I always like to try the latest open joint or the new “talkabout” of the foodies but there are also a few restaurants in my city that I call my “blue chips” where I keep going back to. They never disappointed me in any way except for the fact that some are impossible to book last minute. Here they are:
#1. Club Chasse & Pêche
The french name translating to « Hunting and Fishing club » might not be inspiring sophistication but don’t let the name stop you. The club, will indeed make you feel like you are a member of a very private circle entering the door with barely no sign outside on a spooky old Montreal street. The feeling will continue as you take a seat in one of those library style leather chair. This is 4 stars class of food and service with highlight dishes like pulled pork and foie gras risotto , always on the menu and a must try. Also, the “Chasse & pêche” dish than can be described has of high end Surf and Turf is always a winner for me. It changes towards the season, the last one I had was grilled Kobe beef paired with a confit lobster tail served with cannelloni stuffed with kobe. The seared scallops with lemon are also a house favourite appetizer. There is no official tasting menu but your waiter can propose one, they will split plates in small portion so you can try many dishes. The staff is highly qualified to give you a good wine pairing experience and make you feel like a rock star. It is 100$ -150$ per person (tax, tip and wine included if you don’t drink like a fish) definitely a great value if you compare high end places in other cities. We are very lucky in Montreal to have Club Chasse & Pêche. Treat yourself to it when you are in town. In my opinion it is THE best restaurant in Montreal. In the summer time, they serve lunch across the street in the gardens of Chateau Ramezay museum. Just lovely and you will want to spend the afternoon there sipping a nice glass of Rosé.
#2. Best Sushi : Jun-i
I was trying every new sushi I could find in town for years until I went there. Jun-I, is the name of the chef that you will find there at lunch and dinner every day its open. He is an obsessive worker who does not joke with quality of food he serves in his 45ish seats restaurant. The rice is perfect, the salmon is the best I ever had, I dare you to taste Juni’s salmon in nigiri or sashimi and tell me it’s just okay. If there is Tasmanian trout on the menu, jump on it and order double, it’s a treat. The little spicy rolls are my favorites, all of them: scallops, tuna, salmon, hamashi. I think I would have a spicy scallops roll as my last bite on earth if I could choose or spicy yellow tail…my heart is torn. Try the sashimi tasting to start , the “Lucky maki” is also a must and let the waiter tell you if Juni has some special new creation hiding in his sleeves today.
#3. Best casual french brasserie: Holder
When I really want a good beef tartar with French fries (and mayo, of course) and I want it to taste exactly has good as it was in my memory , I go to Brasserie Holder. I am never disappointed because this place is the best example of consistency in a restaurant. The service is always fast and efficient even when packed of people. You have that nice brouhaha sound like any French Brasserie should have in peak hours and the place looks just like The Coupole in Paris with banquettes and high ceilings. The old Montréal building where it sits is a beauty and it is in a nice surrounding on the corner of St-Paul St. perfect for an after meal walk to do Art gallery hoping. We are talking casual meal here with a great choice of affordable wines. You will get good value for the buck and all the classics like “onglets-frites” are great. The daily menu always has interesting choices also. I once had a great halibut served Mexican style. I love their Gazpacho in the summer, the simple smoked salmon and yellow beets appetizer is a great choice as well as the salmon tartar . Also a good lively spot for lunch.
#4. My best restaurant of 2010: DNA
One of the most beautiful location in old Montreal with the view on famous Habitat 67’ on Ile St-Hélène. The place has HUGE windows in a very old building but decoration is slick and very modern. They have a superb lounge to start up your evenings in glamour sitting on a gorgeous orange couch. I name this one for the originality of the menu and the fact that they have ham hanging in the cellar for aging. Yes, that impressed me a lot on my first visit. No joke the young chef Derek is making a killing with his Italian inspired dishes mixed with a hint of his British roots plus the guts he has to put stuff like Veal heart tartare or pork blood pastas on the menu. I am not big on eating weird parts of animals but you can avoid that by choosing something else. It is not all wild. In my opinion they make the best sweetbreads (or ris) I ever tasted and the pork belly is to die for. Pasta dishes and desserts are perfect also and the wine list features a lot of Canadian wines. I LOVE DNA. Expensive? Again not for the quality but for 2 moderate drinkers it will cost you around 150$. The bites are worth every buck and its high class service. Good lunch options around 20$ and you get a snack to go for the afternoon, nice touch.
#5. Best newcomer: Tuck shop
This is a summer 2010 new comer in a neighborhood not too fit for foodies yet but with great potential. St-Henri just south of Westmount million dollars houses has gain a “renouveau” from new condos building on canal Lachine and the proximity of Atwater market. This new small bistro style restaurant with a refreshing twist in all the plates did not need any reviews or encouragement and still does not. It was packed from the start, excitement coming from a new place in a spot that needed it (location, location, location) plus former employees of the famous Monkland Tavern brought a crowd with them. After many attempts to get a table last minute I finally decided to book Tuck shop a week in advance for a Tuesday night. Did not like the fact that we are almost sitting on each others but got over it as soon as I tasted our appetizers. I was struck by great tastes, plates that are out of the trend line and service made by real professional. When a new joint does feel like it’s been there forever, it’s a winner. I dreamed about the Mimolette (aged cheddar) gravy on my pork belly for days and came back for more jerky cornouailles in black bean sauce or was it for the steak tartar and perfect crispy fries? After just a couple visits, I was sold. Still complaining that I can’t get a table on a splurge of the moment but when I get one, I am totally satisfied and my wallet does not suffer from it. I have my last bill right here: 2 bloody Caesars, 1 bottle of California Zin, jerk chicken, beef tartar, onion soup, huge steak perfectly cooked and 1 dessert. 128$. (tip not included) Smart casual food with a hint of spark in a crowdy place won my heart. You got the message, reserve wayyyy in advance. Sitting at the bar is cool. Not open for lunch.
web : http://tuckshop.ca/
Special note: Pied de cochon
I feel I should say something about this one because whenever I travel out of the country people are talking to me about this restaurant. Definitely, Martin Picard’s restaurant is famous outside Quebec and there is a big buzz over his comforting and somewhat greasy cuisine. I went once, I enjoyed but I was not overwhelmed. I have to admit tough it is different and its standing out. Just not my favorite kind of cuisine but go ahead and try their star dish the “foie gras poutine”. You will definitely need a walk after that meal.