Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
bethala

First Trip to Montreal

Recommended Posts

Hi, I’m bethala, and this is my first post. I am going to Montreal this coming Thursday for a long weekend. It will be my first time. I’ll be based in Centre-Ville, near rues Sherbrooke and Peel. With the help of eGullet, the food press (especially the recent issue Gourmet and the Dana Bowen/NY Times article), and Eric Asimov’s blog, I’ve planned the itinerary below.

I’ve basically tried to make an itinerary that:

1) incorporates the best of the old and the new and allows me to get an overview of a city I know I will return to several times;

2) allows me to focus on food and wine, without wearing down my boyfriend who is not quite as food-obsessed as I am (basically, this should come off as a thinly veiled foodie trip, rather than a foodie trip); and

3) allows my boyfriend (and me) to drink a lot of good wine and eat a lot of plateaux de fruits de mer, both of which we both love.

So, here it is:

Thursday (arrival early evening)

Pick up a snack at a cheese shop, such as qui lait cru!?!

Cocktails at the revolving bar at Delta Centre-Ville. I know, corny, but it’s for the view, people!

9PM Dinner at Joe Beef.

Friday

Breakfast at Eggspectations in Vieux Montreal.

Bateau Mouche ride on AML.

post-mouche coffee and pastry at Olive et Gourmando.

pick up a picnic lunch at Chez l’Epicier.

Shopping, including a stop at one of the two super SAQs, to buy some French wine to take back.

9 PM Dinner at Au Pied de Cochon.

Saturday

Breakfast at the Eggspectations in Centre-Ville.

Walk up Mt. Royal.

Lunch at Schwartz’s.

Walk around the Plateau, stopping at Les Chocolats de Chloe.

Walk around Mile End, stopping at Patisserie de Gascogne, picking up a dessert and/or candy for late night, and perhaps some road food for the drive back on Sunday. Marché Jean-Talon, if there’s time, stopping for a glace at Havre de Glace.

9PM Dinner at L'Express.

Might have to switch the Friday and Saturday daytime activities, as it looks like rain til Saturday.

Sunday

Breakfast at St.-Viateur Bagels (taking some back, too), then back to Brooklyn.

So my questions are:

1. How does this plan look, generally?

2. APDC. How’s APDC doing these days? I noticed that it started off getting stellar notices in the earlier threads, but then went down in the summer of ’05. Have things improved after the growing pains slump? Also, if things are good there, should I, or should I not, request a table (or bar seat?) with a view of the kitchen? It seems that some posters got grossed out by the kitchen.

3. Brunoise. Am I a fool for not doing Brunoise on this trip, or can I save it for another time, like in the fall? If I am a fool, which resto do I ditch?

4. Maestro S.V.P. I’ve read about Maestro S.V.P. on a few blogs and in a few books, but I’ve never seen it mentioned on eGullet. I’m curious as to why. Was considering it initially, but now am thinking about it only for a future trip.

5. St.-Viateur Bagels. I’m not really a bagel person, mostly because most bagels are so mediocre. I never participate in NY bagel debates and the like, but everyone makes it seem that you must get a Montreal bagel. Don’t mean to start a bagel debate, but is this true?

6. L’Express. Is L’Express essential? I’d originally planned on Brunoise or Jun I for our last night. It seems that a lot of eGulleters don’t love L’Express, but after reading Asimov’s blog piece on it (I’m an Asimov devotee), I decided it was essential for rounding out the getting a feel for the city part of the trip and that it would probably be reliable at worst. I’d originally planned on Brunoise or Jun I for my last night, Thoughts?

7. Tipping. I tip 20% in NYC. What’s the standard Montreal tip?

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to be specific. Montreal is obviously an incredible eating city, and it has been heartbreaking to have to whittle it down to only 3 days’ worth of food. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks! PS please don’t come down on me too hard for the Eggspectations thing. I’m originally a Texan and thus a sucker for big old egg breakfasts.


can't believe it's not butter? i can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi there and welcome to eGullet!

Here are my comments on your plan:

1 - Way too much Eggspectation.. I personnally find it ok but nothing more. If you want something special, try Byblos (on Laurier). It's a small iranian restaurant with a great breakfast. You can have a plate of fresh mint, cilantro, walnuts, halva (a sort of pistachio (or is almond?) paste), fresh feta, pita, fresh jams... delicious. Don't miss their "Chocolatière", a big jar of hot coca with a touch of cardamom. I understand it's not exactly right on your way from the hotel but you can just take a quick taxi there, eat and then walk down to Mont-Royal.

