last 5 meals in Montreal
After 5 years in Montreal, I'm moving west (Vancouver). I have dined quite well in this city during that time. Started here with the Caswell recommendations and then never stopped :)
So if you were in similar shoes, what would be your last 5 restaurant diners in Montreal?(not counting smoked meat, sugar shacks, bagels, Portuguese chicken,etc which I will also hit up of course)
A Greek friend in Toronto says that, while they have lots of tavernas and the inevitable delis that have a few Greek items on their menu, they don't have the upscale Greek restaurants we have here, and adds that we are stronger in upscalish food from the Levant as well (and any food from the Maghreb).
Alas I was only once in Vancouver, very briefly for work, so had only one real meal (of Asian seafood, of course).
Along that note, here’s a few of my favourite (and a few not so favourite) restaurants in the city, been meaning to post something like this, hopefully of use to someone
Maison Boulud- the food isn’t as original or local as Toque and they don’t try and wow you with little extras like Europea, but I’ve never been disappointed with anything here either, and the atmosphere + service is probably the best in Montreal if you were looking for a high-end meal.
Toque, very skilled cooking highlighting local products, atmosphere seemed a bit dated last time I was here
Europea, I think the food here actually improved a bit from the first time I went here to more recently, still I find the whole experience a bit over the top for the level of cooking they produce
La Porte, haven’t been in a few years, but was a nice intimate restaurant with very good Breton cooking, very romantic
XO, did not enjoy our meal there
La Chronique, an Outremont staple, food doesn’t really wow
Overall I think this is probably Montreal’s weakest category as a world class food city
Le Filet, great upscale spot, small portions to share, have yet to be disappointed
Hotel Herman, elegantly casual, with very competent cooking (much prefer it to their other reso)
Lawrence, homey atmosphere, very honest cooking
Bouillon Bilk, kitchen here produces stuff well above its pay-grade
Mezcla, Latin-French fusion, very unique, great tasting menu, very cute room
Pastaga, fun wine list, very solid cooking
Tuck Shop, neighbourhood gem type place, tough to get a reservation though
H4C - imaginative dishes, nice room, one of the best new restaurants in the city
400 cent coups, haven’t been since they changed chefs but this place used to be great (the old pastry chef’s new place is also great!)
Au Pied du cochon, loved it when I went 5 years ago, last time had a not so great experience, a few friends said the same, perhaps its fallen off a bit
Joe Beef, I think I’m in the “not sure what all the hype is about” camp for this place, over the few times I’ve been there, had 1 or 2 very good dishes, one terrible, and mostly above average stuff. Certainly is a bit different, and very rich so probably worth visiting to see for yourself. The wine markup is borderline insulting
Liverpool House, a somewhat more subdued version of Joe Beef, but similar atmosphere and style
Le Club chasse et peche, really enjoyed first meal there several years ago, last 2 times were both disappointments
Garde Manger, over-hyped
Le chien fumant, fun overindulgence, not exactly a destination restaurant by any means though
Maison Publique, only been once, nice vibe, food didn’t really blow me away
L’express - went for an impromptu late dinner here on first date with my wife, so will always have a bit of nostalgia, as I’m sure it does for many others, reasonable wine list also
Laloux, great spot, chefs constantly chaning so not sure
Bistro Cocagne, always was dead, but solid food
Lemeac, still enjoy going here for brunch once and a while, I don’t think dinner is anything special these days
Au cinqueme peche, hasn’t really been the same to me since they moved from the original location
Chez Leveque – another old classic, not really anything special from my limited experience
Chez chose – friendly owner, good food
Brassiere T – I’d probably go for one of the classics over this place, nothing really wrong here either though
Impasto - new favourite Italian in Montreal
Graziella – upscale Italian, was a bit disapointed last time but otherwise a very nice resto
Da emma – wasn’t too impressed
BICE, Il cortile – food is ok, both terraces are great
Primo et Secondo – good humble Italian cooking, not quite at the level of Impasto imho
Le Serpent- bustling place, great modern décor, food was good but not great
Damas- love this place, watch out for the huge portions though
Su- nice meal, not quite as good as Damas, and a bit out of the way for me
Tasso- nice Greek restaurant on St Denis, my favourite patio in the city, great for a hot summer night
Milos - excellent seafood, atmosphere is a bit over the top Greek but it’s a nice spot nevertheless
Phillinos – had a great meal/time the one time I went there, many friends recommend it
Park - my favourite Asian restaurant in Montreal
l'quartier general – by far my favourite bring your own wine in Montreal, to the point that I’ve really stopped going to any of the others (ie La columbe, Petit platuean, Monsieur B)
Alright, with this extensive tally of your dining history, I think I feel more comfortable giving some suggestions.
