guy Savoy (Paris), Tetsuya (Sydney) and that ilk are the comparables I am hoping to find in Montreal. I would have said Toque' is it until I read a few recent reviews that panned the place.

      So, still hoping for more. Thanks.

      1. re: chasolken

        You will NOT see restaurant at the same level at Per Se or Guy Savoy in Montreal (or anywhere else in Canada), maybe Toque or Europea are 1 michelin star restaurants, but barely; and why eat at those places when you can have the same kind of cuisine in every major city in the world

        What you get in MTL are smaller "french" oriented bistros type restaurants and the whole array of "quebecois" revival cuisine ( Au Pied de Cochon, La Salle à Manger, Joe Beef, ... )

        My 2cents.

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

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

        1. re: Maximilien

          Thanks. I will do some research on "quebecois revival" cuisine. Care to define it further? Definitely interested and appreciatie the comments re quality levels at Toque and Europea.

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

          1. re: chasolken

            I think if you're on a 'city's top restaurants' quest, and looking for inventive yet not over-the-top food, Toqué is a pretty good bet for Montreal. I haven't been in the last few months so can't comment on current quality, but judging from the couple of times I've eaten there in the last year or so, I'd say its reputation as Montreal's finest spot for 'haute' cuisine is well deserved.

            1. re: johnnyboy

              I have not been in a long time but I have seen the declining reviews....

              To be honest if you "do want one blowout meal" please dont go there.....go somewhere that has authentic montreal food that you won't find elsewhere. Montreal isnt SF or NY it is unique....experience it!

          2. re: Maximilien

            I agree. Would "Garde-manger" fit into that /revival" category ? Was there more than a year ago and it was quite good but perhaps a little overrated. Forgot to sample the dessert "Club sandwich"... But I am hesitating now... Is that the place where they serve it (Or used to serve it)...

            1. re: lewolf

              Dessert club sandwich is served at Chez L'épicier

          3. re: chasolken

            Sorry this post almost made me choke on my morning OJ. Montreal is not known for fine dining but it does have a wealth of good casual restaurants, albeit at too high a cost IMO. Hopefully things will change if Daniel Boulud really does open a restaurant at the Ritz. Montreal also has a lot of very good ethnic restaurants but given that you are coming from SF I imagine you also have a lot of those.

            It is funny that you should be coming to Montreal searching for a Per Se or a Guy Savoy. In my opinion SF and its surrounding areas has one of the more exciting food scenes for all styles of dining. I look forward to my 3 or 4 yearly gastronomic trips outside of Montreal to experience the high end.

        2. Montreal also has some very good non-French influenced restaurants at the high end (nose in the air, as you said) that you might want to try: Milos (Greek), Ferreira (Portuguese), Jun-I (Japanese with French influence), Le Piment Rouge (Chinese). As Maximilien said, none of these reach the culinary heights or formal dining levels of Per Se or Guy Savoy, but they are very good. Martha Stewart's favourite restaurant anywhere is Milos (in NYC and Montreal), and almost all of Canada's prime ministers from the past 20-30 yrs have eaten regularly at Le Piment Rouge.

          14 Replies
          1. re: HappyMtl

            Sorry but I have to disagree.....dont send someone for SF to piment rouge

            1. re: kpaxonite

              That is an interesting comment, but not exactly accurate. There is not a Chinese restaurant in the entire SF Bay Area that rates highly with foodies. The top two Chinese are dim sum places, one of which we ate at last Sunday. Good, but nothing gourmet about it.

              The descriptions of Piment Rouge and what I have read about it elsewhere make it sound more distinguished than anything we have here at this point. As bizarre as that sounds, Piment Rouge is on my list.

              So too is Toque--if only because I simply want to see what the best of its style can do. And it is miles less pricey than French Laundry, Per Se, Guy Savoy so no risk.

              With Schwartz for one night, that leaves us with one night left unfilled and I will continue to look for what seems like the right Quebecois experience for our group of four semi-senior citizens (meaning that a calm atmosphere and coutreous service go along way for us).

              Thanks for all your advice.

              1. re: chasolken

                it was reviewed in a french paper within the past week: half a star on five........a true foodies heaven haha ..... enjoy! then again, maybe you will have a different expirience


                a google translation:

                1. re: chasolken

                  The Journal de Montreal article needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It's Montreal's tabloid newspaper (like the New York Post) and often sells papers by stirring controversy. Piment Rouge is favourably rated by the food critics in the mainstream news outlets. Check out their facebook page: or their website: Also, even though Piment Rouge uses high quality ingredients and IMO serves generous portions, I think some people still have an expectation that Chinese food has to be priced cheap (or at least cheaper than western or French food) to be good value - if that is the case, then you will be disappointed. Also, some say that Piment Rouge is not authentic Chinese because they have some Canadianize (Americanized) items on the menu, but then this tabloid review mentioned by kpaxonite above also mocks the Chinese accent of one of the servers. Tough crowd to please in Montreal - not Chinese enough and too Chinese at the same time!

