A Foodie's Weekend Away in Montreal

Posted by Jessica Rodrigues, November 10, 2015
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When Jessica Rodrigues isn’t holding down the PR helm at The Drake, she is busy taste-testing the best of the best in Toronto's food scene. This time we are catching up with Jess after an indulgent weekend in Montreal with her resto recommendations for your next visit!

A little known fact: Montréal boasts the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America (after New York City). The only problem with a weekend in Montreal is that you can only fit in so many meals… with lots of snacking.

Having lived in MTL for over 3 years during my McGill days, it’s no secret that I have a big soft spot for the lively city where I used to picnic on Sunday during Tam Tams, attended concerts, exhibit openings + theatrical performances weekly, and of course, danced till the wee-hours of the night along Saint Laurent. I miss fresh MTL bagels, walks up Mont Royal and depanneur wine (well, maybe not the last one… I was young!) I arrived wanting to see it all: Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal Biodome, Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, Montreal Casino, Old Montreal + Notre Dame, and the Canal amongst so many other beautiful areas of the city. In reality, it was already late afternoon and I had dinner reservations at Jatoba.

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Renowned chef Antonio Park partnered with the team behind Flyjin in Old Montreal to establish Jatoba. Formerly Phillips Lounge, the newly redesigned space is contemporary + chic, mixing brass with rich bare wood tables, minimalist Lambert et Fils Studio chandeliers + exposed brick with an inviting bar greeting me as I walk in. The menu is equally appealing showcasing Park’s love of Japanese and South American cuisine. With options like pork + shrimp dumplings with spicy sambal oelek soya, chinese chives + vinegar or beef tataki seasoned with sesame oil – you can’t go wrong. My friends and I went with all the above as well as The Roll, yellowtail tuna, and veggie fried rice. The plating was approachable + thoughtful and the offerings were fresh, flavourful and made great use of texture. Our Sake pairing was the right amount of crisp and sweet to work with the dishes, and then came dessert. Japanese cheesecake and the ‘bombe chocolat’ are a must-try. Japanese cheesecake is lighter and fluffier than the standard NYC cheesecake with a sponge cake + soufflé texture, think Uncle Testu in T.O, so it doesn’t weigh you down after a big meal (as much).

Our night ended with libations at Balsam INN, the cozy little sister to Dominion Square Tavern. The buzzy bar has a modern brasserie feel, dedicated to creative cocktails + if a bar can make a martini properly (top shelf vodka, perfect, stirred, very chilled, straight up) it gets my vote. It was hard to leave the warmth of this friendly speakeasy, but the drive was beginning to wear.

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Mornings in MTL should begin with bagels: St. Viateur or Fairmount bagels.There is an ongoing debate as to which reigns supreme, but we won’t get into that here... I opt for St. Viateur this time, going with a warm, classic sesame bagel (that was wood-fired right before my eyes) smothered in whipped cream cheese. It's a crowd pleaser. The plan is to walk everywhere and we do. We actually started in Griffintown and walked all the way to Le Plateau-Mont-Royal. We pop into retail shops, bookstores, art galleries and quaint delicatessens. The walk continues down Saint Laurent, along Saint Catherine (and everywhere in between), finally ending up in Old Montreal. We ambled through the cobblestone streets soaking up the old European charm stopping in Notre Dame Cathedral + posing outside with my favourite bronze statue Les Chuchoteuses. Between the architecture, proximity to the waterfront + historical significance; you can get lost here. Unfortunately, I can’t because I have yet another dinner reservation at Au Pied de Cochon.

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Au Pied de Cochon (PDC) opened its doors in 2001 with Martin Picard (one of Québec's most celebrated chefs) at the helm. The first time I tried PDC was in 2005 and I was just as blown away by the energy, quality and flavour 10 years later. Now, allow me to preface, PDC is not for the faint of heart (or for those counting calories!). This is rich, hearty Québecoise fair which pioneered the now popular ‘nose-to-tail’ dining ethos. We start with a few foie gras cromesquis. It’s as it sounds, deep fried foie gras, liquefied in the middle and crispy on the outside that explodes in your mouth (you have to pop the whole thing in one go!). Next comes the Duck Carpaccio, terrine of foie gras and tuna tartare. Everything is melt-in-your mouth delicious. It is rich, buttery and I can’t stop eating it. The tartare offers thick, meaty chunks of perfectly seasoned tuna while the terrine is perfection with a side of berry jelly. I am in heaven. Literally, I am making myself hungry while typing. Our mains consist of the homemade boudin, foie gras burger and veal tartare. By now, I’m feeling it. This is stick to your ribs comfort food, tasty, but gluttonous. We gorge, devour and it’s hoggish… it’s that kind of a place. Check out the menu, if you like what you see, this is a must-visit.

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With that, we head to the Montreal Casino. At this point, all I can do is sit at a gaming table and try and win back some of the money I just spent. If you like to gamble, it’s a short 15 minute cab ride from the city centre and very easy to navigate. After some blackjack and roulette, we turn in. If you like to dance, don’t fret - Montreal can go all night if you can. The next morning, it hits me that we have to drive back. Ever heard of ‘The Fear’? I can feel it coming already. We pack up and hit the road armed with Schwartz’s. This is the deli to get Montreal smoked-meat. Order their world-famous smoked meat sandwich (medium, not lean!) with a juicy pickle on the side. Trust me, you will enjoy it (there is even a musical based on this place!) I’m already missing this dynamic city and already have my growing list of hot-spots planned for the next visit.

Posted in: Hotel + Travel

Tags: Food + Drink  Jess  Montreal  Postcards From  Quebec  Travel