HOME > Chowhound > Quebec (inc. Montreal) >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Get great advice

"Soul Evident" French Kitchen in Montreal

Kurtis Aug 30, 2011 06:24 AM

I've been reading your board now for several months with great enthusiasm, and have gathered many many good options to try on our visit in early October. But while I feel confident that many of them - they are often listed on our board - are top dining destinations, I am uncertain whether these are what I am searching for. I would appreciate your input here on this.

Most of our memorable dining experiences are from chef/owner driven "smaller" places with food that warms our hearts; from our travels abroad in small villages to husband/wife/family teamed tables whose food is filled with soul. Most of them are not starred places or necessarily fancy - nothing wrong with these really, but for us they are easier to forget (while they were good, I have very little recollection of our meals at EMP or Le Bernadine for example, but I do recall to disturbing detail the meal I had 10 years ago in remote restaurant in Peru) then to be remembered. These are quite difficult to find in NYC where we are coming from. While the title specifies French cuisine, we are open to other options for one exceptional meal.

We are adventurous and willing diners. Would rather not set a budget limit here for that special place. We will have a car, so we would be happy to make that excursion as well.

Many thanks in advance. You can count on us to report back on our experience :)

  1. Kurtis Oct 22, 2011 09:13 AM

    A Trip Report: 5 days in Oct, 2011

    I would like to thank you Montreal CHs for a great week of eating we had in Montreal recently. "Soul Evident" kitchens were well represented among the choices you recommended and on our visit that our hearts were warmed, and the souls satisfied on nearly all meals. So, again, thank you.

    More than other trips, we kept to our plan here much in part because more or less each meal got better and better, and couldn’t possibly think of missing the next. Much to our regret, we couldn’t keep the resv for the last two days of the trip - Au Pied du Conchon and Lawrence – and as we find MTL closer and closer to NYC and more so in our hearts, we are sure to return in near future. As for one of the evening with two reservations, Joe Beef became our choice against Mas Cuisine as we sought a bit of change from previous meals and without regret; fwiw, JB was the only restaurant that made call to confirmed reservation of all the places we visited, and contrary to some reports, we found them one of the most friendly and accommodating.

    Here’s the list of places we visited roughly in order of liking:

    La Porte
    Les Trois Petits Bouchon
    Joe Beef

    Au Cinquieme Peche
    Le Quartier General

    Kitchen Gallerie Poisson
    M sur Masson

    Within the groups, the order means less, but for whatever first impressions may mean, the first four were really the standouts for sure, and the second two certainly very much enjoyed as well. The last two were disappointers though. I would like to report to you most of above on posts to come.

    A few side notes...

    For one of the lunches on a rainy and bit chilly day, we gave up our reservation at Lemeac and followed your rec to Pho Tay Ho for their fantastic pho; NYC lacks such pho place for sure as it was probably the BEST pho I ever had, (my wife says it’s just as good as ones she had in Vietnam on her trips) and returned here for a second lunch just before our departure: such a well-balanced and flavorful broth - we napped a phoantastic nap that afternoon in noodly and basilly way : -)

    Jean Talon Market was as wonderful as imagined, and on our second visit there the "sampling" turned into having over a dozen of large Malpeque oysters that were extremely fresh and equally divine. Kouign Amann at its namesake shop was a love at first bite that silenced us both with our mouthful, and was elevated to an addiction status by the preparation we had at La Porte as a dessert.

    1. j
      j_do Oct 1, 2011 09:39 AM

      another great place to consider is Comptoir de Charcuteries et Vins.. has to be the best unhyped joint in the city IMO. nice small casual setting, great for dates. the homemade charcuterie is quite good.. the veil loin tataki with marinated armillaria and popcorn sweetbreads is to die for.. also tried to boudin tart and lobster tart which were excellent. prices are like 12-16$ a plate which is quite cheap for given the quality and execution.

      7 Replies
      1. re: j_do
        SnackHappy Oct 1, 2011 09:49 AM

        I don't know about unhyped, it's not that easy to get a table there, but it's certainly one of the best new places in town. It's such a breath of fresh air compared to all the heavy bistro and gussied up comfort food you find everywhere else in this city. I think the term "soul evident" applies very well to Le Comptoir. I would hurry and go before Ségué Lepage starts doing tv shows and stops working in his kitchen.

