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Nov 29, 2013 06:33 PM

Casual, French bistro food for a Sunday evening dinner? (Downtown West End )

I don't get to Montréal often and when I do it's a rush in-and-out for business. Next Sunday (Dec. 7) my GF and I will have the day to ourselves and want to find a cozy dinner spot featuring earnest, down-home representations of Québécois/French food without fancy trappings. I am aware of some of the top-spots (APDC, Joe Beef, Le Filet, etc) from the wonderful and useful posts from the Montréal CHOW community, but I'm on a budget for this trip.

My French is very basic and that of my GF is pretty much zero, so a spot with menus in English would be a plus for her, but not a deal-killer as I could do my best to guide her through the offerings.

We will be staying near The Montreal Children's Hospital and close to René-Lévesque Boulevard West and Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest if that helps with logistics. We can drive a bit as needed, but something in that area would be great. Again, this would be for a Sunday night (7-8 PM), and I realize not every restaurant would be open.

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  1. Dear Dave, that isn't Montréal-Ouest, which isa small independent municipality quite a distance west from where you are staying. You are in the western end of Downtown Mtl. I'm not terribly familiar with food in that area as I live northeast of the downtown core, near Jean-Talon Market. I'd think most restos in that area would have menus in English as well as in French, but in any case, staff will be pleased to help you.

    If you are near Atwater, there are a lot of places just down the hill, near Atwater Market, the other large public market here.

    I don't know if you can still change your header, but something like Downtown West End might give you more feedback.

    Don't forget that in the very centre, the métro might be more useful than a private car.

    1. To be more accurate, you will actually be right near Westmount. Heading down Atwater and a few blocks east will bring you to Vin Papillon, a wine bar which is one of Joe Beef's sister restaurants, and not as expensive. It doesn't take reservations, but would be a good option for you. Even at restaurants where menus are in French, servers are usually willing and able to translate for you.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cherylmtl

        lagatta and cherylmtl, thank-you for the location info and corrections. Unfortunately I can't seem to be able to edit my post now to change the subject name. I'm still trying to figure out navigation around Montréal. And just when I think I'm starting to get a sense of it.....

        I greatly appreciate the feedback. Will definitely investigate Vin Papillon. And lagatta, while not related to the area I am seeking recommendations for, since you mention you live near there, I spent an afternoon at the Jean-Talon marketplace (during warm weather) and absolutely loved it!

      2. Hello!

        I don't live that far so I might be able to give you a few pointers.

        First of all, we are pretty much all bilingual so don't stress on the lack of french. While we appreciate people making the effort, we will often switch to english if we see someone having a problem.

        You will be near westmount, a rich english neighborhood not far from downtown. There is a few shopping option near the atwater metro and a new asian quarter is developing between atwater and guy concordia (they are roughly 10 minutes apart).

        *You will find a Japanese Izakaya not far from the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Atwater (Imakame). Its not the best Izakaya in Montreal (that would be Kazu) but its decent. Not super expensive.
        *You will find an honest Korean Bibimbap (la maison du Bulgogi) corner Saint-Catherine and Chomedey. Its not fancy but its inexpensive and I like to go there for my bibimbap/bulgogi/korean bbq cravings,
        * Further east (toward Guy Concordia metro) you will enter the "new asian quarter" with a lot of very fashionable "hipster" restaurants... Kazu (the best Japanese Izakaya in MTL IMHO), GaNaDaRa (super cheap new korean cuisine, very good too!), Maison du Nord (good traditional dumplings and chinese sandiwches), Quing Hua (the best soup dumplings I know of) and Cuisine Szechuan *the best szechuan food I know... I love the Gong Pow Chicken!). Its a 10 minute walk approx.
        *Further south (toward Lionel-Groulx metro) you want to hit Notre-Dame street before finding interesting things. The walk is kinda long so take Atwater metro to Lionel-Groulx if possible.
        *On Notre-Dame near Atwater you will find the Atwater market. Its a must if you are a foodie. One of the two best markets in montreal. You will find cheeses, fish, meat, micro breweries, nuts, bread, pastries, chocolate, spices, pasta... everything a food afficionado would like. You owe it to yourself to see it once. Only Marché Jean-Talon might be better (bigger and less expensive according to some).
        *If you start on the corner of notre-dame/atwater and go west on notre-dame you will find fast food joints. Nothing special but inexpensive. Belle Province (poutine), Green Stop (Nathan Hot Dogs and diner specials), Nouveau Système for friend chicken... even a McDonalds.
        *If you go east from the corner of Notre-Dame/Atwater you will find the famous Joe Beef owned restaurants (corner Notre-Dame and Charlesvoix going east). They are french and english inspired menu. These include the Joe Beef (booked months in advance by tourists), Liverpool House (a bit more relax, for locals) and the Vin Papillon (wine tasting and lighter menus). Look for roughly 50$/person for Joe Beef and Liverpool House. I don't know for Vin Papillon.
        *If your stuck there is a British pub in front of Joe Beef (Burgundy Lion) with very good pub grub.
        *I think there is a french restaurant (Le Paris) between Atwater Metro and Guy Concordia Metro but I never went there. I don't know anybody who went there and they, in turn, would probably not know anybody who went there. That doesn't mean its bad... just a risk.
        *The good french restaurants these days are on the plateau between roughly Sherbrooke metro and Mont-Royal Metro. The best *I'm on a budget and I want to eat good authentic french* option is L'Express on Saint-Denis near the Sherbrooke metro. Reserve in advance. They take opentable (so no excuse!) Its not, however, near where you are.