2- Got to APDC and be happy. I'm a staunch supporter of that resto. I'm sure the few recent gripes are flukes. I almost always sit at the bar. However if there is only one place where you sit at the bar, I suggest it be Joe Beef. If McMillan (the owner) is there, you're bound to get free pours of wine and desserts.. great fun!

3-As for l'express, if you love french food, you can't miss it. Ironically I would suggest you try their lobster risotto.

4-St-Viateur Bagel: Be advised that there is a rivalry between St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel (one street south of St-Viateur). Why don't you try both?

5- I usually tip 15% before tax. I belive that's the standard. Tipping 20% is considered generous bot not overly so.

6- Don't sweat if for Brunoise. You can try it another time.

7- Never heard of Maestro SVP.

I hope you have a GREAT time!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

thanks, alexthecook!

1. the iranian breakfast at byblos sounds intriguing- like a good, but still filling, detour from the eggs thing.

2 - 3. so, sounds like i might be sticking to my plan, with the only big change being skipping one eggspectations breakfast.

4. i've heard about the fairmount/st.-viateur rivalry. i will hit both if possible, but might have to save one for another trip.

5 - 6. thanks for the tips.

7. maestro s.v.p. is a seafood resto that features several varieties of oysters. can't tell whether it's cheesy or not. here's info:

3515 Saint-Laurent blvd.

Montréal, QC

(514) 842-6447

www.maestrosvp.com

looking forward to eating in montreal!

b


can't believe it's not butter? i can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would love to see the NY Times article - I must have missed it in the online version... does anyone have a readable link they can post?

Seeing as you'll be arriving late and staying downtown, you are closer to the Atwater Market - while there's way more at Jean Talon, you can always pick up cheese at Fromagerie Atwater, and save Jean Talon for when you have some time to explore it instead. And Havre aux glaces also has a location at the Atwater Market :rolleyes:

Personally, I love APDC - you really can't go wrong there. And while there may be a dearth of breakfast places downtown, I would skip Eggspectations if you can. If you really want a big old egg breakfast, try Cosmo (greasy but yummy...), or even Dusty's. Or you could try the St. Viateur bagel cafe (one on Mont Royal, one on Monkland) and do bagels and breakfast at the same time...

I haven't been to Maestro in years - I don't remember it being anything special, although perhaps things have changed.

This is actually my first post (I've been lurking for a little while now) so I'll keep it short.

cheryl


Edited by cheryl (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maestro S.V.P. is nothing special. Get your oyster fix at Joe Beef. Also APdC may be doing their seafood platters by now.

Personally, I would choose Brunoise over L'Express any day of the week, but really, they are very different dining experiences.

L'Express is a classic French Bistro while Brunoise is a great neighborhood resto that does French market cooking at a reasonable price (though it is creeping up and up). If bistro is what you want, then go with L'Express (though some people say Le Continental, just up the street, is better).


Edited by rcianci (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would love to see the NY Times article - I must have missed it in the online version... does anyone have a readable link they can post?

here's a link to Dana Bowen's NY Times 2004 piece on montreal restaurants:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9D06E3DF1339F934A15755C0A9629C8B63

and here's eric asimov's blog piece:

http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/?cat=11

hope these work!

thanks, cheryl, for all your advice!

b


can't believe it's not butter? i can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why not just skip Eggspectation altogether? It's as nothing-special as nothing-special gets. May I suggest Reservoir (9 Duluth E.) for an interesting gourmet breakfast?

Be warned that the Fairmount and St-Viateur bagel shops have no seating whatsoever. You buy your bagels, and possibly some smoked salmon and cream cheese, and scram. The St-Viateur people do have a café, but it's on Mont-Royal, not St-Viateur (which is one of Montreal's great streets, IMO). Fairmount will make you a lox and cream cheese sandwich, too, but you'll have to find someplace else to eat it. One possibility in either case is Café Olympico, corner of St-Viateur and Waverly, where there's no problem bringing your own bagels and such.

As for wine, don't forget to search SAQ.com for what you want, make sure you can't get it closer to home (generally cheaper), check that it's in stock at the SAQ (click "Outlets" when you have something you want on screen), and then, even if it shows up as "in stock" on SAQ.com, call the outlet in question to make sure it really is still in stock, since the online inventory system works in mysterious, asynchronous ways.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi, I’m bethala, and this is my first post.  I am going to Montreal this coming Thursday for a long weekend.  It will be my first time.  I’ll be based in Centre-Ville, near rues Sherbrooke and Peel.  With the help of eGullet, the food press (especially the recent issue Gourmet and the Dana Bowen/NY Times article), and Eric Asimov’s blog, I’ve planned the itinerary below.

