2 people, less than a week, (at least) 93 suggestions
I've just read the 5 Days in Montreal novel -- er, post/thread -- and boy, am I exhausted.
My wife will thank me for taking all of that time . . . >after< our trip . . . assuming that I gleaned the right choices from that long, long discussion. So, please help my marriage!
But I have another list to throw out to the Montreal Chow-ers:
La Couscoussiere d'Ali Baba
These are among the selections in Eyewitness Travel's *Top Ten: Montreal and Quebec City*.
I'm not attached to anything on this list (nor to that guidebook); I just chose these from the longer list that it had.
To help to gauge how you should react: My wife and I are, I guess, less interested in expensive/trendy places than are those who posted to Five Days. We don't eat beef and don't need seafood unless it's really unusual.
We are about sixty, serious but not grave when it comes to dining out, and willing to walk far, eat early, or put up with less than spotless surrounds.
Of places mentioned in the Five Days thread, I do have three questions:
Is Chien Fumant expensive/trendy? What cuisine is Romados? Damas?
a few quick replies
La Gaudriole is no longer open - it closed at least 18 months ago.
O'Thym and Stash Cafe has been talked about on the board - if you can't find anything in the search, make sure you tick Past 5 years, not only Past 1 year.
Chien Fuman has what I consider to be the best charcuterie plate in Montreal right now. Miles better than that offered by Le Comptoir (which should have been much better than it was)
Romados is grilled, Portugeuse style chicken
Damas is Syrian cuisine
Don;t know or never heard of : Kashmir, Solmar, Santos, La Gaudriole, La Couscoussiere...
Julien is traditional french cuisine.
I'd have a look at the usual suspects :
Lemeac, Laloux, La Salle à Manger, Bottega for pizza, (the small-ish) Café Sardine, Lawrence, Graziella (old-montreal), Pinxto for tapas ...
(always check for summer/vacation closures).
Solmar is a Portuguese place on St. Paul in Old Montreal. We passed this place many times, but never tried it. Two things; its in tourist central (as is Kashmir and Santos, BTW), and its somewhat expensive ($20 for grilled sardine app).
We always felt theres much better Portuguese (or tapas) in the city.
I'm wary of "top 10" lists...
Expensive! This is the typical 4-course Italian format (Anti-pasti, primi, secondi, and dessert) which run about $18, $25, $35, and $9, respectively. If you ordered one of each it'd be tough to spend less than $100 per person before drinks. I might argue that its worth it, though.
I feel like I say this about a lot of different regional cuisines, but Italian has never been well represented in Montreal (at least IMO). This is particularly surprising given the huge Italian population here. Recently, places like DNA (now closed), Graziella, Venti Osteria, and Da Emma have brought some good, high-end choices to the city, but there aren't too many mid-range options. Venti Osteria is somewhat less expensive than the others.. I wish I could be of more help, but I've basically written off every Italian restaurant in Little Italy and the Plateau. Maybe there are some newer options that I've missed, but I often can't even bring myself to try anymore.
Actually, maybe this is a helpful coincidence:
I don't entirely agree with her on all choices (i.e. I don't really like Lucca), but maybe you could try some of the other options. I've heard a few good things about Hostaria, but forgot to mention it before. Still fairly expensive, though..
I never recommend Nora, for some reason, but it was fairly good on my only visit. Their prices aren't excessive... appetizers in the mid-high teens, and mains that range from around $20 well into the $40s. If one ordered a small appetizer and pizza it could be pretty affordable.
When I went I think I was in an off mood. It was very loud, and someone suggested that I order some kind of smoked meat pizza, which I did against my better judgement. It was fine, but it was not the right choice for me. That said, some of their items are very unusual and looked delicious. I think it's a good option.
La couscoussiere d'Ali Baba is a tunisian resto that can be lots of fin. The interior is a cave and there is a live belly dancing show on Fridays and Saturdays. I loved their lamb soup and the royal couscous. Check out their website. I think it ould be more fun if you're a group.
