SF Foodie Reports On Visit
Just back from Montreal. Ate well thanks to the great advice from this board. My comments, in order of our experiences, follow--
LES 400 COUPS--Lovely Parisian bistro imitation with fairly innovative food, Can't say we were overwhelmed but we ate well and the wine list did contain several very good choices at reasonable prices. Mostly a young, hip clientele but no problem for our group of "mature" patrons. Recommended.
SCHWARTZ--I could write a short story about what is right and wrong with Schwartz, BUT, it all comes down to this---GO THERE if you like good cured brisket. Smoked meat is a cross between corned beef and pastrami, but is neither and thus stands on its own as a real deli treat. It is not Katz because smoked meat is not pastrami and it is not Katz because it has a much more limited menu. But a smoked meat sandwich (ask for medium fat, please) with a big dill pickle and a plate of the oil and vinegar slaw is about half the price of a similar New York experience. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR AFICIONADOS.
LE PIMENT ROUGE--Our group of six was treated to eight courses of small plates and loved it. Not every dish is unique and new, but even for a San Franciscan who loves Chinese food, Le Piment Rouge was special. Some dishes, like the crispy shrimp served in a rice paper basket over a savory bit of stirred pea sprouts moistened with a mix of spices or the Gobi desert-spiced lamb chops are dishes I have never experienced in SF. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED but be forewarned, this is not your neighborhood eatery. Gorgeous room, upscale service and prices to match.
LUNCH AT POINTE-CALLIERE (Archeology Museum in Vieux Ville)--A tasty burger, salad and potato straw fries for $8.50 with a view of the Port was a bargain and a half. Avoid the "joints" on the street and head here to relax and enjoy--oh, and go to the museum as well. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you are in the neighborhood.
TOQUE'--Every bit as good as advertised here--which is to say that it thinks it is world class, has a clientele and prices to match and comes close. I can't say that we were not warned. Voices here were right. This is a good restaurant, is sufficiently innovative, has a fine but too expensive wine list and is worth a one-star Guide Mich rating. Service is good, but rushed, from experienced wait staff, but the whole experience is a bit cold, stiff. RECOMMENDED for folks like me who insist on trying the best a city has to offer.
NOCOCHI--This little coffee shop/lunchery near the Musee Beaux Arts was a great find for a light Sunday brunch. So good, in fact, that my wife and sister-in-law went back on Monday during their visit to Holt Renfrew. RECOMMENDED without reservation.
LE TAJ--Not the best Indian food ever, and certainly straight down the middle of the road in terms of its menu. Everything was good, nothing stood out as new or mindblowing, but after three nights of "nose in the air" eating, we liked it. RECOMMENDED because we could walk to it.
If we had stayed another few days, I think we would have explored some of the other ethnic offerings because we were pretty much fooded- and fancy-wined-out, but Montreal rates way above lots of places for range of food and we ate well with few complaints. On future trips, we would go back to Schwartz and Le Piment Rouge with enthusiasm.
Once again, thanks to all who commented on my earlier request for info.
I know this is a year later (almost) but as a Montreal with strong ties (familial) to SF, I feel that as an SF foodie, Montréal is probably a hard city to compare. Montréal doesn't have a Boulevard/Prospect/Incanto/Barbacco. We just don't. It can be attributed to a number of factors: a weak economy, overly regulated liquor sales, etc and many of the inventive sous-chefs and property developers have set their sights on Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia where money isn't an issue. Montreal instead is chock-full of small little bistros and interesting cafés.
Looking at Montreal through the eyes of SF, you'd see a paltry offering of restaurants that are played-out. Sure, Toqué! is good, but Laprise is a bit overplayed, like a restaurant that was at the vanguard too long and is now a prisoner of its own success. It's the same thing over and over.
Toronto has the high-end fare. Whether you hit Sassafraz, Canoe, or Momofuku Toronto, you'll find world-class high-end cuisine. Montreal has its own charm and through-out the economic problems, you'll find excellent eateries offering innovative fare and delicious options.