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Montreal / Quebec City - 5 days - several questions

I'm in the end stages of planning a 5 day visit to Montreal & Quebec City (3 days in the former, 2 in the latter). We were just in Montreal last summer, so to calibrate I can tell you what we liked and not:

- Au Pied de Cochon - epic meal, mostly centered around a gigantic seafood platter.
- Les 400 Coups - another really good meal - this was before Jette and Demers left.
- Lawrence - nice brunch, not exceptional, but don't know that we got a full feel for the place from what we ordered.
- Le Filet - disappointing. Had about a half-dozen dishes, nearly all of them the seafood was overwhelmed by the sauces.
- Schwartz's, St. Viateur - Institutions worthy of the title.

So here are my questions:
- Is the summer seafood thing still going on at APDC or is it already over? I just took a look at the online menu and didn't see the seafood platters listed, which would be a crushing disappointment.
- Other recommendations of the same ilk as 400 Coups? i.e., contemporary in style with local, seasonal ingredients, in a place that has a not overly fussy vibe? I've currently got Au Cinquieme Peche, Chez l'Epicier, Hotel Herman, Tripes & Caviar and Tuck Shop on my list. Tripes & Caviar really intrigues me, but may be a bit extreme for the rest of the family.
- Classic French bistro: Lemeac or L'Express or does one not particularly stand out over the other?
- Maison Publique? Should I put this in the contemporary category, the classic bistro category, or another, and would you pick it over any of the other places I've mentioned?
- Portuguese: our last visit to Montreal I was intrigued to see several Portuguese restaurants. Did a little research and turned up Helena and Ferreira as apparent front-runners (and also interested in Ferreira sibling Taverne F). Are any (or others) so good that you'd recommend over the other places above?
- (I should note: so far not been able to get a reservation at any of the Joe Beef places; based on our disappointing experience at Le Filet, have crossed Le Club Chasse et Peche off our list, which seems oft-recommended)
- In Quebec City, our current game plan is to do one night at either Legende or Chez Boulay, and the other night at L'Affaire est Ketchup or Patente et Machin. For lunches, was considering Aux Anciens Canadiens (about which opinion seems to be mixed) and Le Lapin Saute. Other suggestions welcomed.
- Is there anything good for lunch on the way between Portland Maine and Quebec City (i.e. along Route 73 and 173)?

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  1. I'll try my best, but won't try to comment on Quebec. It's unfortunate about the Filet experience, as I very much enjoy their dishes, though I admit that they may be somewhat masked by sauces and seasonings. This is something to which I'm often oblivious.

    - APDC may still have some seafood around, but by this time of year things are often getting a bit past their prime. I'd call, as the website is often not current.

    - Classic Bistro: I've always had a soft spot for L'Express. Their dishes are sometimes not be as good as Lemeac's, but something about the place feels right. However, over Lemeac I might also choose Laloux, 5ieme Peche, or Trois Petits Bouchons.

    - A 400 Coups substitute: I'd say that none of the spots you've listed are quite as high-end, but Tuck-Shop or Hotel Herman might be a (smaller) substitute. T&C is good, but definitely far less refined (watch the recent Vice Munchies episode for an idea, if you haven't already). If you'd like a place that is perhaps more family-friendly and also not at risk of over-seasoning dishes, consider Manitoba. It wasn't my favourite meal in recent memory but they use many local and seasonal ingredients and really let these speak for themselves. Great price-point and interiors, to boot!

    - Maison Publique: Also a restaurant I've enjoyed, but not on every visit. Tends to be a tad heavy on the salt, but has an all-Canadian wine list and some interesting re-creations of classic British dishes using local products. I'd say it's closer to PDC than 400 Coup, but somewhere between a pub and a bistro.

    - Joe Beefy places: They are on vacation for the next 1.5 weeks, if that's when you're coming. Otherwise look on Bookenda if Liverpool House has some space. If not, you could show up early to Vin Papillon (you'd probably even be better off).

    1. As a substitute to 400 Coups, I think H4C Place St-Henri would fit the bill, at least for the savoury part of the meal. I haven't sampled their desserts, but the rest is quite tasty and the marriage of elements on the plate is always interesting. And since nothing can compare with Demers' desserts, why not go to his pastry shop to end the meal?

      1. I like Leméac better than L'express. In my opinion the experience with the atmosphere and the service is better at L'express. The food is better at Leméac.

        I also think you would enjoy H4C although i never to 400 coups. I also really liked Mercuri, take a look at their menu. It is pricy, the portions are small but the food is delicious local seasonal fine cooking with an italian twist, the service is great and the place is gorgeous. I think i actually likes better than H4C.

        You may also like Bouillon Bilk. According to me, it is very good food but that is it. At the price i'm paying i would expect a little more. Every one seems to love it. May be it is only me.