                  That being said, I do agree with others that Montreal French bistro food is what the city does best! Maximilien always has good recommendations. Don't miss out on this aspect of Montreal.

                  1. re: Jasper1

                    Yeah it's strange... Le Piment Rouge was 2010 best restaurant in Montréal according to Philippe Mollé in Le Devoir... maybe the new chef is already gone ?

                  2. re: chasolken

                    I would suggest that Schwartz's be left for lunch and not dinner.

                    1. re: eat2much

                      ha, was about to post the exact same thing

                      good call...

                    2. re: chasolken

                      Hi Chasolken,

                      If you want to taste the cuisine of up&coming Montreal chefs in a place that fits the bill "calm atmosphere and coutreous service" I would recommand Les 400 Coups. Best desserts (caveat, quite innovatives and unconventionals) in Montreal - was at Momofuku Ko in NYC last week and, while their dessert philosopy is similar, 400 Coups' ones are far better.

                      That being said, if you want to taste what as just been coined "Québecois Revival cuisine" you wont find a calm place... I would still highly recommend that you try Au Pied de Cochon (Montreal's revival pionnier - caveat: you have to love foie gras)

                      I allow myself one more sugesstion: Go to Schwartz for lunch - less buzzy, plus it will free up a diner spot...

                      Enjoy Montréal and please give us some feed back!

                      1. re: chasolken

                        Indeed, calm atmosphere might be a bit of a challenge if you're going to any of the currently popular places on a weekend... And i'm not sure what you know about Schwartz's, but you'll find neither calm atmosphere or courteous service there... What you'll find is a grungy place with quite gruff service and not-so-subtle hints to not linger after your last bite. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I love Schwartz's, but only outside of line-up hours (say, after 10PM).
                        For your additional night, if you're willing to forego your 'calm atmosphere' requirement, I would suggest Le Filet, La Montée de lait, or Liverpool house. All of these are somewhat different, but they all have a Montreal vibe to me.

                        1. re: johnnyboy

                          I am greatly appreciative and flattered by the extent and thoghtfulness of the comments left here.

                          We are certainly going to look more closely at Quebecois cuisine. 400 Coups interests me because its menu feels a lot like the great smaller and creative places here in San Francisco, and thus with local ingredients,

                          Not yet sure about Piment Rouge. For some reason, there are not creative Chinese restaurants here. Nothing wrong with traditional Chinese but cuisine, great cuisine, is always changing and I think we currently see less of that here than we did ten and twenty years ago.

                          Still holding our res at Toque. It's a bit like being happy to watch minor league baseball and soccer wherever I travel. And I don't mean that at all pejoratively. I like the genre whether we are taliking food or sport.

                          I do get the point about Schwartz's. I grew up in Boston. "Deli" was ever thus.

                          1. re: chasolken


                            ive dined at some of the world class places you mentioned and agree with the others that you just arent going to find a place like that in montreal. But toque was pretty great last time I was there (1 year ago) and one of the only places like that in montreal. Another option could be XO, which also offers long tasting menus with wine pairings.

                            400 coups was really good and definitely worth the money, but its not the same caliber as toque. and the other quebecois suggestions are on the money but it depends if you want a local montreal experience or the best world class style restaurant we have to offer.

                    3. re: HappyMtl

                      I'd focus on our great French bistro style food unless the OP is seeking some variety in meals. It's what Montreal is most famous for. There are very good Japanese, Chinese and mediterranean style restaurants available within close travel distance for someone from SF - even a Milos in Las Vegas, which is more of a chain restaurant at this point and not unique to Montreal.

                      1. re: Jasper1

                        The terraces/patios are crowded with the warm weather, so you might want to include a restaurant where you can sit outside, lemeac has a terrace --you could go for brunch (they prepare their own smoked salmon)if you want to keep your other restos reserved for dinner. I see the umbrellas are out on little balcony at l arrivage resto in archeology museum -this is also nice place for breakfast as good view of old port (but reserve balcony table, reservations are a must anyways as popular ). bit narrow the balcony--



                        Tip: service can be a problem in this city, the waiters can disappear on you or have attitude so have to be proactive at times to get the service you deserve and pay for!

