After last winter’s visit to Montreal, I wasn’t expecting a chance to return too soon, so I stuffed myself silly. Surprisingly, though, I found myself back in the area several months later, this time in much warmer weather, which gave me a chance to experience the food scene in a different season.
Despite living in Vermont for 11 years and being a frequent visitor to Montreal, I learned a lot about the city during my recent time there. For example, you can take a fascinating culinary tour via the 55 bus along Boulevard St-Laurent. You go on a McDonald’s-to-McDonald’s (useful landmarks, not culinary destinations) trip starting in Old Montreal and heading northbound, with the ability to stop in interesting districts like Chinatown, the Festivals Quarter, Mile End (and the Jewish Quarter), Plateau Mont-Royal, and Little Italy. You can tell when you’re entering a new neighborhood when the style of the light-posts change.
The Little Italy at the north end of St-Laurent (one of four Little Italy areas in Montreal—something I didn’t know) is where you’ll find Jean-Talon Market, which is one of four city-run markets (something else I didn’t know) which were developed in the poorest of the city’s neighborhoods. Jean-Talon is a thriving, year-round farmers market (and more) with a bounty of produce—along with cheese, chocolate, charcuterie, and lots of other food products. In all of Canada, the people of Quebec, and Montrealers in particular, spend the greatest percentage of their income on food, and they love what they find at Jean-Talon.
The food there is gorgeous and delicious. I can see why people make pilgrimages from afar to go shopping at Jean-Talon. And you can see some scenes from the market in the photos below, along with shots from the meals at six restaurants I enjoyed during my last visit. For my one full breakfast, I visited Pastaga, not far from Jean-Talon Market. I took two lunches—one at the elegant Europea, and the other at the bustling Bouillon Bilk. Finally, there were three dinners. First, I enjoyed the fancy stylings of Laurie Raphaël, found inside Hotel Le Germain, the sophisticated, comfortable, and convenient hotel where I stayed. Secondly, I went to Old Montreal to eat at the whimsical Chez l’Épicier. Finally, I found a new place in the “Brooklyn” of Montreal: Tripes & Caviar in the Verdun neighborhood.
Of course, I also consumed lots of breakfast bites and other snacks throughout my time in Montreal. Here’s the list of places I hit, with links in case you’d like to read more:
- Various sweets: Boulangerie Cheskie, Chez Vincenzo, De Farine et d’eau Fraîche, Fous Desserts,Kem CoBa, La Bête à Pain, Maison Christian Faure, Pasticceria Alati-Caserta
- Croissants: La Bête à Pain, Les Co’Pains D’Abord, Fous Desserts, Mlls Gateaux , Le Pain Dans Les Voiles, Le Paltoquet, Patisserie Kouign Amann (soon to be published)
This eating expedition reaffirmed what I’ve written previously: Montreal is a fun and exciting city that’s full of amazing restaurants, making it a top-tier dining destination in North America.
Here are the shots of the food…
Granola (with nuts), buffalo yogurt, peaches, and blackberries at Pastaga. Fresh flavors make a fine start to breakfast.
At Pastaga, I enjoyed the intriguing flavors of this smoked salmon croquette with kimchi, potatoes, and poached egg. The dish offered a fun contrast in textures.
The whimsy of the chef at Europea shows in this amuse bouche offering of prosciutto “chips” drying on a laundry line.
More amusements at Europea: goat cheese lollipops along with parmesan and truffle popcorn.
Bread service at Europea includes a variety of butters. (I liked the seaweed best.)
Apparently a signature item at Europea: lobster cream cappuccino with truffle puree. This is a small portion that’s rich and delicious.
Gaspesian crab in celery cannelloni in green pea gazpacho with pea tendrils and pistachios. Gorgeous color and soothing flavors.
Tagliatelle of lemony calamari with poached quail egg and squid ink + garlic butter croutons. A very delicate dish.
One of my favorite dishes of the lunch at Europea: caramelized scallop in a lemonade juice with grilled gremolata, creamy mushroom risotto, raw enoki, and black sesame. I loved the presentation and the earthy flavors combined with the sweet scallop.