I’ve basically tried to make an itinerary that:

1) incorporates the best of the old and the new and allows me to get an overview of a city I know I will return to several times;

2) allows me to focus on food and wine, without wearing down my boyfriend who is not quite as food-obsessed as I am (basically, this should come off as a thinly veiled foodie trip, rather than a foodie trip); and

3) allows my boyfriend (and me) to drink a lot of good wine and eat a lot of plateaux de fruits de mer, both of which we both love.

So, here it is:

Thursday (arrival early evening)

Pick up a snack at a cheese shop, such as qui lait cru!?!

Cocktails at the revolving bar at Delta Centre-Ville.  I know, corny, but it’s for the view, people!

9PM Dinner at Joe Beef.

Friday

Breakfast at Eggspectations in Vieux Montreal.

Bateau Mouche ride on AML.

post-mouche coffee and pastry at Olive et Gourmando.

pick up a picnic lunch at Chez l’Epicier.

Shopping, including a stop at one of the two super SAQs, to buy some French wine to take back.

9 PM Dinner at Au Pied de Cochon.

Saturday

Breakfast at the Eggspectations in Centre-Ville.

Walk up Mt. Royal.

Lunch at Schwartz’s.

Walk around the Plateau, stopping at Les Chocolats de Chloe.

Walk around Mile End, stopping at Patisserie de Gascogne, picking up a dessert and/or candy for late night, and perhaps some road food for the drive back on Sunday.  Marché Jean-Talon, if there’s time, stopping for a glace at Havre de Glace.

9PM Dinner at L'Express.

Might have to switch the Friday and Saturday daytime activities, as it looks like rain til Saturday.

Sunday

Breakfast at St.-Viateur Bagels (taking some back, too), then back to Brooklyn.

So my questions are:

1.  How does this plan look, generally?

2.  APDC.  How’s APDC doing these days?  I noticed that it started off getting stellar notices in the earlier threads, but then went down in the summer of ’05.  Have things improved after the growing pains slump?  Also, if things are good there, should I, or should I not, request a table (or bar seat?) with a view of the kitchen?  It seems that some posters got grossed out by the kitchen.

3.  Brunoise.  Am I a fool for not doing Brunoise on this trip, or can I save it for another time, like in the fall?  If I am a fool, which resto do I ditch?

4.  Maestro S.V.P.  I’ve read about Maestro S.V.P. on a few blogs and in a few books, but I’ve never seen it mentioned on eGullet.  I’m curious as to why.  Was considering it initially, but now am thinking about it only for a future trip.

5.  St.-Viateur Bagels.  I’m not really a bagel person, mostly because most bagels are so mediocre.  I never participate in NY bagel debates and the like, but everyone makes it seem that you must get a Montreal bagel.  Don’t mean to start a bagel debate, but is this true?

6.  L’Express.  Is L’Express essential?  I’d originally planned on Brunoise or Jun I for our last night.  It seems that a lot of eGulleters don’t love L’Express, but after reading Asimov’s blog piece on it (I’m an Asimov devotee), I decided it was essential for rounding out the getting a feel for the city part of the trip and that it would probably be reliable at worst.  I’d originally planned on Brunoise or Jun I for my last night, Thoughts?

7.  Tipping.  I tip 20% in NYC.  What’s the standard Montreal tip?

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to be specific.  Montreal is obviously an incredible eating city, and it has been heartbreaking to have to whittle it down to only 3 days’ worth of food.  I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.  Thanks!  PS please don’t come down on me too hard for the Eggspectations thing.  I’m originally a Texan and thus a sucker for big old egg breakfasts.

Hi Bethala and welcome to Egullet.

I know you will have an excellent mini vacation in Mtl. As for your questions I would skip Eggspectation-really nothing special at all-I would rather have breakfast at someplace like Reservoir on St laurent or even L'Express or Lemeac-another great bistro on Laurier street in the Outremont area of town-yes they each do a breakfast- and this way you can go to Brunoise for dinner-it really would be something enjoyable-I have never had a bad meal there and I think you will be surprised at the quality of the food for the cost...Brunoise has a website where you can take a look at the menu for the season-www.brunoise.ca ,

You can also ask for reservations online. They are not located very far from Chocolats de Chloe...