        I recently tried the brunch at Les Affamés and it is Excellent! It is a good thing they take reservations, you need to reserve, they are always full. Available only on saturday and sunday

        If not, Regine Café is good to. Make sure you order something with ham if not, you could be disappointed.

        Portugese restaurant: did you think about Portuscalle. It is the same chef owner as Helena. Great place too.

        I haven't tried Le club chasse et pêche yet, but i have only heard thing about that place. It is next on my list.

        If you are looking for a good place for breakfast in quebec city, i would recommend Le café du monde in the old port. The place is gorgeous overlooking the st-laurent river and the south shore.

        In Québec City, i also really like Nina Pizza. The pizzas are great and they have nice cold cut meat platter too.

        I've heard only good about Le 47e Parallèle. I went for lunch and dind't like it that much for the price we are paying. Never went for dinner yet. One friend working close to that place loves it. May be it is just me again.

        My friend went to Saint-Amour last summer and loved it. If you are looking for fine dining that could be a good choice.

        1. We've only eaten at Schwartz' from your list (agree, although it was only "extremely delicious/to be repeated", not "life-changing") and recently (8/16) ate at Au 5ieme Péché. We had a half portion of sweetbreads as a starter and the octopus salad, both of which were fantastic, char with a mussels/smoked herring salad on top and the seal sausage with fried gnocchi poutine, which was amazing. One dessert, the dark chocolate torte with raspberries/vinegar, one of the best (balanced) I've ever had, and I'm not usually a dessert fan. So, I can heartily recommend 5ième. I think their online menu was not updated, but both brothers were there (the waiter said they stagger two-week vacations so one is always there). Very good service, but I wouldn't say fussy (and the table next to us sang happy birthday, French version).

          It's a nice list, I'm going to borrow a couple of Quebec listings as we are driving there now.

          1. Of your Montreal restos that you link with 400 Coups, the only one I've been to is Hotel Herman. It was well over a year ago and I believe the restaurant was quite new at the time. The meal was a highlight of our trip to Montreal on that visit. The concept is sharing plates and we sampled a number of things from the menu. We sat at the bar which we agreed really added to the meal as it was bustling and you could really interact with the staff and see lots of other dishes going by. A bit of a vague description I am afraid but it was awhile ago.

            1. I spent a week in Quebec City recently and there is so much construction every where and so many tourists in all the restos that we didn't manage too many meals out in the old city. I can recommend touring around Ile d'Orleans if you have a chance as it is great fun to stop and taste test the ciders, cassis wines and other products found on the island. My favourite meal of our week was at Panache Mobile overlooking a lovely vineyard with the view of the Chutes Montmorency in the distance. Best beef rib poutine ever, according to my poutine eaters and the lobster roll was not bad either.

              If you are driving from Quebec City to Portland, Maine, I can recommend a few places south of Portland in Old Orchard Beach for delicious cheap seafood. There are lots of good foodies stops in Portland though so perhaps that's not helpful. I seem to recall that there is very little along the highway on that drive.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Plateaumaman

                Plateaumaman, when you speak of "the old city", do you mean just "Le Vieux Québec (the walled city) or also St-Jean-Baptiste (upper town, just outside the walls) Saint-Roch and Saint-Sauveur? (Lower town, very poor neighbourhoods not very long ago, somewhat gentrified with some interesting Québécois and immigrant restauransts). And how about Limoilou?

                I don't drive, so the rest is out of the question, unless I can cycle or get a tour bus round Ile d'Orléans.

                1. re: lagatta

                  You could probably cycle as long as you don't need a bike path:

                  http://www.lapresse.ca/le-soleil/actu...

                  1. re: hala

                    Thanks for that! Actually, I'm certain that the route could be designed better for all road users. It is a lovely destination, in particular for foodies.

                  2. re: lagatta

                    I meant the walled city, although we also passed by L'Affaire est Ketchup and Patente Machin and they were too busy for us, the 'hood a bit uncomfy. But overall I found the options too similar everywhere, more expensive than in Montreal, lacking ethnic places for snacks, and I seemed to be left to season my food myself often as much was sweet instead of salty. Those are sweeping generalizations of course but as I avoid dairy and most bistros are French, my options were very limited most of the time, so much cheese and cream. There is a great market at the Old Port although not many snacks to grab there either but lots of good ingredients and produce to bring back. Cycling around Ile d'Orleans is actually a great plan, lots of people were doing it, and it is very scenic.

                  3. re: Plateaumaman

                    Plateaumaman, In a couple of weeks I'll be driving from QC through Portland. I'd love to hear your Old Orchard Beach seafood suggestions.

