Features Montreal: A Culinary Field Trip Across the Border
Montréal: A Culinary Field Trip Across the Border
April 2009

If your budget and schedule don’t allow for a month in Paris, Montréal is an ideal alternative. Easily accessible from the U.S. East Coast, the second-largest city in Canada feels worlds away. With deep roots in French cuisine, culture, and language (it's the second-largest French-speaking city in the world), it's easy to forget that you're not actually across the Atlantic strolling through a French city.

This island on the St. Lawrence River was originally home to Iroquois American Indians, but was subsequently colonized by the French and then the British. Yet Montréal maintains a distinct Canadian character, and often struggles to bridge its cultural identities. Although this can prove controversial in politics, when it comes to food, Montréal chefs have proudly and successfully fused their disparate backgrounds, producing a cuisine that is rich with their collective heritage.

A modern city, Montréal still has plenty of Old World charm. For a taste of this make a trip to Restaurant Laloux, where chef Marc André Jetté and pastry chef Patrice Demers serve updated French classics in a romantic setting with the feeling of another era. Or go to Chez L’Épicier, a restaurant cum epicerie on a cobblestone street in the heart of Old Montréal. Chef Laurent Godbout sells his own line of epicure products, including parmesan oil, maple vinegar (Québec produces more than 80% of the world’s maple syrup), and ginger jam. In the restaurant Godbout serves comforting food made with artisanal Québec ingredients. And sommelier Jean-Francois Jacob masterfully pairs wines selected from their 1800-bottle cellar.

Local food is not so much a movement as a way of life in Montréal. Quebec is one of the world’s top five producers of foie gras, turning out about 200 tons of foie per year—and Montreal chefs take advantage of this bounty. Most of the restaurants we visited boasted locally-sourced ingredients as the cornerstone of their cuisine.

At Toqué!, a renowned Montréal restaurant, chef Normand Laprise exclusively uses products from foragers and artisan suppliers in Québec. At Au Pied de Cochon, hunting enthusiast chef Martin Picard has created a high-end restaurant with a neighborhood feel and a focus on Canadian ingredients. And chef Eric Dupuis offers small plates and local Québec cheeses at Pullman, a wine bar and after-hours industry hang-out. Departing from the French-driven cuisine of many Montreal restaurants is Brontë, where chef Joe Mercuri serves contemporary Italian food in an upscale, highly modern setting.

Wherever you end up, you’re likely to find gastronomic inspiration in this cosmopolitan, food-centric city. We barely skimmed the surface, but after a few days in Montréal we left impressed by the innovative culinary techniques, flavor combinations, and use of local products that we saw.

Restaurants Hotels (and a Spa) Chefs Recommend

Au Pied de Cochon
Chez L’Épicier
Restaurant Laloux

Le Saint-Sulpice
L'Hôtel XIXe Siècle
Scandinave Les Bains

Restaurants Off the Beaten Path
Joe Beef
Les Cons Servent
Mundo Trattoria
Niu Kee

Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth East
Montréal, Québec  H2L 1A9
(514) 281-1114
Hours: Tues-Sun 5pm-Midnight
Neighborhood: Plateau Mont-Royal

Au Pied de Cochon, which means “pig’s foot,” has reached gastronomic cult status in Montréal among chefs and discerning diners. Chef Martin Picard, a protégé of Normand Laprise, takes his inspiration from French cuisine, local Canadian ingredients, and his love of hunting. Take, for example, the addictive, rich Plogue à Champlain: a buckwheat pancake with bacon, potato, cheddar, foie gras, and eggs cooked in maple syrup, with a maple sauce made with duck stock and bacon. The idea for the dish was born on one of Picard’s hunting trips. PDC, as the locals call it, looks so nondescript on the outside it could easily be missed walking by. Chef Picard offers indulgent dishes, with a focus on Rougie foie gras, in an informal environment with tightly packed wooden tables, moose heads on the walls, and beers on tap.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Orielles de Crisse
  • Plogue à Champlain
  • Pouding Chômeur
Au Pied de Cochon – Plogue à Champlain
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Meridien Versailles Hotel
1800 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal, Québec  H3H 1E5
(514) 934-1801
Hours: Tues-Sat 6pm-11pm
Neighborhood: Westmount

