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cellardoor

Refining my selection of Montreal restaurants for October 8-16 visit

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I'm planning a visit to Montreal from October 8th-16th that will be very food-focused, with an emphasis on high-end, contemporary cuisine. While I definitely plan to hit Montreal classics, like various Montreal bagels, Schwartz’s, poutine (at APDC?), etc, those parts of my vacation probably doesn’t need as much structured planning/reservations/etc, is easier to research (often, there’s consensus wrt 1 or 2 places that do the best food product X), and making the “wrong” choice is less costly (in terms of time and money).

My current ordering (w/lots of influence from aromes’ reviews, as well as traditional reviewers + egullet/chowhound), in roughly descending order of interest, are;

1.XO le restaurant

2. Restaurant Laporte’s

3.RAZA

4.La Chronique

5.Laloux Bistro

6.Nuances

7.Toque (I’ve heard many reviews stating that it’s long past its prime, though aromes’ experience seemed to differ)

There are some strategic decisions involved – eg, most of the above are open for dinner only from Tuesday-Saturday (La Chronique and Laloux Bistro aside).

Can anyone comment on my choices, whether to reorder them, what I should add/subtract, etc?

Background info: I’m from and live in New York City, and (like so many others who follow egullet) live for food. I have a tremendous appetite –for the ethnic exotic and the outré, as well as quite literally for quantity (APDC sounds amazing), and a super-strong sweet tooth.

To give this a bit of context to the appetite/sweet tooth comments (these are mostly NYC-based, since I’ve never been to Montreal before), I:

-often go to ChikaLicious and order all of the desserts on the menu

-when going for dinner at a new (or favorite) restaurant, frequently order all of the “interesting” desserts on the menu a la carte (i.e. no molten-chocolate-cake equivalent, usually 3-5 in total), before doing the chef’s tasting menu + a few a la carte savory items thrown in

-used to go to Room4Dessert (before it closed) and did the same + cheese and whatever savory-sweet things Will Goldfarb had come up with (this would got me closer to my limits)

Overall preferences (focusing on the high end only, since that’s what this post is focused on):

I prefer complexity/modernity to tradition when dining on the high end, i.e. “I wouldn’t want to eat at Le Grenouille, but I’m still very fond of Le Bernadin – that being said, I still like Momofuku Ko (at lunch) better.”

On the avant-garde/molecular gastronomy side: I like Corton a lot, but have been repeatedly disappointed with WD-50 (having sampled their menu extensively over several sittings).

I also enjoy restaurants like Gramercy Tavern, Gotham Bar and Grill, and Blue Hill as well, but not quite as much.

Degustation is one of my favorite restaurants, but it’s hard to book on short order, even for a pseudo-regular.

If I had to choose from the top restaurants in NYC, I’d actually prefer Momofuku Ko (but only at lunch) over Per Se -- I've found Masa enjoyable, but almost boring compared to less traditionalist (and also less pricey) high end sushi houses. [it definitely wouldn't make my top-10 or even top-25 _personal_ favorites list]

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I spent about 10 days in Montreal at the end of June so I have some insight. APDC is not an easy place to get a reservation for on the fly, so make sure you are sure you want to go there and plan ahead and call. I tried to do it when I was there and it didn't work out.

If possible, rent a car and take a 2.5 hour drive to the capital - Ottawa and dine at Atelier. It's very well done. I can speak more about this if needed.

Toque was a great meal. It's across from the convention center and I came straight there after a convention. I called to make sure that a dress code was not an issue (I had no time to go back to my hotel to change and I was wearing jeans and a shirt) and they assured me it was ok. When I walked in, the hostess looked disgusted but I explained who I was and that I had a reservation and they immediately warmed up. I had the tasting menu with foie gras supplement and it was quite a long meal but not too bad. Maybe 2.5 hours. I ate alone and the service was great. Food was good too but I must warn you, nothing I ate in Canada was like life-changing good.