Grilled Angus beef flank with potato poutine with white truffle oil, spicy sauce, fried cheese curds, and grilled oyster mushrooms. Not so spicy, but definitely delicious.
How to choose from Europea’s captivating dessert tray? I couldn’t resist the “parfait” of pistachio and chocolate cream topped with a pistachio macaron.
Ending the meal at Europea with some meringues.
Lunch at Bouillon Bilk started with this gazpacho with cheese and speck. I liked the presentation (and flavors)!
Perfectly cooked trout with haricot amandine, tomatoes, corn, and lardons.
The first of two desserts at Bouillon Bilk, featuring fresh fruit.
Creme brulee with apricots to end the meal at Bouillon Bilk.
Gorgeous tomatoes (and I’m sure the sauce below is delicious) at Jean-Talon Market.
Beautiful squash blossoms.
Baskets of peppers at Jean-Talon Market.
Garlic, anyone? Stands have signs that show information about the farmers, as well as the distance of the farm to the market.
This corn stand was especially popular at Jean-Talon Market.
The corn was so irresistible that I had to eat some on-site!
The little shops in and around the market feature local products, such as this cheese.
Here are the well-worn steps at the entry to Chez l’Epicier.
Tough lighting conditions, but had to show this black olive and goat cheese macaron, an amuse bouche that was one of the highlights of dinner at Chez l’Epicier. Terrific flavors…and I love the idea of a savory macaron.
Beef tartare with beet puree, crisped lard, and Quebec radishes. Fantastic flavors.
This entree at Chez l’Epicier combines two of my favorite foods: scallops and pan-seared foie gras, along with mushroom crumble, carrots, and shiitake broth.
A whimsical finish to a fine meal at Chez l’Epicier: their signature chocolate “club sandwich” with pineapple fries, creamy melon salad, and fresh mint. See more about this dessert here.
The folks at Tripes & Caviar were kind to let me crash in for dinner just as the kitchen was closing. I started with these heritage tomatoes with burrata and porchetta di testa, and knew I was in for bold flavors I’d enjoy.
Next up: An homage to smoked meat, of sorts. Squash blossoms stuffed with braised tripe and ricotta cheese, smoked Wagyu beef heart, confit corn puree, black trumpet mushrooms, and espelette vinaigrette. I loved the combination of all these ingredients.
The final course at Tripes & Caviar was this agnolotti filled with tripe and ricotta cheese, chanterelles, and turnips. Aged apple cider vinegar added a nice zing. With organ meats and interesting use of ingredients, this is my type of restaurant!
Oyster mojito at Laurie Raphael. A slightly limey and certainly lovely start to a 10-course dinner.
Bread selection at Laurie Raphael.
“Scallop ceviche refreshed in a horseradish and ginger perfumed peach juice.” Interesting flavors, though some of the scallop’s natural sweetness got lost in the dish.
Royale of foie gras with rhubarb compote, cashews, and marinated shimeji mushrooms in duck consomme at Laurie Raphael. Earthy dish.
Mackerel with meyer lemon whipped cream and tomato puree. Pretty plate, and other purposeful components, like the brioche chips and champagne grapes.
Seared halibut with polenta-stuffed squash blossom, juniper berries, and poultry reduction. Lots of artistry on the plates at Laurie Raphael.
One of the most interesting dishes of the dinner: veal carpaccio with marinated sea whelk, squid ink emulsion, daylily buds, confit shallots, and herb pesto.
Grilled Wagyu beef with potato espuma, seared mushrooms, shallots, watercress, and red wine sauce.
Goat cheese (la tomme des Joyeux Fromagers), nougat, and cherries. Fun!
Breton biscuit with Quebec strawberries (including strawberry jelly) and champagne sorbet.
Final course and second dessert at Laurie Raphael: chocolate tart with raspberry and red pepper sorbet. I liked the combination of these flavors, and the coulis certainly contributed to an artistic masterpiece.
Thanks to Tourism Montreal for their assistance with the trip planning and actual visit.