When you arrive I suggest you go to Atwater market for your cheese snack it will be closer to where you are staying-save the Jean Talon market for when you have time to explore.

Another place worth considering is taking a cab and going to Bu -a great wine bar on St Laurent where you can have a nice glass of wine and a small plate of nibbles before your dinners.

I would ditch Maestro-much better oysters at Joe Beef...

Have agreat time-and don't forget an umbrella-there may be some rain unfortunately...

Alida

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your itinerary will offer you superb selection of Montreal highlights ... but please ditch Maestro! Really not worth it at all.

And Chez L'Epicier is not the ideal place to pick up a picnic lunch. Eat a meal there, but it is not a market, despite the name.

Head to Atwater Market instead. You won't regret it.

Yikes, I'm editing here because I just saw Eggspectations. Stay away at all costs. Have breakfast at Le Cartet instead, in Old Montreal, on McGill, a block up from de la Commune. The weekend brunch is incredible. If you want breakfast in Old Montreal during the week, head to Olive & Gourmando.

Just please, please don't go to Eggspectations. Promise?


Edited by iharrison (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Go to Reservoir for your brunch.

You should try Le Club Chasse et Pêche and not go to Pied de Cochon wich I think is a total disaster and dirty (almost disgusting).

I would go to Yannick on Bernard for a cheese shop.

SAQ, go at Signature at 667 Ste-Catherine West.


Edited by jfl91 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd do breakfast on the Plateau instead. La Binerie or Beauty's both have a ton more atmosphere than Eggs, and the same average breakfast.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you are going to Atwater Market, be sure to pick up some maple taffy (tire d'erable) from the stands on the north side (furthest from the river). At this season it is sold frozen and should be kept cold. I am sure it is also available at Jean-Talon, but I know where to find it at Atwater.

By now le Bilboquet is probably no longer carrying maple taffy ice cream, but if you mix some of this into a rich maple-syruped ice cream of your own creation, you can approximate the taste of the original.

As for Schwartz's, I recommend getting there on the early side of Saturday lunch. The best smoked meat I ever had there was at about 10:00 on a Saturday AM before the crowds hit. The service was almost three-star and they cut the meat by hand beautifully. When they are busy, they pull out the automatic slicer.

Actually I think Schwartz's is a great place for a late breakfast. Who needs eggs?


Edited by VivreManger (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All these posts made me realize I had indeed forgotten a couple of things.

I second that you simply cannot miss the brunch at Réservoir, it's my absolute favorite. It's on Duluth, corner of Saint-Laurent.

If you have the time, I also second that you go to Club Chasse et Pêche... it feels almost like a private subterranean country club with dark surroundings, comfy leather chairs and outstanding food. The address is 423, Saint-Claude (a tiny street in Old Montreal)... but be warned, there's no sign for the restaurant, just its crest. I still wouldn't miss APdC though.

Lastly, do note that there are omelets at Byblos... I recommend the feta omelet with dill.. so you shouldn't have any problem ditching boring old Eggspectation.


Edited by alexthecook (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Bethala, we did a similar trip to Montreal a few months back and you will have a great time.

Eggspectations is an OK spot but I would be inclined to take a couple of the other recommendations that have been offered.

Au Pied du Cochon was the highlight of our trip and definitely make reservations at the bar.

L'Express was the only disappointment of our trip so I would suggest another choice there.

The Atwater market is great and if you have time for both, all the better. Otherwise I would head up to Jean-Talon on Saturday morning and spend lots of time; this place has it all and is truly special.

Breakfast at the St. Viateur cafe on Mont. Royal E was very nice. However, on the way out of town, I would stop at their location on St. Viateur and stock up. After that stop by Fromentier on Laurier Avenue E and load up on really great bread and cheese. Than I would head to Schwartz's and have your smoked meat for breakfast and than hit the road. Schwartz's opens at 8 AM on Sunday and you will have the place to yourselves. The only problem will be staying awake for your ride home. Have a great time; Montreal is a wonderful city. Also, not sure if you guys are into beer but Dieu du Ciel has some of the best beer I have every had and it is a real fun bar. Bill

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all so very much for your advice and recommendations. First, you’ve all succeeded in talking me out of Eggspectations, not only by telling me it’s blah but by also giving me backups that sound leagues better. I think I’ve now got it down to Byblos, Chez Claudette, and/or Cartet. iharrison, I’m very curious about the “déjeuner Canton” you mentioned in an earlier breakfast thread. What is it? Did I hear you say “hangover cure”? Can I assume these Eggspectations alternatives are reasonably priced?