                      2. re: HappyMtl

                        I heard that PM P-E Trudeau was very found of la "Côte de boeuf au jus" from the "Beaver Club". I must admit never having tried it... Is it as good as it sounds ? (Sorry if I disgress)

                      3. Can someone suggest to the OP (and to me too!) where to find the best Quebercois or french style bistro in Old Montreal?

                        And where would it rank in comparison to the other top places found outside of Old Montreal?


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: J1836

                          I think Holder would be the closest to bistro style in Old Montreal. It has a trendier, noisier feel than other bistro places outside of Old Montreal (like Lemeac or L'express), and the food can be a bit uneven (I find their fish and chips inedible - at least the fish part, though other dishes can be quite good).
                          To me, "bistro" refers to a particular style of french resto, so to talk of a quebecois bistro doesn't quite work (or just confuses me). If you mean traditional food served with a quebecois twist in a non-formal atmosphere, I guess in Old Montreal Club Chasse et Peche would most closely fit the bill, with Le Local and Garde-Manger as other options. I've been to L'Epicier a couple of times in the last year, and wouldn't recommend it.

                        2. Just to add a note of encouragement, I for one still find Toque to be a great experience. Food is top notch and with one exception the service excellent. (once there was clearly an issue in the kitchen resulting in an overlong delay between two courses on the tasting menu).

                          However the restaurant is quite formal and quiet and just doesn't really seem to jibe with the atmosphere that most people (that I know at least) seem to be interested in when dining out. And this in turn really seems to impact on the food. In other words, the whole experience doesn't seem to be "fun" for a lot of people. Sometimes I wonder if that isn't part of what drives the less-than-stellar reputation Toque has on this board. I'd still recommend it though since that seems to what you want to try.

                          In other veins, definitely recommend Pied de Cochon, no question. They should be adding their seafood platters to the menu soon (when are you comming?). Personally I also like L'orignal in old montreal and Le Salle a Manger on the Plateau. Milos and Ferriera (suggested elsewhere) are also pretty good.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: buspirone

                            Thanks to you, and to everyone, for commenting. I am enjoying the experience that comes with learning, and I am beginning to think that four days in Montreal (end of July) are not enough. But, as my wife says all the time about our travels. If we love it, we can go back.

                            I will keep our res at Toque--and Pied de Cochon is to be added. We have not yet set an agenda for the daytime but will probably choose among some interesting places to eat based on where we go that day. Schwartz for lunch is also on the menu. We do a "wicked" imitation of a smoky Texas barcued brisket and trying the "meat" is a must for us.

                            1. re: chasolken

                              APDC, Joe Beef, Garde-Manger and the rest of the Mtl bistro crew is definitely where you need to concentrate your efforts. For the french high-end, many on this board have said you'd be better off driving 3 hours up to Quebec City instead - there's at least 3 or 4 places that are on par with Toque and in my opinion much better (Toast, Panache, Laurie Raphael, etc.).

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

                              1. re: Voidsinger

                                Allow me to voice my strong disagreement,

                                First, since I split my weeks between the two cities, I’m well positioned to assure you that, while Toast, Panache and Laurie Raphael are good restaurants, they are not on par with Toque, both food and service wise. They are only real contenders when the bill comes... IMO, the closest challenger to Toqué! in Québec city is l'Initiale... And please forget St-Amour (apart if you're old fashioned i.e. the world stopped turning in the 80's)

                                Second, while APDC, Joe Beef and Garde-Manger are indeed interesting restaurants, they are far from being unique to Montréal (London's gastropubs would be their ancestors and the real worldwide trendsetter - caveat on APDC since it really brought in elements of old Québécois cuisine). Just go to NYC to see by yourself... Moreover, the three are pretty much along the same register... To do one of these is clearly a must, but to do the three? Not sure, you be a bit “uni-dimentional”… That being said, I would pic APDC (for reasons already stated –plus better bang for bucks if you “stay focus” when picking the wine…). One last thing regarding this bistro/revival cuisine trend: I can’t help but remark that a name is more then often forgotten: Tuckshop. Im a bit surprise because it packs impeccable food and service while way less expensive than Joe Beef and Garde-Manger (to me, the appeal of these two has more to do with “the scene” than the food, especially the one that turn into a club at 11h – yes, looking at Chasolken, I think this is a point to highlight…).

                                So, what does foreign foodies should tried in Montreal (apart form /bistro revival – and just to repeat myself…)?

