Restaurants & Bars 2

Montreal road trip

ScottDude | Sep 24, 2005 08:53 PM

I spent a few days in Montreal, and here's what I sampled. I rate the food on a scale of 1-5, which is pseudo-logarithmic: 1 = bad, 2 = poor, 3 = OK, 4 = good, 4.5 = very good, and then it asymptotically approaches 5.0, which is a life-ending experience.

Frite Alors! (Several locations): frites = 4.9.
It's hard to imagine how fries could be any better (If anyone knows of a source, let me know). I had it with the Aïoli sauce. But: they give you a skimpy quantity of sauce.

Jean Talon Market: The $2 merguez sandwich from the Arabic place = 4.5

Au Pied de Cochon (Plateau): onion soup = 4, foie gras Cromesquis = 4.6, pouding chômeur = 4.5, lemon pie = 3.
The onion soup was good, but not as good as I was led to suspect. The pouding chômeur is good, but takes about half an hour to cool down to the point where you can eat it (the McDonald's "hotter than the sun" apple pie syndrome).

L'Entrecote St-Jean (downtown): The menu consists of one set meal: asparagus soup = 3, salad with almonds and vinaigrette = 4, steak frites = 4.7. [Breaking out the steak frites into the constituent components: steak = 4.6, frites = 4.6, sauce that goes on the steak = 4.8]

Maison du Jazz, or House of Jazz (Downtown): pork ribs = 3, buffalo wings = 1. Tiramisu = 1.
The buffalo wings and tiramisu were far worse than what you get at Costco. When I complained that the buffalo wings were inedible, they brought me a free tiramisu. I didn't complain about the tiramisu, for fear of what else they might bring me. But the live jazz was great ($5/person cover charge, on top of whatever food or drinks you buy).

Pâtisserie Kouing Amman (Plateau): butter croissant = 4.9, croissant almandine = 4.6.
The butter croissant, hot out of the oven (they open at 7AM Mon-Sat, 8AM Sunday) is exceptional. Perfectly silky and flaky interior, crispy but ultra-thin crust, with a complex, intense flavor. I also tried the croissants at Duc du Lorraine, which don't come close.

Jardin Nelson (Vieux Montreal): Crepes = 4.6.
This is one of a handful of well-regarded lunch-oriented restaurants in the tourist trap section of Montreal. They have a crispy-style crepe, which is good, but what makes them stand out are the fillings, which are complex and well-executed: we had the venison with red mushroom sauce, and the cheese/mushroom combo, and the fillings alone would make a very good meal. To top it off, they have nice indoor and outdoor terraces.

Olive et Gourmando Cafe (Vieux Montreal): Chocolate Brioche = 4.5.
They did not have the brownies available at the time.

Brunoise (Plateau): the pre-dinner bread is great: Portuguese bread = 4.6, country bread (multi-grain and multi-herb) = 4.5. Rabbit croquette appetizer = 4.5, Scallops w/bacon & lobster emulsion = 4.9. Panna cotta w/ basil syrup dessert = 4.7.
The scallops were superbly browned, and the dish had a deep complexity and perfect balance with the bacon and lobster emulsion. For the panna cotta, the basil syrup alone made this dessert a winner.

L'Ipicier (Vieux Montreal): Venison rib main course with BBQ sauce = 4, Chocolate club sandwich dessert = 4.8, Clove ice cream soufflé dessert = 3.
One of the few highly regarded fancy restaurants in the tourist trap section of Montreal. This restaurant offers fanciful nouvelle cuisine. Portions are small: main dishes are appetizer-sized, and appetizers can fit in shot glasses (in fact they are served in small glasses). And very expensive. The dinner plates are square, like canvasses, and the creations are works of art plated in fanciful poses. Some of the food comes in Trompe L'oeil designs, as demonstrated by the chocolate club sandwich dessert. It looked exactly like a miniature club sandwich with fries and cole slaw. The "sandwich" was made with white cake for the bread, sliced strawberries for the tomatoes, white chocolate sauce for the mayonnaise, real lettuce for the lettuce, and a layer of fantastic dark chocolate ganache for the interior. The "fries" were deep fried pineapple, and the "cole slaw" consisted of shredded melon. And yes, the "mayonnaise" went well with the "fries." A tour de force of artistry. However, the clove ice cream soufflé dessert was problematical, because it was essentially the flavor of potpourri, and conjured images of the little box of potpourri one finds in B&Bs (sitting on a doily, in the shelf over the toilet). At this point in time, the last thing the world needs is potpourri-flavored ice cream.

Duc de Lorraine (WestMount): croissant = 4.
I'm not sure why everyone raves about these croissants. I did not get them fresh out of the oven, so maybe that is the problem. Good buttery flavor, but totally lacking the interior silkiness and flakiness. Plus, they are rather small: I can't image how they can achieve the necessary balance of croissant perfection with such a low ratio of interior volume to surface area.

L'Express (Plateau): lobster bisque = 3, marrow with coarse salt = 4.8, curry shrimp and pasta = 3.
I should have stuck to the more traditional French dishes - I will have to go back. This place is quite inexpensive. It does not have a sign, but there is some brickwork on the sidewalk. The dinning room is dressy, but at the bar, nothing is too casual.

Byblos (North Plateau): Halym = 3, Koukou = 3, sweet breads = 4.
Byblos is an Iranian cafe. Halym is cream of wheat, along with turkey puree and cinnamon. The Koukou is a quiche/herb/spinach thing. The Iranian sweet breads were quite good with the jam they serve. I will have to go back to experience their omelets.

La Maison Cakao (North Plateau): Chili chocolate truffles = 4.6.
So far, they have the best chili-flavored chocolate I have sampled in Montreal.

Le P'tit Plateau (Plateau, BYO): duck foie gras = 4, duck fillet = 3.
The duck fillets were strips of overcooked, dried-out duck. What rescued the dish was an intensely spiced sauté sauce. I think I will go back and try the lamb shank confit.

Other:

Les Délices de l'Érable (Canadian Maple Delights): maple syrup ice cream with maple bits = 4.5, almond croissants = 4.6
This is the "everything Canadian store" in the tourist trap section of Vieux Montreal. Surprisingly, the almond croissants were pretty good - very different than normal croissants, but good.

-Scott

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