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The ultimate Grand Prix restaurant?


Lesley C
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The Grand Prix is coming up in Montreal this Sunday, and with it comes the biggest restaurant weekend of the year.

I'm wondering which restaurant has the best scene, does the best business, and draws in the most visiting celebs?

I'm thinking Alexandre on Peel, Globe and Buonna Notte on the Main, and probably a place like Bice or Cafe Ferreira downtown.

Any thoughts on this?

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Last time I was in Montreal for the Grand Prix we got a 4 top at Toque! on a walk in, I don't think there as many people looking for amazing food as there are people looking for large quantities of beer.

The best bar scene was at New Town.

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Had a very nice meal at Rosalie last night with friends followed by a walk around downtown. If it is any indication, the Ferrari parked in front of Rosalie was newer and nicer than the old Testarossa in front of Bice.

Edited by eat2much (log)
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The Rosalie Ferrari had Quebec plates......but perhaps there are some Formula 1 egulleters out there!!!!

I'm sure that hotel concierges might be responsible for sending downtown guests to Rosalie as a number of smaller downton venues might be overbooked and Rosalie does have a large capacity.

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Another spot not historicaly assocciated with the grand prix is getting it's fame. Looks like my neighbor won't be keeping me up late this week end with helicopters hovering over the pool... Cirque du soleil grand prix week end party usually held at Guy Laliberte's house will take over Cube on sunday evening.

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rosalie is a zoo,susur lee was here last night,very cool guy ,and feenie tonight,i hope they dont meet ,dont they have a little rivalry,susur loves montreal ,especially during grand prix nightmare........

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Without naming names, let's just say that my favourite eatery on de la montagne had noticeably higher pricing than 2 weeks ago. I am sure there were a few others on St. Laurent that might have done the same.

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Sorry that I don't have time to post in any great detail, but here are some quick impressions from Grand Prix weekend....

First night was Les Chèvres. Our table of three ordered the eight-course menu surprise and were both surprised and pleased. Especially surprising was that it was nearly all vegetarian, which made me wish that my vegetarian wife had been along this year, and she's accustomed to the chef just sending out a plate of grilled veggies or risotto and calling that his take on veggie cooking. NOT the case here: every plate thoroughly thought through and well executed. The wine list was interesting and revealed a theme, i.e., producers working in either the méthode biologique or in biodynamie. Had a Bourgogne blanc from Dom. de Chassorney that reminded me of a ribolla gialla from Radikon or Gravner with its ever-so-slight incipient oxidative character, and a Nicolas Potel Santenay. In any event, a lovely addition to the Montréal dinng scene, and I look forward to going again next year.

Friday was Toqué. I know it's fashionable, and there's even an almost understandable tendency, to slag the guy who's been on top for a while, but I noticed absolutely no diminution of quality here. We all had firsts, mains, cheese, desserts, apéros, a couple bottles of wine (a Cotat Sancerre and a Santa Duc Gigondas), and the bill was about the same (or slightly less) as at Les Chèvres, even though we had one more person at Toqué. Still the reference standard for high-end Montréal dining as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday was Savannah. Gorgeous, urbane, sophisticated room. Excellent service: when it became apparent that we might have to wait all of--gasp!--five minutes for our reserved table, we were offered a round of pre-dinner drinks on the house. Not necessary, but appreciated and certainly something that will be remembered. The food, which I was prepared to find a bit hokey and affected and screwed around with too much in order to make it fit the "concept," was in fact very good. Only real weakness was the wine list: a bit of a haphazard affair, with no real coherence, and a bit mired in the offerings of large, almost industrial producers. I think our Pesquera was one of the few interesting bottles, and the pricing seemed a bit ambitious for my tastes. Still and all, an enjoyable experience.

Sunday night we hit Rosalie. They had no record of our reservation but nevertheless found us a table on the terrace, which was humming at full chat, aided and abetted by WorldBeat next door, a club whose music--for better or ill--provided the soundtrack for the evening. Although the menu seemed a bit limited in terms of number of offerings, what came out from the kitchen was genuinely well done. I had a veal loin special (which had been preceded by an endive/walnut/blue cheese salad) that was, frankly, quite special. Good work. Service was friendly and surprisingly decent given the crush of people, and I for one rather like the bursting-out-of-their-blouses look of the uniforms of the serveuses. Shame on the person in charge of the wine program, however: this was about the most extortionately-priced list I've seen in a while...even if it turns out that provincial law requires that restos pay full retail from the SAQ just like regular folks. I didn't have a pen on me and was therefore unable to make note of a dozen or so examples to post here, but I recall one or two. Such as: 2000 (if I recall the vintage correctly) Cairanne from Domaine Richaud. I have a wholesale list from the California importer of this wine from last year, and he charged $148 a case ($12.33 a bottle). Assuming a "traditional" mark-up of 50% over cost (rarer and rarer these days, with 25-33% becoming the norm in competitive U.S. markets), U.S. retail on this wine isn't even $19. Assuming the worst, that a restaurant buys at retail from SAQ, how does that become Canadian $125 (about $100 U.S.) on the Rosalie wine list?!? This was typical, from what I could see, and well and truly sucked and detracted somewhat from an otherwise good time.

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Wow, David, thanks for your reviews.

