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Guide Flavourville: Lesley Chestermans Guide to Dining Out in Montreal

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The firm polenta i s shaped into a round container, sliced in half, and filled with sautde d portobellin i an d Parisia n mushrooms. Although the polenta is excellent, rich and well seasoned, the portion i s too large. The mushrooms, pipin g ho t an d mixe d wit h concasse o f tomatoes , lac k seasoning , and th e swir l of reduce d balsamic vinegar fails to provide the desired kick. Main course s are much better. The veal chop is expensive by global standards bu t wort h ever y penny.

Pounded t o perfection, the mea t i s tender, flavourful, an d rose ' in th e centre—jus t th e way it ought to be. The huge chop is topped with a delicious heap of portebellini , oyster , and Parisia n mushroom s an d bab y new potatoes, an d the mix is enlivened by a bold herb-lemon season ing. Sophisticated palates, shunning the pizza, will no doubt hon e in on the mezzaluna pasta. The five plump pockets are filled with gamy guine a fow l an d serve d wit h a cream-based mushroo m sauce—excellent. Desserts are surprisingly subdued fo r such a funky place.

The "Bongo Bongo" does not live up to its exotic name. It's just a large profiterole with chocolate sauce, okay vanilla ice cream, and tough choux pastry. Those who don't like their desserts chewy, ooey, and gooey should abstain. My favourite is a simple Ricotta cheesecake with pine nuts. Its sweet taste and dry texture are ideally offset by a tangy red fruit coulis. Hats of f to Buon a Notte's waitresses. Friendly and efficient , they provide service with a smile despite working the night shif t in daint y mules.

The hectic scen e is such that the timing of th e courses can be a bit prolonged. And the fact that patrons tend to monopolize the attention o f such cool chicks is understandable. Needless to say, there's an ashtray on every table salt and pepper shakers are available upon request. Open floor-to-ceiling windows face a raucous strip of the Main where hard-revving motorcycles abound , making it difficult t o judge whether noise levels are higher insid e or outside. But Buona Nott e ha s been going strong for years now, while wannabes surrounding it on St.

Laurent have come an d gone. It' s no t th e bes t restauran t fo r a quiet evening with grandma, but it's the place for those who want to feel they're in the right place at the right time. Chefs-owners Dominic Tremblay and Maryse Carrier's original, high-end cuisine is offered a t prices well below what you'll pay in the big city. And though the setting and ambience are country casual, the cooking and service offer the utmost in professionalism. From the choice of napkins and cutlery to the flavour o f the tuile propped on your dessert, chef-owners offer thei r patrons a highly personalized dining experience.

Call it purity of vision. It's a tough gig. At a time whe n four-lea f clover s an d uni corns are easier to come by than bank loans for restaurants, chef entrepreneurs have to be careful. Yet for a chef to make a mark, a certain amount of creative risk-taking is imperative. If the che f is talented enoug h t o manag e th e financia l responsibilities whil e reaching the level of maturity in his or her cooking require d t o produce a menu tha t is both unique and desirable, then a star is born.

The monthly men u written on a chalkboard beside the fron t door offer s a table d'hote format that includes appetizers, main courses, desserts, and coffee. What's more, the ingredients favoured b y this kitchen—lamb, sweetbreads, oysters, fresh sal mon, duck— ar e first-class. Dinner start s of f with deliciou s homemad e focacci a an d a n amuse-bouche such as a cream of zucchini soup with smoked herring, or chicken-live r pat6 served with a curried raisin chutney. The artfully presented appetizers always draw raves.

The best starte r is the "terrine mystere. A terrine made with lamb? Yes, and once you taste the perfectly seasoned meat accented with carraway seeds and a spoonful of cranberry salsa, you'll wonder why everyone isn't making this dish. Main courses follow in the sam e creative style as the starters. This is typified by the pave of salmon topped with deep-fried rice noodles and serve d with spinac h an d sautee d re d pepper s an d Ratte potatoes. Another good choice is the thinly sliced magret of duck served with celery root puree, sauteed spinach, and a phyllo turnover filled with herbed mushrooms.

