Suggestions for Quebec City and Montreal - Casual meals for a honeymoon.
My brother and his soon-to-be wife are headed up to Canada next week for a honeymoon. They live in Portland ME. They'll be in Montreal for a few days, then in Quebec City.
For Montreal, they already are planning on dinners at:
Le Bremner (based partially on CH reviews)
So they are looking for other meals. Specifically, they want:
1) A place for a casual dinner in Montreal on Sunday night. Ideally somewhere they could just walk in without a reservation. Does not need to be French or Canadian food—it could be anything that is casual and delicious. They are staying pretty central in the city. They will be tired, so not looking for anything fancy or drawn out that night.
2) Suggestions for dinners in Quebec City. Casual places are preferred. Probably not looking for repeats of what they already ate in Montreal, so anything is fair game. Definitely prefer local types of places, potentially with local specialties/foods. Ideally different experiences than what they could get in Boston or Portland.
They are also interested in eating good poutine at some point, but that could happen anywhere. Any other ideas would be great, and if there are comparable places to Le Bremner or Leméac that are better, then they might consider changing their reservations, too.
Thanks in advance!
Thanks Dave MP for posting this inquiry for us, and thanks Fintastic for the response. Here is what we ended up doing in Montreal.
We arrived in Montreal for our honeymoon later than expected, and after checking into the Auberge du Vieux-Port, we were very hungry and needed to eat quickly. The nearby suggestions we had looked too stuffy and as if they would take too long, so we settled on Bevo, a bar/pizzeria/club type of place. They served us relatively quickly; we shared a mushroom pizza (with ample mushrooms and large slices of truffle) as well as a penne with meat sauce type dish. Both were satisfying as we were very hungry. Though a bit pricy, Bevo was harmless, with no need to return.
After breakfast at the hotel, we set out to explore Le Marché Jean Talon. This was quite a fun market to walk around, with lots of impressive displays of produce, flowers, soaps, crafts, and meat. I was especially impressed with the various butcher stands we walked in to, the variety and freshness of the meat made me wish we had an opportunity to cook for ourselves while in Montreal.
From the market we strolled towards the Park Extension neighborhood to the Southwest of Jean Talon. I had read about this neighborhood as representing more of the international community in Montreal, specifically Greek and Indian. We had our sights set on two possible lunch spots, Tripoli Restaurant and Bombay Mahal. Both looked promising, but we ended up going to Tripoli, which was fantastic. We shared a small tzatziki (which came with slices of bread), small dolmades, and the chicken souvlaki for two w/ the Tripoli (Greek) salad. The tzatziki was made right, drained of excess liquid with a perfect balance of cucumber and garlic. The dolmades were also impressive, an intense filling wrapped in a melt-in-your-mouth grape leaf. The Greek salad was big and traditional, with cucumbers, tomato, olives, feta and an oil/vinegar dressing. The souvlaki came last, and was on par with the rest of the meal. Two skewers of very tender chicken in a wonderful marinade, and thin potato circles cooked perfectly. We did not opt for any Greek coffee or baklava (next time!), but I’m sure it would have been amazing. I’ve had a lot of home-cooked Greek food, both in Greece and elsewhere in the States, and the food at Tripoli was the real thing.
We spent the afternoon attempting to get hungry, as we were looking forward to our evening at Le Bremner. Close to our hotel but at first difficult to find, Le Bremner was to be our first fine-dining experience in Montreal. We had a 6:30 reservation at the bar, and when we arrived the downstairs seating area was maybe half full.
Immediately the head bartender and the barback opened up a friendly rapport with us, discussing the menu and available drinks. We were lured by their homemade syrups, and began with a bourbon drink with homemade cola, and the night’s special, a white rum and strawberry drink. Both were made directly in front of us, and both were amazing.
The menu at Le Bremner is rather minimalist – in a good way – with little description for each dish, leaving room for pleasant surprises as all the dishes have some unique twist. For starters we shared the halibut gravlax. Previously we had only ever had salmon gravlax, so this dish intrigued us. It was served as an 8-inch diameter translucent thin disk, with capers, crispy chicken skin and crème fraiche on top. This dish was smoky, salty, and delicious. For mains, we had the fried quail and the lamb neck agnolottis. The quail was “KFC style” as our server stated, fried to a perfect crisp and very moist. It was accompanied by a small salad with shelled mussels. The other dish had five lamb agnolottis (a stuffed pasta), about the size of large Chinese dumplings. The sauce on the dish was dark and rich, and the agnolottis were very satisfying. With our main course, we had two more cocktails: another bourbon/cola, and a whiskey and homemade ginger ale. Again they were perfect. For dessert, we shared the pancakes with Pimms butter. We expected crepes, but received three fluffy 6-inch diameter American breakfast-style pancakes; delicious and a great accompaniment to our short espresso.
After some more conversation with the bartender on what local spots he suggested, we finally said goodbye. The entire dinner took about 2 hours, and ended up being about $60 per person plus drinks. We will definitely be back next time we are in town.
Tuesday morning was spent walking through the botanical gardens. Great sights to see here, and it was a beautiful day. We worked our back towards downtown to Chinatown, with lunch in mind. We found our primary target of Nudo. There was a chef working on hand-pulled noodles in the window as we entered, a good sign. We opted for 6 pork pot-stickers, the braised beef noodle soup, and the bbq pork dry noodle dish. The dumplings were fine, but nothing amazing. The braised beef noodle soup had a great broth, and good portion of tender meat with some vegetables mixed in. The bbq pork was also good, with carrots, crispy shallots, and delicious pork. This came with a small bowl of clear broth, which we did not pour over the dish, but spooned on when needed. This was not the absolute best noodle soup we have had, but both dishes were satisfying, and we would return here if in the neighborhood again for lunch.
