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NYC Hound Seeking Montreal Input - 400 Coups, CCeP, Lemeac, Toque, Raza, etc.

Hi everyone. I'm planning on visiting your great city for the very first time in 2.5 weeks with my boyfriend to celebrate our anniversary over a weekend (Friday to mid-afternoon Sunday). We're from New York City and have dined at many of our own great restaurants so we're fairly experienced eaters and open to all sorts of foods. Though, we do generally prefer lighter, clean-tasting fare over heavy, rich foods.

Here's our food itinerary. I appreciate any comments or suggestions you guys may have about our food lineup.

___________

Friday

Lunch at Les 400 Coups - Reserved. I understand they serve 2-course and 3-course prix fixe menus for lunch, though details of the actual dish offerings aren't on their website. Anyone has any insights about their lunch menu as well as dish recommendations?

Dinner at Le Club Chasse et Peche - Reserved. I know their menu changes from week to week, but what are some must-try dishes should they appear on the menu?

___________

Saturday

Brunch at Lemeac - Reserved. Dish recommendations? I feel that Lemeac may be redundant since we'll be going to L'Express the day after. I'm considering perhaps going to Lawrence instead. Will the wait for Lawrence be long? If so, do we need to go right when it opens? Any other restaurant recs for this time slot?

Dinner at Toque or Raza - Reserved at Toque. I honestly still haven't made up my mind yet. Should we keep the reservation at Toque or go to Raza instead?

___________

Sunday

Lunch at L'Express - Reserved. Dish recommendations? One dish that appeals to me already is the quail with wild rice. Any thoughts?

___________

Somehow in between all of these meals, we'll try to fit in bagels at Fairmount and St. Viateur, smoked meats at Schwartz's, and poutine at La Banquise. Anything else we overlooked?

Thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions!

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  1. I think this is a really great list - you'll be happy with your choices as they are. About the only critique I can give is that these restaurants are all fairly reserved, for lack of a better word. This is not to say they are bad: I had wonderful meals at 400 Coups and Toque last week, Lemeac brunch is excellent (especially the egg and gravlax concoction and french toast), Chasse et Peche has served some of the best food I've eaten in my life (anything with scallops or piglette), and L'Express is about as close as you can come to dining at a Parisian brasserie without boarding a plane. In fact, these are some of the most peaceful, dignified restaurants we have in Montreal - a town (like NYC) known for its energetic dining. Lawrence often fits into this category, as well.
    But this may be my issue with the list - none is particularly rough around the edges. Maybe you'll get your fill of rowdiness from Schwartz's and Banquise (especially if you go late at night), but for a true taste of Montreal I might push you to visit one of our livelier mainstays: Pied de Cochon, Joe Beef/Liverpool House, Chien Fumant, Salle a Manger, Bremner, the newly opened Maison Publique, Hotel Herman. The only problem is which of your excellent options to bump. Perhaps you could try brunch on Sunday at Chien Fumant or Maison Publique? I love L'Express, but it isn't really innovative or unique. The quail dish you've mentioned did not impress me last I had it several years ago.
    As for Toque or Raza, I'd push for the former, though I've honestly never been to Raza. Toque is in the same league as some of the Michelin star restaurants in NYC.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Fintastic

      Wow, you're very observant Fintastic. :) I think I have a tendency to eat at "civilized" restaurants (even in NYC) and this must have been reflected in my restaurant choices on this trip. Thank you for your comments. I'll definitely take them into consideration.

      1. re: Fintastic

        But Joe-Beef and Pied de Cochon are not "light" and clean tasting, at least compared to 400 coups and/or Toqué.

        Agreed about switching brunch to Chien Fumant or Maison Publique.

        M.

        1. re: Maximilien

          Maison Publique for Brunch is extremely busy. I'd suggest to have a plan b and c if you try it.

          1. re: Maximilien

            Oops! Totally missed the line about light food - definitely not apdc or Joe beef then.
            If civility is your preference then you've done a great job picking places. You won't be disappointed. I'd push Lawrence over l'express but you will have to wait around thirty mins in my experience.

            1. re: Fintastic

              If you get to Lawrence at 9:45 am or so for its 10 am opening I'd guess that you'll get a table. Well worth it, IMO!

        2. No Au Pied du Cochon ?
          If you have not been to this amazingly uncivilized place, please consider it.

          1. Les 400 Coups: don't know about specific dishes, but the desserts are supposed to be very good (best in the city?).

            Club Chasse et Pêche :The risotto with foie gras is their "signature" dish.

            Brunch @ Lemeac : It is quite a simple and classical brunch menu (at least compared to Lawrence's british influenced menu); It is has a "bourgeois" ambience, and Lawrence is hipster central; if you want to linger over coffee, Lemeac might be better.

            Raza is a BYOB ... and the few times I've walked in front of the restaurant, it always seemed empty, but I've only been there a long time ago when they opened; I'd keep Toqué.

