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"Soul Evident" French Kitchen in Montreal

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 :)

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  1. 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.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6436...

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: wattacetti

      "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.

    2. 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).

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: EaterBob

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

        DNA
        Ferreira Café
        Au Pied de Conchon
        Leméac
        Bistro L’Entrepont
        Au Cinquième Péché
        La Porte
        Laloux
        Kitchen Gallery
        Bistro Bienville
        Les trois petits bouchon
        Le Bleu Raisin
        O’Thym
        Pintxo
        Les Heritiers
        Le P'tit Plateau
        Lawrence
        Joe Beef
        La quartier general
        Monsieur B
        Le M sur Masson
        Raza
        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

          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.

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

          1. re: Kurtis

            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

              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
              L'Atelier
              Toque
              Le comptoir

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

              1. re: Kurtis

                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

                  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

              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.

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

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

            3. 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

                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.

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

                1. re: Speveo

                  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

                    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

                  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

                    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

                      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. 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 : )

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                    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

                      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.