Second, thanks for confirming my suspicions as to Maestro S.V.P. I am very excited about the seafood at Joe Beef and APdC. And as highly recommended as Club Chasse et Peche and Brunoise come, I’ll probably save them for the next trip, but thanks for the recs. Think I’ll also check out Bu, as I work at a wine bar myself (www.totalwinebar.com; be sure to visit when you're in brooklyn!).

Will let you know where I go, what I ate, and how it was when I get back! Thanks again, and cheers!

Beth


can't believe it's not butter? i can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you find yourself on Bernard Street in Mile End, 2 other fine weekend breakfast recommendations would be Le Vaudeville (361 rue Bernard West 514-495-8258) & Senzala (177 rue Bernard West 514-74-1464). If you decide to only visit 1 market, a trip to Jean Talon market is a must & a stop at Havres aux glaces is well worth it. I also second VivreManger's advice about going to Schwartz's before the crowds preferably before 11:00 - that's exactly what we did for our day of smoked meat a few years back. See here for link: Pictures from Smoked Meat Marathon & scroll down for the pictures. If you enjoy coffee & if you are on St. Viateur getting bagels, a good suggestion was to stop by Cafe Olympico about 2 or 3 blocks east of the bagel shop for some excellent espresso or latte.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great that you are talked out of Eggspaection - I wholly agree. Cartet, Olive & Gourmando and Vaudeville are all solid suggestions - I have never had breakfast at reservoir, only pints of beer (but I suppose I'm willing to give it a try). Keep in mind you'll need lots of time at Byblos, it's relaxing, but don't go if you have a hectic schedule planned.

I've never had a poor experience at Maestro, I haven't been in a while, but I don't remember anything negative per se. It's not bad, and some dishes represent a decent value - it's not a "must go" by any means however. Joe Beef, Brunoise & APdC are all good choices. I would also recommend Lemeac - although l'Express is a Montreal landmark. Have an excellent trip!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you all so very much for your advice and recommendations.  First, you’ve all succeeded in talking me out of Eggspectations, not only by telling me it’s blah but by also giving me backups that sound leagues better.  I think I’ve now got it down to Byblos, Chez Claudette, and/or Cartetiharrison, I’m very curious about the “déjeuner Canton” you mentioned in an earlier breakfast thread.  What is it? Did I hear you say “hangover cure”?  Can I assume these Eggspectations alternatives are reasonably priced?

Second, thanks for confirming my suspicions as to Maestro S.V.P.  I am very excited about the seafood at Joe Beef and APdC.  And as highly recommended as Club Chasse et Peche and Brunoise come, I’ll probably save them for the next trip, but thanks for the recs.  Think I’ll also check out Bu, as I work at a wine bar myself (www.totalwinebar.com; be sure to visit when you're in brooklyn!).

Will let you know where I go, what I ate, and how it was when I get back!  Thanks again, and cheers! 

Beth

The Canton is a gargantuan country breakfast in a cast iron skillet complete with all the classics (pork, eggs, potato, beans) and more ... best hangover cure by far for a fair price. Just make sure to go on the weekend.

Go to Club C&P if you can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

APDC is one of the most unique restaurants in the world. Don't miss the boudin noir or brandade, and make sure you order the pouding de chomeuer for dessert. No one mentioning Toque here for some reason - probably the best in the city. L'Express will make you think you are in Paris, but I think best for lunch - excellent duck breast. Have fun!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

APDC is excellent!! Be sure to eat the margret de canard avec champignons

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would agree with prior posters - L'Express is definitely worth a visit but is great for lunch, try Toque! for dinner, it's truly outstanding.

I learned a good life lesson at L'Express... I made a point of insisting on ordering off the french menu. I ordered "rognons de veau avec sauce moutarde" without knowing what rognons were, figuring - hey, veal, mustard sauce in a place like this, how bad could it be? The answer: not bad at all, but since then I have never forgotten that "rognons" translates to "kidneys" in English.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know by now this trip has come and gone - and I hope you had a great time - but I just had to put in my two cents. Eggspectations??? I am very glad other egulleteers dissuated you from eating there. Funnily enough, whenever I am in Montreal I stay at an apt. right near the Delta, at Sherbrooke and Guy streets. I was there 2 nights ago, and I walked right past Eggspectations on my way to breakfast at.... the Hotel de la Montagne, the gaudiest four-star in town. But guess what: their restaurant Le Lutétia has a great breakfast which, at around 15 bucks a head, is a steal. Perfect baguettes, old-style service by waiters in black vest and tie, a full thermos of great coffee brought to the table, good ham, good pastries. You can order eggs à la carte, and even if they're nothing to write home about, they're bound to be better than that blah stuff they serve up at Eggspectation, with those tired-looking slices of "tropical" fruit as garnish. And there's the décor, which is a sight to behold: a gyrating naked nymph, golden statues of crocodiles and plenty of chandeliers. Ooh-la-la!


