“…an endless banquet” Montreal Food Guide, pt. 2
AEB indicates a tried & true favourite
Dates in brackets indicate the last time we visited the restaurant in question. They also give some idea of how essential we find these places.
All phone numbers are area code (514) numbers unless otherwise noted.
Niu Kee, 1163 Clark, 227-0464 (Chinatown)—It's time to say Niu Kee is officially over. Long live Kan Bai! $-$$ (2012)
Nora Gray, 1391 St. Jacques, 419-6672 (Griffintown)—Since opening in 2011, it has shot up to our must-do list for people visiting Montreal. Great wine list, a consummate host (Ryan Gray), and a super talented chef (Emma Cardarelli) make for a great night out. She has a delicate touch with pasta, and her salads rival the best in the city, but if you love meat, don't miss out on the steak or chop, whichever is available. Reserve a spot during the second seating, order a cocktail, ask for a wine recommendation, and order to your heart's content. All you have left to do is relax and enjoy your night. $$$ (2013) AEB
Norref, 4900 Molson, 593-9999 (Rosemont)--Not sure why this wasn't added earlier, because we've been frequenting Norref for a few years now, and we've mentioned them elsewhere on AEB before. Norref isn't exactly big on personality, but the seafood selection is large and, more importantly, the quality is generally very high. As a result, many of Montreal's best restaurants rely on Norref. We do too. Recommended. (2011)
Nouveau Falero, 5726-A Ave. du Parc, 274-1440 (Mile End)—A fish store in the 'hood that we've been frequenting for years.
Nouveau Palais, 281 Bernard W., 273-1180 (Mile End)--From the team that brought you Dépanneur Le Pick-Up, comes the new Nouveau Palais. Same classic diner look, brand-new diner-style menu, featuring a 14-oz pork chop with all the trimmings, a hot beef sandwich au jus served in the Chicago/hot Italian beef style, and some mighty good cheese fries. Now if they could only figure out a way to get the City of Montreal off their backs about that vintage Nouveau Palais sign (the City wants them to take it down!)... $-$$ (2010)
Olive et Gourmando, 351 St-Paul W., 350-1083 (Old Montreal)--This Old Montreal café/boulangerie/pâtisserie really bustles, and with good reason: the bread is made in-house and ranks among the best in Montreal; the food is fresh and thoughtfully prepared; and the atmosphere is friendly and lively. Standouts include: house-made ricotta with olive oil, herbs, and fresh toast; and a tasty cubano sandwich with ham, cornichons, and gruyère. Sight-seeing in Old Montreal? Olive et Gourmando is a must for breakfast/brunch or lunch. $ (2013) AEB
Olives et Épices, 7070 Henri-Julien, 271-0001, Jean-Talon Market (Little Italy)—The second in the growing chain of excellent De Vienne family enterprises, along with Philippe de Vienne’s original catering operation and La Dépense, their newest creation (see the Montreal Food Guide, A-M), Olives et Épices is still first in our hearts. You see, it was here that we first discovered De Vienne’s truly fantastic line of épices cru and life hasn’t been the same since (for proof of this, check out Olive et Épices). AEB
DEFUNCT! Orange Julep, 3100 Sherbrooke E., 522-3711 (Hochelaga)—This is what we had to say way back when: "Gibeau Orange Julep might get all the press and most of the attention, but Montreal actually has not one but two classic combination orange-julep-specialist/diner, the lesser known one being the succinctly named Orange Julep on Sherbrooke in Hochelaga. Hard to believe, but even though Gibeau Orange Julep’s got six years on its East Montreal cousin, this Orange Julep actually feels like more of a time warp. Of course, this might have something to do with the golden-aged waitstaff (as opposed to the teenyboppers who sling juleps at Gibeau). Much of the pleasure of going to Orange Julep is design- and architecture-oriented—the classic carhop lines, the fantastic neon sign, the gorgeous counter, the vintage signs adorning the men’s and women’s rooms—but they make a very good sandwich, an excellent hot dog toasté, and an honest poutine, and while their julep is not as forthright as Gibeau’s, it’s the real thing, not the toxic aberration you get at chains like Orange Julius. $ (2009)"
File under "adding insult to injury": Not only has East Montreal's Orange Julep been torn down to make way for a condominium complex, but they erected a goofy orange sculpture in front of this architectural atrocity as an homage to the earlier establishment.