Located in the Meridien Versailles Hotel on stylish Sherbrooke Street West, Brontë is a sleek contemporary Italian restaurant headed by chef-owner Joe Mercuri. Mercuri artfully plates his food, which is also rich with texture and flavor. House-made pappardelle is served with braised rabbit and porcini mushrooms, and seared scallops come with a beautiful palate of pink grapefruit, celery root foam, and red radish. Sommelier Dave Pendon pours gutsy wines that complement the food with unexpected flavor harmonies.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Braised Rabbit with House-Made Pappardelle, Porcini Mushrooms, Sweet Carrot Emulsion, Armondomoni Olive Oil, and Micro Beet Leaf
  • Seared Scallop with Pink Grapefruit, Celery Root Foam, and Red Radish
  • Surf and Turf: Crispy Sweetbreads and Yellowfin Tuna
Bronte - Braised Rabbit Papparedelle, Porcini Mushrooms, Sweet Carrot Emulsion, Armondomoni Olive Oil
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Chez L’Epicier
311 Rue Saint-Paul East
Montréal, Québec  H2Y 1H3
(514) 878-2232
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm; Grocery Daily, 11:30am-10pm
Neighborhood: Old Montréal

At Chez L’Epicier chef Laurent Godbout combines his dining room with a specialty food boutique where diners and casual shoppers can purchase local and imported items, including those from his own line of products. Godbout takes a methodical, almost mathematical approach to his cooking whereby no ingredient is repeated on the menu. His fresh approach yields equally creative cuisine with unusual flavor combinations, like the Pan-Fried Shrimp with Grapefruit, Ancho Pepper Jelly, White Chocolate, and Tarragon Mayonnaise. The restaurant also boasts a wine cellar of 250 labels and nearly 1,800 bottles, which sommelier Jean-Francois Jacob skillfully pairs with Godbout’s dishes.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Pan-Fried Shrimp with Grapefruit, Ancho Pepper Jelly, White Chocolate, and Tarragon Mayonnaise
  • Tetaki of Beef
  • Foie Gras with Caramelized Apple, Duck Confit, and Cinnamon Ice Cream
Chez L'Epicier  - Tetaki of Beef, Mint Oil, Coconut sorbet, Cauliflower and Micro Herb, Wazo Pe. Poured Over with Cold Cauliflower Soup Broth
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3424 du Park Avenue
Montréal, Québec  H2X 2H5
(514) 288-7779
Hours: Tues-Sat 4:30pm-1am
Neighborhood: Downtown

Named for the inventor of the luxury train car, Pullman is a modern wine bar with an impressive selection of boutique wines and cheeses. Offering 300 wines (including 50 by the glass) and small plates meant for sharing, this chic tri-level restaurant is a favorite after-work hang-out for chefs, sommeliers, and other culinary professionals. Chef Eric Dupuis has carefully curated a menu of innovative tapas-style dishes, like the Cyber Egg, a quail egg with caviar and vodka. Claim a seat at the stylish wooden bar or climb to the mezzanine for a bit of privacy under the striking modern chandelier.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Wine Tasting Menu
  • Cyber Egg: Quail Egg with Caviar and Vodka
  • Cheese Plate of Rassembleu, St-Maure, and Riopelle
  • Petits Babas au Rhum
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Restaurant Laloux
250 Avenue des Pins East
Montréal, Québec  H2W 1P3
(514) 287-9127
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; Sun-Thurs 5:30pm-10:30pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11:30pm
Neighborhood: Plateau Mont-Royal