Of the homemade desserts, the gentle ginger creme brulee and the warm chocolate cream topped with light hazelnut-chocolat e ice cream are both enjoyable. A nice alternative to desser t is the cheese course, which includes some of Quebec's best cheeses. Service i n thi s convivia l countr y settin g i s casual, efficient , and friendly. This restaurant resides in a country house with the requisite fron t porc h and lace y drapes. But if this i s Holly Hobby' s style, she's certainl y al l grown up.

That said, however, this is a gutsy little restaurant, offering original , high-en d cuisin e a t som e o f th e bes t price s around. Be warned: Cafe Massawippi is only open for dinner; un less you have accommodations nearby or are planning a visit t o the area , the driv e to and fro m Montrea l can be arduous, especially in winter. The space lay empty for years after the demis e of Mondo Saks , and th e ne w trendy decor an d cavernous room seeme d destined t o overwhel m the food. But you have to giv e Cavalli a chance. Sipping a cocktail and swayin g to the cool background music, you'll find yourself having something you probably haven't ha d a t a restaurant i n a while: fun!

But a restaurant is only as good as its food, and i n that respect Cavalli doesn't disappoint. Though the underlying style is Italian, ingredients like wasabi, spices, chipotle peppers, and plenty of coriander screa m fusion. Ye t if thi s i s fusion , it' s fusio n a t it s mos t disciplined and restrained. Cavalli's Bellini is a Champagne-based drink gussied up with peach schnapps and vodka. It's refreshing, vibrant, intense, and fun—much like the restaurant itself. Every appetizer sample d get s a firm thumbs-up. Th e grille d octopus is tender and charred, and lined up on a bed of firm and meaty chickpeas.

Served alongside is a salad of enoki mushrooms, lamb's lettuce, and marinated red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Also not to be missed is the tempura of shrimp, calamari, and soft-shell crab. Tempura and calamari are old news in these parts, but what's inventive here is the way the chefs have managed to trap spicy garlic a'ioli inside the tempura shell. If fresh seafood is your pleasure, try the seared scallop ceviche with grilled onion vinaigrette, roasted pepper puree, tomato con cass6, and homemade potat o chips.

The only thing missing is a touch of acidity to enliven the flavours, something like the vinaigrette used on the plate of white fish carpaccio. The olive oil d lemon-tamari vinaigrette transforms the dish from a plate of w pink snappe r int o meltin g mouthful s o f meat enlivene d wit h crisp, bitter greens. Beef carpacci o i s availabl e i n almos t ever y Italian restau rant.

Here it has been completely rejuvenated. The meat is sliced millimetre-thin, arrange d in a perfect circle, and topped with thin rounds o f raw Jerusalem artichoke , a mound o f baby dandelion greens, and, in place of the usual Parmesan shavings, thin slices of Mimolette cheese. But the ingredient that takes it to the next level is sliced Italian baby peaches preserved wit h whit e truffles.

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Th e combination o f the melting raw meat, bitter greens, rich cheese, and luxurious truffled peache s is a thrill your taste buds will not soon forget. The star of the pasta lineup is the macaroni with Fontina and Cheddar, black truffle purfe , and brioche bread crumbs. With al dente macaron i rigate , a uniform coatin g o f cheese, and a pro nounced taste of truffle, it's a witty play on the comfort-food clas sic. All that's missing is a topping of foie gras. Main courses continue to impress. Sushi-grade tuna is lightly seared in a crust of sunflower seed s and serve d with room tern - TOP TABLE S 6 1 perature bo k choy , Israel i couscous , an d enok i mushroom s dressed with a wasabi and tobiko vinaigrette.

Rack of lamb i s given the Mediterranea n treatmen t wit h a n oregano crust, oven-roasted tomatoes, a twirl of spinach, lemon salsa, Feta cheese, and a sauc e mad e wit h blac k olives an d pa n juices. If striped sea bass is the fish of the day, don't pass it up. Moist and delicate, it's topped with a brunoise of mango with mint and served with an intense pepper sauce.

Desserts don' t quit e liv e u p t o th e sophisticatio n o f th e savoury menu. Gone are the Italian influence, colourful presentations, and much of the innovative spirit. Still, there are some ups, such as a moist carro t cake iced with goat's cheese, and a creamheavy trio consisting of fluffy coffee mousse matched with an Earl Grey tea creme brulee and Mascarpone ice cream. Under the watchful eye of floor manager Pasquale Ruffolo an d co-owner Giann i Caruso, service is solid.