It's amazing to me how Toque! remains so strong after ten years. I was a bit down on Toque! lately (listening to too many opinions) but I had a dinner there last week that I found thoroughly modern, seductive and complex. Those superb products are coddled and treated with much love. I think it's better than ever.

Glad you liked Savannah. They try hard, and that room is so appealing.

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this was about the most extortionately-priced list I've seen in a while...even if it turns out that provincial law requires that restos pay full retail from the SAQ just like regular folks.

Welcome to life in the province of Quebec. Not only do we enjoy the highest income tax in north America but the SAQ also has some of the highest markups on wine (along with stiff taxes built in to the pricing). Restaurants for some arcane reason have to pay something like 8% ABOVE retail (no discounts for quantity, etc.). It gets really fun when the restaurant aggressively boosts the price (usually about double their cost (retail + 8%) or more and then we as tax loving citizens get to pay an additional 15% (GST + PST) plus tip.

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Do the resto's take the input tax credit on the GST / QST on the wine & booze?

So they are paying 8% more, but claiming back 15% or so. Most of us can't do that at SAQ.

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i dont know where you got your info david ,but the cairranne domaine richaud les bresscades that we serve at rosalie cost me 41.75 a bottle......the second bottling they make is villages cairrane and is 31.70 and i dont carry this product..........i do a 2.5 mark up and a 2.8 mark up for three days during grand prix...this is cheap for downtown as compared to my neighbors and competitors,my operation costs are monsterous at globe and rosalie for such a weekend,i.e. extra staff ,rentals furniture ,terrasse cost ,terrasse permit for globe ,plates, glasses ,breakage, and so on and so on,in theory we could not be aggressive and do our regular buisness,but the demand is insane globe has been full for months and rosalie has only been open for four months and did huge numbers,we just try to feed all the people that want to eat,the profits of such a weekend are relativitaley dismall as opposed to our consistent 51 week a year regular local buisness......my best customers get out off town on grand prix ,and wish us all a good weekend....... ,mr russel if you come back,please ask for me i always have the amazin liquidation bin in the cellar consisting of end of inventory,i make prices slightly above cost.........

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Lesley, thanks for the kind words.

eat2much, thanks for your insights into the strange world of the provincial wine monopoly and how it affects restaurant wine pricing. That said, and not to flog a cheval mort, but I'm still not prepared to let Rosalie's wine pricing off so easily. For one thing, some of the prices at the SAQ are actually extremely competitive, and I would expect a savvy restaurant wine buyer to be able to suss those out. I remember seeing last year, for instance, Jean-Marie Fourrier's 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos St.-Jacques, for the equivalent of $40 U.S., or just under U.S. wholesale.

Suffice it to say, although I don't have their respective lists in front of me (nor will I be able to anytime soon), the wine prices at La Chronique (whose young wine guy--Eric Tomassin or something like that?--is equal parts passion and knowledge) or Toqué!, for example, have never struck me as being even remotely as aggressive in their markups as did Rosalie. And since it's more of a bistro, as opposed to a fine dining establishment, I'll resist the temptation to mention L'Express, which has both an exceptional wine selection and guest-friendly pricing (I'll save my rant on their appallingly poor stemware, however, for another time).

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I don't want to come off like a dickhead..hey, I don't want to be one for that matter. :wink:

I hope that in my follow-up post it was a little clearer (though maybe that's not the case) that without the list in front of me, my impression of Rosalie's wine pricing is pretty subjective, i.e., that it struck me as being a bit over the top compared to other places I've been, such as La Chronique et al. Perhaps that's not the case objectively, and my ego's not so fragile that I can't be corrected.

As for Marcel Richaud's Cairanne, if the wine list clearly states that it's his Cuvée L'Ebrescade and I failed to note that, well...I must have got too much sun out at the track that day. :shock: In any case, your not being able to get wine at wholesale really sucks (California wholesale on the '99 L'Ebrescade was US$17.66; while the 2000 will doubtless be more, it will likely remain this side of US$25). Any chance of that changing in our lifetime?

And by the way, I certainly don't begrudge you making a buck, and having been a restaurant wine buyer myself, I'm well aware of the hidden costs that the average Joe doesn't know or care about. On this side of the border, the "traditional" markup over a restaurant's wine cost for years was 3.0 × cost (but the trend in California is down from that), so kudos to you for making it work at 2.5-2.8. Once one has arrived at a business model based on a certain markup, I know it's very difficult to revise it...especially downward! But you might find interesting the formula I proposed for a restaurant (high overhead, fine dining) for which I consulted on the list upon opening 18 months ago and which is still being successfully used today: 2.5 × cost for most wines, but 1.75 on the higher priced bottles. The corkage policy is $15 per bottle, which is waived at the rate of one waived corkage for every bottle ordered off the list. Wine sales are healthy and vigorous and consitute 23-25% of the restaurant's gross revenues.

The raising of prices for Grand Prix weekend is something my friends and I have wondered about out loud for several years now, and it's nice to have that issue settled out in the open. While this is not done here in my neck of the woods, that doesn't make it wrong, and I can definitely see the logic: i.e., if the hotels can max out their room rates, why can't you raise menu/wine prices? Doesn't mean I have to like it though. :wink:

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