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Toque!: Tasting Menu or A La Carte?

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Nicholas12 Aug 9, 2011 06:47 PM

I fully understand that haute cuisine is supposed to be "an experience", where presentation meets sustained quality. Not to cheapen the aforementioned remark, but I would still like to get "the most bang for my buck".

That being said, does the Tasting Menu at Toque! fill one upon completion? Being that each course within the seven course meal is of sample size, is it worth the $100 price mark? Might I better be suited for A La Carte?

Additionally, if I decide to proceed with the Tasting Menu, should the optional accompanied wine pairing be of consideration?

Those that have dined at Toque!, please advise.

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    OliverB RE: Nicholas12 Aug 9, 2011 07:34 PM

    I would definitely go with the degustation with wine pairing for the full experience... it wasn't as immersive as the full course tasting menu at Europea, but I still found it more enjoyable than ordering a la carte, of which I've had mixed experiences in the past. I left satisfied and with appetite satiated. You might want to call ahead and get an idea of what's on the menu beforehand, rather than stepping in blind, and then make your decision. If you're prepared to spend money for a nice dinner at Toque, you might as well go for the the full experience imo.

    3 Replies
    1. re: OliverB
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      Nicholas12 RE: OliverB Aug 10, 2011 07:18 AM

      I do agree with your rationale, in regards to 'going the mile' if already accepting the price tag for respectable haute cuisine. I do believe that I will consider the Tasting Menu, coupling it with the selected wine pairing, if my travel finances permit.

      Also, again with the mention of Europea, a comparison that is often provided when discussing Toque!, or Montreal haute cuisine, in general. Is it really worthy of constant comparison? The menu and the atmosphere appear to be much more desirable at Toque!. On what specific grounds are Europea and La Chronique respectable comparisons?

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

      1. re: Nicholas12
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        OliverB RE: Nicholas12 Aug 10, 2011 09:49 AM

        It's been years since I've been to Chronique so I can't comment there, though obviously being one of the city's more expensive and exclusive French restaurants, it makes sense to see comparissons drawn, especially when looking at similar multi-course tasting menus. From my own experience, the 11 course degustation menu at Europea was second-to-none in this city. We sat at the chef's table and made an entire evening out of it, spending over 3 hours in culinary heaven. I don't remember specifically what was consumed, but everything was otherworldly both in taste and inventiveness, bursting of intense distinct flavors and presentation which was equally creative. I can see how the ecclecticism of the dining room might turn some away, but I quite liked it. It's obviously very different from Toque which lends a more modish air of class, but itself can send off an impression of dining in a boutique hotel lobby-bar atmosphere, I think. Don't get me wrong, I had an incredible meal at Toque as well when sampling the tasting menu. I just preferred Europea's more for the reasons mentioned above. There will always be some hits and misses, which is why it's nice to be able to experience the tasting menus to get a sense of the chef's interpretation of their range of dishes, but being among Montreal's best restaurants, I really don't think you can go wrong with either and would say they're both worth visiting. If you're coming from out of town (which I didn't realize) then I would probably steer you more towards Toque, as I feel it's a better representation of what this type of cuisine is to Montreal; ie. French fine dining with inventive and creative regional interpretations, molecular gastronomy, etc. It's just my opinion, but think the setting, seasonal menus and overall experience is more reflective of the high end of Montreal haute cuisine, which in and of itself is not really common to the city.

        1. re: Nicholas12
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          Maximilien RE: Nicholas12 Aug 10, 2011 11:36 AM

          La Chronique is more "bourgeois" (Outremont type) than the more international/tourist restaurants like Toqué! or Européa.

          Max.

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        j_do RE: Nicholas12 Aug 10, 2011 01:24 PM

        tasting menu is the only way to go with prestige pairing, but it will set you back more like 250-300$. expect a 2000-2500 calorie meal so it should be filling for most people if not excessive. i've had the tasting with wine pairing at toque, europea and la chronique and i have to say la chronique came out on top for its intimate setting and more personal service.

        5 Replies
        1. re: j_do
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          OliverB RE: j_do Aug 10, 2011 02:49 PM

          I think for an out of towner looking for this kind of dining experience, Toqué would be the most rewarding. It's $110 p/p for the tasting menu with foie gras. Add $60-110 for wine pairings. So with tax and tip, you're looking at roughly $230-290 p/p. It will be about the same at any of these restaurants. Since you're already eating on Laurier based on your other thread re. French bistros, and you'll surely be dining at some of Montreal's smaller and more intimate rooms (which on the whole are a better representation of the city's restaurant culture) I suggest you give Toqué a try. It's the most unique of the three to the city.

          1. re: OliverB
            Pixie Muse RE: OliverB Aug 10, 2011 08:10 PM

            I couldn't agree more, and although it was indeed pricey, it was simply divine, from the foie gras all the way to the decadent dessert... We went a la carte I believe, with a bottle of wine we were both very impressed with, and if my memory's right, it cost roughly 400?

            1. re: Pixie Muse
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              Nicholas12 RE: Pixie Muse Aug 12, 2011 06:21 PM

              I thought that I might spark this thread up for one last run.