1) Vin Papillon. The truth is that I really didn't want to get on the hype train for this one, and on my first trip it didn't entirely blow me away. However, every time I go back I've become more and more amazed with the place. We've mainly sampled the less meat-heavy dishes. Every one has appeared overly simple yet has been astonishingly delicious. The flavours emanating from a boring pile of julienned carrots or thin slices of celery root are really impossible to predict but have literally left me speechless each time. I feel like you about Joe Beef and Liverpool House: several meals at each have been incredible, while others have been boring. This inconsistency has not yet been a problem at the youngest sibling, so maybe give it a shot. Perhaps on a nice night so you can sit out back. Just watch the prices of wines by the glass, as we've over-spent significantly on each visit despite the rather affordable food.
2) L'Express. This really isn't for the food, which of course is standard bistro fare. When I leave Montreal it is a place I'll miss just knowing is nearby. It's amazing that a restaurant not trying to re-invent anything for over 3 decades can somehow be so unique: I can't think of any other restaurant in the country where one can show up at 1:30am on a Tuesday and get classic Parisian dishes along with a decent $30 bottle of wine. Like Vin Papillon, L'Express didn't impress me on my first trip so many years ago, but it's now like an old friendship that stays constant even when neglected for months on end.
3) Pied de Cochon picnic. I've probably recommended this a dozen times on chowhound, but ordering to-go dishes from APDC has served as the impetus for many of my favourite spring/summer memories of Parc Lafontaine (and of Montreal in general). If there's a nice night before you go, I can't recommend this highly enough. Bring your own forks, and don't order the pig's head.
4) Lawrence. What is it about Lawrence? *Swoon* Just thinking about the place makes me feel warm inside. If they're still doing oyster happy-hour I'd go for that and then just keep eating dishes until I'm tossed out. Or maybe for brunch..
5) Ugh... so many difficult choices! Some of my favourite dining experiences have been at 400 Coups, Quartier General, Kazu, 5ieme Peche, Dominion Square Tavern, 3 Petits Bouchons, Patisserie Rhubarbe, Chien Fumant, Pintxo, Laloux, Buvette Chez Simon, and Tuck Shop, so I would like to get back to each one last time... But if I really had to pick a fifth it might have to be the front terrasse of Le Filet. I sat here for 45 minutes trying to make that decision, which I think says a lot about the Montreal dining scene.. and maybe even more about me. You know why I've chosen it, so it really is a a necessity.
Making this list has made me very sad, as I'm realizing it won't be very long before I'll have to follow the very advice I've written here... On my last day I'll probably get a dozen St. Viateur bagels, bring them to Olimpico's terrasse, and binge on dough for three hours while I cry into a latte.
Hmmm, interesting question. I personally would go to some of the places I always meant to go but never found the time (or money). So...Impasto, Joe Beef, Damas. And APDC one last time. And perhaps Laloux for sentimental reasons. Not sure what the food is like there these days.
In alphabetical order:
Chez Bouffe, 4316 Ste Catherine E
Bouillon Bilk, 1595 St Laurent
Club Chasse et Pêche, 423 St Claude
Hotel Herman, 5171 St Laurent
Lawrence, 5201 St Laurent
Alternates if reservations at 1 - 5 aren't available: Au Pied de Cochon, 536 Duluth E. Le Renard, 330 Mont Royal E. Chez Delmo, 275 Notre Dame O
I would definitely go to:
3 Petits Bouchons for their mushroom tartiflette, fried stuffed dates and octopus
Le Filet for their pasta with shaved fois gras and all their raw fish dishes
Bouillon Bilk for their braised pork poutine
CCEP for the wonderful ambience and their signature risotto
Olive and Gourmando for their Spicy chicken and avocado sandwich(the bread is grilled and chewy) and extra crunchy palmiers
Chalet barbq for their french fries and gravy
Milos for the best lunch in town, I usually get their tuna burger and zucchini fries and their delicious baklava ice cream
So didn't quite make all the places I wanted, but did manage to return to:
And of course Fairmont bagel, le banquise and a few other snacks
All were great. Has been a memorable 5 years in this city that introduced me to good food and wine. Thanks to all the regular contributors, I'll be sure to check back in when I come for a visit