        1. re: j_do
          Kurtis Oct 1, 2011 10:45 AM

          "homemade charcuterie is quite good.. the veil loin tataki with marinated armillaria and popcorn sweetbreads is to die for.."

          Nice curve ball you throw...Comptoir de Charcuteries et Vins was indeed one that unfortunately got eliminated, partly because of their website being under construction. Would you know if they serve lunch as well?

          1. re: Kurtis
            j_do Oct 1, 2011 10:54 AM

            tues-fri they do lunch from noon-2pm
            sunday brunch from 10:30-2pm

            they post their weekly lunch/brunch menu on their facebook page i believe

            1. re: Kurtis
              SnackHappy Oct 1, 2011 11:04 AM

              Here's their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Le-Com...

              1. re: SnackHappy
                Kurtis Oct 1, 2011 11:11 AM

                Haha, now I can't get this place out of my mind! I'm sold.
                Would a Sunday brunch menu adequate to experience their flavors? Is it worth replacing it with Lawrence?

                1. re: Kurtis
                  SnackHappy Oct 1, 2011 11:24 AM

                  "Is it worth replacing it with Lawrence?"

                  I would be hard pressed to choose between the brunch at Lawrence and the one at Le Comptoir. I can't really say that one is better than the other. I do, however, prefer dinner at Le Comptoir to brunch, but that's mostly because I'm not really big on brunchy food.

                  "Would a Sunday brunch menu adequate to experience their flavors?"

                  Hard to say. Brunch gives you a very good idea of what they do, but the dinner menu is more varied and, IMHO, more interesting.

                  1. re: SnackHappy
                    Kurtis Oct 2, 2011 07:05 AM

                    Thanks SnackHappy!

                    Brunch isn't really my thing (though Lawrence experience seems a must), and now I am looking to find room for a dinner at Le Comptoir. I would love to visit this kind of place several times at least to get a good sense of the place and to really enjoy the experience. I foresee frequent wknd trips after this experience...

          2. Kurtis Oct 1, 2011 07:45 AM

            cherylmtl, after going through this board, I got the impression that Joe Beef is more hype, or a place for an experience, and food inconsistent. As I am not a big fan of Chang, Batali or Meyers in NYC, I felt Joe Beef may be similar experience. Am I off? Also you are probably right about P'tit Plateau, as I only left them a message for reservation and haven't heard from them yet. Hmm, how do I fit a dinner here into my schedule!?!

            EaterBob, thanks for the additional suggestions, and confirming that Mas Cuisine is a better choice. I certainly would if I could to stay over a couple of more days, a month really.

            Plateaumaman, I did request the "antler seat" at the bar as AlexCV recommended, and am planning to give them a call to confirm soon. I am planning to checkout many other famous food options such as poutine and bagel, but they were well-covered on this board that I think I have good idea where to go.

            "Maybe keep breakfast simple or fast for the la grand bouffe..."
            Wilmagrace, any one place that really standout for the breakfast? After yours and Plateaumaman's suggestion, I am compelled to put on some miles on my feet and squeeze it in on a lighter day, LOL : )

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

            Mas Cuisine
            3779 Rue Wellington, Verdun, QC H4G, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kurtis
              Plateaumaman Oct 1, 2011 10:12 AM

              Breakfast can be a nice time to run around and try some of the cafés which are so much a part of the ambiance here. Or the bakeries. You might be tired of sit down meals and being patient with wait staff after so many lunches and dinners out.

            2. Kurtis Sep 29, 2011 01:08 PM

              As time is approaching, I have narrowed my choices and made necessary reservations at this point. All of the days have two reservations, but we will more often only keep one. My initial reservation at Toque and DNA was replaced by more neighborhood bistro options as these are what I am really looking for in general. Any ones to drop from this list?

              Day 1- Arrive in the afternoon (Monday)
              D: M sur Masson

              Day 2
              L:Le Quartier General
              D: Les trois petits bouchon

              Day 3
              L: Kitchen Gallerie Poisson
              D: Au Cinquieme peche

              Day 4
              L: Laloux
              D: La Porte

              Day 5
              L: Lemeac
              D: Mas Cuisine/Joe Beef
              (I am leaning toward Mas Cuisine over Joe Beef at this point)

              Day 6
              L: Le P'Tit Plateau
              D: Au Pied du conchon

              Day 7- Departure
              Brunch @ Lawrence

              6 Replies
              1. re: Kurtis
                Speveo Sep 29, 2011 01:51 PM

                That is a serious week of eating you have going on there! You have made some fantastic choices, but one place that I really feel you should try and squeeze in there is Kazu, as was mentioned earlier. So many restaurants you have chosen are in a very similar zone. Kazu would be a nice breath of fresh air for you, especially around day 4/5.