        Hope it helps!

        1. A bit further west on Notre-Dame is Smoking Vallée, a BYOB:

          2 Replies
          1. re: carolilas

            Forgot about Smoking Vallée! Might be a good choice! Its not exactly *budget* but I've heard good things (its on my *to do* list).

            For the price, I tend to prefer liverpool house (which is in the same range) but smoking vallée might be easier to get into.

            Also near the "fast food lane" on Notre-Dame is a very good expresso coffee shop called "Café Saint-Henri" for your third wave coffee fix. If you choose to go near Guy-Concordia metro Myriade is among the better known third wave coffee shop.

            1. re: carolilas

              Skip Smoking Vallee.....poor service and prices too high for what they offer

            2. Most restaurants in the downtown area are closed on Sunday nights. I have found two. Le Mas des Oliviers is an old school french restaurant that is romantic and the food has always been good. This restaurant is an institution and many of deals have happened there. Mains start at 25$. Dominion Square Tavern is an elegant British tavern, the food is good and the room is gorgeous. They have a special roast dinner every Sunday night. These two are walking distance, LMDO (10mins) and DST (20 mins)

              17 Replies
              1. re: DowntownJosie

                All of these replies so far are a huge help -- thanks!!

                1. re: Dave B

                  Also EVOO just west of Atwater is good for lunch. Dinner is more expensive.

                  PS Captain Crunch, designating Westmount as an 'English' community is a bit out dated. More English than Outremont, yets, but much more diverse than it was years ago. I say this because saying it is English might dissuade visitors from trying restaurants there. There are, in fact, some good choices of a more 'ethnic' variety in Westmount. In addition, just west of Westmount near Decarie is one of the best 'French' boulangeries in the city (Boulangerie Fred).

                  1. re: williej

                    Evoo is closed Sunday night as is h4c, tuck shop, tavern on the square, vin papillon... The choices in the west end are pretty limited on Sunday night.

                    1. re: DowntownJosie

                      Ya guys, Josie is right! The recommendations have all been good, but basically none of them are open on Sundays! Let's not send Dave to dinner somewhere that turns out to be closed when he arrives. Really the best French option in the Sudouest mentioned here is Smoking Vallee. But the distance from Atwater and St. Cath to there is even further than to downtown, and its almost as far as Western Old Mtl, so we should probably keep those areas in the running.

                        1. re: williej

                          It has really gone downhill. I was there a little while ago and it was a train wreck...frozen and over cooked fish, water logged vegetables...don't get me started on the yellow sponge painted walls.

                          1. re: DowntownJosie

                            It used to be pretty good. Too bad. I wonder if there are new owners or something to explain the shift in quality.

                        2. re: Fintastic

                          Do remember that Smoking Vallée is a byow, so if you want some wine, don't forget to pick it up! That would make the total cost cheaper, if you are wine drinkers.

                          Yes, I see that the closest métro is Place-Saint-Henri.

                      1. re: williej

                        If you go to Smoking Vallée, a report would be nice...

                        1. re: carolilas

                          Again, thank-you so much, everyone, for the assistance. I booked a table for Le Smoking Vallée. I'm looking forward to dining there, and per request, will report back.

                          It appears we will also have Monday evening to venture out in Montréal so the suggestions already offered will undoubtedly be helpful then as well. I'm excited to return to your beautiful city and have some time to explore. I knew the Montréal CHOW community would be gracious and helpful.

                          1. re: Dave B

                            Do not forget that Le Smoking Vallée is a BYOB !!!

                            1. re: Maximilien

                              Absolument! I already have a bottle picked out to bring along.

                          2. re: carolilas

                            For the person who asked for a comment on our experience at Le Smoking Vallée:

                            We found it to be quite enjoyable. With limited Sunday night options in that part of town, while also not seeking a high-end and involved (read expensive) experience, it fit the bill very nicely. Their online reservation system was simple and efficient, as I received a reminder email the afternoon of our reservation asking to either confirm or cancel the reservation. I don't think it could be any easier.

                            It wasn't very busy when we arrived a bit early for our 7 PM reservation (okay...... I'll do it the Montréal way, via the 24 hour system, hr 19:00 ;-) there were only perhaps six tables occupied on this Sunday evening. That didn't change much while we were there, but it did look like there were a couple of other parties entering just as we were leaving. We did BYOW, and the wine glasses provided felt very nice in-the-hand. I'm no vinophile, but I do notice the "performance" of a wine glass and how they feel, and I liked the table-provided wine glasses at Smoking Vallée. Is it weird for me to mention this? --- not sure….. I just noticed and appreciated it. Cheapo-feeling wine glasses are a turn-off for me.