Check out Le Salle a Manger, Juliette et Chocolate, Le Club Chasse et Peche, and of course Schwart'z Smoked Meat. Note: these are not all fine dining, I am just telling you this is good food.

Check out pics here to give you an idea of dishes/plating.

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Au Pied du Cochon! You can't go to MTL without having some real Quebecer food. Here's a link and some pics from NYT. It's a temple to meat and game, all local. Martin Picard not only gets his from local farmers, he goes hunting, bags, and butchers his own, often. They make their own butter. They make their own beer. It's not an an upscale classy look. It's an after work kinda place, bright, mostly 4-man booths and a long bar in front of the kitchen. Seats I dunno, 60, packed and very loud.

Best restaurant I've ever been to -- thrice. Amazing pork chops from their brick oven, which is like five feet from the front door as you walk in. The hands down best dish is plogue à Champlain. You cannot beat half a lobe of seared foie gras, bacon, cheese, pancake, drowned in maple syrup for an appetizer. I wish I had three stomachs. Every dish here is amazing. You have to get the pied du cochon here as well. I'd go for the regular one, not the one deep fried and stuffed with foie gras -- you can get foie gras seriously with every dish here, even dessert, though can and should are different things.

MTL has some amazing cuisine. I've had the best hamburger ever there from a bar -- Les Foufounes Électriques -- that got their 500g burgers from next door. And some ridiculously good ribs from a Kansas style barbecue joint that's been there like 30 years. Oh and you don't need to go to Schwartz's -- many restaurants buy their viande fumée from there. And there's good viande fumée everywhere, though it really is different everywhere you go, and there are definitely places you can find better than Schwartz's, if you prefer fattier, thicker cuts.

Too bad you're not going now. It's the best time of the year for drinking till 4am and drinking all day at the grand terrasses like Bar St. Sulpice.

God, I miss Montreal.

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Club Chasse certainly belongs on the list of seven, if you're talking refined, high-end.

APDC is a must.

Joe Beef is a little more refined than APDC, though similarly casual. Great food.

(My significant other and I visit Montreal once or twice a year for a long weekend - we always eat at APDC and Joe Beef, and find something different for the third.)

Chloe is the best chocolate maker in Montreal - not even close. And right next door to APDC.

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Thanks to everyone for the input. So my main takeaways thus far are:

1.APDC: reservations may be more important than I thought, though maybe picking the right day of week/time of day might help. I was originally planning on doing a super-late friday night walk-in (I think they're open till midnight on fri) and dining w/my fiancée at the bar. sygyzy, I’m hoping that your experience was affected by wanting/being schedule-restricted to dine at a non-crazy-late hour?

Due to uncertainty wrt international travel, plane delays, etc, I wanted to avoid making a firm reservation for the day of arrival – at the same time, since we’re getting into Montreal fairly late on friday, I figured there’d be a pretty narrow range of places

a)open that late

b)that I should use a precious fri night dinner slot on :)

In addition, I figured if APDC was booked solid till midnight, we’d return there at 5pm on a weekday or something like that.

Maybe hit up Chloe for chocos if my APDC trip happens at a non-circa-midnight hour…

2.

If possible, rent a car and take a 2.5 hour drive to the capital - Ottawa and dine at Atelier. It's very well done. I can speak more about this if needed.

Travel within Quebec (outside of Montreal) is definitely a possibility; unfortunately, neither of us have driver’s licenses (no DUI’s /vehicular manslaughter in our past – it’s a function of where we grew up), so a drive to Ottawa is pretty much a nonstarter. A day trip/overnight trip to Ottawa or Quebec City might still be doable/worth it – not sure what the best way to do this would be. I’m leaning towards the train (reservia.viarail.ca) at the moment, and Ottawa over Quebec City (for nonculinary/generic touristy reasons, but also because it’s closer).

Syzygy -- would def appreciate any comments re Atelier that you feel like adding here, or offline.

3. Restaurant Toqué is probably not as over-the-hill as some (random anonymous people on the internet) have claimed, and is likely still worth going to.