              I have confidently secured all restaurants for my upcoming September Montreal trip (I will be traveling from New York), except for the final night, grand meal, in which I am torn between Toque! and Europea.

              I initially concluded upon Toque! without hesitation, but find certain aspects of Europea hard to ignore: securing the Chef's Table, having a 10 course Tasting Menu (as opposed to Toque!'s seven course), the ambiance being more romantic and desirable (I keep hearing mention of how the atmosphere at Toque! is too clinical and corporate) and several mentioning that the courses at Europea are of larger portions, with the prices being less expensive.

              Toque! is clearly Toque! and, according to most on this site, deserves it's hard-earned reputation as being one of, if not, the preeminent restaurant in Montreal.

              If I am able to secure the Chef's Table at Europea for the Tasting Menu (with accompanied wine pairing), is it worth canceling my reservation for Toque!?

              I will most likely not be able to visit Montreal for at least another year, subsequent to my trip, so I want to make this decision count.

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

              1. re: Nicholas12
                Pixie Muse RE: Nicholas12 Aug 12, 2011 08:08 PM

                Because you mention many "pro's" for Europea, it sounds like you may have made your decision...Your pro's can be someone else's con's since this is all a matter of preference, right..? There is no right or wrong really, and the best choice is often the one you make. A romantic setting, the price and the number of courses matter to you as you pointed them out, and for others the opposite is what they could be looking for. And so why concern yourself with a restaurant another would choose when you aren't looking for the same thing? In the end, both would be experiences to enjoy, and as you mention wanting the experience "to count" for you, I am sure you won't regret one or the other. And so, Europea now and Toque next year:)

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

                1. re: Nicholas12
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                  OliverB RE: Nicholas12 Aug 13, 2011 06:45 AM

                  A few things to note: first, I would not consider the chef's table at Europea (nor likely elsewhere) particularly romantic, as you're essentially dining in a wing of the kitchen. So expect it to be a busier and louder atmosphere. It's a unique setting nonetheless and a fun 'foodie' experience for someone who puts a great deal of consideration towards meal preparation and eating out. I've done the degustation menus at a number of chef's tables, namely upstate, and find it to be an exciting alternative to dining out in an exclusive setting. If you do end up at Europea and decide to splurge for the 11-course tasting menu and wine pairing, I do highly recommend it. I would definitely consider it among the most memorable meals that I've enjoyed in the city, and I have been kickin' around Montreal going on thirty years. I've done the tasting menu at Europea only once, and had a great time. That said, Toqué is quite a unique fixture on our food scene, and I would consier the kitchen's approach to regional inspired-French-haute cuisine possibly more interesting and innovative than Europea. It is in my opinion, distinctly more 'Montreal', for whatever that's worth. Europea feels to me like the sort of high end destination restaurant that you might enjoy in a larger more international city. Again, I don't mean to imply that it's without soul, nor that it should necessarily detract from its appeal. As far as ambiance is concerned -- to be honest, I don't think either dish it out too distinctly; yet I would say that the design and decor of both restaurants seem to suit their identities. There are certainly more intimate, charismatic and impressive dining rooms in Montreal, yet I would say both are elegant and charming in their own way. I'm not really sure that I prefer one over the other. Each suit their own attitudes well. If comparing both restaurants from personal experience and based solely on the merits of their tasting menus alone, then I would have to say that I enjoyed the exhaustive and intricate meal that I ate at Europea slightly more than I did at Toqué. Both were outstanding however. Keep in mind as well, that neither of their menus are fixed year round, and they fluctuate seasonally with different courses. So my experience a year or two ago may well vary considerably from yours. Eleven courses is a lot of food; much of it exceptional and reflected both in preparation and presentation (really a blast-off for all senses!) but with both meals at both restaurants, there were still a couple of dishes that I found to be just off the mark or didn't completely do it for me. That's not to say there were disappointments, just that some dishes were more enjoyable than others. And I found those hits in particular at Europea, to be slightly more memorable in contrast to those at Toque; all of this in consideration of the finest meals I've eaten at hundreds of other local restaurants, to put it all in better context for you. This is just the risk you run when relinquishing all trust to the chef's monarchy with fixed multi-course dinners, but I find it makes for a more immersive and exciting culinary experience. After all of that typing, I know this probably isn't the answer that you're looking for... but I don't think anyone here can say that there is one absolute unparalelled preferance over the other. Both restaurants favor highly on Montreal's fine dining scene and are most unanimously well regarded all over. Take whatever I've written subjectively as one lone fellas personal thoughts, based on my sole experiences with both restaurants' menus. I've eaten out at Toqué far more frequently (perhaps all of 5 or 6 times; or approx. once a year as of recently) then I have at Europea, of which I've only been twice. One of those times was for the all-out 11-course tasting menu, and it indeed sent me straight into orbit! Can't remember quite as much from ordering a la carte, though I've done so at Toqué quite a few times. At the end of the night, you're not going to go wrong with either, so go with your instinct, and next time you're back in town -- give the other one a shot and throw your sentiments into the feedback. Cheers!

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