Montreal Restaurants--post-Christmas, pre-New Year's
I will be arriving in Montreal via Amtrak on 12/26 and departing 12/30. I had grand plans to eat at some of the city's best restaurants (Joe Beef, Au Pied de Cochon, Toque!), only to find out that they're closed during this time. I've been trying to determine what the general dining scene is like during this period but am not having a lot of luck. Does the city tend to be quieter? Do a lot of restaurants--not just fine dining, but more casual spots--close for the holidays?
Here's how last week went:
Arrival: 12/26 via Amtrak. Train was close to 2 hours late so I had to cancel reservation at Taverne Square Dominion. Instead, ate at Hambar, the Hotel Saint-Paul restaurant. I can't recall what I ordered, but husband ordered pappardelle with venison meat balls, which he was very happy to have. The quince tart with argan oil was what I wanted for dessert but they didn't have it. Boo. Was really hoping to try argan oil, which I am slightly obsessed with trying.
12/27 Massive snowstorm. Dinner was at Lemeac. It was quite a trek to get there with all the snow. Ordered the Butternut Squash Soup Gratinee, Smoked Herring salad, Sea Salt Salmon Pot au Feu, Roasted Cod, and cookies/petits fours. Service was fine. Really enjoyed the appetizers and my salmon pot au feu.
12/28 Dinner was at Tuck Shop. Chose it because it seemed most like home (Brooklyn), and it was very familiar in that sense. Appetizer was a salad and salmon crudo; mains were fish and lamb shank. All were delicious and wonderfully prepared and presented. But was SO disappointed by the desserts. It was as if they hadn't put much thought into what dessert should be. Ordered the apple/cranberry pie with ice cream. The pie looked homemade but not in a nice way. And the flavor wasn't very cranberry-ish. Btw, the server said she thought the ice cream was from Baskin Robbins. A shame that dessert brought the quality of the food down.
12/29 Dinner was at L'Express. I don't get why it's such a highly regarded restaurant, at least why it's so revered today. I was ok with the massive change of servers, the slower pace, but the food itself was just ok. Definitely not great. Ordered the bone marrow, pea soup (daily special), and goat cheese salad to start. Roasted bone marrow would have been so much richer in flavor. Pea soup was good. Goat cheese salad--meh. I ordered the steak and fries--steak came out medium rare as ordered, and the fries were excellent. Husband ordered the chicken breast which was incredibly tough, which was really disheartening. No chicken should be like that. Dessert was the apple/blackcurrant crumble which was tasty but would have benefited from a quick blast of heat from the oven or even microwave. Wine list was extensive, and I totally loved having the jar of cornichons on the table, but the bread--BREAD!--was definitely nothing fancy.
Not dinner, per se, but Patisserie Rhubarbe was open last week (closed for a break now), and after walking through the snow, it was the perfect place for an afternoon respite. Ordered a religieuse marron, a scone, an Americano, and a pot of verbena tea. For the train ride home, purchased some chocolate sables, scone, and turnover.
3 full days in Montreal were packed, but nowhere near enough time to explore the city. I thank you for all the recommendations and I hope to return one day and try so many more places!
Thanks for reporting back.
Awesome that you went all the way to Lemeac in the snowstorm! It's funny, I've been there at least 50 times since they've opened, and never had the Salmon Pot au Feu (I think)!
L'Express is OK in what is does, I find that if I want "traditional" bistro fare, it is the place to go, I do not expect more than that, but I usually stick with one or 2 different menu items.
I know what you mean, essny. I had no idea things closed for the holidays like this even in the tourist populated place like Old Montreal. I just checked and Olive and Gourmando is closed from 23rd to Jan 07. I am arriving with my family on Christmas day and leaving on the 28th. Sigh...I hoped that things will all be open from the 26th...
While you're here I think you'll see why these restaurants close. I think for most it really is costly to try to stay open during this particularly slow week that's in an already dismal dining season.
However, I think the places that are talked about above should be more than sufficient to carry you through your visit. Maybe not the ones you'd planned to try, but some are excellent none-the-less.
These are the discussions from previous years about what's open and closed
For what it is worth, last year Club Chasse & Pêche, Decca 77, Laloux, Laurie Raphaël, Milos, and Renoir were open in between Christmas and New Year's eve.
Then finally, I would presume that Le Montreal, the new fancy high end restaurant in the Casino would be open as well. However I haven't read anything about their food.
You've inferred the unfortunate situation in Montreal over the holidays, and even throughout January in general. Most of the best restaurants (few of which are anything close to fine dining) will be closed, and many stay that way for several weeks. When I've had family come to visit during the holidays in previous years, I've had good luck at Laloux, Lemeac, L'Express, Quartier General, Tuck Shop, Pintxo, etc., though I don't know if these will be open this year. I remember in previous years I had to call 8 or 10 places to get just 3 reservations. On OpenTable I see that several of my favourites will be open at least a few nights during this period: Au Cinquieme Peche, Dominion Square Taverne, Chien Fumant, and 400 Coups. You could also try Bremner, Hangar, and Kitchenette, or for more upscale Maison Boulud and La Chronique.
If you were really set on trying a place like Pied de Cochon or Joe Beef, then I'd aim for Chien Fumant. One of the owners used to work at Joe Beef, and it has the same type of cooking and aesthetic. If you were looking for fine dining like Toque, then I'd maybe try the more quaint Chronique.