                    1. re: polyxenes

                      As luck would have it, I made a Pinterest board for Old Orchard Beach that I'll link below. We really liked Ken's Place as it has a good oyster bar too, got the fisherman's platter at Clambake a few times and also enjoyed Bayley's Lobster Pound. Have a great time!
                      http://www.pinterest.com/nettecollect...

                  4. Post-partum:

                    Quebec City (1): We had a very nice dinner at Legende par la Taniere. Exactly what I was looking for: very local and seasonal focus to the ingredients, done in a contemporary, creative style. With a few exceptions, almost all the menu is available in either 1/2 or full portions so you have a chance to sample a number of dishes. Standout items included a "from the fisherman" platter with about a dozen small samples of various cold seafood items, an elk carpaccio topped with tofu and seabuckthorn ice cream (sounds like a car wreck but it worked), and lamb fries (look it up if you don't know) with fiddlehead ferns and Jerusalem artichokes.

                    Quebec City (2): We also visited Aux Anciens Canadiens for something more old school. It felt a wee bit hokey, but we weren't completely surrounded by tourists (at least a few tables were speaking French, anyway). I suspect this isn't the best rendition of tourtiere and Quebec meat pie you'll find, but at least now I've tried them (and Quebecois pea soup, and pig knuckle, and meatballs, and salt pork grillades, and baked beans).

                    We took a brief drive out to Ile d'Orleans and I wished we'd given ourselves more time to spend out there, the area was very charming. As it was, we just let the kids pick strawberries for half an hour and then took off for Montreal.

                    Montreal (1): We chose Lemeac over L'Express as it was walking distance from where we were staying. Very solid classic French bistro. Smoked herring with potato salad, boudin with apples and celery root puree were both very satisfying. The only sort of miss, surprisingly, was the salmon tartare, which was somewhat bland (there's an option to get it with truffle oil, which we declined, as I usually find most uses of truffle oil sort of overpowering & cloying). Desserts were all very classic and very good (chocolate mousse, creme brulee, rum baba).

                    Montreal (2): Au Pied de Cochon. Sadly we'd missed the seafood season, which apparently finishes up very early in August, so no plateaus for us this visit. Too bad. I'm sure much has been said on this board about APDC, so I will just add a few hopefully new observations: (1) I don't hear many folks talk about the marinated herring dish there, but we thought it was excellent (I know, who goes to APDC for herring? We were missing the seafood platters desperately). (2) the APDC salad now includes sauteed duck hearts, livers and gizzards, in addition to the brick of pork trotter on top. (3) The $9 smoked meat sandwich "appetizer" special was delicious, and (perhaps needless to say given this is APDC) substantial enough to be a meal itself.

                    The kids ran out of steam one night and so I did not get to try to fill that "like 400 Coups" slot I'd asked about (we ordered in from Omnivore instead, which was some perfectly serviceable Lebanese food). I was very intrigued by the menu at Le Serpent, though, and would be curious to hear thoughts on it.

                    As for Portuguese, we didn't get to it this time either, but I did notice that people were lining up at Rotisserie Serrano in Mile End pretty much from the moment it opened, and by the smell emanating from the open door, I could guess why.

                    As for Portland -> Quebec City, we did not discover much worth eating along that stretch either.

                    Thanks for the suggestions and insights.

                    You can see pictures of these meals here:
                    Legende par la Taniere https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1nxbYY
                    Aux Anciens Canadiens https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1ncQzD
                    Lemeac https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1WqWCA
                    Au Pied de Cochon https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1oEFA6

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      Wow, beautiful photos and a great report. I'll have to try Legende next time.

                      1. re: Plateaumaman

                        Yes, there is also a fishmonger's that prepares fishy things, Jef Poissonerie, on St-Joseph not far from L'Affaire (which has never appealed to me somehow).

                        http://jefpoissonnerie.com/

                        https://www.facebook.com/pages/JEF-Po...

                        St-Roch used to be a dodgy neighbourhood, but it really isn't any more, since the restoration of St-Joseph Street, the arrival of the new municipal library and a MEC.

                        Here is a site listing businesses on St-Joseph: http://local.fiatlux.tk/quebec/rue-sa...

                        See that there is also a Cambodian restaurant - that wouldn't have much cheese or cream! Indeed "cheap ethnic" offerings are limited; certainly many Vietnamese byow places (some better than others). Seems to be mostly former French colonies - "French Indochina", North and West Africa... Often former Laval Uni students.

                        1. re: lagatta

                          We had planned to go to the Hosaka-ya ramen place across the street from L'Affaire but it was closed for a summer break, oh well. Also wanted to try some Lebanese sandwiches that suddenly became very hard to access due to tons of construction along the Grande Allée. So yeah, a little harder to chowhound in QC than around Mtl, that's for sure.

                      2. re: Frodnesor

                        Thank you for the feedback! Nice report!