My wife and I made the trek down the 401 from Toronto, to spend the weekend in Montreal, and we experienced two of Montreal's finest :)
I realize there are fans and detractors of both places, but we loved them both.
The first night was Joe Beef. I liked the fun, lively atmosphere - yes, the tables are ridiculously close together, but somehow that added to the fun. My wife had the shrimp salad appetizer and I had the smoked fish assortment on toast. The shrimp were tiny but incredibly light, sweet and fresh - a huge portion on top of very thinly sliced marinated beets. My app had 4 or 5 different smoked fish slices, a coddled egg and an oyster on top of a huge thinly sliced piece of baguette. They smoke everything in-house, and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps the salmon was a bit salty, but overall we loved both the apps. For mains, we had an order of the salmon, and their famous lobster spaghetti. The salmon was nicely done, and a huge portion. In some ways, the salmon itself was boring, but it was on a plate of incredible bisque with crawfish (if I remember correctly). The lobster spaghetti was as great as other posters have mentioned. The pasta was perfectly al dente, and the creamy sauce was so decadently good, and the lobster itself so tender and tasty that I felt it was one of those "going to the electric chair - last meal" type of dishes!!
The 2 women at the table next to us shared the duck main course. They were brought a huge clay pot, with what looked like an entire duck! I feel bad for anyone ordering that to eat on their own - but I think I overheard a waitress advising that some dishes (the duck and also the steak) are really meant for 2. The duck looked so good, I want to go back, just to try it. All in all an interesting menu, very tasty food and I felt it was quite innovative. I would absolutely love to go back. On our way to the car, we popped into LIverpool next door to check out the menu - had a few of the same items, but most were different - it also looked great. The whole neighbourhood had a fun vibe - not sure if it's called Griffintown, or whether it's near Griffintown, but it's an area of the city I didn't really know, and a very quick drive from downtown.
Tonight, we went to PDC, which of course has been written about endlessly. Well, my conclusion was "I absolutely want to go back!" I started with the French onion soup, which isn't anything new, but it was probably the best one I've ever had. There was a ton of fantastic cheese (not sure what type), and even bacon thrown in - decadent, like everything there. My wife had the duck carpaccio, which we both thought was phenomenal. I was hoping to have the bison ribs, but they didn't have it tonight, so I had the lamb shank. It was huge, perfectly done, on a bed of small lentils in sauce that was a perfect compliment. My wife had the fish special, which was hake. The waiter said it is 'done simply'. What an understatement! The fish was on a bed of fantastic, creamy polenta and on top of the fish was a sauce which included escargot (and I don't know what else). My wife and I both felt it was one of the best pieces of fish we'd ever tried. The hake itself was done perfectly, incredibly soft and moist - melted in your mouth :)
I'd been debating also ordering a side of the fries done in duck fat, but i'm glad I didn't order it, because I think if I had eaten much more, they would have had to call an ambulance! We did share the chocolate pot au creme, which was another perfect, decadent dish. We chatted with a young couple beside us who had been there a number of times before - their tartar looked fascinating, done in nori cones, riffing on sushi hand rolls. We all watched in amazement as 2 waiters carried a huge wooden platter to another table, with 6 people - it was a 14 pound lobster, cut and prepared in a beautiful way. I've never seen anything like it - by far the biggest lobster I've ever seen in my life.
I also thought the cost of PDC was very reasonable - for 2 apps, 2 mains, 2 drinks (a beer and a glass wine) and a dessert, it was $99 before tax. No, it's not for people on a diet, but I guess indulging once in a while is fine. I joked with my wife that instead of mints at the door when you leave, they should have a bowl of Lipitor pills :)
So, bien fait Montreal - I am very impressed. Both places were unique, and I can't think of anything exactly like them in Toronto. We have a great restaurant scene in Toronto, but I am very impressed with what is happening in Montreal - a real foodie destination! I almost forgot to mention, we had a superb hot chocolate from this place on St Laurent (at Prince Arthur) - I can't recall the exact name - maybe Juliette et Chocolat? It was one of the richest, most intense hot chocolates I'd ever tasted. Tomorrow, we hope to lunch at Schwartz's before heading back to Toronto, which should cap off a weekend eat-fest ;)
2491 Rue Notre-Dame W, Montreal, QC H3J1N6, CA