Edited by AlexForbes (log)

Alexandra Forbes

Brazilian food and travel writer, @aleforbes on Twitter

Official Website

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Had a wonderful, rainy, but food-filled 4-day weekend in Montréal, what is now a month ago. What a great eating town! Thanks for all the eGullet suggestions and recommendations! I promised a full report but have had a tough time being around a computer and being able to report at the same time. I apologize for the length, but here goes…

Night 1

Dinner at Joe Beef. This was without a question the highlight of our trip. We began by sitting at the bar, where David McMillan was tending bar, shucking oysters, and generally holding court. He glided easily between being host, manager, waiter, funnyman, and advisor. The night before, I had requested to switch our reservation from a table for two to two seats at the bar. When we first arrived, McMillan said it wouldn’t be possible, but he ended up making it so. The bar definitely offers the best seats in the house.

We started with a plate of caraquets and glasses of Dom. de la Sénechelière Châpeau Melon muscadet, which, being biodynamic, was completely alive in the mouth and changed by the minute. McMillan also couldn’t resist having us try glasses of Casa Marin sauvignon blanc from Argentina. It also complemented the oysters perfectly.

After going over the chalkboard menu, my boyfriend, Jared, and I decided to share the beet salad to start. For his main course, Jared chose the lobster “Irish stew style”, and I narrowed it down to 4 dishes. As I explained my 4 choices to McMillan, he cut me off (politely) the moment I mentioned the rabbit. “You want the rabbit,” he said with such assurance that I didn’t bother to mention the other choices. As we waited for our first course, McMillan had us try some local oysters whose name I can’t remember, but they were on the large side and very briny and incredibly fresh. To make things even better, he insisted on pouring glasses of ‘04 Droin Chablis premier cru Montée de Tonnère, a wine which basically tastes like they took oysters and turned them into wine: shaley, kimmeridgian magic. (McMillan poured a glass for himself, too, at this point.) Then, the beet salad, a salad which I have since thought about daily. That salad was alive, it was so fresh. Beets, tender greens, and shaved fennel, tossed in a little oil and topped with shavings of aged QC cheddar. The beets had been cooked to the perfect stage where they are both tender and crisp, and seasoned to the perfect balance of sweet/salty (more on salt later). With the beets set against the coolly herbaceous and bland flavors of the fennel and the creamy/salty cheddar, this was one of the most perfectly balanced salads I have ever tasted. It is the one dish I remember most from this trip. As would be the case more than once with dinner in Montreal, I had ordered a salad with the idea of balancing out the heavier parts of the meal. But it would turn out that what I had ordered with balance and moderation in mind, I would eat with relish. As soon as our main courses were set out on the bar, McMillan opened a bottle of ’03 Perrot Minot Vosne Romanée. “I really just want some of this for myself,” he said as he poured himself a glass, too. Beautifully perfumed with violets and tart cherries, this wine offered no clue that it was the product of a hot summer. I don’t know whether anyone in Ireland gets stew half as good as Joe Beef’s lobster “Irish stew” style. The stew was, again, composed of the simplest ingredients – lobster (plenty of it), carrots, celery, potatoes, and cream – in their freshest possible state, brought together with the express purpose of satisfying. The rabbit was a ballotin-type preparation, wrapped in prosciutto or Canadian bacon, set in a pool of lightly creamed jus, with crisp-tender haricots verts.

Completely stuffed after main courses, we were nonetheless willing to take dessert, as we’d seen these beautiful dark chocolate-covered éclairs coming out of the kitchen from the moment we’d arrived. But it was almost closing time, and the pastry chef, who was now sitting at the bar, told us she’d run out of the éclairs and had put the chocolate fondant in the fridge for the night. But she did give us a tubful of the filling and a slice of chocolate tart to take home. After all this, we got the bill, and I cannot tell you how small it was. Now, full disclosure: McMillan asked me if I was “in the business”, which I am, but I saw him heaping his generosity on all patrons throughout the evening. Sounds sappy, but he seems to be all about sharing the wine and food he loves with everyone around him.