Though waits between dishes tend to lag, with all the action you'll barely notice. The trendy design was conceived by architect Miguel Cancio, who has created a sort of preppy fun house with alternating cand y pink and celery green velvet chairs, seventies wood panelling, a thin-striped woo l carpet, and an illuminated black-and-pin k bar. And, judging from th e tame menu selections, the restaurant itself does not see m overl y concerned wit h authenticity. Wha t th e crowd s appear to be drawn to here is the light, health-conscious nature of Thai cuisine, and its exotic flavours—ginger, coconut, lemongrass, peanut, chili pepper—which excite the palate and rejuvenate the senses.

This makes Chao Phraya one of the best restaurants for a casual meal, especially during the hot summer weather.

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Those lovely smells emanate from the items listed on the menu thoug h most of the main course s are interchangeable, dependin g o n th e choic e of meat. TOP TABLE S 6 3 Prices and portion size s are reasonable, so ordering a variety of dishe s to shar e family-style is an excellent wa y to sampl e the many facets of this cuisine. Don't worry about leftovers; it's considered good manners in Thai circles to leave food on the plate— proof of your host's generosity doggy bags are provided for those who enjoy cold pad Thai with their morning Rice Krispies.

Salads provide a fine start to the meal. The duck salad, made with spicy roast duck, red onions, mint leaves, chives, and coriander, is excellent. More typically Thai is a salad o f green mango, onions, hot chilies , and dry shrimp. Unfortunately, it has a fishy aftertaste, whic h point s t o a n exces s of bottled fis h sauce , for there's nary a shrimp in the mk. Also , the dish is overly sweet, and the mango has little or no mango flavour. If it's flavour you're after, don't skip the soup course.

The ho t and sour wonton sou p looks plain enough, but it packs a punch of sour, salty, and spicy, with the added aromatic kick of lemongrass. Also outstanding is the hot and sour chicken soup with coconut milk. The cooling nature of the milk neutralizes the spice, and every spoonful come s up with a lily-white morsel of chicken breast—a concert of tastes in perfect harmony. Of the ho t appetizers , the breaded shrim p ar e fleshy, tender , and tasty , though hardl y enhance d b y the swee t plu m dippin g sauce.

The overstuffe d imperia l rolls ar e also lacking taste-wise. Packed with cabbage, noodles, and shredded carrot, they seem to lack any discernible seasoning. One of the best-loved Thai appetizers is chicken satay. Though moist, this version features grilled meat that lacks any of the de sirable charred marking s or flavour. The accompanyin g peanu t sauce tastes more of coconut tha n o f peanut, and the overriding taste sensatio n i s sweet a s opposed t o spic y Tha i cuisin e has a reputation for being fiery, but this tame dish is nothing more than pleasant.

Main-course dishes include more highs and lows. The sauteed pork with ginge r and onions would b e better with a sauce thick enough to coat the meat and vegetables; as served, it gathers in a puddle a t th e botto m o f the plate. The sautee d chicke n wit h peanut sauc e and crisp y spinach sounds better tha n i t tastes.

The spinach, which appears to have been sprinkled with sugar, is too sweet for even the most well-developed sweet tooth. Also suffering i n th e flavour department i s that Tha i restauran t signatur e dish , pa d Thai.

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Again, it's bland; the duck pieces within ar e especially lackluster. Those up for spicy may enjoy the sauteed roast duck with hot chili and basil, known in Thai as "ped pad kha pao. Unfortunately, all the hea t spice appears to be emanating from the crust of chili powder on the duck, not fro m an y layering of spices or dried chili peppers. Without a doubt, this restaurant's forte is curries.

The panang beef curry is superb. Spooned over the excellent steamed rice, the meat is tender and the sauce, a blend of coconut milk, curry paste, sweet basil, and peanuts, is as delicious a s an Indian curry but even more aromatic. Chicke n i n a red curry sauc e is another winner. This melange is fruitier than the panang curry and well matched with chicken ; it includes mor e fragran t basi l leaves, red pepper, and pineapple.

After thi s plethora of novel taste sensations, the onl y dessert that seems appropriate i s fried bananas with ice cream. Nothing too excitin g here, but wh o goes to a Thai resto fo r the desserts? In my book, jasmine tea or a fruity liqueur would be more tha n sufficient. Th e long rectangula r room is elegant, though not exotic enough to transport you to faraway lands for th e duration o f your meal.

