Montreal: Talking About the Food
I’ve published pictorials for Les 400 Coups, as well as the tasting menu and wine/beer pairings at DNA, and that’s just about all you’re gonna get for pics from this year’s restaurants. One of the downsides of eating at a bunch of fun bistros is that it’s dark: no workable photos.
Perhaps that’s for the better because I tend to put the phone away and enjoy the meal, and my friends, more.
But in lieu of pictures, here are some thoughts that can serve as an addendum to my pre-holiday post about food.
This year’s menu:
- 2011-12-16 Garde Manger
- 2011-12-17 Nora Gray
- 2011-12-18 Le Chien Fumant
- 2011-12-19 Le Local
- 2011-12-20 Les 400 Coups
- 2011-12-21 Liverpool House
- 2011-12-22 DNA
- 2011-12-23 Chien Fumant
- 2011-12-24 Bonaparte
I wrote earlier this month that I think the bistro is one of the best expressions of great eating in Montréal. In fact, there’s a cranky argument on Chowhound right now about whether Montréal has world class restaurants. I don’t think it does, but I don’t give a crap: for me, the issue isn’t world class, it’s about good food, and how a city expresses itself in its restaurants.
So where were we? Ah yes, the bistro. I made most of the 2011 trip a celebration of the bistro. Nora Gray, Chien Fumant, and Liverpool House are small format bistros, seating around 40 at the maximum (Liverpool House somewhat more than that). Le Local and Garde Manger are larger format bistros. Bonaparte is old-style French fine dining, and Les 400 Coups and DNA are what I would characterize as modern fine dining. So, when you look over the list, that’s four nights of bistros out of eight.
The best meals we ate this year? Here’s our top four:
- Les 400 Coups
- Le Chien Fumant
- Liverpool House
I’ll let the pictorials of Les 400 Coups and DNA speak for themselves. Le Chien Fumant and Liverpool House excel at offering ever-changing menus of delicious food: pork belly, calamari, halibut, duck confit, charcuterie, etc, etc. Both have enjoyable and affordable wine lists. But both get a push over the top for their ambience - their vibe - and the quality, friendliness and attentiveness of their service. Garde Manger is good, loud, fun, but it doesn’t surpass the aforementioned. Nora Gray is so new it’s hard to make a sweeping comment about it, especially after only one meal, but it shows real promise, it’s a pioneer in the neighbourhood and it nicely straddles the Italian food Nonna used to make and the stylistic characteristics that define modern Italian cuisine. Nora Gray bears watching, and we’ll likely go back.
One extra note about all those bistros: it’s probably just me, but after about five days, all I wanted was a vegetable. Or an ethnic meal. PLEASE! Well, that’s my fault… and I’ve made a note to address that meat overload in next year’s planning, probably with a lighter meal of some kind on one of the nights. It’s all in how you stack the deck when you’re planning meals, and there’s also the reality of dining in winter when local fresh vegetables are out of season.
What are priorities for next year? Each year’s dining list is a mix of old favorites and new entrants. Next year, I’ll add a couple new places - Le Comptoir is one, the other to be determined. Au Pied de Cochon will return because we’ve not been there since 2008, and so we’ve just now finished working off the caloric input from that meal. Besides, since the world is ending on December 21, 2012, it would only be right to have five different preparations of foie gras for our Last Meal on Earth. (Yes, I will be making reservations after 12/21, so you know where I stand on the End of the World question.) And I’m going to try very hard to find a cool, comfortable place for dinner on Christmas Eve. Bonaparte is enjoyable and good, but I’ve eaten there every Christmas Eve since 2004.
Suggestions? Let me know!