Day 2

Have you ever had vanilla-flecked éclair filling and chocolate tart for breakfast? There is no need to go to Eggspectation when you can have Joe Beef éclair filing, chocolate tart, and a cup of coffee in your hotel room.

Lunch was coffee and a piece of banana bread from a food court type place near the Bâteaux Mouches. We were in a hurry and it was raining. On the boat we also had margaritas and chips and salsa, which I won’t tell you about. Later in the day, we shopped on rue Laurier Ouest, where I stopped in the lovely kitchen kitchen shop, Les Touilleurs. Beautifully appointed, stocked with euro-cooking supplies, it had an intimate, personal feel. I imagined this was what Williams-Sonoma was like before it became huge. A friendly staff member wrapped a very inexpensive gift for me very fancily, just as they do in Paris. Lovely. After a stop in Les Senteurs de Provence to peruse several lines of euro-bath products, and the SAQ, also on Rue Laurier O., I could not bring myself to drag Jared into the La Cornue store. Next time. But we did stop in Patisserie de Gascogne, where, after getting over the visual overload, I was able to pick a pasta with salmon cream sauce and a delicious individual chocolate charlotte to snack on before heading to dinner. Their orange scented brioche would be breakfast on Day 3.

Dinner at Au Pied de Cochon: Once again, we asked to sit at the bar, which at APDC looks directly into the finishing kitchen (I suspect there is a prep kitchen somewhere else?). This was a much different experience than Joe Beef, because everyone here speaks French. But all the staff seemed bilingual and all were very friendly, if sometimes a bit rushed.

We started, as we had the night before, with a seafood platter. This one had clams, crab legs, and oysters. All were very fresh and flavorful served with lemon and a tarragony mayonnaise. While APDC has a lot of expensive wines on its list, the by the glass selection is excellent and allows you to segue from white with your seafood to red with your hearty main course without having to overspend on bottles or choose between red and white. We started with a Marc Kreydenweiss Riesling from Alsace ($9), which was nuanced, elegant and versatile: dry enough for the oysters, round and minerally enough for the crab. Inspired by the previous night’s salad perhaps, Jared ordered the beet salad, which here was more of a terrine than a salad: yellow beets stacked with QC goat cheese and cut into lasagna-like squares. Although a bit too cold and too cheesy, this was delicious, though not nearly as flavorful or fresh-tasting as the one at Joe Beef. Mains were difficult to choose, as the menu is huge, and everything looks appealing. With the help of our waiter, we chose the poutine with foie gras for me ($21) and the duck in a can ($35) for Jared. The presentation of the duck in a can – that is, the waiter opening the just-cooked-and-“canned” duck and opening it with a hand cranked can opener at the table – is cute. And not just cute, the magret and foie gras braise actually tastes really good. However, I preferred my choice: the meaty gravy and fries in the poutine with foie gras satisfied my steak-frîtes jones more than the actual steak-frîtes I would have the following night at L’Express. We washed everything down with glasses of Bourgeuil.

We were too stuffed to order our planned dessert of pouding chomeur and cromesquis de foie gras with Monbazillac, so we had just the Monbazillac.

Day 3

Breakfast: we didn’t realize our hotel had free breakfast, so we just scarfed down some free breakfast stuff, which I will not go into. This was our Mont Royal day, and as it was still raining, we drove up rather than hiking. Next we headed to the Marché Jean-Talon. Had it not been raining, we might not have made it there, so I am thankful that it rained. What a place! Overwhelming but wonderful, it gave me that “Imagine what I would do if I lived here” feeling. I would shop at qui lait cru!?! for all special occasions requiring butter and raw milk QC cheese. I would stuff myself on grapefruit and pistachio glaces from Havre aux Glaces at least once a week. I would check out the Indian papadum place with the long line (I didn’t’ get the name; it’s next door to qui lait cru!?!). I would buy ripe fruit, fresh, buttery lettuces, fish, spices, and olive oil. Next we headed over to rue St. Denis. Among the shops we visited were Arthur Quentin, the gorgeous kitchen shop chock full of both kitchen staples and luxury items. I noticed that Apilco porcelain is less expensive here than in the states. Next we visited Les Chocolats de Chloé a couple of blocks away on rue Roy Est. Chloé was in her open kitchen making her Valrhona-covered pecan caramels, highbrow “turtles” of sorts. We purchased boxes of her modestly twinkly ganache-filled chocolates for our friends and for ourselves, but got ourselves only a small sachet of the pecan caramels. It wouldn’t be until after we got back and I actually tasted a caramel that I realized that this is Chloé’s signature piece. The caramel is perfectly salted (with fleur de sel, I believe) and the couverture perfectly dark, bright, and sweet. I should have known there was a reason that there were jars of the caramel for sale. Next time I will get only a few pieces of chocolate for myself but a box of the pecan caramels, as well as a few jars of that caramel.