With a 7pm reservation for Leméac we headed out a few hours early to stroll around the Outremont neighborhood, a new part of town for us. When we walked by at 5pm the restaurant was empty, but by the time we showed up it was almost full. We were seated right in the middle of the action, and immediately got the feel of a busy New York City restaurant, with a bright, full, buzzing atmosphere.
We started with two glasses of wine and the grilled calamari. The calamari was served with zucchini and a balsamic sauce and was a good size portion with the calamari being, for most part, tender, but nothing new here. For dinner we had the mushroom and asparagus risotto, and the hanger steak with fries. The risotto was rich and flavorful, chock-full of veggies and cooked quite well. The hanger steak was ordered medium and came that way, not a huge portion (in a good way) with a large portion of fries. Both the steak and fries were excellent, and were accompanied by a mayonnaise-type sauce for the fries, and a compound butter. For dessert we had a lemon curd tart with a touch of meringue and fennel sauce, and an espresso. The tart was big, plenty for the two of us. The espresso was all right, but it tasted as if maybe the grounds were a bit old. All in all, it was a solid, quality meal done very well, but there was nothing particularly surprising or exciting and we didn’t feel like it was an experience we couldn’t find elsewhere at a similarly high quality restaurant. This dinner ended up being around $50 plus 3 glasses of wine.
We’re off the Quebec City for some quiet time in the Saint Bernard farmlands. If anybody has some suggestions for some must-try bakeries in Quebec City please let us know. We will post the food pictures we have when we get back to the States.
re: Mike CP
Wow, excellent report and I'm going to have to try Tripoli. Sorry that Nudo was just okay - I find the noodles can overwhelm the broth unless you take the spicy pork in preserved vegetable version and dumplings are better in other places.
Here's a nice bistro in Quebec City that we enjoyed for our wedding anniversary last year: http://www.clocherpenche.ca/
And I hear the market at the Old Port is great, so I'd be interested in a report on how it compares to Jean-Talon. Great photos too, btw.
We didn't find the market particularly special, more akin to a nice, moderately sized farmer's market like the one here in Portland, ME, while Jean-Talon was more similar to a permanent market with a variety of vendors like Pike Place in Seattle (though not nearly as big). While at the market, we were hoping to find some good meat options to grill that night, plus some produce for sides. The produce options were plentiful, with beautiful looking onions, lots of green beans and many berries.
There was really only one butcher option, a booth closer to the western end of the market. Alas I do not remember the name of the vendor (though she did speak english). Other than two seafood vendors, there was not much by the way of proteins for sale, though I wonder what the market would have been like in the morning, as we were there around 3pm on a Thursday. That being said, the produce and steak we purchased make an excellent meal.
We spent the next (Friday) morning and afternoon in the city as well. After walking around the ramparts for a while we headed towards Rue Saint-Jean for a snack and lunch.
We shared a croissant from Le Pain Gruel, a smaller bakery with a pleasant, sunny storefront that seemed to be frequented by local, regular customers. The croissant was softer and less on the flaky side but very tasty. If we had been staying longer, I would have definitely returned here for some of the loaves of bread they had on display.
We then headed to Le Billig for lunch right as they opened at 11am. We ordered two of the buckwheat savory crepes; one with bacon and mushrooms in a wine/cream sauce, and another with ham, swiss, asparagus and apples in a béchamel sauce. Both of these were very rich and tasty and the crepes themselves had a nice crispy texture which complemented the softer fillings nicely. Quite a good portion for lunch as well.
After strolling around a bit more, we capped off our city experience with an almond croissant, pain au chocolat, and latte from Paillard. Paillard consistently came up as being the best croissant in the city, so we wanted to check it out. The store was large and quite busy and had more of a cafeteria ambience and set-up. We were served our food and drink rather quickly considering the number of other tourists there. Both baked items were delicious, more on the flaky side, and very satisfying. The latte was smooth and well made. However, I'm glad we also had the more low key experience at Le Pain Gruel as well, and did not make Paillard our only bakery stop.
I think your family (and soon-to-be-family) has a good plan so far..
1) Many restaurants here are closed on Sunday and/or Monday and a lot of the board favourites tend to require reservations, so this will be an odd list. Depending on the time they want to eat, etc. it's difficult to think of many places where a walk-in table would be guaranteed. Perhaps they could consider Brasserie T!, Dominion Square Taverne, or a great inexpensive BYOW further North called Quartier General (might need reservations: it only has 6 and 9pm seatings).
2) People have been raving about L'Affaire est Ketchup in QC for quite a while now. Its definitely very casual and still largely frequented locals (although it's starting to get more popular with tourists thanks to Bourdain). I also love L'Echaude, although it's rather similar to Lemeac in many ways (including the terrasse).
Lemeac serves classic French food, and their after-10:30 menu is a great deal, but it's also not incredibly exciting. If your family is looking for traditional bistro fare then it's a great bet (as is Laloux or L'Express). For something slightly more innovative there are also nearby places like Cinquieme Peche or 3 Petits Bouchons. (If this meal is on Monday Cinquieme Peche will be closed.) If your family is not entirely sold on Bremner they might swap it for Pied de Cochon for a similar ambiance, 400 Coups for a similar location, or with Le Filet for a different seafood-centric menu. Any of these choices would be good, although reservations might be getting scarce by now as the first weekend in August is a holiday in most parts of Canada (not Quebec).
Poutine is everywhere and makes a good lunch.. Banquise is a good option in Montreal.