4.Add Le Club Chasse et Peche, and possibly Joe Beef to my list, while bearing in mind that these are both “heavier” dining experiences (the former more formal, the latter more casual).

Well, time for me to fire up my high school French + figure out what to get at APDC in addition to the plogue à Champlain :)

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Thanks to everyone for the input. So my main takeaways thus far are:

1.APDC: reservations may be more important than I thought, though maybe picking the right day of week/time of day might help. I was originally planning on doing a super-late friday night walk-in (I think they're open till midnight on fri) and dining w/my fiancée at the bar. sygyzy, I’m hoping that your experience was affected by wanting/being schedule-restricted to dine at a non-crazy-late hour?

Due to uncertainty wrt international travel, plane delays, etc, I wanted to avoid making a firm reservation for the day of arrival – at the same time, since we’re getting into Montreal fairly late on friday, I figured there’d be a pretty narrow range of places

a)open that late

b)that I should use a precious fri night dinner slot on :)

In addition, I figured if APDC was booked solid till midnight, we’d return there at 5pm on a weekday or something like that.

Maybe hit up Chloe for chocos if my APDC trip happens at a non-circa-midnight hour…

2.

If possible, rent a car and take a 2.5 hour drive to the capital - Ottawa and dine at Atelier. It's very well done. I can speak more about this if needed.

Travel within Quebec (outside of Montreal) is definitely a possibility; unfortunately, neither of us have driver’s licenses (no DUI’s /vehicular manslaughter in our past – it’s a function of where we grew up), so a drive to Ottawa is pretty much a nonstarter. A day trip/overnight trip to Ottawa or Quebec City might still be doable/worth it – not sure what the best way to do this would be. I’m leaning towards the train (reservia.viarail.ca) at the moment, and Ottawa over Quebec City (for nonculinary/generic touristy reasons, but also because it’s closer).

Syzygy -- would def appreciate any comments re Atelier that you feel like adding here, or offline.

3. Restaurant Toqué is probably not as over-the-hill as some (random anonymous people on the internet) have claimed, and is likely still worth going to.

4.Add Le Club Chasse et Peche, and possibly Joe Beef to my list, while bearing in mind that these are both “heavier” dining experiences (the former more formal, the latter more casual).

Well, time for me to fire up my high school French + figure out what to get at APDC in addition to the plogue à Champlain :)

Enjoyed my meal at Le Club Chasse et Peche - didn't find it formal at all. Joe Beef was fabulous. I spent a horrendous amount of money on my meal at Toque and we left before dessert. Your milage may vary!

Check out what we had on this thread - Mangeons a Montreal.

I'm heading to Montreal for a course the first week of November - got my reservations for Joe Beef and APDC already organized!

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Wowza - thanks for the advice.

Sounds like that might be the final nail in the coffin for me and Toque -- even though it sounds like it often still lives up to its (past?) potential, it also seems to have huge consistency issues from meal to meal/diner to diner -- so given the availability of other fine dining options (and limited mealspace), I feel like I should just drop it from the list.

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My thoughts on APDC here. Going to Montreal and missing APDC is like going to Barcelona and missing the Boqueria, or going to NYC and missing Katz's.

Oh, APDC is definitely happening - it just might not be as trivial to do a walk-in seating for 2 as I originally thought. No matter - a late night or 5pm seating is totally doable.

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To add another to your list - Le St-Urbain. We went tonight based on Aromes' writeup (http://aromes.xanga.com/720604051/the-latest-most-buzzed-restaurant-of-montreal-le-st-urbain/) and can now independently verify everything that was said. We both got the six course tasting with wine pairings. The only course similar to what Aromes experience was what (s)/he called "the doughnuts of heaven". Our other courses: foie mousse; house made boudin noir; braised pork belly with house made kraut and smoked potatoes; duck breast with parsnip puree; wonderful cheese course (the best three of which were Quebec cheeses); the aforementioned doughnuts + chocolate panna cotta. All were excellent, the pork belly and boudin noir being real standouts. And the cheese. Most amazing were the wine pairings - five generous pours of very well chosen wines, none of which I had seen or heard of before, and all of which were imported in small lots either by the restaurant or folks they knew. Here's the kicker - the total cost for two, including an appropriate tip, was C$220. I really don't care much about the cost of a meal - when I'm visiting somewhere, the opportunity cost of wasting a meal on bad food dominates the actual cost of the meal. But, still, no matter how you slice it, it's a screaming bargain.

