Restaurants & Bars 7

5 day trip to Montreal (long)

nlee | Jun 6, 200807:50 AM

Just got back from a trip to Montreal and wanted to post my food-related experiences. My boyfriend and I (and our dog) stayed at Hotel Gault in Old Montreal (excellent, by the way). Breakfast was included, so no reviews of that (although they were actually quite good). Here, in chronologic order, are the meals we ate, as well as I can remember (there was a lot of wine involved):

Day 1:
Dinner at Boris Bistro on Rue McGill in Vieux-Montreal. One of the top meals of the trip. I had a foie gras nem, which is foie gras and leek wrapped in flaky pastry with a sweet-sour cider vinegar sauce - TO DIE FOR! My BF had a mushroom cream soup which was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Then I had steak tartare which was delicious, with french fries which were good but standard (they have fries cooked in duck fat, which unfortunately I didn't get). Can't remember what BF had for main course or dessert, although I do remember we really liked it. For dessert I had a tarte tatin that was absolutely delicious. The crust was tender, flaky, crisp and bursting with buttery goodness!

Day 2:
Lunch at Cafe Stash in Vieux-Montreal (Rue St. Paul, I think). Apparently oldest Polish restaurant in Montreal. Again, excellent food. I had stuffed cabbage rolls, BF had some fried croquette-type thing. Really, really good. My previous experiences of Eastern European and other cabbage-centric cuisines have been limited to New York Jewish delis and Pennsylvania Dutch food, both of which I find are oddly heavy on the sugar when it comes to cabbage, cole slaw and sauces. So I never liked this type of food until now! There was not a hint of icky sweetness in any of the dishes at Cafe Stash. Very reasonable prices also.

Dinner at Chez L'Epicier, again in Vieux-Montreal, Rue St. Paul. One of the more hyped and recommended places. Overall, the food was pretty good, but I thought Boris Bistro was better (and a lot less expensive). We started with a little vegetable terrine amuse-bouche which was fine but not revelatory. I had an artichoke-rosemary soup which was served with little bits of fried calamari with a "chorizo ketchup," and BF had lobster and sweetbread ravioli. The ravioli came wrapped up in plastic wrap to "preserve the aroma" or some such nonsense, but it all seemed unnecessary to me and frankly reminded me of unwrapping leftovers after microwaving them. My soup was OK, but again nothing like Boris Bistro's mushroom soup. Unfortunately I could not sample the ravioli due to shellfish allergy, but BF seemed underwhelmed. Main course was venison for BF and little rolls of cabbage stuffed with a chicken mixture for me. I found the chicken stuffing to be a bit dry and bland. The best part of that dish was the pan-roasted fingerling potato. BF's venison was quite good. It came with roasted pear. For dessert I had an assortment of homemade ice creams and sorbets, which were all kind of eh. By the way, there is a seven-course tasting menu that we steered away from because our waiter advised us it usually takes three hours to get through it. Our dinner lasted us two and a half hours anyway.

Day 3:
Lunch at another Vieux-Montreal place Les Pyrenees. Spanish food; I've had much better.

Dinner at Au Pied de Cochon (same night as another post by Richelle). Of course, since it was our only opportunity to go until who knows when, we had to try the dishes the place is famous for, right? Plus, my damn shellfish allergy prevented us from trying all the lovely-looking sea creatures (including a 19-pound lobster that was served up that night!). So we had the poutine with foie gras, I had the pied de cochon. BF had the "PDC melting pot" which was different kinds of sausage and other bits of pork on top of mashed potatoes. Overall, the food was OK. The meats were very good, but the poutine, the sauce on my pied de cochon, and the mashed potatoes were all oversalted. I'm a strong believer that seasoning is a fundamental that good restaurants have to get right. The overall experience was fun, though. The restaurant is really noisy, the chef was there that night. Our waiter was very friendly and helpful and suggested an excellent alternative wine when the one we wanted was unavailable. The waitstaff is all very good eye candy too. I would definitely give it another chance, but I feel it's a bit overhyped.

Day 4:
Lunch at, of course, Schwartz's Deli! By the way, not sure what all the hype about "the Main" is. If you've ever been to New York, especially Queens or Brooklyn, you'll be as perplexed as I was about what the big deal is. However, I do think the side streets off the Main were much more charming and interesting than the Main itself. Back to the food - the smoked meat was definitely not overhyped and this probably was the best meal of the entire trip. We each had a smoked meat sandwich (fatty cuts), shared fries and a half-sour pickle. To me, the term "smoked meat" sounded vaguely sinister and evasive, like "mystery meat." Have no fear, this is just brisket. But all the other corned beef and pastrami in the world, including the ones in the overhyped delis of New York, cannot compare to the luscious, juicy, velvety yumminess of this meat. I have been having dreams about this stuff. I'm definitely mail-ordering. We have 20 Canadian dollars left from this trip, which we are saving to use back at this deli for our first meal when we return (although this is more symbolic than anything, since the place does also take US dollars. No credit cards, though).

Dinner at a Portuguese place in Vieux-Montreal called Porto del Mar. Not great, not terrible. I've made better Caldo Verde at home.

Day 5:
Attempts at buying those famous Montreal bagels while driving home foiled by multiple road closures for that Grand Prix thing. Should have gotten them while we were in the Plateau Mont-Royal area the day before, but I think my brain cells were clouded by smoked-meat euphoria. May mail-order those as well from St. Viateur Bagels.

General points from my trip, some food related, others not:
The Insight Guides guide to Montreal was the most useful book we used. We also had the Moon guide, but I didn't like it as much. The Insight Guide comes with a handy little pocket map of recommended restaurants, to it works out for food-centric tourists.

The Hotel Gault was really very good and pet-friendly. The service was impeccable. The rooms are lofts and quite nice. Just bring slippers, the concrete floors can get cold.

We traveled with our little 7-month-old doggie, so most of our activity was in the neighborhood of our hotel, Vieux-Montreal. We walked her to Parc Mont-Royal and around within the park, which turned out to be a long and totally exhausting day for all of us, but good for burning off all the foie gras. Other good places to walk the dog - Rue de la Commune along the water, and Lachine Canal (but definitely in the ugly part of town, and not sure if I would do it at night).

Getting reservations at Chez L'Epicier and Au Pied de Cochon was quite easy. Maybe because if was Monday and Tuesday, or the season, or whatever. I found we generally had to wait another five to ten minutes after our reservation time to get seated.

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