DEFUNCT! La Paryse, 302 Ontario E., 842-2040 (Latin Quarter)—For a small place with a limited menu, La Paryse has tons going for it: big, beautiful hamburgers (make it a bacon & cheeseburger!), excellent veggie burgers (tofu with miso-ginger dressing), top-notch fries, and rock-solid shakes (ask them to mix their chocolate and coffee and make it a mocha! they will!!). Plus, they're just a short walk from the Cinémathèque Québécoise. $ (2009)
Patati Patata Friterie de Luxe, 4177 St. Laurent Blvd. (Plateau)—If there’s a cuter French Fry (or casse-croute , for that matter) in town, I’m not aware of it. Not only are they crispy, golden-brown and delicious, but they’re almost matchstick-size and they come in these little, old-fashioned wooden baskets. Patati Patata also makes all their burgers (including nice little tofu burgers) in mini-size. They kind of remind me of the way the Little Tavern chain of fast food restaurants—a chain that had stretched from New York to Washington, D.C. in the ‘40s and ‘50s, then finally shut down in the late ‘80s-early ‘90s—used to make them. At Little Tavern you could order individual burgers, but most people used to order their burgers by “the bag,” a half-dozen at a time. I wish Patati Patata would pick up that habit. Recommended: fries, burgers, sandwiches, shakes. $ (2012)
Pâtisserie Alati-Caserta, 277 Dante, 271-3013 (Little Italy)—Very good, “old school” Italian patisserie that’s known for its zeppole di San Giuseppe and other Italian holiday treats. They also make a very good lemon sorbetto during the summer. (2009)
Pâtisserie Mahrousé, 1010 Rue de Liège W., 276-1629 (“la Petite Belgique”)—Our favorite Middle Eastern patisserie of the moment, Mahrousé specializes in Syrian pastries and we’re particularly fond of all things pistachio there because they use only the best. (2009)
Pâtisserie Rhubarbe, 5091 de Lanaudière, 903-3395 (Plateau)--Stéphanie Labelle is making some of Montreal's very best pastries, like her heavenly, ethereal pumpkin dômes with caramel, pear, and hazelnut. Her etageres are works of art. Highly recommended. $-$$ (2013) AEB
Paul Patates Inc., 0760 Charlevoix, 937-2751 (Pointe St-Charles)—Seriously excellent toastés and choice fries (what do you expect from a guy named “Paul Patates”?) in a classically kétaine diner setting (“depuis 1958”), and you can wash them both down with a legendary Bertrand spruce beer (“since 1898”). $ (2013) AEB
Petit Alep, 191 Jean-Talon E., 270-9361 (Little Italy)—Petit Alep plays the younger, hipper, and, yes, smaller sibling to Restaurant Alep’s grander, more stately surroundings (which we’ve yet to experience firsthand). Their Syrian menu is very good and very reasonably priced, and the atmosphere is informal and fun. $ (2007)
UPDATED! Au Petit Extra, 1690 Ontario E., 527-5552 (The Village)— Long known for its classic French food and atmosphere at reasonable prices, Au Petit Extra now features a new chef (Julien Jore) who's busily bringing 21st century flair to this stalwart neighbourhood bistro. Jore's pride and joy is his rooftop garden, and his fresh vegetables and herbs have lightened and brightened his menu considerably. $$-$$$ (2013)
Pho Bac 97, a.k.a. Pho Bac, 1016 St Laurent Blvd. (Chinatown)—No question about it: this is our favorite phô specialist in town. Their broth is rich in flavor and their thinly-sliced steak is unbeatable. No frills Vietnamese soul food. See ”Pho Bac 97” and ”Pho #7,” our second and third posts (!). $ (2009)
Pho Lien, 5703-B Côte des Neiges (CDN)--People often get seduced by the fixings, and there's definitely something to be said about places that deliver on the ultra-fresh toppings, but, when it comes to phô, it's really all about the broth, and Michelle's current favorite can be found here, at Phô Lien. $ (2009)
Pho Tay Ho, 6414 St-Denis, 273-5627 (Little Italy)—Pho Tay Ho long ago became our #1 Vietnamese joint. Want to know why? Mostly because of their outstanding selection of bún (most of which come complete with a massive array of accompaniments: noodles, salad greens, marinated vegetables, limes, herbs, galangal root, etc.). Need to know more? Read this review. $ (2013) AEB
Au Pied de Cochon, 536 Duluth E., 281-1114 (Plateau East)—As they say here in Montreal, hallucinant. For years, Martin Picard's justly celebrated Au Pied de Cochon was quite simply our favorite Montreal restaurant. The cuisine was totally over-the-top, but still managed to have real soul, the atmosphere was loud, exuberant, and infectious, and if you let yourself go, the results could be mind-altering (not to mention waistline-altering). A number of our meals at PDC, were among the most memorable of our lives, including this one. Anthony Bourdain wasn't the only one who got bowled over by the magnanimous M. Picard. Well, for some reason, we hadn't been to visit our friends at PDC for a while. Probably just the lingering effects of our last visit to Cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon. Anyway, we're happy to report that PDC is still fully capable of altering minds. On a recent visit, we found an extraordinary number of specials on the menu, including several made with recently arrive black truffles from the south of France, and we were part of a party of ten, so we went to town. Among the many highlights: a foie gras terrine with black truffles; a chicken roasted with black truffles under its skin; a stuffed, roasted guinea fowl with wild mushrooms; and a whole roasted pig's head + lobster platter that has to be seen to be believed (it caused customers at neighboring tables to get up and start snapping photos). The moral of the story: bring a big group, let yourself go. Outstanding. $$-$$$ (2011) AEB
Pikolo Espresso Bar, 3418 B Avenue du Parc, 508-6800 (McGill Ghetto)--Montreal's cutest new café is a keeper. They've got Phil and Sebastian coffee on tap, they're making lovely espresso drinks, and the space is beautiful. Now, the McGill crowd doesn't have to travel across town to get an exceptional coffee. Here's hoping they don't get overrun by the laptop crowd.
