F&W’s guide to the best Montreal restaurants includes buzzy bohemian joints like the affordable Lawrence and cult destinations like Pied de Cochon, where chef Martin Picard turns Quebecois food into gonzo acts of indulgence. » F&W’s Full Montreal Travel Guide
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Montreal Restaurants: Insider Picks
Photo courtesy of Restaurant Les 400 Coups.
This Old Montreal spot is a collaboration between two veterans of the city’s restaurant scene, Marc-André Jetté and Patrice Demers. Jetté’s modern French dishes all have some element of surprise—the signature coarse—chopped beef tartare, for instance, is topped with mustard ice cream. Demers handles the inventive desserts, including a lime curd with crispy Matcha tea cake and Thai basil. The dining room—with black tin ceilings and lined with large-scale time-lapse photos of Paris’s St.-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood—is one of the city’s most dramatic. les400coups.ca
Celebrity chef Chuck Hughes made his name with the Food Network show Chuck’s Day Off and the Montreal restaurant Garde Manger. In 2011 he opened this much anticipated “seafood diner” near the Bonsecours Market, in a tiny subterranean space. The menu features hearty gastropub dishes, like cornbread with garlicky shrimp and a luxurious take on a tuna melt: lobster au gratin on top of toasted brioche. crownsalts.com/lebremner
From Hubert Marsolais and Claude Pelletier, the duo behind the hit restaurant Le Club Chasse & Pêche (“hunting and fishing”), comes this restaurant focusing on local seafood. Chef de cuisine Yasu Okazaki’s small plates include raw compositions with a Japanese influence (fluke with Japanese plum, wasabi and cucumber) and—under the oddly named “Amphibian” portion of the menu—upscale surf-and-turf combinations, like lobster with sweetbreads and chanterelle mushrooms. The funky space combines glitzy gold-colored walls, simple bistro wooden chairs and large-scale photographs of the sea. lefilet.ca Photo courtesy of Joe Beef / Alain Lefort
When chefs Frédéric Morin and David McMillan opened Joe Beef in 2005, they had a specific vision for the place: a small restaurant serving a very personal take on French bistro classics, focusing on the best local ingredients in a supercasual environment. What drives them is a more-is-more Québécois passion for smoked meat, cheese and wine, which has made them a favorite among internationally famous chefs like David Chang and Anthony Bourdain. The steaks and oysters are generally excellent, and there’s usually an over-the-top foie gras preparation. After the success of Joe Beef, Morin and McMillan opened two more miniscule, casual spots—Liverpool House and McKiernan—all on the same block in the city’s Petit-Bourgogne (Little Burgundy) neighborhood. joebeef.ca
Handsome chef-owner Kazuo Akutsu, a Toqué alum, can now be found six days a week cooking in the open kitchen at this tiny, casual Japanese pub. He doesn’t take reservations, so there’s usually a line out front for Akutsu’s incredible ramen with house-made noodles and tender 48-hour-cooked pork served on a bed of rice with pickled ginger.
L’Orignal is French for “the moose,” and, fittingly, this spot has a hunting lodge—chic aesthetic, with wood everywhere, including the floors, tables and walls, along with carved wood antlers on the walls. Chef Marco Santos’s menu features plenty of game (bison tartare, elk steak), but the real draw is L’Orignal’s oyster bar, run by high-energy Daniel Notkin, who shucks daily-changing selections at record speed—a dozen bivalves in under a minute. restaurantlorignal.com
Montreal Restaurants: Splurge
Chef Martin Picard’s bustling, rustic restaurant, open since 2001, has earned a cult following for its modernized, over-the-top (and insanely rich) take on traditional Quebecois food. There’s a gonzo edge to the hallmark dishes here: stuffed pied de cochon (pig’s foot) the size of a forearm, duck poached in a can (and opened at the table) and foie gras–topped poutine (the signature Québécois dish of French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy). A lesser-known highlight: Picard sources seafood from Eastern Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes from late spring through early fall, transforming his place into one of the city’s finest fish restaurants. restaurantaupieddecochon.ca
This dimly lit spot, set among the narrow lanes of Old Montreal, has a chic approach to its chasse et pêche (“hunting and fishing”) theme: There are dark brown leather club chairs and light fixtures adorned with white ceramic bison and birds in mid-flight. Chef Claude Pelletier’s short, weekly-changing menu centers around wild-caught game and seafood, such as a braised piglet risotto and seared scallops on a bed of fennel puree. In summer, the restaurant has lunchtime tables in a covered terrace across the street overlooking the garden of historic Château Ramezay. leclubchasseetpeche.com