Dinner at L’Express: When we left Joe Beef our first night in Montréal, I almost considered making a reservation to return there on our last night, but I decided to stick with the plan of L’Express. While I wish I had gone with my initial instinct, I know I would have wondered about L’Express had we skipped it. So I’m glad we went. While good, this was the least exciting of the restaurants we visited. Loved the classic bistro atmosphere and extensive, reasonably priced wine list, but not the cheapie wine glasses. Had a great time nonetheless. We started with glasses of Laurent Perrier, the green salad with pine nuts and the marrow bones. I found the salad to be lackluster, serving only as a vegetable foil for the too-rich, too-fatty marrow bones and my steak frîtes, which was flavorful, but a bit tough. Jared had the roast lamb, which was tasty enough, but which I cannot remember a thing about. A bottle of Dom. des Rôche Neuves Saumur-Champigny made everything go down just fine, though. Desserts were the baba au rhum and the cherry and pistachio ice cream bombe, which satisfied the sweet tooth but provided no excitement. As a luxurious ending to our stay, we indulged ourselves with glasses of Tariquet Armagnac and Montifaud Cognac X.O. I would definitely go back for lunch (as recommended by Joe Gerard here) or to enjoy a cocktail at the bar, but not for dinner.

Day 4

Breakfast at Première Moisson on rue Sherbrooke, where I got a croissant and coffee and also picked up several packets of granola and meusli to give as gifts and for myself. The organic granola is straightforward and not yuppified with craisins, dried apricots and the like. It is delicious with whole milk and bananas or yogurt. After breakfast it was back to New York. It wouldn’t have been any fun to smuggle in raw milk cheeses and butter from qui lait cru!?! by hiding them in Wheat Thins and Kleenex boxes, since no one even checked our car at customs, so I didn’t do it, did I? No, no, of course not.

A word about salt. I love salt. I usually salt my food when I’m out, carry packets in my bag just in case. But not once did I find myself picking up the shaker in Montréal. Everything was perfectly salted, from the salt-infused beets at Joe Beef, to the poutine gravy at Au Pied de Cochon, to the caramel at Les Chocolats de Chloé. It was such a great feeling not to suffer those “why are you salting your food?” stares while eating out. It was good to get away from the low-carb, low-fat, low-sodium but can’t seem to lose weight world that is the U.S.

So all in all, it was an amazing, despite the rain, but with too many places and not enough time (never even drove by Schwartz’s!). I dare say that, American dollar for dollar, the food in Montréal is better than that in Paris. Overall, I found Joe Beef to be the most enjoyable of all the restos, food, wine, and atmosphere-wise. I think it was the intense freshness of the cooking, along with its exuberant spirit, that I found most appealing. At one point, I overheard table of businessmen having an intense debate about what was on their plates, when McMillan yelled over to them, “You’re thinking about it too hard. Just enjoy the food!” That’s just it: what I loved about Joe Beef was that you could really give yourself over to McMillan and simply enjoy the food (and the wine). Were I not curious about Brunoise and Club Chasse et Pêche, I might do multiple visits to Joe Beef on my next visit, just to be able to try more dishes. I wish that I had been able to try some of the breakfast places, especially Byblos and Cartet, as well as getting around to Schwartz’s, but it proved difficult to do formal breakfasts and lunches and to have time to be a tourist. That's why we must return to Montréal, sooner than later, I hope. Big thanks to eGulleters for all your help! Can’t wait to get back to Montréal!


can't believe it's not butter? i can.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bethala, thank you for that great report. I love the way you write. I'm glad to hear that you and your boyfriend had such a good time. It's always gratifying to know when one's reccomendation resulted in someone having a good experience. Though in my case it was more along the lines of telling you what to steer clear of. Anyway, a lot of people don't take the trouble to write back about their experiences. Thank you for doing so.


Edited by rcianci (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fantastic post-trip report. We have reservations next month for Joe Beef (never been) and APDC (been before, but wanting to return), so you have whetted my appetite beyond belief!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...