Mostly a local clientele, it seems. Service was very friendly and helpful, and I think folks were pleasantly surprised to have some 'merkins make the trek up from their hotel downtown.

The place that this reminded me of was Noca in Phoenix. A bit off the beaten path, not stuffy, not overly formal, but really good high end food served by people who are clearly passionate about it. A really wonderful experience.


Edited by bigred93 (log)

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To add another to your list - Le St-Urbain. We went tonight based on Aromes' writeup (http://aromes.xanga.com/720604051/the-latest-most-buzzed-restaurant-of-montreal-le-st-urbain/) and can now independently verify everything that was said. We both got the six course tasting with wine pairings. The only course similar to what Aromes experience was what (s)/he called "the doughnuts of heaven". Our other courses: foie mousse; house made boudin noir; braised pork belly with house made kraut and smoked potatoes; duck breast with parsnip puree; wonderful cheese course (the best three of which were Quebec cheeses); the aforementioned doughnuts + chocolate panna cotta. All were excellent, the pork belly and boudin noir being real standouts. And the cheese. Most amazing were the wine pairings - five generous pours of very well chosen wines, none of which I had seen or heard of before, and all of which were imported in small lots either by the restaurant or folks they knew. Here's the kicker - the total cost for two, including an appropriate tip, was C$220. I really don't care much about the cost of a meal - when I'm visiting somewhere, the opportunity cost of wasting a meal on bad food dominates the actual cost of the meal. But, still, no matter how you slice it, it's a screaming bargain.

Mostly a local clientele, it seems. Service was very friendly and helpful, and I think folks were pleasantly surprised to have some 'merkins make the trek up from their hotel downtown.

The place that this reminded me of was Noca in Phoenix. A bit off the beaten path, not stuffy, not overly formal, but really good high end food served by people who are clearly passionate about it. A really wonderful experience.

Awesome! Great to have another fine dining possibility, especially one that is casual in atmosphere but serious about their food. In addition, I hadn't realized (at least from their website) that they offered a tasting menu, so that really amps up my interest. Aromes' reviews were invaluable when creating my preliminary list, but my half-serious worry had been that as Americans who don't speak fluent french, we'd be tagged as second-class citizens and get sub-par treatment.

In general, I had been worried that there'd be some discrimination ("Américains qui ne parle pas français! Bah!"), but having been in Montreal for a day and a half (well, technically 3 days, I suppose, if you count the two hours on friday we spent deplaning, going through customs, and then getting to our hotel), I haven't gotten that vibe at all. I think I was overweighting the stereotypical "Americans in Paris/Europe" scenario, but the vibe we've been getting has been very friendly and positive.

So far, on the food-only side:

1.Our original plan was to hit APDC late on friday night (or Schwartz’s if we hit really bad delays), since our flight was scheduled to land ~9pm. Unfortunately, we failed to realize that the line at customs at such a prime time would kill about 1.5 hours, so by the time we got our luggage, made it to the hotel, etc, we were too exhausted to go out.

Ended up ordering room service -- I had a fairly tasty (and unusual, at least to me) smoked lamb sandwich, and surprisingly deft variation on asian slaw. Definitely inspired me to further explore the smoked meats genre beyond just Schwartz’s pastrami. In general, I'm always a huge fan of lamb in its less common forms -- eg, lamb rib (not riblet), treated or bbqd as if it were a pork or beef rib -- something I've had at ko, but not seen elsewhere. I think Fatty Cue has it too, but never tried it there.