                                Le Filet: bringing together the chef japanese background, Québec’s terroir ingredients and innovative yet simple cuisine…

                                Club Chasse Pêche, fine dining with a different slant

                                400 coups: again, this place has not even a remote challenger when it comes to dessert (albeit, you won't agree if you crave for fried Mars chocolate bars – but hey, I tasted that 15 year ago in a Scotland shack…). Add that the entrees are innovative and can more than hold their ground against any Montréal heavier hitter…

                                And yes, Toqué!. Because it all started there. Anybody who knows about Montréal restaurant scene would acknowledge that most of this city today's hot chefs either worked at Toqué! or learned from somebody who ranked high at Toqué…

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

                          2. I live 7 months/year in the Bay Area and 4-5 months/year in Montreal. The bottom line is this: when it comes to food ingredients it's hard to beat the Bay Area, although access to seafood and the riches of Charlevoix keep Montreal's better restaurants well provided. There are also more Michelin one star-like restaurants in the 6.5 million Bay Area than in the 3.5 million Montreal area, and SF has more money and wealth to spend on fine restaurants. Having said all that, for foodies Montreal is a more interesting place than SF, in my opinion. The advice you've been getting from most of the Chowhound posters is pretty accurate. While SF bistros like Fringale (especially in its heyday) can be quite good, they pale by comparison with what Montreal has to offer. APDC is one of the most unique restaurants in North America. You may also want to try Cafe Ferreira, the top Portugese restaurant in Montreal. It's not Michelin, but very, very good, and we really don't have Portugese in SF. Le Club Chasse et Peche would probably get one star - it's a better version of the overrated Boulevard. Two new ones with a lot of buzz here are Les 400 Coups and La Porte, both of which I'll be trying this season. But the key to Montreal, as everyone keeps saying, isn't the Michelin angle, but rather the literally dozens of outstanding bistros and upscale/re-invented comfort food establishments, most of them relatively informal, yet often delivering presentations that would compete favorably with a lot of the SF Michelin restaurants. Overall, Montreal's dining scene is both more exciting AND more innovative than the SF scene, which has a hard time with anything more innovative than the latest fusion-like incarnation of anything. BTW, I couldn't help chuckling when you made the point about how SF really doesn't have much in the way of great Chinese restaurants (not counting Yank Sing, which you alluded to)...(One could have said the same thing about Mexican, but let's not air the dirty laundry...LOL!)

                            La Porte Restaurant
                            3627 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2X2V5, CA

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: bengol

                              Very helpful and confusing at the same time. I am now up to six dinner for fouir nights, and I know we will not eat "big" every night.

                              My six: Toque', APDC, Les 400 Coups, La Porte, Piment Rouge and either Ferrara or Milos as SF does not have quality Greek or Portuguese restos.

                              I don't think we are going to go hungry. Thanks again for the comments.

                              La Porte Restaurant
                              3627 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2X2V5, CA

                              1. re: chasolken

                                I am going to add that Toque ranks up there (if not better than many) Michelin 3 star places that I have been to both in NY and Paris. I have not found another place as good as Toque in Montreal, and no, it's not a one or two star place. It's a solid three star and very easy to tell. Europea was a disappointment, nothing like Toque. Thanks for the thread. I will hit all others on the list next time I go to Montreal.

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

                                1. re: cfoodie

                                  I did not appreciate Toque as much as you did. I thought it was an okay haut cuisine place, but not in the league of any of hte 2 or 3 star michelin places in Paris or New York. Le Bernardin, Masa, and Per Se are in another league. Alain Ducasse (at the Plaza Athenee), Guy Savoy and others are way out of the league of Toque. In New York, some of the 2 stars are so much better than toque: Kajitsu, L'Atelier of Joel Robluchon. 1 Star; Kyo Ya- another class altogether; Oceana, Aureole-toque is almost at their level, perhaps. But I would go to Aureole any day of the week before Toque.

                                  But I would love to hear which 3 stars you think Toque is better than? In Montreal, I even prefer Renoir over Toque with their new chef from France.

                                  1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                    sounds like you were pretty disapointed with Toque to revive a 6 month old thread haha why don't you elaborate more about your experience for the benefit of the rest of us (was thinking of giving it another try for lunch or a la carte dinner), plus it helps with the frustration of a bad meal (see some of my posts on the italy forum haha)

                                    I've been twice a few years ago. I felt that the cooking was of a high calibre, the chef is really adventerous with quebecois terroir, and as a previous poster has mentioned really led the way for some of the newer chefs in Montreal. However, both of my dining companions left the place pretty 'meh' certainly I would say some of his dishes came together better than others. Apparently the place has really started to slide in the last few years as well.

