Montreal FOOD: My Top 15 Picks (Your Mouth Will Water)

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Montreal has so many fabulous restaurants and places to take in delicious fare that its hard to know where to begin, particularly if you only have a few days. Below are my top picks, which are based on personal sampling, more in-depth reviews I did on-site and a couple of strong recommendations from foodie pals with high standards.

Here are my top 15 picks.

1. Pied de Cochon on Rue Duluth is by far my top pick. This isn’t likely news for foodies who have been to Montreal, since its a top pick for many travelers and food lovers alike.

Known for its “duck in a can,” it also has a number of other classic delicacies such as duck carpaccio (served with a raw egg on top), roast suckling pig, putin foie gras, liver mousse guinea fowl, pie sausage and their infamous fries coated with duck fat. Watching them prepare the food from the bar is my recommendation but obviously tough to do if you go with a group.

2. Barroco Restaurant on Rue Saint-Paul in old Montreal. Think old world, brick walls, romantic, incredible service, tons of French and Italian wines and am ambiance to die for.

3. Bocata Restaurant (and Bar a Vin) also on Rue Saint-Paul is a sister to Barroco.  I’m a fan of foie gras so try to taste it wherever they have it on the menu since its tougher to find in the states. I absolutely loved the salmon tartare served with a lemon vinaigrette, the duck roquette pan-seared with pralin de noix, the mushroom tartine with pesto and the halibut and mushroom duxelle, which is an artichoke and lobster ragout. Are you in heaven yet? If you still have room, order the lobster and sweet corn served with apple wood poached bacon, red oak, pickled shallots & tomato emulsion. Try to get a seat by the open doors if you’re there when the weather is nice. A call out to Josh who helped us make decisions every step of the way, including which wine to pair things with. Chef is Benjamin Leonard. 

4. Boris Bistro on Rue McGill has great ambiance and outside terrace if you’re there in the summer or fall. While they have light dishes worth a try such as the Mediterranean Chicken Salad and Beef tartare, their more original dishes include buffalo carpaccio, a duck confit sandwich, duck risotto with creamy mushrooms, sage and orange, and a duo sausage with onion compote. Even heavier, but how can you resist is the duck breast with espresso cardamom sauce and the rabbit braised in white wine on a creamy polenta with bacon.

5. Buvette Chez Simone on Avenue du Parc. As crazy as this sounds, we rode our bikes to this place at midnight through the park and up a steep hill. Because it’s open until 3 am, we arrived just in time and the buzz was in full force. It’s more of a bar than a restaurant (for ambiance), and it mixes old world (the bar, the wine and the food selections) with ‘happening bar’ and odd music that doesn’t quite match its core. We heard everything from hip hop and house to a song from Jesus Christ Superstar.

They have a number of fabulous small plates and the way to go here is to sit at the bar, start with a medium-bodied red and then the best damn bold red on the menu and go to town with the charcuteries. For starters, they do smoked meat which you can get as a half portion or a full portion. Follow up with a mousse de foie, perhaps some prosciutto to share, the rillettes de canard maison (YUM – duck is everywhere in Montreal), the terrine paysanne (my favorite) and the sauteed mushrooms. They also have a ravioli which looked good though I didn’t have a chance to try it. (not everything is available on the menu that late at night).

6. Les Pyrenees Restaurant on Rue St. Paul Ouest. More brick, more old world – can you tell that I’m craving for a little of that old world charm, so missing from America’s west coast? But in all seriousness, how can you go wrong with a menu like this? Wild boar stew with chestnuts, duo rabbit sauce with figs, cassoulet in toulouse, bullinada fish in catalan,  cod steak grotin with olive oil and garlic, and a duck leg gratin served with goat cheese and red berry coulis.  Obviously there’s a strong Lebanese influence mixed with French cuisine favorites.

7. Laurie Raphael on Rue Mansfield. This restaurant is tucked inside the Germain Hotel which is where I stayed this time around. I reviewed this restaurant in-depth on the blog and did it in two sittings, a dinner and a lunch sitting. An unusual preparation of salmon tartare is a good place to start. Here, chef Daniel Vezina serves it with lobster oil, cucumber jelly and sorbet.

His scallop tartar is served with a strawberry pudding and basil pearls.  We tried the poached stripped seabass with yuzu fish broth and sea plant , the beef carlotte tataki with marinated fiddleheads and foie gras; nitrogen foie gras as a peach melba, which was topped with apricot compote and rasberry lacquer. I didn’t have a chance to try the Muscovy Duck but it was my first choice….it is served with Lac St. Jean blueberry sauce, a potato salad and a grilled heart of romaine. My favorite was probably the lunch portion of the Quail surpremes (2 legs were fried and 2 were grilled), on top of a mixed salad and mixed vegetables.