Pintxo, 256 Roy E., 844-0222 (Plateau)—Nice Basque-style tapas (pintxos) and an impressive wine list to complement them. Check out this article for more on Pintxo and the contemporary pintxos that are the specialty of the house. $$ (2009)
Pizzeria Magpie, 16 Maguire, 507-2900 (Mile End)--Last summer we were hearing talk of a new pizzeria about to hit the scene. "The real deal." "A real New York-style pizzeria." That kind of thing. Well, that's pretty big talk for a city as pizza-deficient as Montreal. It's not that we don't have the pizzerias. It's not that we don't have the pizza-eaters. It's just that we don't have the sense of tradition, the sense of purpose, and, as of yet, the New Wave of Pizza that's been sweeping much of the rest of the continent for the last decade, has caused little more than a ripple along the banks of the mighty St. Lawrence. Magpie gets an "A" for ambition--it's a nice looking joint, they've outfitted it with with an impressive-looking wood-burning oven, and they've put together a decent menu--but the pizzas have yet to come into their own. The combinations of toppings are fine--some are even inventive--but it's the crust that's lacking. Too much cornicione (in terms of area, not in terms of volume), too droopy in the center, light charring, not nearly enough character. Give 'em another chance? We've given them three now since they opened last fall. At this point, we'll wait until we hear of a marked improvement. Until then, we're saving our shekels for the next time we're in New York. $$ (2011)
Pizzeria Napoletana, 189 Dante E., 276-8226 (Little Italy)—A Little Italy institution (over 60 years old!) specializing in thin-crust pizza. $$ (2006)
Los Planes, 531 Bélanger E., 277-6378 (Little Italy)—Our preferred pupuseria of the moment. See "Pupusas!" Recommended: pupusas of all sorts, tamales, fresh juices. $ (2009)
Porc Meilleur, 7070 Henri-Julien, 276-4872 (Little Italy)—As their name claims, the folks at Porc Meilleur distribute some of the best pork products in the city (they raise, butcher, and smoke their own hogs on a farm somewhere outside of Montreal) from their little Jean-Talon Market storefront. Recommended: maple-smoked bacon and lardons, hams.
DEFUNCT! Provisions, 1595 St-Laurent Blvd., 844-9656 (Lower Main)—There’s definitely something of David Chang’s Momofuku (NYC) to Provisions. You won’t find any ramen noodles and Provisions isn’t nearly as rock ‘n’ roll, but there’s a similar interest in bringing high-end sophistication to popular cuisine, in this case: the sandwich. Great ingredients, great execution, and home-baked bread to boot. Highly recommended: the roasted pork shoulder sandwich and the confited chicken sandwich. For more details, check this out. $ (2010)
Le P’tit Plateau, 330 Marie-Anne E., 282-6342 (Plateau)—We’d been wanting to go to this place for years. For some reason it took until just now (January 2007). Well, the cuisine really lives up to just how appealing Le P’tit Plateau always looks from the outside, with its golden glow, and its packed house regaling themselves on southwestern French specialties. Truly one of those quintessential cute little Plateau restos. Recommended: the fish soup with its potent rouille, the baked escargots, the cassoulet, and the magret de canard with French string beans, potatoes Dauphinois, and confited giblets. Pricey, but the portions are generous and it’s absolutely worth it, and it’s a BYOB restaurant, so you can bring yourself a nice bottle of wine for a fraction of what you’d normally pay in a restaurant. $$-$$$ (2007)
Pullman, 3424 ave. du Parc, 288-7779 (McGill Ghetto/Downtown)—An upscale wine bar featuring natural and private import wines. A great place to decompress after work. $$ (2010)
Qing Hua, 1676 Lincoln Ave, (438) 288-5366 (Downtown)--Our Montreal Restaurant of the Year for 2009. We desperately needed good Asian dumplings here in Montreal, and Qing Hua has delivered in spades. For a more detailed account of the pleasures of Qing Hua from this spring, check this out. Keep in mind, however, that we're of the opinion that Qing Hua has actually gotten better since their move. $ (2012)
