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Fine dining in Montreal and Quebec

We eat well in Montreal, and throughout Quebec. The range of possibilities is impressive, with more than 6,000 restaurants in Montreal alone. But what about high-end fine dining? Compared to Europe, or even closer to New York or Chicago, which establishments offer Quebecers and tourists an exceptional culinary experience? To find out, we interviewed three specialists in the field: food writers Lesley Chesterman (Montreal Gazette), Marie-Claude Lortie (La Presse) and Thierry Daraize (Le Journal de Montréal).

Can you give us an overall picture of high-end restaurant offering in Quebec?

 

Lesley Chesterman

The offering is not enormous in this sector. We are not in London or Paris or New York. There are, however, some very interesting establishments, even if for the last 15 years, mainly rustic and laid-back restaurants have emerged. Fine dining, in the traditional sense, goes beyond what’s on the plate; it’s the whole experience. Above all, it’s about the way in which we are received, as if we had been expected for a long time. To me, the ultimate in fine dining is Eleven Madison Park in New York, which has just been crowned the best restaurant in the world. There, you’re pampered as if you were are something precious.

 

 

 

Marie-Claude Lortie

The offering is not enormous in this sector. We are not in London or Paris or New York. There are, however, some very interesting establishments, even if for the last 15 years, mainly rustic and laid-back restaurants have emerged. Fine dining, in the traditional sense, goes beyond what’s on the plate; it’s the whole experience. Above all, it’s about the way in which we are received, as if we had been expected for a long time. To me, the ultimate in fine dining is Eleven Madison Park in New York, which has just been crowned the best restaurant in the world. There, you’re pampered as if you were are something precious.

 

 

Thierry Daraize

In Quebec, fine restaurants are very affordable in comparison with what’s on offer at international destinations. Two can eat here in a high-end establishment for $200 – $400, compared to $1,500 or more in Paris. Fine dining is therefore a moderate and affordable luxury, allowing those who can afford it to treat themselves to an indulgent meal to celebrate a special occasion, for example. The tasteful setting of the Ducasse restaurants in Paris like the Plaza Athénée, or other fine restaurants elsewhere in the world, is a visual and sensory experience with a dazzling and at times ostentatious decor, exclusive designer tableware, finely-crafted crystal glasses, and silver-gilt cutlery. In Quebec, and increasingly everywhere on the planet, a new trend in restaurants is emerging, with a clientele that’s receptive to a more informal and less intimidating approach. To me, fine dining is also something that is not seen, but that we perceive; something that doesn’t dazzle us, but that seduces us and goes straight to the heart, like falling in love. We don’t know why we love someone, but we know they’re the right person for us.

When someone ask you about fine dining, which restaurants in Montreal and Quebec come to mind?

Lesley Chesterman

  • Toqué!, which, to me, is the classic gourmet restaurant with an outstanding chef, Normand Laprise. It is a Relais & Châteaux member.
  • Initiale, Laurie Raphaël and Légende in Quebec City, three excellent restaurants.
  • Joe Beef, which exemplifies fine dining in a different way, even though the atmosphere is very relaxed, because the food is of incredibly high quality. Many stars go there and it’s difficult to get a reservation: that too means luxury.
  • Bouillon Bilk as well, for the high-quality menu.
  • Au Pied de Cochon: nobody will tell you this is a gourmet restaurant. However, the menu is highly creative and fine wines are served. In this sense, it’s a restaurant that redefines fine dining!
  • Finally, outside of the larger cities, we have the excellent Chez Saint-Pierre in Rimouski. The locally grown food there is incomparable.

 

 

Marie-Claude Lortie

  • In Montreal, Toqué! and Maison Boulud.
  • In Quebec City, Initiale, if the term fine dining is taken in its traditional sense.
  • If I broaden my definition and consider what’s on the plate, I would also mention Joe Beef and Le Club Chasse et Pêche for their exceptional food and fine wines, even if the atmosphere is not as plush or the service as traditional. Milos is also a fine-dining restaurant because the food choices are top-quality and hand-picked.

 

 

Thierry Daraize

In Montreal:

In Quebec City:

 

If you had to introduce Montreal to tourists from a fine dining point of view, where would you tell them to eat out?

 

Lesley Chesterman

 

 

 

Marie-Claude Lortie

It all depends what they’re looking for. If they want special treatment with all the little extras, I would send them to Toqué!. But if they want to discover original cuisine, I would advise them to go to Au Pied de Cochon to try traditional dishes like tourtière with fruit ketchup, or their gourmet version of poutine, sometimes with foie gras! Joe Beef is also interesting, as it’s a coveted and glamorous place. Joe Beef is an international star! And the wine list gives you a chance to really treat yourself. For a meal on the go, I would send them to Olive & Gourmando for gourmet sandwiches!

 

 

 

Thierry Daraize

I would recommend restaurants that will surprise them with their daring. In Quebec, we have many iconoclastic bistro restaurants. We are specialists in creative and innovative spots such as Montreal Plaza, Provisions 1268, La Récolte, Hoogan & Beaufort, Le Mousso, Candide, and Petite Maison. For foodie and fine-dining curious tourists who want to think outside the box and who are staying for a few days, I would tell them to try Japanese, Mexican or Portuguese restaurants as well, because it is also this multi-ethnicity that makes Montreal so rich and interesting. Tapeo for tapas or Jun I for sushi, Helena for Portuguese. I would also suggest trying cuisine inspired by several cultures, such as the cooking at Grumman 78, which divinely combines Quebec and Mexican cuisine in an off-the-wall atmosphere.

Review overview