By Way of Thanking All Chow'ers: My Views of Your Recommendations
To Fintastic and Others Who Generously Opined:
Lawrence was tops. As serious a meal -- as distinct a chef's palate -- as it was unpretentious and fun to be a part of. Did you know, F-tastic, that the chef is from London? I had a fish dish with saucisses and cabbage that reminded me of the plates that Vinegar Hill, my favorite Brooklyn resto, serves. Excellent.
Laloux was as different in ambiance and attitude as can be imagined. If the food wasn't as good, it was nearly so. Its tete de fromage was the equal of any that I've had in France, and its framboise noir gelato was the highlight dessert (though Lawrence's souffle was close). The decor brought back brasserie memories of my years in France -- if, while not on the scale of such a classic venue and not providing its huge, diverse menu . . . it managed to evoke it just the same.
Brasserie T was a lot of fun. While once I tuck in, the decor or design/layout concept fades in importance, I now recall the uniqueness of its look with fondness. The food was very good if, by my placing it third, not of the calibre of the first two.
While Brasserie T was the cleverest-looking, Dominion Square Tavern wins the prize for most distinctive/tasteful decor. A great-looking place, from the heralds and detailing down to the wood grillwork that covered a heating unit. I had the cornish hen; cooking and serving it in a skillet was a great idea -- my wife roasts chicken that way at home -- but the slathered goat cheese was an odd 'effect'. Better was the salmon/blini starter.
The only resto mistake: Ali Baba. Ignoring the dancing and the low-fi, ear-splitting recorded music, the food was substandard. I don't know how this makes it to any list of resto reco's.
Maybe what impressed as much as the resto's -- and, of course, Jardin Botanique and the museums' exhibits of Inuit art, the latter of which was a revelation -- was being in Montreal for the peak of its brief but fructuous(!) season. How you manage to have all kinds of berries and wine grapes a month past their NY-area season, while offering apples a month >before< they're off the trees in this vicinity . . . I can't fathom. Can anyone on this list explain the extraordinarily diverse Montreal-and-environs bounty, no matter how brief it's available?
Maybe that the season is so short means that this bounty must be celebrated -- coveted? -- all the more.
At these markets, the vendors' kindness reflected this -- as, more generally, it reflected Montrealers' innate graciousness and warmth. People were kind everywhere.
The market in Quebec outdid Jean-Talons', even. (Didn't see what the big deal was about Atkins's fish; it was all right, but . . . .)
I found no serious locally manufactured cacao, though one fournisseur (name not noted) had a single-origin tablet of Peruvian beans. These are rarely used but are very good.
Thank you, all; thank you, all of Montreal. Lovely city, lovely people.
Thanks so much for writing back about this - I actually wondered a few times throughout the weekend how things had gone. I couldn't make it up to Lawrence on Thursday, though I strangely had a feeling as I walked by Laloux on Friday or Saturday that you folks might have been inside. I regretted not given it a stronger recommendation, so I'm glad you got to enjoy it as well.
I do know the lineage of Lawrence and it's owners - the chef has an impressive track record, indeed! And it's funny that you mention Vinegar Hill. I have the New Brooklyn Cookbook, and one of the few recipes I've attempted is VH's cast-iron chicken - similar in a way to your meal at Dominion.
As for our fruits, it's a bit of a mystery. I have no real answer, but it's been a very strange growing season everywhere. Corn, peaches, and apples all came in very early. The berries usually ripen later up here, though a full month seems to defy logic.
Again, I'm very glad if we managed to help shape your trip for the better. Leave a post if you plan to return.