UPDATED! Les 400 Coups, 400 Notre-Dame East, 985-0400 (Old Montreal)--The latest and greatest undertaking from the Dynamic Duo of Patrice Demers and Marc-André Jetté (Restaurant Laloux, Newtown) is now officially their last together. After a couple of fine years in collaboration with Marie-Josée Beaudoin (maître d'hôtel/sommelière), Demers and Jetté have decided to part ways (amicably) and move on to other projects. What those projects are, only time will tell, but Demers has been dropping hints that a pastry shop and dessert bar is in the works. It's been an amazing story up till now--we look forward to seeing their next chapters. $$-$$$ (2013)
Quincaillerie Dante, 6851 St-Dominique, 271-2057 (Little Italy)—Every once in a while we come across a glaring omission in this list, a place we should have listed right from the start, but somehow neglected to include. This is one of them. Quincaillerie Dante is simply one of our favorite shops in Montreal. Part gun shop (catering to Montreal’s more tradition-minded hunters), part kitchen supply store, Quincaillerie Dante is a true original. Their selection of kitchen supplies is fantastic, their prices are fair, they often have very attractive sales, their staff is terribly knowledgeable, and we consider Dante our number one resource for canning. What more do you need? How about a cooking school? Yep, they’ve got one of those too. The courses are very popular and deservedly so—we highly recommend Elena’s pasta courses in particular. AEB
Reservoir, 9 Duluth E., 849-7779 (Plateau)— This micro-brasseur and gastropub has offered the best brunch in the city (weekends only) for the last several years, but Reservoir ain’t just about the breakfasts. Their evening fare is reasonably priced, expertly prepared, seasonal, and creative. There’s a reason the quality is remarkable all-around—chef Samuel Pinard has a pedigree that includes Au Pied de Cochon and Toqué, and, like both of those heavyweights, he cares about his suppliers and he keeps things seasonal. Recommended: homemade gravlax, with delicately roasted baby potatoes, mâche, and a Zubrowka vodka-laced sour cream, and eggs over-easy served with fatback bacon, and sautéed fiddleheads, crab guédille (think lobster roll, but with crab) with cherry tomatoes and watercress and fresh-cut fries, excellent oyster-on-the-half-shell specials, and one of the finest steak tartares in the city. They also happen to make some fine beers. $$ (2009)
Restaurant Thaïlande, 88 Bernard W. (Mile End)—This place is easy to miss due to its unassuming exterior. Once inside, the food will quickly win you over. Try the grilled fish (whole). Very good vermicelli salad and a reliable Pad Thai, too. $$ (2006)
El Rey del Taco, 234 Jean-Talon E. (Jean-Talon Market/Little Italy)--Haven't had a chance to check out a more representative survey of The King's offerings yet, but our first impression is the El Rey del Taco has the potential to become a hit at the market. Tortillas are made fresh on premises, apparently (they definitely have a different size and shape from those at Tortilleria Maya next door), and the griddle is busy with activity. Our recommendation is to check out what's happening on the griddle and go with that. One of our choices was a carnitas taco, which we didn't see on the griddle but we assumed to be idling in a chafing dish. But you know what happens when you assume... The carnitas were actually in the fridge, so the cook nuked them, before stuffing our taco with them. The point here is not to slam El Rey for using a microwave--the point is to just go with what's on the griddle. The final product wasn't exactly the King of the Tacos, but it made for okay street food. $ (2010)
Ripples, 3880 St. Laurent, 842-1697 (Plateau)—For 20 years, one of Montreal’s finest ice cream makers. Get the whole scoop (sorry) at “The Three “R’s”. AEB
Roberto’s, 2221 Bélanger E., 374-9844 (Little Italy East)—One of the few and perhaps the finest gelateria in town. See “The Three “R’s” for more details.
Roma, 6776 St. Laurent, 273-9357 (Little Italy)—“Old school” Italian bakery and pastry shop that has nice foccacia, pizza, pastries, gelatos and sorbettos. Read more here .