            L'Express: I go with the classics (unless there's something that looks nice on the day's specials), Bone Marrow, Sorrel soup, beef Tartare, Steak-Frittes, ... personally, I don't like quail, it's just darn hard to eat (IMO, but don't let that stop you).

            M.

            1. that seems like a lot to cover in a weekend. Are you really bagel persons, otherwise I would go have coffee and pastry or croissant at Olivier Potier which is near Sofitel or Museum of FIne Arts, you could do that Sunday morning (they open at 7:30), the choices get sparse by afternoon. This seems more interesting than bagels which you can easily get in New York. I am not sure that Friday lunch at 400 coups is when they shine, I was kind of disappointed the time I went there but maybe I ordered wrong things. Portions seemed small.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mangoannie

                Not to restart the never ending bagel war between MTL and NY, but i find that tasting a MTL bagel is a much different experience for the sake of comparison, even for a new yorker, and it's also something rather unique to Montral, than just another coffee and pastry (albeit amazing) shop! It's not like you cannot find really good pastries from a french chef in NY!

              2. At Lemeac, try the pain perdu for desert. It's big enough to share but you might not want toafter the first bite.

                1. Regarding Au Pied du Cochon/Joe Beef being missing from our itinerary, it's indeed because both are rather heavy and fatty. Since we'll be eating so much in one weekend, we don't want to abuse our digestive systems too much.

                  As for 400 Coups being a better experience during dinner, unfortunately due to our limited time, we can't fit it in a dinner slot since we already booked CCeP and Toque. We still like to try the restaurant, so lunch will have to do.

                  It's a good thing Chien Fumant is on Opentable. We may indeed replace L'Express with it instead.

                  We are fond of bagels and want to try out the Montreal version, "for science". It'll be fun to compare the two. :)

                  May I also ask about the parking situation at each of the restaurants? We will have a car and are wondering if there are any place on our list where it's not feasible to find convenient parking nearby.

                  Thank you, everyone, for your comments and good tips about the dishes. Please keep them coming.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                    Ya, I think your lighter fare request has gone unnoticed. Definitely don't miss bagels. Apart from taking a trip to mile End deli in NYC, this is the only way to taste this speciality, and they are much better fresh.
                    As for parking, i would avoid driving if possible if you are staying downtown. Not as bad here as in NYC, but still difficult. Each place you mention is within a thirty minute walk or $12 cab ride. If you must drive there is street parking available, but it's not always convenient. Toque has a garage available for a price but it also sits on a metro station.

                    1. re: Fintastic

                      Thanks for the tip about the metro. How's the weather and temperature in Montreal in early December? Hopefully it won't snow or be too cold yet if we are to walk / take the metro. My definition of too cold is below 5 degrees Celsius. :P

                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                        better bring your warmest coat, because it will be colder than that, and most probably a little snow too. we dress for the weather here so don't worry about being chic.

                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                          or can be warmer than normal, which is what we are experiencing right now.

                          1. re: Maximilien

                            I am on the Plateau right now and walking around with only a shirt and flece vest on....wonderful weather.

                      2. re: Cheeryvisage

                        It's very easy to park around Chien Fumant (and I would pick it over L'Express any day). The others will involve looking for a parking meter or parking lot - not too difficult to do most times. The only caveat is that many streets are currently under construction, so driving (especially downtown) can be a regal pain, depending on where you're going, and what area of town you're staying in.

                        1. re: cherylmtl

                          Good to know, thank you. We haven't booked our hotel yet. This is more of a food trip. Food first, then we will decide on the hotel.

                      3. Club Chasse & Pêche: My favorite thing there is "Risotto au cochonnet, lamelles de foie gras (16)" (baby porc risotto with fois gras slivers). The slivers melt into the Risotto on the table.

                        Brunching at lawrence was nice. Maison Publique is the big popular brunch these days. Maybe given your choices you'd be interested in Birk's Café by Europea (a brunch made in our version of Tiffany by a very well known fine dining establishment)?
                        Review:
                        http://montrealbreakfastreview.com/bi...

                        Forget Raza. Toque all the way.

                        L'express is classic French brasserie. Go with the french classics and you won't go wrong. I don't have an opinion with Chien fumant

                        1. You can ask for a tasting menu at Le Club Chasse et Peche. It's not advertised, but I asked it if was possible when I went, and it was absolutely no problem. They included most of their classics (like the risotto CaptCrunch mentionned), and it wasn't overly expensive.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: philippefs

                            Oooh, do you remember how much it was, if you don't mind me asking?

                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                              It's been 3-4 years, but I seem to recall it being around $75. I'm really not sure though...

