We took a lovely road frip from New York City to Montreal over the the 4th of July weekend. We enjoyed the preformances at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, some flying adventure, walking around the pleasant, manageable city, but most of all, we enjoyed eating!
We found that French influence in Montreal can’t be more evident than its food culture. Life in the city seems to revolve around food. Eating here seems not only meant to feed the stomach but the senses and the soul as well. It is not surprising that Montreal is considered one of the best foodie destinations in North America. According to Lonely Planet, “Montreal has more eating choices per capita in North America, except New York City.” We found that at every corner we turned and in every block we walked on there were always inviting dining choices and they came in huge assortment- from French to Asian cuisine, from traditional to innovative. Montreal is delicious indeed and we would like to share with you some of our taste of it.
2491 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest (Little Burgundy neighborhood)
Based on our research, Joe Beef was the place we shouldn’t miss. It has been consistently voted as one of the top restaurants in Canada and the current favorite of food critics.
Apparently, it is very popular. When we made a reservation three weeks before our trip, it was fully booked and the earliest available table was a month after our trip. But we remained optimistic. As soon as we checked in at W Hotel Montreal, we asked the concierge to check for any last minute cancellation for that night. She came back to us with, ‘There’s a cancellation for 9:30 pm. Would you like to take it?” Absolutely!Joe Beef offers Quebecois fare in a quaint, casual setting. The service was very warm and genuinely friendly. Who says fine food always goes with pretension? Not here.
There’s no hand out menu here. You have to look up the board for the night’s delicous offerings and for the wide variety of fine wine selection.We started with several kinds of oysters, which were ones of the freshest we ever had; they melted in our mouth. We followed it with fresh asparagus mixed with herbs and topped with poached egg. It was creatively delicious. For entree, I had a fresh sweet lobster over aspaghetti that was simply but flavorfully sauteed in garlic and olive oil. It was divine! Keith had a baked halibut that was so fresh and moist. Two thumbs up from him. He also loved the generous portions.
Did I mention everything was “fresh”? Every ingredient here is indeed fresh off the market, farm or garden. I guess that and the innovative dishes make Joe Beef a standout.EGGSPECTATION
12 Rue Notre Dame Est (Old Montreal)
Keith’s boss, who used to live in Montreal, recommend this place. A friend also texted me to make sure we check out this place for breakfast and staff at the hotel recommended it as well. Eggspectation whose tag line is “Grab the day by the eggs” is a chain based in Montreal with 7 locations within the city and few others in other Canadian city.
We visited the location closest to our hotel for brunch. The place was very casual but the eggs here are nothing but. They’re not your typical breakfast egg. They’re very fancy, very creative and very egglicious. I had ” Lobster Benny” (left photo) – two poached eggs with sautéed Nova Scotia lobster over toasted English muffin and a natural lobster reduction sauce. Keith had “Yolk Around The Clock,” a grilled sliced bagel with a sunny-side-up egg in each hole, topped with bacon and cheddar on one half and swiss cheese on the other. Both were served with our seasoned lyonnaise-style potatoes on the side. We’re not into potatoes and we didn’t touch them. I’m sure it will make potato lovers cry.
900, place Jean-Paul-Riopelle Ouest (Old Montreal)
Toque was one of those places that kept popping up as a “must-go.” Its seven course tasting menu was described in on one of the reviews we read as “the pinnacle of dining in Montreal,” We made a reservation 3 weeks before the trip and we were lucky to grab the only availability during our stay. We found Toque elegant but not too over the top. We say that it’s casually elegant and s0 is the service. The maitre d’ explained that Toque means “a bit stubborn” which is a reflection of the chef’s insistence of using only the freshest local ingredients from the best producers. The menu changes daily, depending on what the chef find in the market, but foie gras, duck, and wild venison are staples.We went for the seven-course tasting menu with wine pairing. As I am a pesceterian, they modified my courses. Instead of foie gras I was served a vegetable course. Instead of duck, I was served a fish. Each course was presented beautifully and tasted exquisite, and the wine pairing was perfect. It was a great dining experience and was worth the splurge.
