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Help! Two Dinners in Montreal – What’s the Best?

I’m going to be spending a couple of days in Montreal on the way back from eastern Canada. I’d like to identify a couple of dinners, probably with at least one at an upscale fine-dining restaurant (see additional comments below about my research thus far). Cost is not a significant decision factor. Geography isn’t a factor either; I have a car and will be staying in the suburbs, but expect to spend most of the time in downtown/Old Montreal and possibly elsewhere around the city. I’m also open to places that are not super expensive/fancy, so please don’t limit your recommendations to the most high-end places. In a nutshell, my question is this: WHAT ARE THE TOP 2-3 PLACES YOU WOULD RECOMMEND TO SHOW THAT MONTREAL HAS AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS FOOD?

I’m fortunate in enjoying many different kinds of food back home, and my taste is generally pretty wide. But please, no recommendations for steakhouses (too pervasive), no sushi (don’t like it), poutine (yuck), pizza (I live in Chicago), or Montreal-style smoked meat (I’ve had it, don’t hate it but don’t seek it out, and yes I’ve heard of Schwartz’s). FWIW, other places I’ll be dining on this trip before reaching Montreal include the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, the Press Gang in Halifax, Lot 30 in Charlottetown, and Restaurant Initiale and/or Restaurant La Cremaillere in Quebec City, as well as a bunch of more casual spots along the way.

In the fine dining category, I’ve been doing searches trying to uncover the best that Montreal has to offer, but it seems like there’s no consensus at all. Every source I look at names different places as the city’s best. I’m a bit surprised, because even in the biggest and best cities for food, you usually hear a handful of names mentioned over and over again as “best of the best”, but that does not appear to be the case with Montreal. These places were listed as tops in four different non-Chowhound sources, with only Toque mentioned in more than one of those sources (and even there, only in two):

Toque!
L’Eau a la Bouche (EDIT: closed - thanks JohnnyGe)
La Porte
La Chronique
Le P'tit Plateau
Tapeo Bar à Tapas
Europea

Then when I looked at this Chowhound discussion, I see an entirely different group of restaurants recommended, with zero overlap with the previous group:

Another Special Occasion Post.... - www.chow.com/topics/881541

Joe Beef
Quartier General
Monsieur B
Dominion Square Taverne
le Filet
400 Coups
3 Petits Bouchons
Lawrence
Tuck Shop
La Salle A Manger

As for places that aren’t the fancy expensive ones, I haven’t got a clue where to even look. But I’m hopeful that Chowhounds can point me to a few restaurants where the food is absolutely divine despite a more casual atmosphere and a less lofty price point.

I appreciate any recommendations and advice anyone can provide. TIA!

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  1. L'Eau A La Bouche is no more.... closed its doors a couple of weeks ago. RIP

    1. Pastrami is not Smoked meat. Different curing processes. Just wanted to correct some misinformation you had in your post.

      1 Reply
      1. Some notes to help you choose.

        Tapeo and Le P'tit Plateau do not fit in the "fine" dining list.

        Toqué and Europea are more "international" type of high-end restaurant; La Chronique has a more bourgeois feel and smaller.

        You are missing Le Club Chasse et Peche (big brother of Le Filet) in Old Montréal.

        "Les 400 Coups" is one of the best in the City, and the best dessert; that would be my pick along "La Salle à Manger".

        2 different styles, 2 different neighbourhoods, both high quality without breaking the bank too much.

        1. My picks would be:
          Le filet, club Chasse et peche, 400 coups, 3 Petits bouchons and la salle a manger. They are all very unique and delicious. These restaurants have a very Montreal québécois vibe that do not feel kitschy in any way, no smoked meat poutine!

            1. re: EaterBob

              Thanks Bob! I didn't see those topics in my searches, but sometimes fine dining gets discussed in topics where you can't tell that from the titles.

              Thanks also to others who have posted replies. Keep 'em coming!

            2. OK I have never been... BUT from doing a lot of my own research I think Au Pied du Cochon might be a must go on any Montreal list....

