Well, we just returned home to Vancouver after gorging ourselves in your fine city. Thanks to all for the recommendations, there wasn't anything close to a bad meal in the bunch - just varying degrees of excellent. I didn't take notes or anything but will try to summarize our thoughts from memory.
Brunch @ Le Cartet - was a nice start to the trip. Waited about 20 minutes for a table, which was pretty reasonable considering what we thought was a pretty good brunch deal (considering all the brunch options included both coffee and fresh squeezed OJ, a nice touch). We had:
- Brunch de l'Atlantique - scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, yam and salmon cake, half a bagel with more smoked salmon and cream cheese/capers/onions, mesclun salad, fresh fruit. minor gripe in that the eggs were overdone to my taste (not really "scrambled" persay)
- Brunch special - house cured salmon with blinis - the fish was beautiful, lightly cured and very fresh tasting. No complaints on this one.
Dinner @ Au Cinquième Pêché - was the favourite meal of the trip for the SO.
- Duck heart tartare with poached quail egg and a salad of haricots verts - classic tartare flavours (capers, onions, etc.) but the duck heart was beautifully tender and rich.
- Cromesquis of seal and pork, with a salad of sea snails, king oyster mushrooms, sea beans, olives, red peppers...and some other things I'm probably forgetting. The seal and pork croquettes were very rich and "porky" but with a bit of a briney (almost fishy) note. Quite pleasant, first time either of us had tried seal meat, though it wasn't really a dominant flavour. The salad was equally nice.
- rib steak with herb salad and roasted bone marrow - the SO loved this one, perfectly cooked and top quality piece of beef with what I think was a wine sauce of some sort. Perhaps not groundbreaking but delicious nonetheless.
- duck breast with peas, corn, greens (kale, I think, though can't recall for sure) and "gnochettis" of boudin noir - the latter being the highlight of the dish, not sure how they pulled them off but they were pillowy miniature gnocchi in texture with the flavour of the boudin. The meat originally was supposed to be venison but they ran out - I suspect might have been a slightly better match, though the duck was nice regardless.
Here we overreached a bit and stuffed ourselves to the point that we really weren't hungry until dinner of day 3...but it was fun nonetheless.
Brunch @ Lawrence: showed up right for opening at 10, seated immediately, though the place was full by 11. We had:
- kidneys and arugula on toast - flavours were nice and the kidneys were perfectly cooked though the SO would have preferred a few less (it really was a large portion) and maybe a poached egg or something to mix it up. I was happy to eat what she couldn't finish.
- chanterelles and fried eggs on soda bread - pretty self explanatory, tasted great, next to impossible to go wrong on this one.
Lunch @ Ma-Am-M Bolduc: this was likely our downfall - what we had planned to be a "small snack" of poutines and beers. Myself and the SO along with a friend shared a regular, a bourguignonne, and a bacon + onion poutine (all "small" orders though we probably could have done with half the amount). All delicious, but probably ill advised given our dinner reservations at APDC a mere 6 hours later and the rich brunch we polished off a few hours prior.
Dinner @ APDC: was pretty much what we expected. Delicious, over the top, rich food with barely a respite (aside from the green salad that we would have been well advised to save to eat with our mostly green-free mains).
- cod fritters - tasty, crispy, spicy - but nothing really to write home about (the waitress sold us on them after telling us they were out of the squash blossoms for the day - in hindsight not really necessary)
- bison tongue with tarragon sauce (almost a bearnaise but not quite) - this was our favourite of the meal, the meat was of the melt-in-your-mouth variety and both of us are suckers for bearnaise or anything remotely similar. The slices of cornichon and carrot were a nice counterpoint.
- one of the daily specials - a (massive) pork chop topped with a slaw of apple and celeriac and a rich porky gravy. Nicely cooked and a good balance of flavours, though finishing it was a task - given the size and how it was sliced and presented, my SO keeps (only half-jokingly) insisting that they should have called it 4 pork chops instead of just one.
- cured foie gras and boudin tart - along with the caramelized onions this was richness incarnate. I suspect I would have taken it down if not for the aforementioned poutines- as it stood I ate half of it in its entirety before focusing on the foie and boudin in order to not leave any of the good stuff. In the end I tapped out with half of the pastry and some onions remaining...I did, however, love every bite that I managed to eat.
We started things off on a bit lighter (though I guess carb-heavy) note with a couple of quick croissants from Le Croissanterie Figaro (rum/chocolate and cheese, specifically - both lovely), and a few bagels with cream cheese from St. Viateur. The sidewalk picnic tables were a nice place to sit and eat, and the bagels fresh out of the oven were delicious.
Learning from the previous day we opted for a liquid lunch at the Trois Brasseurs near our hotel and saved appetites for dinner. We were hoping to hit either Unibroue or St. Ambroise but they were both a bit of a hike for our energy level, being from Vancouver we're not used to such heat!
Dinner @ Monsieur B (my personal favourite meal of the trip):
- horse croquettes with honey, and house smoked mackerel - a couple of nice amuse-bouches to start things off; the former a nice balance of savoury and sweet and the latter with just the right amount of smoke.
- a cold carrot soup, possibly with coriander though I can't exactly recall.
- a palate cleanser of apple sorbet with some kind of liqueur we couldn't quite pinpoint - maybe pastis?
- salmon tartare - along with capers, pickled fennel and celery, and arugula - just delicious, perfectly balanced, rich and creamy with a nice shot of acidity and sweetness from the pickles.
- crab cakes with micro-greens - I only had a small bite of this but enjoyed what I tasted, the SO polished them off pretty quick.
- risotto with escargots, lardons, chanterelles, and pearl onions, with a red wine sauce and topped with arugula - a whole lot of my most loved things on one plate, this was my favourite dish of the trip. Rice was perfectly al-dente and everything together was out of this world. I'm salivating as I think about it right now.
- pancetta-wrapped cod with roasted tomatoes and pesto - another winner, great balance of sweet and savoury again with the pesto a nice highlight.
- creme brulee and lemon/basil sorbet for dessert
Overall (and especially considering value for money and the BYOW) - I can't recommend this place enough. We considered going back again the next night, but decided to opt for variety.
Early lunch @ Schwartz's - nothing much needs to be said here. Fatty for me, medium for the SO, pickle and coleslaw on the side. Gotta do it at least once a trip.
Dinner @ Leméac: slightly beat out a return to Monsieur B, and did not disappoint.
- lobster ravioli with shellfish bisque and nordic shrimp - surprisingly light, the pasta was a nice al-dente and the shrimp sweet and succulent.
- cucumber salad with lobster and more of the aforementioned shrimp - another light dish, did a great job of highlighting the fresh seafood. This was a daily special as I recall.
- entree special of walleye topped with sea asparagus, on a bed of chorizo and red-pepper laced orzo. The fish was moist and flaky with a nice crispy skin, and the spice of the chorizo went along well.
- seared scallops with dill, lemon pea shoots and caviar mashed potatoes - another home run in my book (second favourite dish of the trip). Perfect mid-rare and deep caramelization on the scallops, nice counterpoint with the acidity of the pea shoots against the rich saltiness of the caviar potatoes. Everything together in a single bite was just stellar.
Again - sincere thanks for all the recommendations, we tried to fit in as much as possible and are now on a strict diet of salad and water for the next day or two while we detox. You've got a few gems in town, you lucky people!