last weekend in Montreal
Only made a small dent in my list of places to check out in our three days in Montreal but gave it my best. And walked all over in the cold and rain which kept the pounds off. Stayed at Hotel St. Paul at McGill and St. Paul for the 2nd time in a month and it's a great place with a very accommodating, friendly staff. Fri. was dinner down the street at Chez Queux cuz I really wanted an Old Montreal experience. We chose the table close to the kitchen as opposed to close to the piano player (who wasn't that loud but we prefer no music with our dining). Good choices for the table d'hote (about $23-30), with 3 app. selections, 5 or 6 mains and 4 desserts. I had a nice salad w/ walnuts, a couple got the cream of veg. soup, can't remember the third. Two of us went with the veal chop, one had duck and one had capon which was the best of the lot. Nice skin, a bit of spiciness to it. The duck was a little tough, the veal was fine but didn't have me raving. Creme brulee and cheesecake were our picks for dessert. Nice service, pleasant atmosphere, my friends were happy with the choice.
Sat. was our party at the St. Paul with food provided by Cube. Mushroom tart to start, either venison or scallops in prosciutto for mains and creme brulee and an amazing chocolate birthday cake. All very good as was my meal in the actual restaurant a few weeks ago. Not sure what the buzz about Cube is but I enjoy it. Sun. a few of us walked to L'Express which didn't impress me the way I thought it would after what I'd read and people had said. It could be that I'm just not into very bright, loud brasseries. Or there were too many of us out to dinner (two tables of 7). The wine list is amazing and I *did* thoroughly enjoy the starter of a leek gratin and probably could have stopped after that and some bread and butter. The duck confit was okay but kind of thrown on a huge plate of greens that had little if any vinaigrette or anything to distinguish them. A side of frites was fine. Dessert was disappointing, basically a cold bland bread pudding w/ raspberry sauce and applesauce. I make it better. They were out of the floating island dessert that had been recommended but the chocolate tart looked good. Both guys serving our table were very patient with us asking a million questions and put candles in the desserts of the two of us celebrating birthdays. Prices are pretty reasonable altho with someone at our table ordering expensive wine, two appetizers, Scotch and port, I paid way more than I should have.
In random bites, ate my first Tim Horton donut, Frites Alors on Rachel is still good and I'd like to try a burger there some time. Got the cheapest latte ($1.50) at Casa del Populo up there on St. Laurent, a good coffee eclair at Pâtisserie De Gascogne on Laurier. Decided I prefer New York bagels after trying a poppy seed at St. Viateur. Got an okay apricot croissant at Au Pain D'Or on St. Laurent (got their choc. and almond before which is a combo we can't get here) and had amazing croissants just a few doors down from the hotel on St. Paul at both Olive et Gourmando and a little boulangerie across the street toward McGill whose name escapes me. The plain at Olive and apricot at the other place were wonderful, you could tell just by looking at them how great they'd be. If anyone wants to start an authentic croissanterie down here, I'll certainly keep you in business.
I was a Joanie co-partier and I can vouch for most of what she said...Chez Queux was primarily noteworthy for the ambiance and the desserts (although whatever that flambe dish was they were making two feet from my head looked, er, interesting). I thought the appetizers at L'Express were pretty diverse and tasty, although the entree (chicken breast w/mustard sauce) didn't send me cheering into the street. And, yes, great wines. Personally, I thought the best meal I had in Montreal was the Monday lunch I ate at Cube (pate, salmon, sorbet trio). The salmon was amazingly good. And the three glasses of a fabulous, if pricey ($17) Chinon, really enabled me to bear the Draconian security measures at Dorval airport. I know Joanie thinks I loved Cube simply due to the feminine charms of Mathilde, Chantal, Elaine and the very delightful staff, but this is only partly true. The food was awesome aussi. As a final note, stopped for lunch Saturday at a nice, bustling, country-kitchen type place (Le Bourlinguer [sp?]) on Rue St. Paul and had a very nice stew of wild boar in wine sauce. Hearty and filling, perfect for a blustery, crummy afternoon. And Joanie's fave croissant place, Java U. (also on Rue St. Paul), has a great, comfortable atmosphere and very cool staff.