Montreal restaurateurs seem to take more pride in presenting their food, and seem to genuinely want to know whether you enjoyed the meal. There also seems to be more attention paid to detail (plating, freshness of the ingredients, etc.), even at the economical to moderately priced restuaurants.
For whatever reason, my dining dollar seems to go further in Montreal. A $50 bistro meal in Montreal is often better than an $80 bistro meal in TO. The $25 prix fixe lunches offered by many downtown Montreal restaurants are a relative bargain to what I'd be served in Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo or London, ON for $25.
There are also several innovative restaurants (such as La Montee de Lait, Europea, Lemeac, Laloux and La Porte), that offer fresh tasting, contemporary food I really enjoy, and for whatever reason, I haven't been able to find anything similar in Toronto.
Montreal servers, on the whole, seem to take their jobs seriously, and are almost always pleasant to deal with, in my experience. I can think of at least 3 experiences of extreme attitude in Toronto over the last 3 months, to the point where I will never return to those 3 restaurants where I had negative experiences, yet over maybe 4 dozen meals in Montreal over the last 2 years, I can only think of one server who has been somewhat condescending.
Here are some things that have stood out when I've visited Montreal:
1. duck- I always seem to be happy with the various ways in which duck shows up on my plate in Montreal. Most recently, I had a lovely duck confit risotto at Ariel, at lunch.
2. bread- The bread basket, especially at moderately-priced to upscale restaurants. On my most 2 most recent visits to Montreal, we enjoyed delicious breads at La Porte, La Coupole, Milos, Ariel and Europea, as well as very good quality baguette at Laloux and L'Express.
3. Grilled Octopus at Milos - this is the best grilled octopus I've found outside Greece and Portugal. Somewhat expensive at $26, but the portion is twice as large, and much, much tastier than what $17 will get me in Toronto.
4. The Tomato Salad (a Village Salad/Horiatiki) at Milos- the best Greek Village salad, and best fresh tomatoes I've had outside Greece. I ordered this yesterday. I'm not sure if those tomatoes are being imported from Greece, or grown in soil brought over from Greece, but they're the closest thing I've had to a Greek tomato on this side of the pond. It costs $25, but it's plenty for 2-3 people, and contains at least 3 or 4 of these amazing tomatoes.
5. The Kouign Amann at La Porte- equally as decadent as the version I've enjoyed in Brittany, and elevated by the little pot of salt caramel and buttermilk ice cream.
6. The Montreal Bagel- I always make time for at least one on any visit to Montreal. Love both St. V and Fairmont.
7. The lobster roll at APDC, served on brioche and topped with foie gras.*not sure if the lobster roll is being offered in this exactly way, this year. Might want to to ask how it's currently being prepared, before ordering. ;-)
La Porte Restaurant
3627 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2X2V5, CA
3927 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC H2W2M4, CA
1227, rue de la Montagne, Montreal, QC H3G1Z2, CA
1325, Rene Levesque West, Montreal, QC H3G 0A4, CA