Oren and I had the pleasure of a few beautiful fall days in Montréal this September. For your culinary inspiration and travel enjoyment, here is our first visit's pass at the All In Guide to Montréal.
Guide SectionsRestaurantsFood ShoppingLodgingFurther Reading
RestaurantsTop Pick: BrunoiseA small, elegant restaurant with great service and even better food. This would be one of the first restaurants I would import to my neighborhood if given the choice. Read the full review, but more importantly, make a reservation early in your trip so that you have the option to go again.Dinner for two with wine: $220 Canadian (~$200 US)Attire: Chic elegant -- this is a place where quality counts for more than flash.
3807 St-AndrÃ©, Montréal - 514.523.3885Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-Au Pied de CochonAnother Montréal must-visit. They prepare foie gras a dozen ways, only about four of which are sized for one person, and that is assuming a generous appetite -- ask your friendly wait-person. The foie dishes, the daily special risotto, anything pork, and duck in a can (yes, you read that right) are all house specialities. We thoroughly enjoyed everything we tried but be forewarned that the portions are massive. This is "low-class" fare done by skilled chefs with top-notch local ingredients. Anthony Bourdain described it memorably: "It's like driving down Hollywood Boulevard naked, wearing a cowboy hat and holding a white castle hamburger in one hand, having sex with two hookers while listening the ZZ Top. Total trash. [And I love it.]" (Quote courtesy of a Gazette reporter via eGullet. That last part is from another comment Bourdain posted there directly.) EDIT (7/21/07): Chuck recently posted a scathing review and some of the comments are no better. I still enjoyed my meal and the debate and notariety alone may make it worth a trip, but set your expectations accordingly.Attire: Slightly funky jeans that don't look like you're trying.
536 Duluth East - 514.281.1114Tuesday-Sunday, 5pm-12amToqué!Toqué! is credited with kicking off the epicurean flood in Montréal when it opened thirteen years ago and Chef Normand Laprise is a local celebrity, but these days you can have a more enjoyable meal in the city for less. Our seven-plus course Chef's choice with wine pairings was $458 Canadian, or about $420 US. For comparison, our meal at Brunoise, though only three-plus courses, was significantly more memorable and enjoyable at just under half the price. While a few dishes at Toqué! were inspired (notably the foie gras and the pork with chanterelles), some were outright unappealing (Oren went so far as to declare the cheese course "disgusting"). Even the best dishes of the night failed to create a lasting impression. The service is slow and a bit spotty and the new, massive setting is missing its soul (the ambient lighting with no accents doesn't help).Dinner for two with wine: $458 Canadian (~$420 US)Attire: The waiters' uniforms don't exactly set a tone of supreme elegance. Slacks or a skirt are fine.
3842 Rue St. Denis - 514.499.2084Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30
The markets in Montréal (especially Marché Jean-Talon, 7070 Henri-Julien Ave, and Marché Atwater, 138 Atwater Ave.) get a lot of buzz
and are worth a wander around but will not impress anyone who is familiar with the great markets in Europe. The Québecois seem to have a strange attachment to packaging their produce. Note the individually basketed melons. It makes things rather difficult when you want only a handful of pruns instead of the 30 or so in a basket.
That said, you'll have a better sense of which vegetables to be excited about in restaurants having seen what the markets have to offer. And while you're at Marché Jean-Talon, be sure to stop for a seasonal sorbet or gelato at Havre aux Glaces.Bread and cheese and a bit of fruit were our picnic lunch staples, enjoyed in several of the lovely parks plentiful in the city, not the least of which is the massive Parc du Mont-Royal designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (of NYC's Central Park fame). For unbelievable bread (this from someone with some amazing options to choose from in the Bay Area), head to Le Fromentier (1375 Laurier Ave. E., 514.527.3327. We loved the deeply burnished tamari-sesame bread and the herb and olive loaf.The bagels are also different North of the border: honey in the boiling water imparts a subtly sweet flavor and they are generally thinner and more organically shaped than the US variety. We only visited Fairmount Bagel (74 Fairmount Ave. W., 514.272.0667) which is, miraculously, open 24 hours a day. I cannot imagine going out for a bagel at 3am in Montréal in February, but it seems that people do. From our research, St.-Viateur Bagel Shop is another safe bet with its own crowd of devotees (263 St.-Viateur St. W., 514.276.8044, and other locations).
As for the cheese part of the picnic equation, you have an abundance of options. Our favorite specialty shop was Yannick Fromagerie d'Exception, where Yannick introduced us to some wonderfully rare cheese that are probably not to be found again state-side, much to our dismay, in his lovely little shop (1218 Bernard St. W., 514.279.9376). Close runners-up were Hammel and Qui Lait Cru!?! (both in Marché Jean-Talon). The local cheeses measure up well to the large variety imported from Europe.
LodgingWe stayed at The Gault, which has 30 exceptionally modern (it tooks us a few days to figure out where to hang our towels), spacious rooms. The included breakfast consists of a short menu of the usual plus a buffet that was on some days sparse and on others full of delicious treats. There is a subway stop 3 blocks away, but the area immediately around the the hotel feels deserted. Though it received much press acclaim when it opened in 2003 and several awards in 2005, the fawning seems to have tapered off a bit and is more in line with our overall impression of the Gault as a quality high-end boutique hotel.
449 Rue Sainte-Hélène514.904.1616 / 1.866.904.1616
- Gourmet Mazagine's March 2006 Montréal issue has tons of good info
- We didn't love the Fodor's Montréal & Québec City 2006 Guide we took along. It was especially lacking a detailed map, which was a surprisingly hard thing to find anywhere in Montréal.
In parting, a few more photos from our trip:
|Fall colors on a rainy day. I still can't get over the number of steep staircases in a city that gets so much snow.|
|The Botanical Gardens had a nicely done but comically garrish Chinese Lights display.|
|There were some lovely old buildings, but even with some charming European architecture in the Old City, don't expect to feel transported.|
However, there was dancing in the streets. On roller skates, no less. I wish I could do that.