Romados Rotisserie & Boulangerie, 115 Rachel E., 849-1803 (Plateau)—Yet another of Montreal’s excellent Portuguese rotisserie chicken hot spots. Romados grills their chicken, pork, and fish over a charcoal fire, then bastes each in however much spicy goodness you want afterwards. The premises also include a very good Portuguese bakery—great Portuguese rolls, great pasties de natas, etc.—and a full service deli counter. Recommended: one whole chicken, extra spicy. They suffered a devastating fire in 2012, but they reopened this summer and, once again, the punters are lining up to purchase their Portuguese take-away. $ (2013) AEB
Rotisserie Laurier, 381 Laurier W., 273-3671 (Outremont) —Well, we got invited to the opening of the newly Ramsay-ized Rotisserie Laurier last year, but, unfortunately, we were on the road at the time and couldn't make it. It took until February for either of us to pay a visit, and things were grim when Michelle did: the ribs were so bad they got sent back; the tourtière was lame; the service was a joke; the beer was warm and expensive. The only decent thing was the hot chicken sandwich, but the cons vastly outweighed the pros. About a week later, the news of Gordon Ramsay's split with Rotisserie Laurier broke. Soon after that, things got acrimonious. Now the management team that orchestrated the Ramsay deal has sold Rotisserie Laurier, and Paul Nakis, one of the figures behind the recent purchase of Schwartz's & a partner in the Baton Rouge chain, is the new owner. All in all, it's kinda sad considering the place does have some (long buried) historical importance. $-$$ (2012)
Rotisserie Portugalia, 34 Rachel W., 282-1519 (Plateau) —This is one of our neighborhood mainstays. Spicy Portuguese-style grilled chicken to go or to stay. That Jeanne-Mance Park is two blocks away makes it a perfect picnic stop. Order your chicken ahead of time (2 hours ahead on weekdays, 4-5 hours on weekends)--demand is heavy. Not surprising. They're the best. Call ‘em up and be sure to make it extra spicy. $ (2010)
Rotisserie Serrano/Serrano Bar-B-Q, 161 St Viateur W., 271-3728 (Mile End) — I know, the third roast chicken place in a row. Blame the language laws. This place makes a great chicken sandwich for less than $5. See our post for the full story. $ (2007)
Rumi, 5198 Hutchison, 490-1999 (Outremont)—As the name suggests, this cozy Outremont restaurant takes its inspiration from Sufism, and specifically from the cuisines of a wide swath of land stretching west from Mesopotamia to Morocco, including Turkey and the Levant, that was profoundly touched by the Sufi Way. Thus, you’ll find everything from Iranian-style kebabs to Moroccan-style tagines. Recommended: chicken kebabs, lamb and veal kebabs, meze. $$ (2007)
SA & Fils, 4701 St. Urbain, 842-3373—It’s our “local,” so we had to include it. Their beer prices are cheap, we swear by their bacon, they make a great sandwich for under $4.00, and on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, they have a $6.99 special on their rotisserie chickens. You can find more details here .
Sabor Latino, 4387 St Laurent Blvd., 848-1078 (Plateau)--A Latin American supermercado just north of Marie-Anne which also features a small kitchen for quick meals and take-out. The atmosphere is always festive, the food is simple but fresh. Recommended: pupusas, empanadas. $
Saint-Henri, 3632 Notre-Dame W., 507-9696 (Saint-Henri/Atwater Market)--Remember how we waxed poetic about San Francisco's micro-roasting revolution last fall? Well, Montreal's latest new-school café is also its first new-school micro-roaster. Beautiful space, top-notch equipment, nice people, plus a whole slew of roasts you can't find anywhere else. Have they reached the heights of some of North America's premiere coffee roasting establishments, places like Four Barrel (S.F.), 49th Parallel (Vancouver/Burnaby), Intelligentsia (Chicago), Ritual (S.F.)? Not yet, but give 'em time. They're young, they're eager, and they just got started. $ (2011)
Sala Rosa, 4848 St. Laurent Blvd., 284-0122 (Plateau/Mile End)—One of our favorite tapas joints in Montreal, and one of our preferred locations for big groups and parties . On Thursdays they have a flamenco dancer with live accompaniment. And now they've got desserts by the one and only Camilla. Sweet! $-$$ (2010)