I know, that thread is epic. Kudos for having gotten through it. I'm not familiar with the Eyewitness travel list choices either, possibly because a few of them are in Quebec City? I never get to eat out when I am there as I am usually cooking for my in-laws. I might tend to base my choices on where I am staying in the city. Let us know so we can toss some small suggestions your way that would be walkable, inexpensive and good.
stash cafe is polish food, and is often cited as one of the more reasonable priced restos in old montreal, it all depends on your tastes, I prefer more spicy than polish food and tend to favour French style. Julien has its regulars and has a nice terrace in back, it is centrally located but I have never eaten there but must be doing something right as been there awhile.
Some of the Eyewitness recommendations are quite odd. For instance, Santos makes a pretty decent cocktail but its quite pricey and their food (in the lounge happy hour category) is merely average. In my experience it is filled only with tourists and the old montreal after-work crowd before they head home to the South Shore. I've inferred that you're from NYC, so I'd expect a place like this would feel very, very boring. Julien and O'Thym you might find interesting, but they are not the two I'd recommend from our very large array of French-inspired restos.
I guess the biggest issue with dining (or any consumerism at all) in Montreal is that it is skewed towards a very young clientele (the city is almost 25% post-secondary students). I'm not saying that someone at 60 is too old to get it - more that it's easy to feel like you've moved on to more sophisticated things. I'm sure others here will disagree with me, but this is just the experience that several of my older friends and colleagues have expressed. Even at not quite 30 I've felt like the oldest person in the room at a few restaurants and many bars.
For instance, Chien Fumant is one of my favourite places in the city, and I won't call it trendy, but it does look and feel like the quintessential cool Montreal restaurant. I've enjoyed it less since their ownership change, but when dining there it's still easy to feel like you're in on a secret. Typically I've found meals there hover around $160 per couple with a bottle of wine and tip, though that's far from splurging. This is about par for the course for most mid-range restaurants in Montreal.
Places that I might consider:
High end -
Club Chasse et Peche. One of the few formal restaurants that I feel comfortable in. You could try their lunch if you'd prefer to spend less and sit outside.
Laloux and their conjoined-sister Pop! Laloux is a large bistro, and feels to me more authentic than most others. Pop! is their wine bar, but has great food and a mid-century modern meets Mad Men style. Both are tough to beat.
Osteria Venti. Pristine Italian cuisine. Now that DNA is gone, it's one of the few places I'd still recommend in Old Montreal. For lack of a better word, this is one of the most 'intimate' restaurants in the city.
Dominion Square Taverne. One of the most impressive dining rooms we have to offer. Straight out of the 30s. This place is great for lunch, dinner, or drinks, though its very busy at prime times, so walk-ins can sometimes be disappointed. Slightly lower price-point than the rest, with a great wine list. Their food and service aren't always amazing, but its one of my favourites.
Lawrence. You've read the name by now. This place does innovative food at good prices. The best word I can use to describe it is honest. It makes me feel all warm inside just thinking about it, with the nicest staff around. Writing this has just caused me to book a table for this weekend. I doubt that anyone has ever been disappointed eating here.
3 Petit Bouchons or 5ieme Peche. These are both great bistros. Both are innovative but classic. 3PB is good for Monday nights.
Romados. This is not really a sit-down establishment. Traditionally you had to call and place your order an hour before pick-up (or as you reached the end of their very long queue). Since renovating this is less of a problem, but maybe still a good idea? Best if you'd like to have warm food for picnic, especially given their proximity to Parc Lafontaine.
Kazu. The only time I'd recommend Asian cuisine to someone from NYC. Still the best Japanese we have. It can be a pain to wait in line and there aren't many other options nearby, so don't show up if you're starving.
Also, nothing in Montreal is very far apart, nothing is spotless, and typically eating early is if you sit down before 8pm. If you've never been here, I think you'll enjoy yourselves. It's very generous that you've dedicated almost a week to our humble town!
I like your comments as well.
However, I'd disagree about Kazu being classed as "budget". Perusing the menu, it might *look* budget, but after eating one plate and ordering another and another, starting with beer, moving on to sake, then wine..... well it ain't budget anymore. In other words, you'd have to be careful on your choices to come out cheap.
Oh, when did Chien Fumant change hands?
Thanks guys. And Porker, I definitely agree with you. I debated including Kazu in this category. Although it can be expensive, I find it easier to have a cheap meal here than elsewhere... perhaps because I don't feel the same need to drink wine. That said, I'll typically drop $30 on food for myself.
