A Montreal Meander: Part II
I gave my son’s adopted city, Montreal, short culinary shrift by writing only about Gibeau Orange Julep. So here is a roster of the venues we love and know—so far! Prices are in CAD$, which, at this posting are $.74USD. Some do not fall within the snack budget of “$10.00 and under,” but in the interest of completeness and being a truly helpful guide for a trip to Montreal (which you must take!) I’m including all price ranges.
L’ Amere a Boire We call it simply “the bar,” and consider it our home base. We stumbled on this simple Bar/Brasserie on Rue St. Denis during our first exploratory trip in 2013, and now we eat there on our first night of every visit. The Chef and Angus fell in love with the European style beers, and we all fell in love with the bar bites: fried gyoza dumplings with rabbit confit, Moroccan briquettes of lamb (like spring rolls) with a yogurt dipping sauce, codfish cakes with lime mayonnaise (all $8.00 or so), fantastic frites ($4.00) and for mains: fish and chips or venison burger. But we always manage to make a meal out of the small plates. 2049 Rue St. Denis (514) 282-7448
Mamie Clafoutis Also on St. Denis, this artisanal boulangerie has a few outposts, but this one has a wonderful design, in which you can sit on the second floor in comfy seating and look at the croissants, tarts and other pastries being made. There are worn copies of books and magazines (in French) that also give it a homey feel. Recently we ate Parisian style sandwiches –simple meat and cheese on perfect baguettes at the Mamie Clafoutis near Atwater Market. And Parisian prices, too: $4.00 for a small sandwich and $7.00 for full size. 3660 Rue St. Denis (438) 380-5624
Marché de la Villete When the more fashionable panini purveyor Olive et Gourmando was too bustling and busy (as it almost always is), we went to this cliché Francophone restaurant that is filled with Parisian tchotchkes and which pounds you with loud French café music. But still…it’s really good for true French items like their homemade paté sandwiches ($9.95) and a salad Niçoise ($14.95) or French onion soup with Quiche Lorraine ($12.95). It remains true to its mission to be “la bonne franquette,” the good potluck! Kitschy but reliable. 324 Rue St. Paul Ouest, (514) 807-8084
Monsieur B This is another restaurant we remain loyal to from that first Montreal trip. We had asked for recommendations from Bruno Tremblay, Quebec native and a scientist colleague of the Chef's, now at McGill. He immediately suggested this casual but excellent modern French Canadian bistro. The BYOB policy makes the tab quite reasonable for such a high quality venue. The service is friendly, unfussy and the fare never disappoints. Go with the $55 five-course tasting menu. The salmon and the beef tartar are both standouts as well as the risotto with braised lamb and tiny peas. 371 Rue Villaneuve Ouest (514) 545-6066 [Note: Wise to reserve in advance]
Ichifuku Ramen The Chef and I always stay at the Marriott Residence Inn in Westmount, which is far cheaper than the same hotel in the more hip, Francophone Outremont, so inevitably, when we are exhausted from helping our son assemble IKEA furniture or from the emotional strain of another goodbye, we like some reliable restaurants close by. We discovered a wealth of Asian restaurants along Rue St. Catherine, within a few blocks of our hotel. The Chef researched this authentic Japanese ramen shop. He happily slurped up his Sakana Tonkatsu ($15.50), with thick ramen noodles in, surprisingly, fish broth and I eagerly dug my chopsticks into my Tonkatsu in spicy miso broth ($14.50) with thinner noodles. A young woman stood in the window making ramen noodles using a complicated-looking machine. The combo of redolent broth, tender pork and toothsome noodles made us pronounce it better than any ramen joint we had been to in NYC—high praise, indeed! 1923 Rue St. Catherine Ouest, (514) 932-7227
Qing Ha This place is legendary for serving dumplings with over 30 varieties of fillings and for its soup dumplings. A true “hole in the wall,” it has the advantage (for us) of being on Avenue Lincoln, a few blocks from our Residence Inn, and being cheap and cheerful: $9.99 for 15 dumplings. And while the dumplings are excellent, I still remember the Chinese cucumber salad I had here as extremely refreshing on a hot August day, when, yes, we probably had spent too much time frustrated by IKEA furniture. 1676 Avenue Lincoln, (438) 288-5386.
P.S: Frite Alors! If you want to sample poutine and get it over with, just go to one of the many Frite Alors! fast food outlets. Travel weary, we stumbled into one on Rue St. Laurent on our very first night in Montreal. We had also just checked into our very first AirBnB, which opened onto Rue Dominique with a scraped, graffitied door and hallway that looked, the Chef said, as if we were entering a crack den. Still we were giddy to be in this foreign province of Canada. When we crossed the border from Vermont, Julie and Angus had been immediately mesmerized by the French signs for common things like “gas” “restaurant,” “lodging.” They sat in the back seat cracking each other up mispronouncing unpronounceable French words. Angus and the Chef were determined to eat poutine, which they did at Frit Alors!, the excellent Belgian style frites buried under brown gravy and cheese curds. “Pouah!”