If you're a seeker of exotica, there are discoveries to be made. Just don't be blinded by the crowds and lengthy menu into thinking that this is the last word in Thai cuisine. This historic Old Montrea l restaurant , a favourite of local businessme n an d lawyers, has classi c French seafood , a civilized atmosphere, an d solicitous service. The trout and Dover sole are sublime.

At lunch, join th e regular s at the ba r fo r oysters , lobste r sandwiche s o n brown bread, beer, and coleslaw. L'Expres s is pure Pari s bistro. Lucca reminds us of the best Italian trattorias. Located on Rue Notre Dame West, a stone's throw from NotreDame Cathedral, in the heart of what was once Montreal's busy financial and business district, Che z Delmo is a restaurant from a bygone era. Entering the place is like stepping into a sepia-toned photograph take n at the turn of the last century. This three-floor establishment opene d i n 2 as a private Englis h gentlemen' s club.

The ground floor was for drinking. On the second floor, they gambled. And the top floo r was—well, let's just say that the top floor was the only floor where women were allowed. Today, puritans among us will be happy to know that th e second and thir d floors are empty , an d tha t the onl y thing on e can do a t Che z Dehno is enjoy a fine meal. There ar e reasons thi s long-standing restauran t stil l attract s loyal patrons: the menu features solid French food, the service is attentive, and the atmosphere an d sound level are civilized—save for th e lunch hour, when the two-Martini crow d lets loose.

Rumour has it that Chez Delrno's frequent customers are given preferential treatment, but in my experience, one couldn't ask for better service or a warmer welcome. The red-jackete d waiters are seasoned professionals whose serving skills leave little to be desired. You won't fin d Chilea n sea bass or grille d swordfis h a t Chez Delmo. Things are kept simple here—classic French all the way, with cooking term s like "rneuniere," "St. Jacques," and "Nantua" sprinkled throughout the menu. What bette r wa y is there to star t a meal in a French seafoo d restaurant tha n wit h oysters?

The six lovely specimens serve d at Chez Delmo arrive on crushed ice and are fresh, plump, and briny. The large, thin slice of smoked salmon is also excellent, but consid ering that many restaurants ar e now smoking their own salmon, it's difficult to wax enthusiastic over this offering. The fish soups—clam chowde r an d lobste r bisque—prov e that seasonin g is the fort e o f this kitchen.

All have a wonderfu l depth o f flavou r an d ar e expertl y salted. Th e lobste r bisqu e i s creamy, hot, an d filled with chunk s o f lobste r meat. Th e cla m chowder is chock full of clams, but it should be thicker to earn the name chowder. Two of the house specialties, gratine'ed shrimps Nantua and Dover sole, could not be more different.

The shrimp dish consists of the small variety of th e crustacea n smothere d i n a cup's wort h o f thic k bechamel-based sauce. The generous portion is barely gratineed and the rich and delicious sauce, which is enriched with crayfish , Cognac, and cream, completely overwhelms the shrimp. In complete contras t i s the Dove r sole meuniere. This lightly floured fis h i s sauteed i n butte r an d serve d with brown-butte r sauce o n th e side.

Quickly an d expertl y boned a t the table , the fine, firm-texture d specime n is cooked to perfection, offering delicate flavou r an d a melt-in-me-mouth texture. Believ e it or not , the trout, prepared i n the same manner, is even better. The rosy flesh is tender and succulent, and the taste divine.

The grilled se a scallops coul d us e a bit o f love and attention. The six chunky mollusks are properly grilled and tender, but they sit naked, crying out for sauce. The one offered, a ramekin of that onion- and caper-laden mayonnaise, tartar sauce, is about as heavy as it gets. Another choic e from th e grill, halibut, must be popular wit h weight-watching patrons fo r it's also serve d sans sauce. But thi s light and tender fish doesn't need any. The accompanying vegetables—fine French green beans and carrots—are perfectly cooked in the al dente, nouvelle cuisine style.

The homemade French fries are thin, crisp, and tasty—the real McCoy. A word of caution: Don't be tempted by the small selection of meat dishe s o n thi s menu. Th e steak s can be fatty , sinewy , an d tough, even if the accompanying pepper sauce is just as it should be—Cognac-enhanced and creamy, with a sweet, potent pepper flavour.

