July 8, 2020

Travels abroad: Montreal Part I

Apparently this is what happens when two food-oriented people travel together: Much research into new and interesting places to eat, and from there the creation of a Google map to chart a narrowed-down list of possibilities. Voilà!

We started by asking different friends for recommendations of what to check out in Montreal, then did a bit more reconnaissance online to see what might fit into our two nights in the city. I have to give credit to the BF, because once we really sat down together in front of the laptop with our research overlayed on to a (virtual) map of the city, it was his brilliant idea to push-pin all of the locations on the Google map. Thus, we could see where everything was and track all of the restaurant options. The really crazy thing, though, was that we left the map public – viewable by anyone out there in the big world – and when we came back to the map a couple of days later there had already been some 75 views. The version you see now has been updated post-trip with a couple of comments and who knows, maybe others will find this useful in their own pre-trip research.

The top of our list, and a bit of a scramble with a reservation coming up very shortly after landing in Montreal, was dinner at Au Pied de Cochon. APDC showed up in every list of restaurants recommended by friends, on Urbanspoon, and on Chowhound. Clearly somewhere not to be missed! Not a huge place, it’s busy and bustle-y, warmed by an interior of wood wood everywhere: tables, floors, walls, bar. Seated across from the open kitchen, what we noticed most was that the tiny space was packed, and much more vocal and physical than what we had experienced in other restaurants. Shouting, laughing, a bit of good-natured shoving.

First for the evening was the salad special for the night, greens topped with egg, a substantial bit of goat cheese, veal, and the thinnest potato crisps. Next we had the Tarragon Bison Tongue, rare and fall-apart tender, with a delicious swipe of mustard tarragon sauce and the tiniest pickle rounds for accent.

It’s good that we chose two small plates to start, because our final selection of the evening erased any possibility for additional sampling. Our server didn’t say a peep when we asked if these three dishes were the right amount for two of us, because when the last platter arrived we saw that there was actually enough to serve several of our fellow diners. The Pied de Cochon stuffed with foie gras was over the top decadent, with that enormous leg of pig on the fatty side, stuffed with an even more rich foie gras and served with bitter greens, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms. It’s hard to tell the scale of this dish from the photo, but consider that the platter nearly spans two large dinner plates, and the spoon and fork you see here are of considerable serving size. If this last selection hadn’t been so massive we might have tried one of the other signature menu items which seems to come highly recommended – the Canard en Conserve (basically, duck in a can) – but as it was we had quite the experience at one of the best known restaurants in Montreal.

Speaking of best known… We couldn’t leave Montreal without sampling poutine, so after our stomachs had recovered from dinner the night before and we’d had a long walk through snowy streets and park, we beelined for La Banquise. With its mismatched painted tabletops and 24-hour schedule, La Banquise is the sort of casual diner-y spot you can easily drop in and out of, or hang out for a while. We sampled two different versions of the fresh cheese curd and brown gravy-topped plate of french fries, the Poutine Matty with bacon, yellow peppers, and green peppers and the Poutine Classique with just the basics, all washed down with a Cheval Blanc Blanche (a witbier). I’m told that the best poutine has cheese curds that are audibly squeaky and those at La Banquise definitely filled the bill.

Click here here for an Eater review of Au Pied de Cochon and La Banquise, as well as a bonus review of another Eater must-try, Damas.