Chien Fumant didn't exactly change hands. One of the owners had his share bought out by the others. He has since moved on to work at Magpie, Sparrow, and to open Sardine. I don't think there's been any slip in quality at Chien Fumant as a result, but my last 2 visits felt a bit less warm... He also used to work as the bartender, so perhaps the drinks have changed subtly as well. It's still one of my favourites.
I should revise what I said about Chien Fumant in this post. I was back last weekend for appetizers and drinks, and was more impressed than ever. I shared 3 appetizers (small charcuterie plate, horse tartare, and chinatown calamari) and tried 3 cocktails, all of which were outstanding.
O Fintastic! O Mores!
Thanks for such a detailed, thoughtful reply. Chow at its best provides the most subjective yet revealing opinions; I mean, the more I know about the poster, the better I can gauge if his or her sensibility is akin to mine.
How much better than such as Zagat's, which is an aggregate vote: I mean, if I don't know who has voted, how can I gauge if their tastes have relevance to my own?
Deciding where to eat -- and, then, what I think about the food -- has nothing in common with voting for a candidate. I'm not looking for popularity in deciding where to eat. Zagat's is founded, however, on the principle that these two decision-making processes have much in common. That' silly.
I thank you, Fintastic, in addition, for sharing something about the demographics of eating in your city.
We don't mind being the oldest people in the room. But when a place is trendy, it tends to be noisy. We prefer quiet dining -- or, if the place fills up with noise, we prefer to go before it does.
We're staying on Sherbrooke St West, at Versailles. I paid little attention to >that< choice, as we'll spend so little time there.
We just want to explore, explore, explore the city -- everywhere on foot. I would walk from the airport if my wife wouldn't object. I have lists of the museums and parks; I don't, however, have a sense of theatre and music. Is there an alternative weekly that focuses on the arts?
We'll also do what we can to explore nature. Any recommendations of places outside the city, those that we can get to by public transportation, are welcome.
To return to food: My wife and I are a mix of discriminating and demotic. We aren't easily impressed, especially by showy displays or by being coddled by resto types; it offends our democratic values. Just give us something good to eat and leave us alone; we'll oblige by eating it and not bothering you. Please don't tell us who you are or what you're doing for us, or that you do so better than others, or have done so for longer.
We are passionate yet latent amateurs, I guess. >Amateurs< in the French sense.
(We do enjoy, occasionally, greeting the people at the next table, but we would prefer to have the brief exchange about something other than the food. Last night we learned that the guy sitting next to us is a guitarist; as I write about music, we plan to go to see him at a small NYC joint that he's playing in in three weeks -- after Montreal.)
Your touching words, Fin-Man, about Lawrence and Dominion Square lead me to book one of them for our wedding-anniversary dinner.
Thanks again for taking the time to be yourself and, at the same time, share so much information.
Oh, Porker -- good question. By unusual seafood I guess that I meant, not such as I find all around me in NYC: French and Italian fish restos that are all about the show and their rep. It seems that, by serving fish, they feel justified in charging a ton. I just won't pay that much for any meal.
On the other hand, we have, in south Brooklyn, terrific Greek and Russian seafood places that serve grilled fish, almost alone on the plate, for a reasonable tariff. I also like Japanese and Cantonese/Fukienese seafood, but I can also get that easily here.
Now, seal . . . that would be worth walking across Montreal to try. Where do I go for that?
re: 75 percent cacao
Yes, Chowhound is best, hey? A music writer from Brooklyn? Perhaps you knew Paul Blair? He was a good friend of mine. In any case, if you are interested in jazz places, Dieze Onze is a good one, also Upstairs Jazz Club and Modavie. Dieze Onze has the best food and is a nice small place. Modavie is in Old Montreal so is quite romantic and the lamb is good. Upstairs is best for listening to the music attentively as they keep the audience quiet. The English alternative weeklies have all folded recently but the French one, the Voir, is readily available.
You'll be in a good neighbourhood for our Northern Chinese favourites like Cuisine Szechuan and Qing Hua dumplings. No one has mentioned L'Express yet? It's a classic French bistro. Chez Levecque is also good and they have a late dinner special like Leamac across the street. If you are willing to hike for seal you would probably enjoy the vibe at Au Pied du Cochon. No seal there but lots of great food with a Quebecois twist.
