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.
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?
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?
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!
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.
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.
No Au Pied du Cochon ?
If you have not been to this amazingly uncivilized place, please consider it.
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).
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.
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!
At Lemeac, try the pain perdu for desert. It's big enough to share but you might not want toafter the first bite.