                Regardless, enjoy and I'd love to hear about some of your experiences, so keep us posted.

                1862 Sainte-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC H3H 1M1, CA

                1. re: Speveo
                  Kurtis Sep 30, 2011 05:05 AM

                  Thanks for your suggestion, and I have noted their info as backup, as Izakaya's are quite well represented in NYC. Breath of fresh air in between? Nah, I will regret it on our return trip, especially after having to eliminate more than a dozen really outstanding places for this visit!

                  1. re: Kurtis
                    cherylmtl Sep 30, 2011 04:33 PM

                    I love Kazu, but you are right, there are many (even better) izakayas in NYC, so don't feel bad about skipping it. That is a lot of yummy eating that you have planned there - but I hope you are leaving plenty of time between lunches and dinners, or else have exceptionally large appetites.

                    David Chang and Anthony Bourdain are both big fans of Joe Beef - you might want to keep that in mind (and perhaps move Mas to another night).
                    And are you sure you have a lunch reservation at P'tit Plateau? I didn't think they were open for lunch, unless that's changed.

                2. re: Kurtis
                  EaterBob Sep 30, 2011 03:49 PM

                  Looks like a fabulous selection. Off the top of my head a) I'd agree with you about Mas Cuisine over Joe Beef. b) I'd suggest staying an extra day or two, so that you could fit in Le Filet. Le 400 Coups and Bistro Bienville, without having to remove anything. And c) They just recently changed chefs at Laloux, so while I wouldn't have any concerns about the quality ( Jonathan Lapierre Rehayem is just as good if not better than Seth Gabrielse) they might still be working out some kinks when you're there.

                  1. re: Kurtis
                    Plateaumaman Sep 30, 2011 06:20 PM

                    Nice itinerary! I am already looking forward to the report. I might have tossed Reservoir in there for lunch one day as it is a nice location and fits the chef-driven market cuisine criteria, although perhaps not the soulful couple one. Kazu is good but can be long wait at lunch which eats into meal time, especially when there is a dinner reservation already made. Nice to finish off with APDC and hope you got the bar seats booked! No breakfasts booked? A comparative analysis of croissants and pain au chocolat, non?

                    1. re: Plateaumaman
                      wilmagrace Sep 30, 2011 09:12 PM

                      I was going to suggest bagels but recently read that something in the water in brooklyn (special in ground filtering from catskills...) makes their bagels unique and outstanding! Maybe keep breakfast simple or fast for the la grand bouffe...look forward to your critique!

                  2. Kurtis Aug 30, 2011 10:11 AM

                    Here's my current list; I will be in MTL for a week so still need some trimming.

                    Ferreira Café
                    Au Pied de Conchon
                    Bistro L’Entrepont
                    Au Cinquième Péché
                    La Porte
                    Kitchen Gallery
                    Bistro Bienville
                    Les trois petits bouchon
                    Le Bleu Raisin
                    Les Heritiers
                    Le P'tit Plateau
                    Joe Beef
                    La quartier general
                    Monsieur B
                    Le M sur Masson
                    Le Club Chasse et Pêche

                    While I am excited about possibilities of visiting DNA and APDC and likes, I am more drawn to places like La Porte as EaterBob describes,

                    "...run by couples who pour their hearts into not only what is served, but how it is served."

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Kurtis
                      wattacetti Aug 30, 2011 11:05 AM

                      That's 23 restaurants. Depending on when you arrive and when you leave, you may wish to make specific selections depending on who's open on a Sunday (few) or a Monday (even fewer).

                      In terms of time constraints, I'd drop Ferreira Café (unless you really want vintage port), Bleu Raisin, O'Thym. Several will be similarly styled in terms of cuisine and wine lists so run through whatever online menus you can find and group accordingly prior to your choice.

                      APDC, DNA, Joe Beef may be difficult to secure reservations given their recent showcases on US television, but we are still talking Montreal and you having 4+ weeks to go. Suggest making that decision soon and anchoring your week.