                                    Its very hard to give arbitrary michelin stars as the scale seems different from city to city (a 3* in Paris is a totally different experience than3* NYC, so is the price). That being said, there is no way that Toque is 2/3* France calibre nor 3* elsewhere, their service alone would discredit them. I would say that on a good night Toque is better than some 1* in NYC (at least 2 years ago) imho

                                    Sounds like I should try Renoir, have been avoiding hotel restaurants in Montreal after being really disapointed with XO, but have seen a few nice reviews lately

                                    1. re: tdiddy23

                                      I guess you started with a "joke" haha. In most parts of the world, that "dig" is considered an insult reserved for people you are intimate with and are trusted by rather than a complete stranger, no matter how convivially you intended it. But I am learning the culture and the humor here. So "haha". But no, I was not EXTREMELY disappointed so as to open a 6 month old blog.

                                      I went there twice and was so dismayed by bad service the first time, that we found it's high Zagat rating shocking. Some of the dishes were so-so. My wife, the first time, had some chicken that she felt was still a bit raw. The food was okay, but the service was atrocious the fist time.

                                      We went a second time, and told them that the first experience was terrible, and they promised they would make it better. We ordered their multicourse meal. They told us that all the incredients were local. Through the meal, however, we found out that it was not quite local. Fore example the clams were from Boston since they couldn't get them from Gaspe that day. There were a few dishes like that where the "local" was not local. But the food was very good. There was no problem. Just not NY, Paris, London, SF standards. The service the second time was good, but they were trying very very hard and told us they had given us their best watier. We have found that questionable service is a bit too common here in Montreal. But that's another blog.

                                      I agree with your point, that on a good night Togue is better than some 1 stars in NYC. But the operative word is "some". Some of the 1 star Michelin restaurants are pretty amazing too in NYC and perhaps might be higher.

                                      We went to their cafe. That time I was with some Quebec residents. They were quite disapointed with the quality of their steak which was tough. I thought it was creative and decent, but a few of the staff seemed a bit uncommunicative.

                                      Renoir is not great, but it's very good. The service is good, but not great. The chef has some amazing dishes, and the prices are great, notably for their "market menu". It's a table'dhote with three courses using the freshest local (actually local) ingredients that can be found. Some great dishes were their torchon, which I thought was better than Tom Keller's at per se. Their pork roast (at lunch). Their venison-perfectly cooked. Other things were great, but I don't remember. Pastries were a major delight.

                                      I think you are right, that the Michelin scale varies from place to place. I remember my first experience in Italy of a 1 star michelin in Firenze many years ago. It was considered very big deal for Michelin to rate an Italian place with a star, and at the time, I think there were only 2. The restaurant was way to "French" for my taste, and the meal was a bit disapointing. Nowadays, you can find Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and Italian restaurant of all shapes and sizes with Michelin stars. So things have changed.

                                2. re: chasolken

                                  Indeed, you better do a lot of walking in the daytime to burn off those dinners !
                                  Good selection, do tell us your impressions after your trip. Enjoy !

                                3. re: bengol

                                  This was a very interesting take on Montreal and SFO that you wrote. Very helpful. I think much of this argument was quite compelling. I think there's a lot of great SF Chinese restaurant; R&G Lounge, is one example. In various suburbs, there are great Chinese restaurants. Yang Sing is really pretty Americanized, so it might fall into the category of fusion, but amazingly, I took my father in law and wife there, and they liked it (both from China). I love Yang Seng, but it's not exactly Chinese-in some ways it's even better. So many low key great Chinese restaurants in SF. Also in SF, is some amazing "haute cuisine" that are world class. Gary Danko comes to mind and there's a fabulous 3 star michelin resturant further north than the French Laundry, that is wonderful at Meadowood. 5th used to be good with a great chef formerly of Alain Ducasse training. The chef at the Ritz is fabulous, but I heard it's closing soon.

                                  But Montreal restaurants can be pretty interesting and creative. Recent tries that I have liked Le Quartier General, Lawrence for an interesting gastropub approach and wonderful Sunday brunch, L'Express, Laloux, Lemiac, Montee au Lait. Bistros are really nice here; not on a par with Paris, but very nice nonetheless.

                                  I think Asian here has a long way to go. People here love Piment Rouge, which is really more like fusion and Juni. I go to NY a lot and can't really enjoy the Asian here in contrast.

                                  APDC is the most unique restaurant in town, and in North America; there's nothing like it in NY, SF, LA, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, etc. It's so unique and over the top in your face with a hugely celebratory atmostphere. I wish my wife liked it more, but it's a bit too rich for her. But SF vs. Montreal? I am not familiar enought with SF to say, but it's a bit hard to believe you contention.