                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                  I wouldnt walk to these places as cold at that time of year and there can be a big chill factor. Parking in Old Montreal is a headache so unless your hotel is there you might want to use parking lot.-there is one in front of Marche Bonsecours with big dome.-close to both restos. Le Bremner resto is closeby so you could even go to their bar for a cocktail before CCP.-just a pink sign saying restaurant is only indication for that resto. For Lemeac you can someitmes find parking on side and back streets, or municipal parking in behind but have to read signs re hours if park on sidestreets, it is not far from downtown.-easy to get to up Parc. For bagels you can find parking nearby especially if fairmont bagels. Parking is free after 6pm Saturday and Sunday and also Sunday morning til 1pm so that solves part of problem. Its a small ish city so fairly easy to get around if not caught in rushhour traffic during week and your chosen restos are central. For a weekend I wouldnt bother with a metro pass or even cabs, unless old montreal.

                                  1. re: mangoannie

                                    Thanks very much! We'll definitely take note of these things.

                          2. After thinking it over, I thought I'd try to get a reservation at Au Pied de Cochon for Saturday night. It IS such an iconic restaurant afterall. I was thinking maybe we'd stay away from the super fatty foie gras dishes and focus on the non-foie dishes and the daily specials. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but sharing dishes like Cochonnailles Platter, Tarragon Bison Tongue, Head Cheese, and Pied de Cochon between the two of us shouldn't be *too* heavy, I hope?

                            Oddly, the restaurant is not answering the phone. I called them a couple of times already in the past 5 hours. Just now, I fired off an email to them requesting for a reservation. We'll have to see if dining at PDC is meant to be for us. If not, I think we'll still be perfectly happy at Toque. :)

                            I have cancelled the Sunday lunch at L'Express and now have a brunch reservation at Le Chien Fumant. The dinner menu at Chien Fumant looks awesome. I wish we can spend more days in Montreal so we can eat there for dinner.

                            Thanks for everyone's comments so far! I've been taking notes.

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                Thanks for this. I know of uhockey's blog too (he writes really impressive reports of his NYC trips) and have been studying his blog entries for his recent Montreal trip as well.

                            1. I want to thank everyone for your comments and suggestions again. I was able to get a reservation at PDC, so the below is our updated food literary. We'll be staying at a hotel in Old Montreal.

                              ___________

                              Friday

                              Lunch at Les 400 Coups - Reserved.

                              Dinner at Le Club Chasse et Peche - Reserved. The nice and romantic meal of the anniversary weekend trip.
                              ___________

                              Saturday

                              Brunch at Lemeac - Reserved.

                              Dinner at Au Pied de Cochon - Reserved. Plan to focus on the non-foie gras dishes.
                              ___________

                              Sunday

                              Brunch at Le Chien Fumant - Reserved.
                              ___________

                              Miscellaneous Eats

                              Bagels - Fairmount and St. Viateur
                              Smoked Meats - Schwartz's
                              Poutine - La Banquise
                              Bakery - Olive & Gourmando, our hotel is very close and we may drop by at some point for breakfast.
                              ___________

                              Hopefully, this will give us a good sampling of Montreal's food offerings over a short 2.5-day period. I'm very excited and look forward to the trip!

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                Au Pied de Cochon: Do not forget to ask for the (usually) numerous daily's specials; especially the fish/seafood specials.

                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                  Great! This itinerary looks more well-balanced, I think, even if I do feel slightly guilty about talking down L'express and toque. Both are great restaurants approaching institution status, but maybe you can try them on your next trip here..
                                  Have fun!

                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                    Also, unless you're adamantly opposed to foie, consider getting the plogue a champlain. I've already hyped this dish on CH too much, but it is maybe the most reasonably sized main on the menu and my personal favourite.

                                    1. re: Fintastic

                                      They have a really good tartare as well, which can be ordered as an appetizer-sized portion or a main - I believe it was venison last time I was there.

                                      1. re: cherylmtl

                                        Is this the version that looks like a sushi handroll (the appetizer size one)?

                                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                          No, just a smaller pile of tartare than the regular one.

                                      2. re: Fintastic

                                        Dang, that looks insane. Thanks for the tip. :D

                                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                          fyi, they had venison tartare as an appetizer at 400 coups on Friday; it was good.

                                      3. re: Cheeryvisage

                                        Hi. How did this itinerary end of working out? I am planning the same trip soon and would love your insight. Thanks

                                      4. I know you said you like lighter fare, but I did notice both bagels and poutine on your list. If you want to try something hella delightful, there is a special bakery on Mont-royal called Kouign-amann. You should try the pastry from which it gets its name. I had anything like it until I came here. It is not light. It will blow your mind.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: LBeth

                                          Thanks. I've marked it on our map. We may drop by when we're in the area if we have time/stomach space.

                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                            i second that recommendation, i was recently put onto it by a friend and that place is great. the namesake pastry is delicious and the spot itself is tiny and charming and a good place to hang out if you want a coffee and a breather, if you can get one of the... 3? tables

                                            1. re: disgusti

                                              oh and chez boris at 5151 parc is absolutely fantastic. cool little donut/coffee spot but they do these weird russian style donuts, fried to order, that are also available as savoury donut sandwiches, my favourite is the house cured salmon with cucumber and dill cream sauce. it's very unique, very montreal, very worth scoping out