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

                      1. re: Kurtis
                        AlexCV Aug 30, 2011 02:12 PM

                        If you choose to go to APDC, make a reservation for the "antler seat" at the bar. That pats you basically in front of the plating. The stove is 10 feet back. It's a whole lot memorable then a table in the back, even though the food's the same. I'd also book for tuesday or wednesday, when they're least busy (they're closed monday) and it'll be more relaxed all around. I've been 4 times and I remember lots from my times at the bar and not much from when I was in the room.

                        1. re: AlexCV
                          Kurtis Aug 31, 2011 07:29 AM

                          Alex, thanks for the tip. I have reservation there (as well as DNA, Les trois petits bouchon, and Joe Beef). I agree with you regarding visiting these publicized places on weekends w/ frentic services.

                          I secured above reservations in advance as many recommended here, but I am more tempted by many many other options. 23 that I listed above can easily turn into 40 it seems. Here are several others that I am also looking into:

                          Mas Cuisine
                          Le comptoir

                          Mas Cuisine
                          3779 Rue Wellington, Verdun, QC H4G, CA

                          1. re: Kurtis
                            davidpg Aug 31, 2011 07:49 AM

                            MAS Cuisine is a great choice. Chef Michel is a really nice guy, and it's small and intimate. Lots of meat confit! ;)

                            The part of town is considered less interesting, but worth the few minutes it'll take for you to get there. Plus if the weather is nice, you can drive west along Lasalle Boulevard a few miles and check out the St. Lawrence River as you'll be pretty much on it.

                            1. re: davidpg
                              Kurtis Sep 1, 2011 06:57 AM

                              Thanks davidpg, it looks like what I am looking for too. Also, thanks for the info on the drive; it looks like a nice place to walk as well along the river after the meal.

                        2. re: Kurtis
                          Fintastic Sep 1, 2011 09:29 AM

                          If I had to pick a place in Montreal with the most soul, it might not be French at all. Its pretty clear that the people behind Kazu put everything they have into their restaurant.

                          That said, if I had to pick a french-influenced restaurant I might lean towards Mas Cuisine or P'tit Plateau for that family owned and operated aesthetic.
                          Chien Fumant also feel homey, and Ethan at Lawrence is maybe the most welcoming restauranteur I've ever met, so those might be great choices too.

                          Mas Cuisine
                          3779 Rue Wellington, Verdun, QC H4G, CA

                          1862 Sainte-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC H3H 1M1, CA

                        3. e
                          EaterBob Aug 30, 2011 09:07 AM

                          In short: La Porte on Saint Laurent for dinner, Kouign Amann for coffee and Kouign Amann and then for the not necessarily French, I'd suggest Lawrence.

                          All three are small establishments run by couples who pour their hearts into not only what is served, but how it is served. Pascale & Thierry at La Porte have slightly more training than Sefi & Marc at Lawrence, but that should in no way be used to make a judgment on either the cooking or the service at either place.

                          And while I've had a better Kouign Amann at La Porte than at Kouign Amann (I've also had a better Oh! Henry at La Porte than what is made by Hershey) La Porte is not open early in the mornings for breakfast. Also, La Porte doesn't only do awesome deserts, the mains and entrees are even better, however I rarely eat desert when eating out, and so when something spectacular comes along, running it up the flag most definitely gets my attention (and best to not even mention the Tarte Tatine at Lawrence, before this whole discussion gets a sugar high).

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

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: EaterBob
                            Kurtis Aug 30, 2011 10:07 AM

                            La Porte seems like a must visit! Thanks for the addition to growing list of dilemmas.

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

                          2. w
                            wattacetti Aug 30, 2011 07:00 AM

                            A lot of places listed on this board are chef/owner establishments, but they can vary in terms of whether the chef is the sole proprietor or has a partner. The "filled with soul" part is somewhat harder to define.

                            The "must do" list of APDC, DNA, Joe Beef, Banquiste et al gets covered all the time.

                            Carswell had posted a list of restaurants just over 2 years ago that would be agreat starting place; you can take a look (most still exist) and add to that from the more recent postings.


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

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: wattacetti
                              Kurtis Aug 30, 2011 10:04 AM

                              "The "filled with soul" part is somewhat harder to define."

                              I agree, and it's very subjective and can be heavily influenced by many things other than food. Regardless, thanks for guiding me to Carswell's list which I reviewed many times, along with several very informative threads along the line.

                            Show Hidden Posts