First--Thanks to all Montrealers who provided so many suggestions!
Anise: Absolutely sensational from start to finish. The amuse bouche: 2 little cones(like a wafer ice-cream cone) one filled w/a very light zucchini puree, the other w/a similarly textured taramasalta. Awesome. The bread basket is outstanding!! Fig bread, mini pitas, cardamom rolls, a nut bread and one other. all little pieces, just the right size for eating one of each! We had the Chef's salad, can't remember the name of the green, but it's in season only 2 weeks a year and haven't ever seen it before. The dressing was very light, with a smear of a balsamic reduction along the side. The grilled shrimp were juicy, yet totally cooked. The bed of vermicelli was crispy and the mango salad set off the shrimp perfectly.
For the entrees we had the grilled octopus, which was the opposite of chewy--have never had such, supple(?) octopus ever! The lentil puree tasted of cumin, to me, though it was called curried. beneath that were cipollini onions which had been finely shredded and though the menu said they were caramelized, they had more texture to them, which was great b/c it went really well with the lentils. The lentils weren't so much a puree as more the texture of mashed potatoes, an interesting way to cook lentils. The quail came falling off the bone tender and juicy with a fig and an almond-butter mousse. All superb!
The dessert was amazing--one was a chocolate mousse/truffle w/hot peppers, a sort of Southwestern flavor. The other was a mille feuille of rhubarb with basil ice cream, which indeed tasted just like basil and really complemented the tartness of the rhubarb. We had a great wine, not expensive, and the service was attentive yet mellow. The room is so great--three levels, and while it was at capacity, the restaurant was still quiet, despite the sort of Ambient jazz. We loved it!!! The chef, self-taught(!) really knows how to synthesize different flavors. The food displays a light hand, in that the flavors are not at all overwhelmed by heavy sauces or too many whimisical touches. If we'd known how amazing it was going to be, we'd've gone for the tasting menu.
Thing was, we'd been to La Chronique the night before and felt that at $65, the tasting menu was more than we wanted to spend, and yet we had to, as no one had told us you couldn't order a la carte... La Chronique was good, nothing mind-blowing like Anise. The duck breast was very tender and not at all fatty--excellent and the grilled shrimp almost as great as Anise's--what do you Canadians know about grilling shrimp that we just don't!? My cod was so-so, too much butter, which cod, being so delightfully flaky, just doesn't need(IMO). My salad nicoise, made with sushi grade tuna, would've been so much better were it not utterly drenched in oil. The cheese board was outstanding, and turned us on to superb Quebecoise cheese production! Desserts were so-so...a lovely creme brulee, but a tart of walnuts, Jack Daniels and chocolate had a dough that was leaden and chewy, not flaky in the least. The brioche came with a terrific strawberry sorbet.
OK, enough for now...will report a bit later on the rest of the places we went upon your recs. Thanks so much! and go to Anise!!