I wandered past the bistro in Parc Lafontaine yesterday and they seemed to serving some nice plates of salmon tartare. Also what looked like a large slab of raw salmon on salad on another plate. I'm hoping it was gravlax? That's a nice way to blend dining with the park, in any case. Or gathering picnic items from one of the great bakeries and heading to one of the big parks is fun too.
re: 75 percent cacao
Wow. Now that's gratitude! I'm glad I could be of help and I appreciate your reply!
Your note about noise raises an important issue. Noise levels in restaurants can be a big problem here (as in the bigger NYC joints). Places I find to be particular offenders are Tuck Shop (unless they fixed their terrible acoustics), Garde Manger (in the later evening), Icehouse, Au Pied de Cochon, etc. Dominion Square can also be very noisy, though I find its still possible to feel a bit insulated from it, depending on the location of your table.
Cheryl is right on that 5ieme Peche is really the only place that regularly offers seal (even tartare in the spring), though on their current menu they only have it in chorizo form served with poutine (which strikes me as an odd dish for this particular establishment). I've not been here since they changed locations, but had one of my favourite meals in their old venue several years ago.
Versailles is a nice hotel in most ways, and has the advantage of proximity to Kazu. You could easily check the line and move on if you're unimpressed. However, don't feel like i'm pushing this option - Japanese in NYC is definitely better than here. Kazu is the only place that can compete, and I recommend it mainly because it has the same sort of genuine passion, warmth, and honesty that I mentioned of Lawrence. The owner, Kazou, prepares most dishes, and if the door is open, he's working. In fact, even walking by on days they aren't open I typically see him behind the bar preparing for the next time that they will be. Its a place where they close not for leisure, but because its necessary to keep the dishes coming. A place that lives up to the hype. If you plan to go, arrive some time before they open (i.e. make sure you're standing in the line by 5:15). Otherwise, fate has everything to do with how long you'll wait.
As for music and theatre, I won't try to guess your preferences. Both of the english language alt-weekly papers shut down in June within days of each other, so that's no help. Maybe others have suggestions, but finding music listings has always been one of the biggest difficulties I've encountered in Montreal (even before the papers quit printing).
To Fintastic and All Other Montrealers Who Have Posted:
My wife and I arrive in your city in five days.
We're terribly excited as, aside from the great ideas that all of you have given us, we've gotten some suggestions for hikes to take outside the city. We like to combine art and nature when we travel . . . then discuss it all over good food.
We're grateful to you all. You've given us a lot to go on as we find our way around town.
One thing that we haven't asked about: Quebec City.
We assume that if we arrive early enough for a day's exploration, we won't be there long enough for dinner. But . . . if we are . . . is there a serious (but, again -- not >gravely< so) place that we must eat in? To remind: We don't like scenes of any kind, and we get no >charge< out of maxing out our AmEx.
Final word, for Fintastic: We made a reservation at Lawrence for Thursday, 9.VIII.12, at 20:00 -- it will be our anniversary dinner. If you (or anyone else) happen to be there, stop by our table to say hello. We're New Yorkers, about sixty, dark featured.
THANK YOU ALL AGAIN FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CONTRIBUTE. IF THE CITY IS HALF AS HOSPITABLE AS YOU HAVE BEEN, WE'LL HAVE A GREAT TIME.
re: 75 percent cacao
Quebec City is a lovely place to visit for a day - I would plan on having dinner there, then heading back to Montreal later. It's not an inexpensive city, food-wise, unfortunately. One of my favourites is L'Echaude, but it's a bistro, pretty meat- and fish-centric. Cafe du Clocher Penche is good, and L'Affair est Ketchup gets a lot of love on this board (I haven't tried it, but it's at the top of my list for my next visit there). For sandwiches, snacks, ice cream, etc., Paillard is a solid and reasonable choice.
re: 75 percent cacao
Hiking nearby is a great idea as there is so much nature around, even on the island. Lots of good agro-tourism too, apple picking, blueberry picking just to add to the suggestions. Personally I would find a day trip to Quebec City to be rigorous as it can be a long drive with construction in the summer, and as it is such a romantic place I'd probably want to stay overnight. And there are some music festivals in Levis just a quick ferry ride away at this time of year.