Montreal Restaurants: Classic
This landmark French bistro, open since 1980, is still so popular it doesn’t have a sign. The feel is familiar: zinc-topped bar, checkered floor and mirrored walls. The menu is full of superclassic dishes like fish soup with garlicky rouille and hanger steak with shallot butter and fries. Owner Mario Brassoit has compiled an extensive 11,000-bottle cellar of affordable wines, heavy on French labels from Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône and the Loire Valley. restaurantlexpress.ca
This downtown spot, open since 1996, is always busy, reliably great and filled with regulars who come for chef Marino Tavares’s hearty Portuguese classics. The signature seafood rice casserole—studded with scallops, calamari, shrimp, clams and, for an extra cost, huge chunks of lobster—arrives tableside in a copper pan. The wine list consists almost exclusively of Portuguese labels, including an extensive vintage port collection. ferreiracafe.com
Normand Laprise is one of Montreal’s most respected chefs, credited for raising the city’s expectations of fine dining when he opened Toqué! in 1994. His haute cuisine dishes are still revelatory and playful, marked with always-novel flavor combinations and textures: A foie gras terrine comes with a black currant waffle, a cauliflower soup is accented by a milk mousse. Toqué is a white tablecloth restaurant, but it’s anything but stuffy: The glass walled space has a 1960s mod appeal and a relaxed feel. restaurant-toque.com
Montreal Restaurants: Best Value
Photo © Dominique Malaterre.
Set inside what looks like a futuristic cargo container on the grounds of the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, star chef Norman Laprise’s brasserie has become a downtown favorite for its simple and well-priced bistro menu, including steak frites, slow-cooked dill-infused salmon and salt cod brandade on toast. The restaurant’s vast terrace overlooks the Quartier des Spectacles cultural center. brasserie-t.com
The city’s first taco truck, Grumman ’78 is the brainchild of three chefs who have worked at some of Montreal’s top restaurants, including Au Pied de Cochon and L’Express. The terrific menu includes traditional tacos as well as experimental ones, like a tortilla filled with lamb curry and the bahn mi tacos, filled with slow-roasted pork belly, pickled carrot and daikon, roasted sesame seeds, coriander and green onions. The eye-catching, neon-green truck operates during festivals like Jazzfest and Francofolies, but the Grumman ’78 kiosk in the Faubourg Saint-Catherine mall food court makes their tacos available year-round. grumman78.com
In the hip Mile End neighborhood, this small space has a polished yet bohemian vibe, with plaid banquettes and mismatched tables and chairs. London-born chef Marc Cohen turns out superb, offal-heavy dishes influenced by France, Italy and Spain, like a pot au feu of boiled beef, ox tongue and smoked sausage, and veal tail agnolotti. At brunch, his British roots come out in a menu loaded with classics such as scones with jam and clotted cream and bubble and squeak (a UK comfort food dish of fried potato and cabbage). Talented sommelier Etheliya Hananova helps diners navigate her short, excellent wine list centered on small producers from France and Italy. lawrencerestaurant.com
Montreal Coffee Bar
Jean-François Leduc of the popular Caffè in Gamba in the Plateau neighborhood has expanded with this bright new spot in the gentrifying Saint Henri area. He only uses fair trade organic beans and, more of a rarity in Montreal, roasts them in-house and pulls shots on a La Marzocco Strada machine. sainthenri.ca
Photo © Riccardo Cellere.
Some of Montreal’s best cocktails are served not at actual bars but at restaurants that have a forward-thinking bar program. Among the best of them is this Old Montreal spot, lined with stone walls and wooden beams. Chef Benjamin Leonard handles the bistro classics (beef short ribs cooked in a port reduction) while general manager Graham Warner gives classic drinks his own slant, including an Aviation that calls for pear eau de vie instead of maraschino liqueur. barroco.ca Photo © of Bruno Braën.
With a wine list of over 300 bottles—around 50 by the glass—this wine bar is a favorite for Montreal chefs looking to unwind after a night in the kitchen. Sommelier Véronique Dalles’s cellar highlights small French producers, but also unsung wine-growing regions like Switzerland’s Valais and, closer to home, Ontario’s Prince Edward County. The high-end bar snacks include a port-steeped aged cheddar grilled cheese, mini bison burgers with matchstick fries, and, in honor of Montreal’s Portuguese immigrant community, a quail spiced with the hot piri piri pepper. pullman-mtl.com