The desserts here are run-of-the-mill samples from the mos t basic French repertoir e an d ar e a bit o f a letdown. Th e crem e caramel is awfully sweet, the apple tart has a soggy crust, and th e profiteroles ar e made with choux pastry that lacks the desirabl e crunchiness. You might prefe r t o ski p desser t altogethe r an d savour the delicious coffee instead.

The front room , with its two New York-style mahogany bars, is masculine-Anglourban, while the dining room behind is old-fashioned-feminineFrench-country. At lunchtime, many businessmen an d lawyers from th e nearby office tower s and the Palais de Justice eat at the bar, preferring the clubb y atmospher e u p front. At dinner, th e dimly lit dining room, with its high-backed wooden chairs, flowerprint wallpaper , pal e yello w wainscoting, and antiqu e servin g platters propped aroun d its perimeter, has a decidedly romantic, Old World ambience.

One goo d choice, Sancerre, not only provides good value, but also goes well with most fish dishes. Whatever th e case , fish lovers shoul d giv e Chez Delmo a try. Go for lunch, find a seat between two lawyers at the bar, enjoy the lobster bisque, and soak up the soul of Old Montreal. Chef and owner Laurent Godbout aim s to modernize th e classics.

His menu feature s inventive fusio n cuisin e presente d wit h flair. Th e award-winnin g decor is young, modern, and beautifully suited to the restaurant's classic, old-stone-house setting. Another dra w is the impressive and fairly priced international win e list. On most nights, the place is packed with branche locals. Reservations are a must. When this Old Montreal hot spo t opened, innovatio n seeme d it s raison d'etre.

One tast e of chef Laurent Godbout' s "gastronomic divertissements " prove d yo u were i n th e hand s o f a chef i n dee p experimenta l mode. Yet in those early days, creativity—-not taste—seemed to get the better of Godbout. An d lik e its young chef , Che z L'Epicier's wait staf f seemed eager, yet unfocused.

Fortunately, good restaurant s often improve , an d that' s th e case with Chez L'Epicier. Perusing the menu while nibbling a n amuse-bouche consist ing of a cracker cone topped with a scoop of silky mousse de volaille, one can't help but marve l at Godbout's divers e selections. Fusion touches are evident, but what strikes me most is the num ber of flavour enhancers. Words like ginger, lemongrass, pineapple, roaste d garlic , wild mushrooms , fres h herbs , vinegars, oils, reductions, an d broths immediatel y se t the taste buds a-tingling.

There's no pussyfooting around with this brazen lineup. Though Godbout' s us e of aromatics is not new , the beautiful way in which h e assembles them certainl y is. Artistic plate pre sentations hav e been relegated to the sidelines lately in favour of bold, unfussy assemblies. Godbout ha s set the presentatio n ba r high once again. And his food tastes as good as it looks.

A mouthful of the soup shared with a tidbit of the ginger is wonderful. A burst of juicy sweetness from one of the segments of orange is an even greater pleasure. Beef tartare laced with truffle oil and mixed with a wild mushroom marmalade is another wow. The minced beef is melting and rich, and all that wild mushroom flavour adds a welcome boost of luxury.

It may sound like a cacophony of ingredients, but the end result is light and fresh, with that lovely herbal taste of spring. Compared to the pretty starters, main courses take a simpler, more masculin e approach. Chilean se a bass a. Patagonian toothfish i s served on a rice cake with a fresh herb broth an d a sprinkling of coral-coloured Hawaiian salt. The filet is generous and the alabaster flesh is moist, with a mild flavor and pleasantly firm texture. A hulking, pan-fried veal chop is enhanced with a sherry vinegar sauce and a tumbling of glazed radishes.

Served alongside are feather-light parsnip croquettes, and a slice of roasted onion imbued with the deep purple sauce. The only slight disappointmen t i s the roaste d file t mignon. Although the beef is excellent, the accompaniments, a tasteless carrot galette and a side of lackluster sliced potatoes served in broth, fall flat. Desserts include three amusing creations: a foursome of creme brulees lemon, lavender, Grand Marnier, and chocolate , whitechocolate tortellini, and a faux club sandwich. The crem e bruMes are the bes t of the lot. Th e tortellini are filled with liquid white chocolate and caramel, and sprinkled with caramelized pistachios frosted with fleur de sel.