                            As we were finishing dinner, I said to GF, "I'll go take a photo of the menu," written on the large chalk board near the back of the restaurant. My thought was that I might post a photo here on CH. And at that very moment, they were erasing it! (Presumably to prepare for the next day, and they had since depleted a couple of their menu offerings as we found when ordering.) So, no photo to share, although the chalk board menu items were largely in-keeping with what is shown on their website sample menu at this moment. *For people reading this in the FUTURE and comparing it with their website…. I will predict it will be DIFFERENT from what it was on Dec 8, 2013! ;-)

                            Where all occupied tables (including ourselves) were positioned at the front of the restaurant (near the street & entrance), there were also two other (smaller) menu chalk boards displaying the same dishes available, but I didn't want to disturb the other people dining near us with any photographic antics.

                            When we entered we were offered the choice of being seated anywhere we wanted, but it felt better to join the other patrons near the front of the restaurant.

                            We had sandwiches that day at Schwartz's perhaps a little too late that afternoon (hr 13:00-14:00) to have a big appetite for an early dinner at Smoking Vallée, so we didn't order any entrées. I felt bad about this but what could I do? Over-stuffing oneself isn't fun nor desirable so we ordered and enjoyed only our mains. GF had the pork chop, and I had the veal liver. GF is a bit a "particular eater" and her lack of French language skills added to her anxiety, so she accompanied me with some trepidation. But at least she is a carnivore, if a finicky one. She adored the flavor and preparation of the large, juicy pork chop, but actually raved more about the bed of squash with gruyère the chop was placed upon. She’s weird that way. I had a couple of bites of her chop and it was succulent.

                            My veal liver (single piece) was larger than I expected and was nearly foie gras rich in its mouth-feel...... almost melt-in-your-mouth. This is probably why I am a food lover and not a food writer; I don't even remember what else what was on the plate with it, but I do know I enjoyed it all and there was nothing left. I drank 90% of the wine we brought, as GF really isn’t much of a drinker.

                            Nor any room for desert.

                            I feel we did a poor job of exploring Montréal French cuisine at Le Smoking Vallée because we arrived not very hungry and perhaps too early in the evening. I had a morning business meeting and needed to be sharp and alert for the next day. What can I say? The waitress was absolutely spectacular in her willingness to assist with translations of the menu.... explaining anything I didn't understand in French. And her attentiveness throughout was just right too... regularly checking in on us without being intrusive.

                            I really couldn't have asked for more from Le Smoking Vallée based on what we were looking for. Plates/mains were $24-26. If I stay in that part of Montréal again I would absolutely return. Casual atmosphere with professional yet very comfortable and unpretentious service. I should also add that it didn't take long at all from the time we ordered for our plates to be delivered…. perhaps 10-15 minutes which was nice. Sometimes it seems like an eternity at some restaurants….

                            ** Disclaimer about GF. She may not be food-adventurous the way I and many CH people are, and she may not quite know what to do with wine (or really any alcohol drinks), but she DOES love certain foods with great passion. Those details are probably better left for another discussion. Her food sensibilities were appropriately challenged at Smoking Vallée in a positive way, however. She left happy.

                            Separate Montréal notes:

                            Saturday night dinner was at Porto Mar (Portuguese) on Place d'Youville (work event dinner). Monday night we hit Kazu. Kazu was an awesome dining experience and a lot of fun. We waited only perhaps 10-15 minutes to get in (probably due to it being Monday, and snowing out). Talking to the Kazu fans in line and asking them what their favorite dishes were added to the fun of waiting in line in the cold.

                            We were in Montréal for three days and had a blast. We hadn’t explored the métro before and had a lot of fun finding our way around via the métro system. It may have helped that it was on a weekend and not dealing with week-day commuter usage.

                            I mentioned Schwartz's. We also hit Juliette et Chocolat (St-Laurent) after Schwartz's. This was GF’s request and she floated her way out the door. Is it any wonder we weren’t hungry later.

                            Even though I have a basic level of French comprehension and speaking, virtually everywhere we went when it was needed, the people of Montréal were SUPER HELPFUL with English whenever it was requested, as several Montréal CH posters here promised. This helped put GF at ease.

                            What a wonderful city --- we can’t wait to return. In case anyone was wondering, we are from New Hampshire and are much closer to Boston. Personally, I’d rather spend a day (or several) in Montréal any time. :-)

                            Thanks again, Montréal!

                            1. re: Dave B

                              Thanks for reporting back, glad you had a good experience!

                          3. re: williej


                            I can't really comment on Westmount's diversity since I never really had the chance to witness the contrary (maybe it just snuck up on me when I wasn't paying attention?). I actually enjoy the english-ness of westmount so maybe I never looked for signs of it being different?

                            I don't think considering a neighborhood traditionally english should dissuade visitors... there are actually very good restaurants in Westmount!

                            That being said, I'll take your word for it!

                            1. re: CaptCrunch

                              Continued thanks to all for the feedback and recommendations! So much to consider, but this is fun.

                        2. re: DowntownJosie

                          I second the recommendation for Mas des Oliviers; I have had many excellent experiences there!