Naming the best restaurants in Montreal – in fact in any city – is a very personal matter, so recommendations can be biased. So what’s your best bet if you want an objective opinion? The most logical answer: consult a reputable travel book like Foder’s or Michelin’s. One can also consult food and wine publications, the editors of whom seem to be on a perpetual world tour sampling the cuisines of far away cities.
The life of a roving restaurant critic must be enviable; imagine being invited to grace the best table in the house with the most expensive and dessert served to you. Not at all good for the waistline or for cholesterol levels, but hey, dining is a genuine pleasure. Dining out is even more fun, as it breaks the monotony of home-cooked meals.
I’m relying on the Montreal Gazette to give you the best restaurants in Montreal. It is my primary source, since I can’t claim to have first hand dining experience in these restaurants. If I did, I’d be in the dog house by now, pursued by creditors. The Montreal Gazette owes its reputation to having a food and wine editorial staff with impeccable credentials.
Boris Bistro is located in Old Montreal, a famous tourist spot. Its attraction is its outdoor terrace described as “beautiful” by restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman. It serves a variety of dishes – rabbit, duck, venison, fish, chicken and beef. How does duck magret with espresso cardamom sauce sound to you?
The restaurant’s wine list is an impressive array of whites, reds, and rosé.
The dessert menu, however, is rather predictable: chocolate marquise, sorbets, cream cheese ice cream and strawberries.
You may want to have your main meal here and go somewhere else for dessert if you’re looking for genuine pâtisserie française!
Price range: moderate. Reservations required by phone (514-848-9575). Web site: www.borisbistro.com.
Européa – if you’re out to impress VIP clients, this downtown restaurant may be the place for you. The dining ambiance is made more inviting because it’s in an old Victorian mansion. The restaurant is owned by Jérôme Ferrer who has won awards from Zagat’s Top 10, the Quebec Government Tourism Ministry, the CAA 4-star label and the AAA diamond label. Ferrer is a member of the prestigious l’Académie Culinaire de France and has earned distinction as 2007 Chef of the Year for the Montreal region and Maître cuisinier de France.
The restaurant offers four kinds of menus: business lunch, discovery menu, special events and a tasting menu. Their wine list is a mix of Californian, Canadian, Italian, Australian and, of course, French wines. Note, however, that their French wines are grouped according to region: Alsace, Jura, Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussillion, Bourgogne, the Loire Valley, Rhône Valley and the south west region of France.
Price range: expensive. As you may have guessed, dining at Européa can cost an arm and a leg unless you have your boss’ credit card and his blessing to entertain to the hilt. Located right at the heart of downtown: 1227 rue de la Montagne, telephone 514-398-9229.
Something different: the restaurant offers cooking workshops Tuesday to Friday.
Zitto e Mangia – looking for a restaurant that’s easier on the pocket and one with a family atmosphere? Zitto e Mangia means “shut up and eat.” Located in Little Italy, this outfit is run by three sisters and a brother who come from Latin-Italian ancestors. And as the name suggests, it offers that feeling of eating at home. They serve meals 7 days a week and specialize in pastas, pizzas and pupusas. Pupusas are thick flatbreads made with corn flour and stuffed with either cheese, pork, squash or beans – somewhat like tortillas.
Price: Inexpensive. Located at 6660 Clark Street, telephone 514-544-9397. Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Closed Thursday and Friday.
Mundo Trattoria – if you venture out to the west island, there’s a good Italian restaurant in a Kirkland strip mall (accessible from the Trans-Canada highway). Apart from the pastas you’re familiar with, you have more “exotic” varieties like Radiatore in a home made veal Bolognese sauce or Penne Digirolamo with Italian sauce and tomatoes and cream flambéed with brandy. You also have Taglioline (fresh spinach pasta with button mushrooms, prosciutto di Parma and green shallots in a rosée and vodka sauce) and Tagliatelle (squid ink pasta with baby scallops, minced arugula, French shallots, Cognac, cream and Madagascan peppercorns).
For those who aren’t into pasta, Mundo Tratorria has steak, veal and New Zealand lamb chops.
A good wine list but there were no desserts listed on their web site: http://www.mundotrattoria.com/. Their house wines are Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Chardonnay Citra Terre-di-Chiete – good Italian wines judging by the restaurant’s reputation.
Price range: Moderate ($$-$$$).
According to Lesley Chesterman, service is friendly and the crowd is mostly couples in their 50s who are out for the usual dining jaunt with the good neighbors.
Orexi – located in Outremont, an upscale mostly-French neighborhood. Service is unpretentious despite the prices. They serve products from the sea, which is what the Meditteranean-drenched Greeks have grown accustomed to, but they have included lamb, beef and plenty of vegetables.
Fish platters include Arctic Char, Black Sea Bass, Pompano, Red Mullet, Red Snapper, Mediterranean Striped Bass, Mediterranean Porgy, Greek Sardines, Sea Bream and Pink Snapper (all classified under “catch of the day” and served if available). They have hot and cold appetizers and an octupus salad, if you crave one. They have a grill as well. As for dessert…well you’ve guessed it – baklava! They have a couple of other desserts if baklava’s too sweet for your taste buds.
Located in 1270 Bernard Avenue West in Outremont, telephone number: 514-277-1661
Price range: moderate. Well worth the money as Kali Orexi, the owner, says “no fish is served without my approval.”
Milos – fish is what you’d hardly call “local.” The fish comes all the way from Greece, Portugal, Nova Scotia and New York, although on closer look, there are a lot of local ingredients on the menu.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Just to give you an idea of their classic dishes:
- Milos Special - paper thin zucchini, eggplant and saganaki cheese lightly fried, served with tzatziki.
- Mediterranean Spreads - Taramosalata, Ktipiti, Tzatziki, Skordalia.
- Avgotaraho - roe of the bafa or kefalos fish from Mesologgi.
- Sardines - fresh Portuguese sardines, grilled, served with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and oregano.
- Stone Crabs – (from Florida)
- Soft Shell Crab (from Maryland, lightly sautéed and dressed with a garlic butter sauce.
- Desserts are mouth watering custards in phyllo pastry, lime pie, cheesecake and fresh fruits.
Price range: expensive.
Milo’s is located in 5357 Park Avenue (between St. Viateur and Fairmount – the streets known for Montreal’s bagels). Telephone number: 514-272-3522. Web site: milos.ca.
Montreal’s Restaurants Cater to Every Taste
If you ever find yourself in the city and want to know what the best restaurants in Montreal are, bear this in mind:
- The word “best” is subjective. What may be the best for Tom may not be the best for Harry.
- Montreal is one place where there is every conceivable type of restaurant; it probably has more variety than say Toronto or Vancouver.
- There are restaurants for all budgets and for all tastes (plenty of fast food joints, restos and pubs – brasserries they’re called).
- Don’t be intimidated by the French menus. 95% of Montreal restaurants have menus in English and waiters and waitresses that speak both languages. If there is no English menu, they are always happy to describe the dish.
- As customary, tips are 15% of the bill.
- Ask if they serve wine by the glass. Many do.
- Reservations are required, usually for upscale restaurants. In other restaurants, come and go as you please.
- Because of its large ethnic communities, it has plenty of Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopian, Polish and Russian restaurants.