My fiance and I spent last Sunday to Wednesday on a brief, but relaxing visit to Montreal. With the help of this board, I got some good recommendations of places to go. Here's a long review:
Sunday night: L'Express
We arrived and really liked the ambiance of the place. I kind of wished we sat at the bar, as I heard many good things about that after I had already made reservations... but we decided not to change it. We were seated at the back with a bunch of people smoking... I said, "Is this the non-smoking section?", to which the waiter replied, "Umm... sure, it's on the border". :) We are used to smokeless Toronto.
The way the menu is presented is a bit confusing at first. You are presented with the wine list, another sheet that has three columns of text on each side (no prices), and then another menu in French (with prices). After you examine it, you realize the columned menu is a translation chart. The menu is the same in each column, and in several languages (one side is French, English, Italian... didn't look closely at the other side). You take this chart and compare it with the priced menu.
I started with the bone marrow and grey sea salt appetizer, while my partner had the fish soup. The bone marrow was extremely delicious... my mouth waters just thinking about it. You get four bones topped with little piece of cabbage, several crunchy toasts, and a bowl of sea salt. You removed the marrow from the bones (consistency of an oyster), top it on a toast, sprinkle some salt, and pop it into your mouth. Very, very rich. You may want to share your app with someone else, as I thought it was too much for one person alone. The fish soup was also very nice, and served with small toasts/croutons covered with melted cheese, and had a small side of what I think was a hollandaise sauce for dipping.
On the table, you also get bread (just okay in my opinion.. kind of tough), and if you ask for them, a jar of cornishons. They were an interesting pickle... not as sweet as the usual 'bread and butter', but I am a dill fan, so they didn't really work for me.
I am also a big fan of raw meat, so I had the steak tartare for my main, while my fiance had the duck confit. The tartare is traditionally served with fries, by they were very thick and "McCain" looking, so I went for the vegetable side. The tartar was chock full of capers, which I love, so I happily chowed down for the next while on a pound of raw steak. The duck wasn't as big of a hit. We both found it to be a bit dry, and lost in the huge plate of greens - I've never seen so much salad served on a plate.
For dessert we shared some truffles (yum) and biscotti (orange and almond flavored... not so great), along with an expresso and machiato (both good). Total bill, with a bottle of wine, was about $110.
Monday night: BU Wine Bar
We originally planned to go to Pullman Wine Bar, but found out they were closed on Mondays, so I made a reservation at BU. We ate very late (I believe 9:30 pm), but the bar was still relatively busy. They have a very extensive wine selection, with many affordable bottles.
We shared two appetizers - stuffed olives and dish of veal slices in a tuna cream sauce (it was just as odd as it sounded). While neither were bad, they were not stand-out good either.
For mains, we both had the specials of the day - for me, the thinnly sliced beef with its juices on top, accompanied with mashed potatoes with black truffles mixed in; my fiance has the fresh pasta - which was a canneloni stuffed with fresh ricotta and basil, topped with a light tomato sauce. Both dishes were great - and we especially loved the mashed potatoes.
For dessert we shared a cheese plate that was fantastic! Montreal really does cheese plates well. The service here was also outstanding. Total bill: $105.
Tuesday night: Brunoise
This place really does live up to the hype. Nice ambiance and decor, and wonder waitstaff. We were immediately served an amuse-bouch of a cream of potato and leek soup. Tasty. The homemade olive bread rocks, and the other bread selections were very good too.
I started with a special of the day, which was a terrine of rabbit, fois gras, and something else (can't remember). It was served with small toasts, and a berry compote. This was very good - and strangely had the most appealing smell... The other app was the rabbit sausage/rounds (the best I can describe it) - which I hear was also good.
For mains, I had the beef tenderloin (ordered blue rare), served with roast vegetables. This was extremely good -- although I realized after I ordered this that I had had beef all three days, and should have varied in choice a bit more. Fiance had the sweetbreads (apparently the house specialty), which were good (maybe slightly bitter?), but I thought the beef was better.
For dessert, we shared the cheese plate - again delicious. I need more unpasturized cheese in my life. The other dessert was the chocolate plate (a small cake, mousse, and ice cream) - which was very rich, and a good way to end the night. Total with espressos and a bottle of wine: $175.
Cafe Internationale - went for the coffee - which was good. The food for lunch wasn't so great.
Les 3 Brasseurs (sp?) - stopped by for some drinks and a snack. Felt very touristy - which I'm sure it was, considering the area. Drinks were okay. The food - we shared the mussells in beer broth - was extremely bitter and awful.
St. Huberts - Haha! I know, I know. We went because there is only one left in Toronto, and my fiance has never been. We compared it to Swiss Chalet... my thoughts: the chicken and fries are better at Swiss Chalet, but the sauce rocks at St. Huberts. ;)
Thanks for reading!