8. Europea on Rue de la Montagne. Chef Jerome Ferrer pays attention to details and you don’t come here to have fun, you come to eat…..slowly. Top picks: seared Quebec foie gras with root vegetable puree, the north shore scallops in a buckwheat crepe with parsnip and meringue and white asparagus filament, the cornish hen served with hay in a casserole infused with galanga and the tagliatelle of calamari served with a poached quail egg and lemon caviar. More in-depth coverage can be found in my restaurant review including photos.

9. Bistro L’Aromate. Here, go for the mulard duck foie gras au torchon with dried cranberry chutney, the seared calf liver with maitre d’ butter and cordial rose lime caramel, their grilled lamb kafta brochette, over spinach, feta cheese tomato and olive salad, the demi-glace au thyme Linguine with duck confit, mushroom fricassée and thyme demi-glace and the yummy veal cheek Bourguignon, with caramelized pearl onion cream sauce. Whoahh Nelly. Ready to board a plane for Montreal yet?

10. Osteria Venti on Rue St. Paul. While the ambiance doesn’t have the same old world charm as many of Montreal’s other old town restaurants, the Italian food here is worth the visit. Sure you can order amazing gnocchi and ravioli, but you should pair it with one of their meat dishes, such as the spiced half cornish hen with salsa verde, the Quebec lamb steak with white wine and garlic, the Rabbit cooked Ischia style with tomatoes and olives.
11. The Tuck Shop on Rue Notre Dame.  For starters, the ambiance here is just as fabulous as the food. Start with a roasted colored beet and arugala salad or the parsnip and cauliflower soup depending on whether it’s chilly or roasting outside. If you want to go a little heavier, try the ravioli maison braised short rib wild mushroom duxelles and brown butter sage sauce, the organic chicken potpie, the Quebec grilled leg of lamb served with Israeli couscous, root veggies and rosemary red wine sauce. If you want something a little lighter, order the fisherman’s hotpot, which is loaded with bass, clams, mussels, shrimp, mirepoix, marinated tomato, boullabaisse, and grilled sourdough.
12. Garde Manger on Rue Saint François Xavier in old Montreal is a seafood restaurant. Try the poutine a l’homard, the lobster poutine or the short ribs.
13. La Banguise on Rue Rachel for apparently the best poutine in Quebec: poutine hot dog, poutine bacon, poutine pizza, poutine mexicaine, poutine turkey, poutine kominkaze, poutine chicks, poutine sausage. Need I say more.
14. Square Dominion Tavern on Rue Metcalfe. From mussels and braised beef to pulled pork sandwiches, pan seared salmon and roasted cornish hen, this place does a great job at mixing French cuisines and flare with a tavern style experience.
15. Gibbys in Place d’Youville. Steak and red meat are the order of the day here in this more traditional establishment in Montreal’s old town. You could try the filet mignon of beef wellington which is covered with mushrooms duxelle wrapped in puff pastry and served with bordelaise sauce, or the chicken kiev which they serve with butter, chives and fine herbs. Another specialty is their rack of lamb youville and the rack of lamb St. Sauveur, which is done provencale style brushed with mustard and lightly dusted with herbed garlic breading.
Lastly, if you don’t want the meat, order the eggplant parmesan. If you’re on a diet, Gibby’s isn’t your stop. A few other places worth mentioning. If you have time, check out Toque and Le Filet Club (Chasse et Peche) in old Montreal, Kazu St. Marc on Sainte Catherine and the L’Ile Bizard for patisseries and chocolate on Cherrie Ile Bizard. Since it’s been so over publicized, I didn’t list it here, but Schwartz’s Deli on Saint Laurent Boulevard is a classic must try for smoked meat and deli fare. A legend, the place always has a line, but it’s worth the experience if you can get there early.
Lastly, take a meander up to Rue King Arthur, which is a quaint cobblestone street lined with various ethnic restaurants, many of which are not fabulous “food finds.” That said, the reason to come here is for the charm and ambiance. Whether you want Lebanese, Greek or Italian, there are a number of places to choose from. If your standards are high, ask them how fresh their meals are, when the produce came in and perhaps watch what comes out of the kitchen before sitting down. Coffee and wine is a safe bet, and you come here to people watch more than you do for an incredible meal.
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