My 2 cents: Eyewitness Travel is not a credible source. I wouldn't place any of those restaurants (even when they were open) in my Montreal top 50.
Fintastic's list is pretty solid, as are the suggestions of the other chowhounders here. I'll add Nora Gray to the pile as well and reiterate Magpie's fun neighbourhood vibe and excellent pizza.
Nora Gray needs another shout out - ate there tonight and it was easily the best meal I've had in the city in the last two years. This includes most of the usual suspects on this thread.
The staff - kitchen, front of house - is at the top of their game. Everything was spot on - food, wine, ambiance, service - all elegant but unfussy. So gratifying to see a place click on all cylinders with visibly happy customers to boot!
They are off for the next two weeks however, just fyi.
I dont thing I agree with remark about over 60s...eg the Outremont area restos are not geared to young so it depends where you hang out. .I like Dominion Taverne but it would not be choice if visiting from elsewhere, I would venture out into neighbourhoods where bistros or BYOB are located. You might be interested in this new Italian resto near Jean Talon Market, but have to reserve as small (use google to translate), Fabbrica is closed Sunday and Monday. Kazu is a closet with lineups!
I find many restaurants here quite affordable until you add in appetizer, wine and dessert! Hence the interest in latenight dining as either or both appetizer, dessert included.
Cinquieme peche`s quality as a good bistro can get overlooked because of the usual comments re seal being on their menu, I have not been to their new location but apparently there is a terrace.
You might like Gros Jambon for breakfast (I had the crepes with fruit, best to choose stools overlooking food preparation), diner in Old Montreal as you explore that area of city--it is small so gets busy during week for lunch with people working in area but it was fine on the weekend when I went.
There are metro/subway and bus passes for short periods so easy to get to different areas and I think there is even combined museum and transportation pass if that is an interest. I cannot think of restos to try near your hotel but you are close to Guy Metro., also near Olivier Potier pastry shop so you might want to go early over there to eye the pastries before they get sold out-not cheap but you can share. http://olivierpotier.com/index.html
I think you might like some of the restos on Laurier in Outremont and not far from downtown.
I would go to Fairmont bagel in Mile End and enjoy them ( benches outside) along with some cheese, or salmon spread available in store, and almost next door, go to Kem Coba for their soft ice cream cone (flavour of the week, this week madagascar vanilla and other half passion fruit), this will show your wife you did your research! And they will give you some samples of their sorbets which are also delicious and original. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kem-CoB...
I appreciate the time that you've taken to respond already.
And I followed your advice, and read your and others' comments about Outremont in an earlier post -- yet I didn't come away from them with one recommendation.
So, I'll stick my head in the lion's (or cat's) mouth: Is there a serious meal to be had in this area of the city?
75 percent cacao
re: 75 percent cacao
there aren't many recommendations but look into lemeac, van horne, jun-i (not outremont proper), laurier 1936, faros, mikado...
although there are many restaurants, i can't think of any others worth suggesting. they occupy a broad range of cuisines by the way.
laurier street is clean, but doesn't have much atmosphere especially at night when the streets are bare.
bernard is a more bustling street but hasn't a restaurant that i would recommend --- except for enfants terribles, which is good only for people watching (if you like to watch yuppies)
van horne is a grimier street but the namesake restaurant gets good play.
there are more interesting neighbourhoods - in particular, the adjacent mile end district.
re: 75 percent cacao
la chronique is one of the best in the city in that area, kinda pricy for dinner but great value for lunch..
i can see where the previous poster was coming from about the age comment, often feel the same way myself. However, I think its more of a vibe you get moving here, since your just visitng I wouldn't let that get in your way, enjoyr a few of the typical montreal places, you can get more attentive service and comfortable settings back home, but the edgier 'montreal cool' is harder to find elsewhere in NA.
You seem to have brought out the best in the CH--ers here: really solid advice all around!
Given where you are staying, just a few footnotes:
Olivier Potier: great French high-end pastries 1490 rue Sherbrooke (just a bit east of you at the Versailles).
Also for interesting Persian mimi-pastries, try Nocochi's at Sherbrooke and MacKay;
a block or so further South on rue MacKay (1432) is Cafe Myriade, Montreal's best coffee.