Beth and I had a fantastic long weekend in Montreal a couple weeks ago. We were originally supposed to be there the 16th to the evening of the 19th. But then United screwed us, so we had a bonus night in Dorval airport. "Bonus". But I digress.
Anyway, Montreal is a fantastic city with some fantastic food. We can't wait to go back.
Friday lunch: Schwartz's.
Great value, great smoked meat. My order, "fatty", was, perhaps, a bit too fatty. Two of the pieces were meat-free. Just big quarter inch thick slabs of soft fat. I'm not saying I didn't like it, but it was just a bit much. Beth's lean, on the other hand, was pretty dry. She might stick with lean, but I think I'd be happier with the middle ground.
Friday dinner: Bonaparte.
We chose this somewhat randomly out of the guide book*, but it was an absolutely incredible meal. Post-meal research shows me that it was, or still is, a destination restaurant. I can see why. Beth had a simple salad, an utterly fantastic pork tenderloin, and chocolate mousse. I had phyllo-wrapped goat cheese on a bed of greens and sherry-marinated tomatoes, some great venison, and a "Symphonie de Desserts", little mini portions of all of the desserts. The mango and berry sorbets were standouts, as was the loonie-sized creme brulee.
I cannot say enough good things about this meal. The food, service, and atmosphere were all impeccable, and it blew any French meal I've had in Chicago out of the water.
Saturday breakfast/lunch: La Brioche Lyonnaise, which EC mentions above. Beth quite liked her pain dore, I enjoyed the saucisson brioche. The most notable thing about the meal was that the pain au chocolate I had seemed to have come straight from the oven.
Saturday dinner: l'Etoile de Tunis. Tunisian food near the Marche Jean Talon. This was actually a fairly disappointing meal. Beth's tunisian salad was fine enough, as were my merguez, but the vegetable couscous she ordered and the grilled lamb couscous I ordered both managed to turn into a braised lamb couscous. It was fine, but, eh, nothing special.
Sunday breakfast/lunch: La Brioche Lyonnaise again. Beth's savory crepe was more bland than anything else, and the chunks of chicken were not particularly well trimmed. My goat cheese panini was pretty good, though. The pain au chocolate was not straight out of the oven this time. Kind of blah again.
Sunday dinner: Au Pied De Cochon. A really great meal, although not quite as revelatory to me as Bonaparte. That may be, of course, because I'm not a big fan of the offal in general. We started with a fantastic beet, goat cheese, and arugula salad and a tomato tartlet. The former was much better than the latter, but both were quite nice.
Beth had the day's special, a hunk of wood-oven-roasted veal that had tons of flavor and none of the mushy texture a lot of veal has. I had venison steak frites. Sure, traditional and tame, but still quite nice. Dessert was a poached pear that was unremarkable. Service was great and very friendly.
Here's where I confess something: we had a third appetizer. I had meant to order "oreilles de crisse", deep fried pig skin. Instead I ordered cochonailles, a selection of charcuterie. Here's the problem: I don't like charcuterie selections except for the cured sausages. So while I liked the saucisson sec, it was painful to choke down the three pates and the tarragon-flavored terrine. So painful that the waitress got concerned. Maybe after I try tarragon-flavored-pork-jello 6 more times I'll like it, but on the first, not so much. Live and learn.
Monday brunch: Cafe el Dorado. A lovely cafe up by the plateau, with superb coffee and great other food. Beth had pain dore again, made here with a whole wheat bread instead of brioche, and thus with more flavor if less of that sweetness. The mountain of fresh fruit accompanying it was far superior in freshness and flavor to that at La Brioche Lyonnaise two days earlier. I had a burger topped with some big, thick slabs of gorgonzola, served with some wonderful frites. A great, lazy monday afternoon meal.
After hitting Schwartz's on Friday we walked down the main and across Rue Prince-Arthur to Square Saint-Louis. It's an absolutely gorgeous square with lots of college kids smoking pot and a guy constantly circling the square on his bike. The scene hadn't changed on Monday afternoon. The groups of kids smoking pot were different, but the exact same guy was circling the square on his bike.
We made it to the Botanical Gardens on Monday also, although we didn't have nearly enough time, enough painkillers for our feet, or enough patience for the 800 gaudy chinese lanterns around the place to fully enjoy it. I imagine once those damn lanterns are gone it'll be fairly attractive.
On Saturday we hit the museum of fine arts, where we particularly enjoyed the really strong post-1945 collection and a nice pre-columbian collection. Our favorite, though, was a chess set designed by Salvador Dali where the pieces were molded from Dali and his wife Gala's fingers. It showed up in the 1999 Neiman Marcus catalog, for the low low price of $15,000
. I wish I could afford it.
Sunday we made it to Marche Jean Talon, which was spectacular. The quantity and quality of local produce in Montreal's old Little Italy was astounding, and there were some brick and mortar places on the fringes with lovely wares also. We got some fantastic sorbets (berry and chai) at a little ice cream store and some indian-spiced carrot fritters.
As for the produce, though, I'll give you these pictures:
Quite a few more pictures available here
Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen
(514) 842-0800 (Fax)
3895 ST LAURENT
MONTREAL, QC H2W 1X9
Metro: Place d'Armes
(514) 844-0272 (Fax)
443 RUE ST-FRANÇOIS XAVIER
MONTRÉAL, QC H2Y 2T1
1593 RUE SAINT-DENIS
MONTREAL, QC H2X 3K3
Restaurant l'Etoile de Tunis
Metro: Jean Talon
6701 AVENUE DE CHÂTEAUBRIAND
ROSEMONT, QC H2S 2N9
Pied De Cochon (Au)
Metro: Mont Royal
536 AVENUE DULUTH EST
MONTRÉAL, QC H2L 1A9
Cafe El Dorado Inc
Metro: Mont Royal
921 AVENUE DU MONT-ROYAL EST
MONTREAL, QC H2J 1X3
We took the metro everywhere we went. I listed the metro stops for these from memory, but you should consult a map.
As I said, a fantastic trip. I still have dreams about some of the food.
* From the "Rough Guides" series. Beth knew it was a winner when Schwartz's was the only restaurant that had a landmark spot on the map. Also nice is that every restaurant, cafe, or other destination has the nearest Metro stop listed.