Going to Toque and L'Express - What to get?
I'm going to be coming up from New York this coming weekend with my girlfriend and we were looking forward to having some amazing meals. We have reservations for L'Express on friday and Toque on Sat. We had a couple questions and were looking for feedback/suggestions.
1) We wanted to know if there were any items we simply should not miss?
2) If either has a tasting menu, are they worth getting?
3) What are the dress codes like?
4) Any suggestions for either pre or post dinner drinks nearby?
We still have sunday open so if anybody could suggest a third place, one that is less expensive, i would appreciate it. Must say i have big expectations for the food so i can't wait.
Based only on one visit to each. L'Express, get their hanger steak with fries, & they have a very good varied wine list(& they charge reasonable prices for their wines). You can dress casual, as with all French bistro establishments.
Toque! has a tasting menu. I found their prices expensive, but compared to NYC prices, it's reasonably priced. You don't have to dress formal at Toque!. They're planning a move to a new location by early next year.
Do not miss the foie gras at Toque - whatever the preparation of the evening is. I had a sauterne-style Quebecois wine with mine which provided a delicious combination
The tasting menu at Toqué! is usually a good bet, though I believe everyone at the table has to order it. There are actually two tasting menus, one with foie gras and one without. You can also choose to order the menus with a three- or four-glass flight of specially chosen wines. As others have pointed out, foie gras is one of Toqué!'s claims to fame. Other than that, there are no standout items because, in a way, they are all standout items. Check out Toqué!'s website (hyperlink below) for their current menus, wines and prices.
Dress is upscale casual to business wear (i.e. you see a lot of suits). I wouldn't advise wearing jeans and a t-shirt unless you're a CK model or a celebrity.
As for watering holes before and after, that depends on your age and tastes, so you'll have to provide some specifics.
On Sunday, you could try ChuChai (vegetarian Thai just up the street from Toqué!, 4088 St-Denis, 514 843-4194) or the BYO Les Infidèles (771 Rachel East, 514 528-8555). A bit pricer than those, but definitely not in the Toqué! league, are La Gaudriole (826 Laurier East, 514 276-1580, www.total.net/~emve), Au Pied du Cochon (536 Duluth East, 514 281-1114, www.aupiedducochon.ca) and Au Petit Extra (1690 Ontario East, 514-5552, www.aupetitextra.com). Au Cyclo (5136 Parc, 514 272-1477) turns out some of the city's best Vietnamese food. Doval (150 Marie-Anne East, 514 843-3390) serves up home-style Portuguese fare in a totally unpretentious setting. Alternatively, you could spend an enjoyable early evening walking along some of the more restaurant-dense streets (fox example, St-Laurent between Sherbrooke and Fairmount; Saint-Denis between Sherbrooke and Laurier; Laurier West between St-Laurent and Querbes; Laurier East between St-Hubert and Papineau; Mount-Royal between St-Urbain and Papineau; Bernard between St-Urbain and Outremont) or wandering around Little Italy (St-Laurent and blocks east between St-Zotique and Jean-Talon), taking the occasional detour down side streets, checking out the menus of the hundreds of restaurants and choosing one that looks good from a price, food and atmosphere standpoint.
I did much of the walking you just mentioned, starting at Jean Talon market and zig zagging thru Little Italy, Laurier, St. Viateur, St. Laurent, Mont Royale and St. Denis back down to Old Montreal (McGill & St. Paul). Any idea how far I walked? The bartender and concierge at the hotel could only tell me it was pretty far.
Well, I wasn't suggesting that they hit all the neighbourhoods I listed -- that'd be a hike, not a walk!
According to my map, from Jean-Talon down to the heart of Old Montreal via St-Laurent is a bit over 6 km, which works out to about 3.5 miles, I'd guess. How much farther you walked depends on how much you zigzagged. Sounds like you might've been pushing the 5 or even 6-mile mark, though.
I'm a New Yorker who has lived in Montreal. I don't know what your favorite upscale places are in New York (my list would include Cafe Boulud, Cote Basque,Oceana) but in my experience Toque can't match top New York places, although the food is carefully prepared and tasty. I would stick to Quebec specialties- Charlevoix lamb, duck from the Eastern Townships. I also find the appetizers are better then the main courses.
One Montreal restaurant that I like is LaLoux, on Pins Est (Pine East) near St. Denis.Not a tourist destination- is was recommended to us by several Montreal friends. I ate there last month and had a terrific meal- a wonderful mixed game tarte and sweetbreads. My partner had a pidgeon stuffed with fois gras-sensational. Less expensive then Toque. Dinner for three(three courses plus one cheese plate) with a bottle of wine and an expensive dessert wine was $180 CDN.