Though the concept is interesting and each component satisfying , the mixture of flavours never really takes flight. TOP TABLE S 7 1 The club sandwich, made of white sheet cake, dark chocolat e ganache, sliced strawberries, and basil leaves, is good fun—espe cially with its sides of faux French fries deep-fried pineapple sticks coated in cornmeal , and coleslaw ribbons of honeydew melon.

Though i t coul d almos t pas s fo r rea l McCoy, this "sandwich" turns out to be all gimmick, with little flavour. The decor, showcased in two high-ceilinged rooms with large picture windows, thick stone walls, chicken-wire-wrapped light fixtures, and pillars painted swimming-poo l blue , is a winning jumble of modern an d old-fashioned. Origina l touche s includ e menu s printed o n smal l grocery bags, bread served in tin buckets , an d lemon-topped, salt-fille d aluminu m containers on every table. Though th e cellar stocks some 2,00 0 bottles most privately imported , this list isn't about quantity, but quality at all price points.

Adding further seriousnes s to the wine service is a sommelier t o help guide your choices. In the past, the sense of experimentation mad e me feel like a participant in a clinical trial. Godbout's cuisine has now come into its own. Old-fashioned restaurant-goers may find an evening here disorienting. The rest of us should pul l up a chair, order of f the paper-bag menu, select a nice wine, and prepare to be amazed. Paul East near St. It resembles European country hotel-restaurants oper ated by couples, like the Noesers , who understand th e essentia l connection between service and cuisine.

An evening here has the intimate feel of a large dinner party, especially as the Noesers' two daughters are involved, taking orders, clearin g plates, and doin g their best to match their mother h i the charm department. The menu is French, and true to French form, it shuns the a la carte format i n favo r o f a monthly set menu.

Diners can expand th e five-course menu to eight courses by adding such items as a second appetizer, a granite, or a cheese plate. In all of three minutes she welcomes diners, runs down a brief history of the restaurant, and demonstrate s a tricky napkin-folding technique. What a pro! Chez Noeser is a bring-your-own-wine restaurant, and mos t patrons arriv e with a good bottle i n tow. Many people arriv e with Champagne, rare wines, and half bottles of port. We do our ut most to pair them with the best food and service. Due to the focus on seasona l cuisine, the men u changes monthly.

After the starters came a splendid carrot soup with orange and ginger, which was sweet, peppery, fruity, and lush. Next up, those gourmet big hitters: lobster and foie gras. The lobster "gateau, " served with a tarragon cream sauce, was one of the evening's only disappointments. More of a mousse, really, the cake was fluffy, fishy, and creamy—not the three most appealing qualities in a seafood dish. The foi e gra s came through wit h flyin g colours. Paired with sauteed peaches, the liver was crisp on the outside and just cooked through on the inside—simple yet so satisfying.

After th e first three dishes , one ca n either freshe n u p with a few spoonful s of tequila an d watermelo n granite, or delv e right into the main courses, which include rack of lamb or ostrich. For those not up for red meat, there's also an excellent seared salmon. It's nice to see ostrich making its way onto menus again; after a fals e start , i t appear s t o b e tiptoein g back int o th e spotlight. Though often tasteles s and chewy , this ostrich meat is as tasty as deer, if a bit tougher. The rac k of lamb i s another success. The portion is generous—five thick chops—and the meat, cooked to the ideal rose, is tender.

Unlike you r average after-dinner salad mad e o f Californi a mesclun mix dressed with an insipid vinaigrette, Noeser's offerin g includes cris p green s an d a lusty Caesa r dressing. The chees e plate, comprising both local and French varieties, is a good choice for those looking to indulge a bit further.


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Dessert i s the onl y cours e that make s one lon g fo r th e a la carte format. Limiting dessert to one choice is just no fun in my book. Cal l in advance for menu information or consult the restaurant's We b site. I f you're plannin g o n indulgin g heavily , call in advance an d Chez Noeser can provide limousin e servic e to an d from the restaurant.

There are also beautiful rooms on the second floor available for the night.


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  • Flavourville: Lesley Chesterman's Guide to Dining Out in Montreal - PDF Free Download.

