Like most of my trips to Montreal, the general story ends up being one of modest excess: quite a few visits to multiple brewpubs, and often filling up on various Asian and Quebecois dinners that are flavorful, but not always the healthiest (such as the ever-present poutine). So on our third day in Montreal, we decided to tone down our dining a bit, and go check out a place near the hotel in the Latine Quarter: Yuan Vegetarien.
Our friends Rick and Sarah have a fairly regular routine going for their visits to Montreal: on a Saturday morning they drive up to Mile End, load up on bagels from Fairmount Bagel, buy some beer at the local beer store (Depanneur AS, who have a great selection of Quebecois beers), and queue up for brunch at Lawrence. It sounded like a rather good way to spend a Saturday morning, so this time when we were up there, we went with them. Lawrence, like L’Avenue, is one of the hot breakfast spots in Montreal, and, like it’s counterpart, it has a tendency to form long lines. Finishing our beer shopping (picking up some Dieu du Ciel for the road, along with some other Quebecois beer treats), 20 minutes prior to their 10am opening, there was already a short queue forming. But we were second in line, so only minutes after they opened, we were seated at a large central table in the dining room.
One of the things I like about Montreal is that it has a rather good assortment of brewpubs. Dieu du Ciel, Le Cheval Blanc, and Reservoir being amongst my favorites. The last of these also has a rather fine pub menu, including items such as steak tartare, fish and chips, and the like. But that’s not why I’m writing about them (indeed, I’ve not actually sampled their dinner menu, although it always looks phenomenal). I’m actually writing about their brownie.
For me, one of the great enjoyments I have with Asian cooking is when I can find a place with hand-pulled noodles. Unfortunately, these aren’t terribly common, especially in the hinterlands of Northern New England (indeed, I’m not sure we have any places that do this, although I’d be delighted to be proven wrong). A good bowl of hand-pulled noodles, especially in a rich, flavorful soup, is a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. Luckily, Montreal has more than a few noodle shops, and one of the newer ones in Chinatown, Nu-do, is another branch of the already well-regarded Nu-do of Eaton Center, and the related Yuki Ramen in Faubourg Ste-Catherine (is there anything decent but Yuki still left in the Faubourg, now that Faubourg Bagels has departed?). So when we were looking for an interesting dinner, we grabbed Rick, Sarah, and Nancy, and walked down to Chinatown. Nu-do is the exact sort of place. It’s been around a while, but they still haven’t invested in permanent signage; the restaurant is labeled with a simple reinforced nylon banner labeling the place as “Restaurant Nudo”, with the “Nudo” obscured by the unsecured corner of the banner. But don’t let the dubious signage discourage you: after heading down a short staircase, you find yourself in a fairly spacious dining room, with a glass wall looking into the noodle cooking station, with the noodle-puller hard at work pulling ribbons of noodle for each order as they come in.
Way back in 2002 (years before this blog), a friend of mine from grad school went to Montreal, and recommended one particular place on Le Plateau for breakfast: L’Avenue. It’s a really funky place on Ave Du Mont-Royal Est, and several online resources and word of mouth have mentioned that it’s one of the best brunch places in Montreal. Well, our first visit to L’Avenue confirmed two things: they had a seriously good brunch, and that the word had gotten out, since the place had legendarily long lines (over an hour long on a Saturday morning). The long lines have led to us only returning once in the last few years, but my many visits to Montreal the last few years taught me another lesson: Les Quebecois tend not to be early risers. And noting that L’Avenue opens at 8am, we decided that when we were in town for Mondial, we’d simply rise early and head over to L’Avenue around opening time.
This last week, we spent an extended weekend in Montreal. While we always enjoy a good trip to Montreal, this time we were coming for a specific event, Mondial De La Biere, Montreal’s Beer Festival. This was their 20th year of operation, and Mondial consistently has a good range of both Canadian and foreign brewers come in for a surprisingly low-key event (compared, to say, the Vermont Brewers Festival, there’s no entry fee, just beer tickets, and the crowds are surprisingly light). But one does not subsist on beer alone, so the trip also gave us a chance to both check in on various Montreal favorites, as well as check out some new (to us) places. Our first dinner in Montreal this visit came form meeting up with my friends Rick and Sarah (also in town for Mondial), and their buddy Nick (with daughter in tow). Nick, a Plateau resident, came up with our dinner locaiton: Nouveau Palais, up in the Mile-End neighorbhood.
After a very pleasant day touring around Montreal (including another visit to one of my favorite brewpubs, Dieu Du Ciel, it was unfortunately time to head back to Dorchester Square, board the bus, and ride back to the US. But our schedule had just enough time in it for us to enjoy one last culinary stop in Montreal: to have a quick smoked meat sandwich. We ended up selecting Dunn’s, for one of several reasons: Dunn’s is right by Dorchester Square, so it was conveniently located Dunn’s is one of the respected places for a good smoked meat sandwich And Dunn’s also has some culinary history with respect to the name “smoked meat” itself
Carol’s employer has some pretty cool employee benefits programs. One of them tries to address the fact that the Upper Valley area of NH/VT isn’t exactly the most happening place, and offer a lot of programs for both local recreation, as well as travel. As part of this program, they offer up cheap trip (that’s how we went on last month’s trip to New York City for Grimaldi’s, for example). This month, they offered up a cheap day trip to Montreal, so at 5am, we hopped onto a bus at Dartmouth, and by 10:30 we were at Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal. After breakfast and some light shopping, we decided to head up to one of my favorite parts of town (the “Plateau”, where there are a lot of cool shops and restaurants on Boulevard St Laurent and Rue St Denis). To get up there, we availed ourselves of Montreal’s most excellent Bixi bike rental system. After an hour of riding Bixi bikes around Mont Royal park and the plateau, we decided a small lunch was in order. We ended up going to a place that’s been on my hit list for a while: Patati Patata, a small little diner featuring sliders and poutine.
After two solids days out in the Carnaval de Quebec (including one night trip to see the parade), and since Quebec actually has quite a large number of good restaurants, we thought that it would be nice to go out for a nice dinner on our last night. After checking a few review sites and looking at various restaurant web pages, we settled on Le Hobbit. Located on Rue Saint-Jean in one of the little shopping districts just outside of Vieux Quebec (it’s just up the hill from Place d’Youville), Le Hobbit is basically a nicely decorated slightly upscale French bistro…
After a second morning wandering about the various events of the Carnaval de Quebec, we were again hungry and in search of sustenance. Vieux Quebec has a lot of little restaurants representing all sorts of cuisines, but we decided that if we’re going to be spending an extended weekend in Quebec, we really should have at least one meal that featured Quebecois food. So we set off in search of poutine. Walking down rue du Tresor, a local alleyway stretching away from the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, La Nouvelle France is located in a little blind alley between several spots where where local artists are hawking their wares. Sporting the obligatory outdoor ice bar and some ice sculptures, they’ve also got a cozy little dining room, where we settled in for lunch…