My Other Diner attempted to order a burger, medium rare, but was told that “by law, we can only serve our burgers well done – but it still tastes pretty decent”

2.Went to XO Le Restaurant for brunch – we were both starving by this point, and XO was literally next door. It’s a bit annoying that their menus are really not available on their website/there’s literally a comment on the English version of the website that says, “call this number about our menus,” but the brunch was great.

– started with a quartet of larger-than-amuse-bouche-portions (mini steak salad that was a play on the standard blue cheese, candied walnuts, grapes type; fried oyster w micro-something and aioli of some kind – where oyster, despite frying, still displayed a very strong and sweet flavor; a beet preparation; and a remarkably tasty bean/cabbage/bacon soup that I’m not doing sufficient justice to in my description)

– you then get to choose two half-entrée sized selections – my seafood risotto was excellent – subtly flavored, but the shrimp and other more delicate seafood items were all perfectly cooked (ie, super-juicy, not at all overcooked, close to “rare,” if you will), which I assume meant separate cooking, and then final addition to the risotto itself (while taking into account further cooking due to placement in hot risotto). French toast was outstanding as well (and not just the conventional brunch French toast), and made copious use of maple syrup in multiple forms. My Other Diner also had a excellent pasta that was a riff on spaghetti on carbonara

– Finally, the duo of desserts were extraordinary; unfortunately, when I asked whether it would be possible to order additional desserts a la carte, I was told that they did not offer the full-on dinner desserts at that time of day, and only had the less value-additive stuff (standard ice cream/sorbets, fruit salad, etc)

3.Dined at La Chronique last night; had the tasting menu w/some additions from the regular menu + their 5-part mini dessert sampler, which they were more than happy to do for us.

Bottom line -- an outstanding experience – also got to taste quite a bit of unpasteurized cheese as well. Superb value too, coming from a NYC fine dining perspective/price point. Size of the place does not lend itself well to seating logistics – while they definitely didn’t overbook us, we did have to wait close to 20 minutes past our reservation time to get seated. Staff was very apologetic, offered free pours of champagne, etc.


Edited by cellardoor (log)

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Tomorrow (Monday, oct 11th) is Canadian thanksgiving. I was led to believe by friends living in the states who grew up in montreal, that it isn't much celebrated in Montreal.

From the other board, carswell says:

"Are you talking about Canadian Thanksgiving (Oct. 13) or US Thanksgiving (Nov. 27)?

In any case, neither holiday is much celebrated in Quebec, especially by francophones (individuals and establishments). The fact that the holiday falls on Monday, a day many restaurants are closed, further complicates matters. There are bound to be a few places that offer a traditional Thanksgiving meal -- and as the holiday approaches, we may hear more about them -- but don't get your hopes up."

Is there Thanksgiving-specific stuff worth doing/eating, or are we just better off food crawling the more casual options (chocos, schwartz's - wonder if they sell pieces of their whole smoked turkey?, bagels, etc)? many restos are closed on Sunday and Monday anyway, so I was thinking of hitting Bistro Laloux. (my original plan had been to do casual stuff + la chronique + bistro laloux on Mon and Sun, since the latter two are open on sun/mon, but already went to la chronique yesterday night)

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Just to add my own view to this list. I spent one Month in Montreal in June, and visited 20 restaurants (between lunch and dinner). My top 3 places are:

* Le Club Chasse et Peche

Outstanding food. This is a restaurant that you can pass in front and never know it is there. This was my second visit, and in my opinion, the best restaurant in the city.

* Pintxo. Spanish food.

I have only been there once, but I wish I live in Montreal: I'd eat there every week. Their lunch special is a great deal, since it appears to be the same dishes offered at dinner time

but cheaper.

* Toque.

Had lunch there. An excellent visit, for a very reasonable price (compared to dinner time, of course).

Of course I'd also recommend Au Pied. It is an experience that needs to be lived ;) but I would not eat there every week :)

My only disappointment was XO at lunch time. The food felt messy and without flavour, and I got treated horribly, even though the place was almost empty.

Overall, for a Canadian city, Montreal has a great food scene. It is much, much better than Victoria, where I live.

--dmg

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