La Salle à Manger, 1302 Mont-Royal E., 522–0777 (Plateau)--Samuel Pinard's (see Reservoir) restaurant instantly became our fave Montreal restaurant of 2008. Beautiful, minimal, roomy, and boisterous surroundings + an adventurous menu that is notable for its bold combinations and its outrageous, oversized group dishes + home-baked bread & killer desserts by Danny + a well-priced, well-chosen, user-friendly wine list + big bottles of Belgium's delicious Saison Dupont beer = a whole lotta love. Recommended: Spanish sherry-glazed sweetbreads, venison carpaccio, foie gras torchon, halibut with os à la moëlle croquettes, confited pork tenderloin with pan-seared sashimi-grade tuna, seared New Brunswick cod with cucumbers, tomato, mint, fried halloumi cheese, and some crazy boudin noir-laced yogurt concoction. You can find a full review here. $$-$$$ (2012) AEB
UPDATED (AGAIN)! Sardine, 9 Fairmount Est, 802-8899 (Mile End)—Formerly a Janus-faced café-by-day, micro-bistro-by-night, Sardine is now just a tiny café by day and night. Great doughnuts, a small selection of tasty sandwiches, and a first-rate Third Wave coffee counter are the draws here. Plus, it's just so cute, and intimate. Since the fall, Sardine has played home to an izakaya at night. Report to follow... $ (2014)
Schwartz’s, 3895 St Laurent Blvd., 842-4813 (Plateau)—The one, the original, Schwartz’s has many pretenders to the throne, but in our estimation it’s still #1, even with a recent, highly publicized shuffle in ownership. There’s nothing like the spicy goodness of their beef brisket (it’s their use of spices that sets their meat apart) as long as you make sure not to take yours “lean” (go with “medium” or, better yet, “fatty” for the full effect, unless your doctor strictly forbids it). There’s still nothing like the atmosphere of Schwartz’s on a typical late night, after the tour buses have cleared out. The classic combo: full-fat smoked meat sandwich or smoked meat platter, half-sour, hot cherry peppers, fries, coleslaw, black cherry cola. Check this post out for more details. $ (2013) AEB
Smoke Meat Pete, 283 1st Ave., 425-6068 (Île Perrot, QC)—If you can get over the name and the fact that they also pride themselves on real Southern BBQ, blues nights, and spaghetti with smoked meat sauce, this Île Perrot hangout is certainly the best smoked meat off the island of Montreal. It’s no Schwartz’s or Snowdon Deli, but it’ll do in a pinch if you live west of Montreal and can’t be bothered to head into town, or if you’re driving back to Montreal from Ontario and can’t bear the thought of waiting another second to get your smoked meat fix. They’re reputed by some to have the best fries in the Montreal region, too, but we’ve yet to hit them on a day where they’ve been spot-on. $ (2006)
Snowdon Deli, 5265 Décarie Blvd., 488-9129 (Décarie)—This is as close to a Miami-style deli as you’re going to find in Montreal, and, believe me, that’s no insult. You'll find a bunch of old favorites on their menu, including a respectable "old-fashioned" smoked meat sandwich, but I sure wish they had an "old-fashioned" matzoh ball soup on the menu--that neon-yellow chicken broth has gotta go. $-$$ (2009)
El Sombrero, 500 Belanger, 272-0888 (Rosemont)—Authentic Mexican near the Jean-Talon market is definitely a reason to celebrate. See the whole story. $-$$ (2006)
Soy, 5258 St. Laurent Blvd., 499-9399 (Mile End)—A fairly typical Montreal pan-Asian restaurant whose food can be hit-or-miss. Check out a review here. $-$$ (2008)
The Sparrow, 5322 St-Laurent, 690-3964 (to text reservations for parties of five or more) (Mile End)--This Mile End pub instantly became one of the neighborhood's prime hot spots. It's gone through a number of changes over the years, but presently nighttime drinks and weekend brunches are specialties. $-$$ (2011)
Supermarché Rahman, a.k.a. Le Paradis de la Bière, a.k.a. The Beer Dep, 151 Laurier W., 279-2256 (Mile End)—This isn’t our “local,” the dépanneur we go to most regularly for our beer drinking needs, but it’s pretty damn close and that’s a very good thing because, with some 300 beers on offer, it just happens to be one of the true highlights of Montreal’s beerscape. Very competitive prices too.