The romantic setting and classic elegance of Restaurant Laloux transports diners back to the 1940s, although the restaurant is just shy of 20 years old. Chef Marc André Jetté and pastry chef Patrice Demers serve updated French classics in this lovely bistro setting. Influenced by his years under chef Daren Bergeron at Decca 77, chef Jetté produces simple food presented in his trademark casual-elegant style. Québec-raised lamb and seafood caught daily from the Atlantic are hallmarks of his menu. Pastry chef Patrice Demers started his career on the savory side, so expect to end your meal in a non-traditional manner that incorporates both sweet and savory elements. In the Candy Cap Mushroom Panna Cotta, for example, Demers flavors the delicate custard with mushrooms that have a maple aroma.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Roasted Québec Lamb Saddle
  • Seafood Salad with Fennel, Grapefruit, and Olives
  • Candy Cap Mushroom Panna Cotta
Restaurant Laloux - Candy Cap Mushroom Panna Cotta, Green Apple Sorbet, Pecan Shortbread and Rosemary Honey Gelee
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900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle
Montréal, Quebex H2Z 2B2
(514) 499-2084
Hours: Tues-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm
Neighborhood: Downtown

Normand Laprise’s acclaimed landmark is one of the most renowned restaurants in Montréal—and with good reason. Laprise solely uses products from Québec, emphasizing the “Québecois joie de vivre,” and purchases many of his ingredients directly from foragers and artisan suppliers. For those feeling adventurous, chef Laprise creates a daily seven-course tasting menu based on seasonal ingredients.

Recommended Dishes:

  • Tasting Menu
  • Marinated Novia Scotia Princess Scallops with Sumac Water and Wasabi Foam
  • Seared Foie Gras with Pear Reduction, Brioche, Dried Raisins, Hazelnuts, and Powder of Yellow Bell Pepper
  • Roasted Rack of Lamb with Jerusalem Artichoke, Elderberry, Savoy Cabbage, Pearl Onions, and Wild Rosehip Puree
Toque - Seared Foie Gras with Pear Reduction, Brioche, Dried Raisins, Hazelnuts, and Powder of Yellow Bell Pepper
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Le Saint-Sulpice
414 Rue St-Sulpice
Montréal, Québec H2Y 2V5
(877) 785-7433

Rooms start at $190 CAD
Neighborhood: Ville-Marie

This 108 all-suite boutique hotel is housed in an old fur warehouse. But don’t let its modest roots fool you—this is a full-service luxury hotel with amenities to match. The suites offer kitchenettes and mini-bars, 24-hour room service, and many have a balcony and/or fireplace. Enjoy European-inspired cuisine prepared by Chef Bernard L’hote at the hotel restaurant, S Le Restaurant. Located in the Ville-Marie neighborhood by the Old Port, La Saint-Sulpice is centrally located for a Montréal getaway.

L'Hôtel XIXe Siècle
262 Saint-Jacques West
Montréal, Québec  H2Y 1N1
(514) 288-1000

Rooms start at $100 CAD
Neighborhood: Old Montréal

Right in the heart of Old Montréal, L’Hotel XIXe Siècle is an elegant boutique hotel with rooms furnished in the Louis-Phillipe style. Large beds, whirlpool baths, and complementary breakfast are just some of the amenities you’ll receive here.

Scandinave Les Bains
71 de la Commune Street West
Montréal, Québec  H2Y 2C6
(514) 288-2009

Services start at $42 CAD
Neighborhood: Old Montréal

Just a block away from La Saint-Sulpice (and 10% off if you stay at the hotel) is the Scandinave Les Bains (Scandanavian Baths), the only spa in Montréal where you can enjoy Scandinavian baths in combination with massages. Bring someone along to join you in the baths—or meet someone there. After being on your feet in the kitchen for long hours, treat yourself to their stress-relieving treatments.

Joe Beef
2491 Notre Dame West
Montréal, Québec H3J 1N6
(514) 935-6504
Type of Cuisine: Steaks and Seafood

156 Ave. Laurier O.
Montreal, Quebec H2T 2N7
(514) 276-5864
Type of Cuisine: Japanese

Les Cons Servent
5064 Papineau
Montreal Quebec H2H 1V8
Type of Cuisine: Seasonal Quebec

2025 Drummond
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1W6
(514) 906-2747
Type of Cuisine: Burgers

Mundo Trattoria
17003 Route Trans-Canada
Kirkland, Quebec H9H 5J1
(514) 696-7887
Type of Cuisine: Italian

Niu Kee
1163 Rue Clark
Montreal, Quebec H2X 2P8
(514) 227-0464
Type of Cuisine: Szechuan Chinese