              1. Agree with Le Club Chasse et Peche and 400 Coups, no contest there. If you can fit them in, Joe Beef and Au Pied de Cochon too. Any of the four will not disappoint, only the first is "fancy expensive" (although Joe Beef is expensive, but not fancy), all will give you a taste of something specific to Montreal.

                Others on your list, while good, are not worth seeking out - you can find as good or better in Chicago. And if you've been to Alinea, you won't be impressed by Toque.

                2 Replies
                1. re: cherylmtl

                  Well, I try not to compare restaurants with places I've been elsewhere. Especially not Alinea. :)

                  I've been looking at website menus for all the places mentioned. I couldn't find a menu on Joe Beef's website; it sounds like a stereotypical steakhouse, is that correct?

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    I actually replied extensively to this thread but once again technology has gotten the best of me. Essentially my points were similar to cheryl's. Of the places you've drawn from chowhound discussion, none is what I'd consider fine dining. That category is shrinking by the day in Montreal, and nothing here approaches Alinea calibre. However, this doesn't necessary mean that the quality of food is lacking - only that there isn't the same level of formality at our restaurants. If I had to pick one fine dining restaurant I'd probably pick Toque, but really this isn't Montreal's forte. It might be a 1-Michelin Star equivalent restaurant if they ever decided to review Canada. You'd probably be just as happy at Europea or Chronique if that's the route you'd choose to take.

                    Instead of fine dining I definitely support the frequent recommendations for 400 Coups. I also love Lawrence, but mostly because they're the nicest people serving honest food.

                    With Joe Beef and au Pied de Cochon you really have to go in knowing what to expect. They are both loud, gluttonous, and essentially the opposite of what makes fine-dining "fine". Maybe check out youtube for some of the Anthony Bourdain videos about each if you're unsure of what to expect. Joe Beef is not a steakhouse at all (they often have a steak or two on the menu but last I checked they were typically horse-steaks). What it IS really isn't easy to define, but to be blunt I'd call it French-Quebecois don't-give-a-s**t cooking. Unless you go during the summer when the terrace is open it is cramped and dark and rowdy, but the food is undeniably delicious. It is a place, even more so than APDC, where the owners want you to have a good time, but to do so you'll have to accept that at most two-tops there isn't space to leave your seat if necessary. And leaving your seat IS often necessary, as the menus and wine list are written only in French* on chalkboards. I love the place, but some visitors are disappointed because they expect something very different. Of both APDC and Joe Beef I think some expect much more typical fine-dining, given that these are often described as Montreal's best restaurants.

                    * I should note that my French comment is not meant to be a criticism, only that the rare tourist seems put-off by the lack of English menu. However, the staff is always completely willing to describe the menu for those who aren't completely fluent.

                2. I would reiterate the comments from cherylmtl and fintastic. Montreal does not do fine dining well, at least compared to others, and certainly not compared to Alinia, or even a more modest Michelar star in Chicago like Blackbird.

                  From your list, I would remove Le P'tit Plateau, Tapeo, Monsieur B, and Dominion Square, without hesitation.

                  My 2-3 meal picks would be:
                  - 1 of Joe Beef/APDC, both pretty heavy, gluttonous meals but very "Montreal" (skip if you are against gluttony, foie gras etc)
                  -400 Coups
                  -Either Bouillon Bilk or Le Filet or Hotel Herman (same people as La salle a manger but I like it better)

                  1. After reviewing a lot of websites and menus, I'm leaning towards these three places:

                    Toque!
                    La Porte
                    Europea

                    Can anyone provide detailed information and comparisons/contrasts?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      I'd say remove one of the 3 ( either Toqué! or Europea) and replace with something that is more Montreal like "Les 400 Coups" or Le Filet or something else... (see above suggestions).

                      Max.

                      1. re: Maximilien

                        I agree with Max, but I'd remove two of the three, and in addition to "Les 400 Coups", add Joe Beef au Pied de Cochon. There really is nothing like either of them in Chicago, or elsewhere.

                        1. re: Maximilien

                          I loved my dinner at "les 400 coups", one of the most memorable in a while (went in April). Here is a feature to my dinner there:

                          http://kyra-mylifeisfood.blogspot.ca/...