Sur Bleury, 1067 Bleury, 866-6161 (Centre-ville)—Downtown’s been in dire need of a lunch spot with the style and chops to rival Titanic and Cluny, and now it’s got one. Sandwiches are the central attraction here and you can’t go wrong with either braised pork with Ancho chile number or the steak sandwich made with a healthy hunk of hanger steak. Their salads are also strong—the trout gravlax salad with beets was particularly good—and they make a fine poutine, too. $ (2006)
Tapeo, 511 Villeray E., 495-1999 (Jarry-Villeray)—During her April 2006 appearance at Blue Metropolis Ruth Reichl was of course pressed to name her favorite Montreal restaurants. She named a few, but at the top of the list sat Tapeo, and among other reasons she mentioned her undying affection for Mediterranean cuisines, especially when they’re well-executed. Well, after a couple of recent visits, including a lunch and a dinner, we’d have to say we’re very much in agreement with Reichl. We find it hard to get enough of Mediterranean cuisine of all stripes, especially when it’s well-executed, we’re particularly crazy about Spanish cuisine, and Tapeo’s perfectly prepared tapas dishes, its informal yet attentive service, and its lively atmosphere have instantly made it one of our favorite Montreal restaurants. Recommended: seared scallops wrapped in lard fumé with quince marmalade and Xérès vinegar; gambas with romanesco sauce; baked tilapia with rapini and almonds; and the best tortilla I’ve ever tasted. $$-$$$ (2009)
Tapioca Thé, 1672 Maisonneuve W., 223-4095 (Downtown)—This is what we had to say about Tapioca Thé in its heyday: "With its name, its bright pink interior, and its tea bar, Tapioca Thé appears to be just another one in the growing legion of bubble tea establishments that have spread across the city in recent years. But it also happens to play home to one of the fieriest Szechwan kitchens in the city, and, as a result, it quickly became our favorite Chinese resto of the moment earlier this year. Recommended: twice-cooked pork, cumin beef, ma po tofu, gong bao chicken, stir-fried green beans, hot chili wontons, water-boiled beef. Read the full review in the Mirror here." Then things changed. Rapidly. On a few subsequent visits we had a string of sub-par meals. Dishes that we had once loved were now totally different and totally inferior, including their Gong Bao Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, and their Twice-Cooked Pork. In the case of the Gong Bao Chicken, it was overly sweet, overly starchy, and disappointing. In the case of the Ma Po Tofu, it was overly starchy, strangely perfumed (rose?), but somehow still bland. In the case of the Twice-Cooked Pork, not only did it not taste the same, not only did the pork not seem twice cooked, but the cut of pork was about 70% fat. Clearly, the magic was gone. And so were we. $ (2008)
Tasso, 3829 St-Denis, 842-0867 (Plateau)--Montreal has no shortage of good Greek restaurants, and a handful of great Greek restaurants, but innovation has generally been in short supply. Until now. Tasso describes itself as a "bar à mezze," and, frankly, it's got much more in common with a tapas bar like Tapeo or a pintxo bar like Pintxo than your average Greek restaurant. We'd read some rave reviews of Tasso over the course of a few months, and had made plans to check things out for ourselves, but it wasn't until our friend Theo at Oenopole staged a wine tasting there back in April that we got our first taste. That night, the white (Domaine Argyros, Atlantis '08, Santorini) was crisp and lively, and it was flowing, and the mezze were absolutely first-rate, with a lightly cured cod and their grilled octopus with capers and pickled red onions getting particularly high marks. We've since been back for a tasting menu, and while a number of Tasso's mezze were perfectly executed (rabbit wrapped in phyllo dough), a few were less inspired, and we found some of the portions a little on the skimpy side. That said, Tasso has definitely raised the bar for Greek in Montreal--among many other things, their menu changes regularly--and for that, we salute them. $$$ (2010)
Titanic, 445 St Pierre, 849-0894 (Old Montreal)—When I used to work downtown, my co-workers and I would look forward to Titanic lunches all week. We would sneak out for an extra-long break and lounge in this lovely lunch spot. Great sandwiches, like the Italian sausage or the smoked mackerel, amazing daily specials, the best coffee (Café Union, of course), and delicious desserts. Don’t tell your boss! Open weekdays for lunch only. $-$$ (2006)
Tortilleria Maya, 234 Jean-Talon East (entrances both street-side and market-side), 495-0606--(Jean-Talon Market)—We're sad to say that Tortilleria Maya is no longer located just a hop, skip, and a jump from AEB HQ anymore, but our loss is Jean-Talon Market's gain (and hopefully Tortilleria Maya's too). Without question, the city's best source for fresh, hot corn tortillas. $ (2010)
Les Touilleurs, 152 Laurier W., 278-0008 (Mile End)—One of our favourite kitchen stores. Don’t be thrown off by the high-end ambience, Les Touilleurs has plenty of kitchen items that are perfectly affordable, and, anyway, even if you can’t afford everything, it’s still nice to just look sometimes, and the staff here are always happy to let you browse away in peace. Les Touilleurs expanded not so long ago, so they’re now twice as big as they used to be, and the new space now features a full-service kitchen which they’ll be using for cooking classes and cooking demonstrations. AEB