Jean sur Richelieu Telephone: Web site: www. You'll find both at Chez Queux, but onl y the most cynical gourmets will fail to notic e thi s restaurant' s char m an d savoi r faire. Servic e is superb, the wine list is impressive, and the delicious, old-fashioned French food makes all that fussy fusion foo d look downright silly. At Chez Queux, you can relax in your high-backed chair, peruse the retro-luxe menu, soak up the chateau-like decor, and prepare yourself fo r a night o f pampering. I n summertime , conside r a meal on th e terrace , with it s superb views of the Ol d Port an d Place Jacques Cartier.

They hand the maitre d' their coats before someone offers to take them. Once seated, they blurt ou t a request fo r a cocktail, scan the men u i n seconds, reques t a n updat e o n th e specials , fill their ow n wine glasses, and ask that the bill be brought along with dessert. All in all, they do their utmost to take control of the evening rather than let the waiter dictate the pace of events.

But can we blame them? Though the level of service in Montreal restaurants is generally quite high, there's n o denyin g tha t many waiters are losing control of their customers. Not so at Chez Queux. The last time I dined ther e I encountered a waiter who controlled ever y aspect of the evening , transforming what coul d have been just another old-fashioned Frenc h dinner into one of my most memorable experiences of the year.

The waiter i n question wa s as unassuming a s they come. He looked like an easy target for my foul mood. He inquired in a soft voice if we'd like an aperitif. Okay, I nodded, but only one glass to share. He was back, seconds later, with three glasses and poured a generous half glass in each.

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Our orders were taken in due time. I asked about the chateaubriand fo r two. He described the preparatio n o f this thic k beef filet in detail and offered t o find a cut that would serve the three of us how accommodating. I quizzed him about the catch of the day. Tuna, he answered. Prepared how? Then cam e the ultimate test: wine consultation. He returned wit h th e starters : shellfish bisque , sweetbreads, and a goat's cheese salad. Just then, I heard the gentle pop of a cork and my glass being filled for tasting.

After th e win e episode, the ma n coul d d o n o wron g in my books. I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the food. The bisque was wonderful: light in texture, bursting with rich shellfish flavour , an d withou t a trace o f bitterness. Th e sweetbreads wer e also divine. The goat's cheese salad was everything a goat's cheese salad should be. The oak leaf lettuce was crunchy, fresh, and laced with a gentle vinaigrette, and the large round of goat's cheese was a variety that's neither insipid nor overly strong.

The main courses were also very good. The grilled tuna, topped with a dash of pesto, was moist and cooked to the requested medium-rare.

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The Chateaubriand, dished u p tableside , was the standou t of the evening. Our waiter cut the filet mignon into six thick slices, set them o n a pool o f bearnaise sauce , and spoone d aroun d a square of dauphinoise potatoes, green beans, carrots, and asparagus. Each plate was then reheated before being set in front o f us.

The rose meat was tender and ful l o f flavour, an d th e vegetables were excellent: piping hot, well seasoned, and al dente. When I inquired abou t th e chees e course, th e waite r onc e again seized the opportunity to strut his stuff. He showed up with a fine selection and, before we knew it, he started slicing away, insisting we try this and tha t with our las t few sips of wine. With aplomb, he sold u s a course we were all too ful l t o consider.

But again he was right; the cheeses— a combinatio n of loca l and French varieties—really hit the spot. For dessert we couldn't resis t a simple lemon tar t delicious and that old French favourite, crSpes Suzette good, if a bit bitter. There's more of a perfume in the air than a crackle, and the background music is Mozart, not Madonna. Staff, Fodor's - - pages. Fodor's Montreal and Quebec City - - pages. Fodor-Montreal'90 by Fodor's - - pages. Livesey - - pages. Guide to Dining Out in Montreal - - pages. Kaleidoscopic Quebec by Amy Oakley - - pages. Folch-Ribas - - pages.

L'exploration du Saguenay par J. Lake of the Old Uncles by Gerard I. Kenney - - pages. Le bazar by Daniel Latouche - - pages. Wilson - - pages. Lonely Planet Montreal by Jeremy Gray - - pages. Louis, Simona Ravinovitch - - pages. Lonely Planet Quebec by Steve Kokker - - pages.

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