7070 Avenue Henri-Julien (Little Italy)
March Jean Talon is the largest is Montreal’s largest and most diversed market place. This is where many of the the city’s chef shop for ingredients for their menus. Walking around the market is pretty satiating.Locals come here to buy the freshest produce as well as local specialties like the maple syrup, of course. Locals also frequent the market to dine and to sample wine, beer, cheese, etc. For sweet tooth, there is a galore of decadent goodies to be had at the market.
DEPANNEUR LE PICK-UP
7032 Rue Waverly (Little Italy)
We found this delightful place in a residential area about seven blocks east of Marche Jean-Talon. The neighborhood reminded us of Queens in New York City. It was a great find away from the bustle of the market. It appeared popular among hipsters. It mainly offers sandwiches. Don’t be fooled by its unassuming setting, the sandwiches were of gourmet quality at a price that won’t break your wallet.
We placed our order at a small counter inside and found a seat at one of the picnic tables that surrounded the shop (no seating inside). It was busy when we came and the wait for the food was a bit long. But we didn’t mind; we felt so relaxed.
I had a tuna salad sandwich in artisanal bread. It was the best one I ever had. I liked that it was not laden with mayo. Instead , it was flavored with balsamic vinaigrette and capers and mixed with baby arugula. Keith had a veggie burger, which he said was really good. We saw a lot of people having pulled pork sandwich, which was the shop’s specialty.
ST. VIATEUR BAGEL
263 Ave St. Viateur Ouest (Mile End)
The neighborhood of Mile End is considered one of the best food destination in the city. It is also known for its hipster cafes and bars. We actually had a pleasure of hanging out with the coolest of the hipsters at one of its bars where we watched the World Cup. We were fascinated with the cool beard culture. But anyway, we came to Mile End for one thing – to try what is claimed as the “best bagel in the world!” Founded in 1957, St. Viateur Bagel is a well-loved Montreal institution. It’s open 24 hours a day and was surprisingly busy even in the middle of the afternoon, when we found customers buying bagels by the dozens as if it was breakfast time. The shop also carry different kind of spreads such us lox and cream cheese.
We bought a sesame bagel and tried it with cream cheese. We found it sweet, chewy and very moist inside. It was really good. We learned that the “secret” to its flavor was the boiling of the dough in honey water followed by baking in wood-fired oven.
Is it the “best bagel in the world? ” Not sure if we’re being snobbish, but as New Yorkers who are proud of our own delicious bagels we’re not quite willing to concede to that claim.
The quaint Chinatown of Montreal contributes to culinary diversity of the city. But within Chinatown, the cuisine is actually quite diverse. You will not only find Chinese cuisine, but also Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, etc. It should actually be called Asiatown.
We went to a Chinese restaurant specializing in Cantonese cuisine.The restaurant name was not easy to remember but the food was remarkable. Basing on the large number of Chinese clientele, the place was pretty authentic.
And of course, the POUTINE.
We dreaded trying it, but we had to. Or else, it was like we didn’t travel to Montreal at all. To those not familiar, this traditional Quebecuois dish is made of fried potatoes with cheese curd topped with gravy. We avoid eating fried food and anything rich as a gravy. The cheese we can take but the combination of the three is a bit too too rich for our taste. But we conceded that we should try at least a bite. And so during our time at the Jazz Festival we finally decided that it was time to try that one bite each. What did we think? Hmmm…the potato fries didn’t taste greasy at all. The gravy was actually light and flavorful, and the cheese was fresh and light. Guess what? We almost finished the whole serving! We found it a delightful guilty pleasure. Now we understand why Canadians who are away from their country for sometime actually crave for Poutine!
Oh Montreal, you satisfied our palate and senses. Until next time.