Trattoria Senza Nome, 9700 St. Michel, 389-6732 (Montreal North)—One of our favorite no-nonsense Italian restaurants of the last couple of years, and certainly the most unique. Senza Nome has no set hours, no menu, and no name. The food is simple but always satisfying—don’t miss out on their antipasto platter and anything involving porcini mushrooms, a mainstay of their import operation. Summer, when you can relax on their terrace under the grapevines, is the best time to visit. Call to make an appointment. You generally need a party of 6-8 to get them to open their doors. Large parties are welcome and you might just get a better deal too. Check out this review for even more thoughts/info. $$ (2008)
Tri Express, 1650 Laurier E., 52805641 (Plateau)--I'm still not sure what took us so long, especially given the fact that Michelle was a big fan of Treehouse (chef Tri's former home) when I first met her, and Laurier East is Michelle's ex-neighborhood (and one of our favorite in the city), but for some reason it took us ages to make it to Tri Express. Well, we finally made it and now we're really kicking ourselves, because (as many others have reported) it's very, very good. Intimate setting, eclectic décor, good atmosphere, but, most importantly, they've got a deft hand when it comes to sushi and sashimi, and their prices are extremely reasonable, given the high quality (especially if you let them do the driving and go with one of their specials). Is Tri Express our new #1 Montreal sushi bar? It's too early to say, but it's certainly shaping up that way. Recommended: Maki de Homard à la Tri. $$ (2009)
Trois Petits Bouchons, 4669 Rue St-Denis, 285-4444 (Plateau)—Newish bistro and wine bar in a cozy, rustic, downstairs location with exposed stone walls that’s actually trying hard to redeem St.-Denis (and succeeding). High marks for attentive service, a very good wine list, and a kitchen that’s open late. Hits: homemade pissaladière; charcuterie plate with artisanal bresaola, jamon, and saucisson; confit de canard on a bed of barley, almonds, and currants. $$ (2006)
Via Dante, 251 Dante E., 270-8446 (Little Italy)—While by day it's not much more than a modest neighborhood café, by night Via Dante is just about as perfect a trattoria as you’re likely to find, with that perfect balance of informal atmosphere, attentive service, a rock-solid wine list, and top-notch homestyle Italian (that is, if Momma used to stuff her gnocchi with mixed wild mushrooms), right down to the lovely olive oil they serve with their bread. Recommended: the abovementioned gnocchi, lobster-stuffed ravioli, otherworldly sautéed shiitakes, pancetta-wrapped filet mignon. Oh, yeah: and don't miss out on their truly expert espressos. $$-$$$ (2006)
NEW! Le Vin Papillon, 2519 rue Notre-Dame (Little Burgundy)--The very latest venture from the mad geniuses behind Joe Beef is a lovely little wine bar just down the block from Joe Beef and Liverpool House that instantly became a fave of ours. They've only been open for two months, but they've already got it all going on: a clever, creative kitchen; a remarkable wine list that's oh-so inviting; charming, attentive service; and style & ambience to spare. So far highlights have included a completely transcendental broccoli dish (made with specimens direct from Dave McMillan's home garden!) with lardo, roasted whole cauliflower with capers and anchovies, oeufs en gelée, the city's best baba au rhum, and a superlative strawberry terrine. Let the good times roll! $$-$$$ (2013) AEB
Wawel Patisserie, 1413 St-Marc, 938-8388 (Downtown), 7070 Henri-Julien (@ Jean-Talon Market), 279-8289 (Little Italy), and 5499 Sherbrooke W., 483-1042 (Westmount)—Wawel’s phenomenal Polish doughnuts have been a staple of ours for years. Our favorite is the plum-filled doughnut, but that apricot one is pretty amazing, too. When they come out fresh, forget about it. I was once at their St-Marc store when a tray of 20 hot plum doughnuts was brought out onto the shop floor. There were four of us in the store at the time—myself and a party of three that I didn’t know. Between the four of us we cleaned off that tray in less than a minute.
Wilensky’s Light Lunch, 34 Fairmount Ave. W., 271-0247 (Mile End)—As its name suggests, Wilensky's is a lunch counter--one that’s only open until 4:00, weekdays and Saturdays. It's now celebrating its 80th anniversary (going on 81), and with few exceptions it looks like its been preserved in amber since the ‘40s. One of Montreal's few truly great sandwiches, and a certified original, the Wilensky Special is still priced under $5. So what if it’s simply a pressed hot bologna and salami sandwich with mustard? Some days nothing else comes close. I recommend ordering yours with Kraft cheese and a side order of half-sours to get the full AEB-approved experience. And don't forget to order a fountain drink. An institution (sometimes in more than one sense), and not just because of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Beware of imitators--this is the real deal. More on Wilenksky’s here. $ (2013) AEB
Yannick Fromagerie, 1218 Bernard W., 279-9376 (Outremont)—This fromagerie occupies the same location once held by Fromagerie Chaput. The quality hasn’t slipped a bit since the transition, and, in fact, things may very well have improved because the selection has gotten wider. Don’t be put off by the space’s boutique feel and the fact that there’s no self-service, the staff are generally very friendly and rather generous with samples. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a number of samples. The regulars often ask for a dozen or more p’tits gouts. The best thing about Yannick is that they’re expert in offering cheeses right at the height of perfection. Don’t miss their lait cru Vacherins. Highly recommended. AEB
Friday, May 27, 2005