My wife and I just got back after a week split between Montreal and Quebec City. I will post our thoughts on dining in QC on the Canada board, and here are our opinions on Montreal.
We were in Montreal Saturday and Sunday nights, then again on Thursday and Friday nights. On Saturday night we ate at Toque, and on Sunday night we tried Le Jardin de Panos (a neighborhood Greek restaurant) on Rue Duluth, just a few blocks from both L'Express and Toque. On Thursday night, we had reservations for L'Express, but we canceled because neither of us felt up to a big, formal meal. Instead we just had pub grub. Friday, feeling much better, we had dinner at Gibby's.
Our thoughts: Toque was great, as described so often previously on this board. They were very accommodating (we arrived a half hour early and they sat us right away at a nice table for two). The setting is quite nice, soft colors and innovative use of the space. The meal was, as expected, top notch. I had the fabled fois gras app (which one can order as a main course as well), and it was, in fact, the best I've ever had. Charred perfectly on the outside, it was so tender it seemed to melt in my mouth. And the portion was remarkable, much larger than I expected. For my main course, I had saddle of lamb, which was superb. Maureen had the tuna tartare app and the roasted sea bass over risotto for her main course, both of which she thought terrific. We had two excellent wines, a White Burgundy and a Cab (having decided to splurge on this meal), and we finished with the cheese assortment. All in all, a memorable and excellent meal. When we were leaving, the maitre 'd asked if we'd like a taxi, and when I responded in the affirmative, he sent our waiter out to hail a cab for us. Lovely touch...
The Greek restaurant was a find. We had originally decided to try Witloof (a place near Toque we had stopped in the previous night and liked), but it was closed on Sundays, so we decided to wander around the area and found Le Jardin de Panos. There were so many people pouring in that it seemed like half of Montreal eats there on a Sunday night, and everyone brought their own beer or wine. It is a large place with several small rooms. The tables are close, but it's a neighborhood place, so that didn't bother us. The meal wasn't great, but it was quite good. Maureen had the shishkebob and I had the noisettes of agneau (baby lamb chops). Maureen's lamb was a little dried out, but mine was fine. The apps we sampled were also good, except for the fried calamari, which was sliced thickly and was very greasy. But given the low prices, the overall friendly ambience and the relatively professional level of the food, we liked it a lot and would recommend seeking it out. We'd be willing to bet we were the only tourists there.
Thursday night we were tired (having traveled back to Montreal from QC) and with regret canceled our reservations at L'Express (maybe next time). Instead we wandered around Rue Crescent near Rue St. Catherine, and we found a place called McKibbin's, on Rue Bishop (one block from Rue Crescent). We actually went in just to have a beer and liked the atmosphere so much we decided to go for the pub grub. Not great, but it was what we wanted (although Maureen really didn't care for her soup all that much as it was overcurried). The ambience was very friendly and convivial and very Irish, and for a beer and a burger, it was just fine.
Friday night we tried Gibby's, billed as Montreal's best steakhouse, and we loved it. We had oysters to start with a glass of white and I had ribeye steak and Maureen had lamb chops as our main courses accompanied by a very good Napa Cab. The cuts were excellent, perhaps not quite up to Peter Luger standards (what is?), but as good as anything I've had in other NYC steakhouses. Also, it's nice to find that the cost of the meal includes a salad and a baked potato. Gibby's is a very comfortable place, located in the old city in an old stable dating back a couple of hundred years. It's got a LOT of atmosphere and a good wine list. We really liked Gibby's.
All in all, we rate Gibby's as our best dining experience, mainly because we found it so comfortable. For pure cutting edge quality of cuisine, you can't beat Toque, but when you factor in creature comforts, it's hard to beat Gibby's, in our opinion.
Oh yeah, we also stopped by Schwartz's Deli Friday late morning and had the fable smoked meat. Very much worth trying. Somehow we had thought Schwartz's would be a lot bigger, but we had a very enjoyable time.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the unfailing friendliness and courtesy everywhere we went in Montreal (not just in restaurants, although especially noticeable and appreciated there). They just don't seem to have the indifferent attitude so often found in NYC restaurants.
Them's our thoughts on eating in Montreal on this trip...
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