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New Food Capital of North America

March 14, 2020

Seafood Market

Eating Your Fishy Fill In The Seafood Capitol Of North America

If someone asked me to name the best place to grab a meal, I would have to stop and think for a moment since there are so many wonderful options to choose from. On the other hand, if you asked me which city offers the best selection of fine dining in the country, my answer would be instant. Montreal. That’s right, Montreal is the seafood capital of the world on top of being a city that is rich in culture.

Montreal is more than just a place to eat, it is a whole experience. The restaurants offer a welcoming atmosphere that is paired with some of the best hospitality the country has to offer. The cooks have years of experience that is paired with the freshest provisions you can find in North America. Of course, the fact that you can actually afford more than one gourmet dish in Montreal adds to the overall attraction.

Yes, we know Montreal is just over the border, but believe me, the trip is well worth the cuisine you will enjoy when you arrive. The paradise seafood & gourmet market of Montreal is located in the Canadian province of Quebec and is as lovely a place as you can imagine for fresh seafood, fine dining, and a history lesson all rolled into one.

The US and the province of Quebec are basically one and the same. After all, in the late part of the 20th century, they spent most of their time trying to secede from Canada proper. The only thing that kept all those cooks and all that fresh fish a part of Canada is the fact that they fell a few thousand votes short during the 1995 referendum. Not to be beaten, Montreal remains a dining destination for food lovers of both sides of the border.

Are You Looking To Refine Your Palate? Montreal Is The Place To Do It!

According to one of the most prolific restaurateurs in Montreal, David McMillan, Montreal is the new capital seafood and fine dining hotspot due to the advanced palates of the diners more than the skill of the cooks. He runs Le Vin Papillon and Joe Beef, two very well known restaurants which are often booked solid for weeks. He mentions that he has teenagers that come into his eatery to dine on rare lamb liver with a delicate garnish and an equal amount of orders for sweetbreads and kidneys. While this may not seem like an accomplishment, only diners with a certain level of dining experience will appreciate the flavors in the selections.

In comparison, Manhattan, the former food capital is still stuck in a bygone era of red tuna and steak. Literally, every diner you walk into will have at least five different options of each on the menu. While there is nothing wrong with a properly cooked steak, there is no attraction to visiting a giant steakhouse when you are looking for a variety of dining experiences.

Chef Normand Laprise, one of the premier Montreal chefs mentions that during his visit to the States, he often takes the time to drop into pastry shops. Even if there are 100’s of pastries available, most Americans will walk out with macaroons or cupcakes. Again, nothing wrong with staple items, but when you visit the capital seafood location of North America, you will need to have a more open mind. Montreal has seen several culinary revolutions over the last half of decade which is clear in the sheer diversity of culinary offerings.

Back when Montreal just started dipping its toes in high in cuisine, most of it was of the French variety. Of course, it was not on par with Larousse Gastronomique, but no one is! One of the more notable restaurants of the era was inside of the famous hotel, called The Beaver Club. For a whimsical night of culinary bliss, a booking would allow you to order otherworldly dishes such as Soufflé aux Splendeurs du Périgord Le Coeur du Charolais. Many of France’s top chefs flocked to Canada following WWII which led to a whole slew of culinary artists obsessed with melting cheese and flambé.

Why Should You Eat In Montreal?

There are a lot of reasons to travel to Montreal, and though the main attraction is the fine dining, there are also picturesque sights and memorable scenery to experience along the way. The evolution of seafood gourmet in the city has progressed rapidly, most of the advancements centered in this century alone. The cooks and residents of the city are technically proficient in a wide range of cooking styles and methods. The size of most eateries in Montreal is modest enough to enjoy a cozy meal while also being trendy enough to be booked solid more often than not.

If you are looking for true casual fine dining, the capital fish market quarter in Montreal is the place to be. The dining style is a clever mix of English and French with a generous mix of naturally evolved dining culture from the locals. This has allowed Montreal the freedom to forge its own culinary path which has since grown into a hot spot for seafood connoisseurs from all over the country.

For many years New York was considered the seafood capital, and also the hot spot for the best American dining the US had to offer. While New York still draws in the crowds with its celebrity restaurants and exclusive dining establishments, it has long since outgrown its title of the casual dining capital. Montreal has slowly but surely taken over this most coveted title by offering visitors an engaging dining personality while also remaining affordable enough to be considered casual.  

Revolutionizing Montreal Cuisine Forever

Following the financial travesty that was the Montreal 1976 Olympics, the restaurant industry saw a sharp decline. One noteworthy establishment operated by Laprise called The Toqué managed to weather the storm until Au Pied de Cochon made an appearance in 2001. This informal diner brought and inventive flair to capital city food in Montreal and thus started a revival of food tourism in the city. Chef Martin Picard brought a new twist to old dishes such as poutine and jellied pig's head. Instead, he took prized local products and seafood and carved out a new niche for regional cuisine.

Joe Beef was the next to help usher in the new era of Montreal becoming the food capital of the world. This diner got rid of menus, tablecloths, and opted for a more down to earth approach to casual fine dining. These were all followed by a myriad of restaurants in Montreal that bridged both sides of the language divine while caterings to all palates and dining styles. These days, Montreal has been transformed into the modern ideal of casual fine dining that brings in travelers from far and wide who live to enjoy a delicious meal. If you are looking to spend a week in gastronomical bliss in Montreal, we have just the guide to follow.

Sunday Eating- A Crazy Genius Meets Farm Fresh Ingredients

One of the Ritz-Carlton Montreal restaurant owners Daniel Boulud has mentioned that a traveler can get an idea of what to expect regarding dining options just by looking out the window as they fly over or drive through the city. A lot can be understood about the local dining culture just by looking at the greenhouses, farms, and lakes in the area. When you head to Montreal, you will pass luscious waters, clean land, and full silos that will offer you a taste of unadulterated ingredients fresh for the table.

One of your first stops should be the new capital seafood restaurant Les 400 Coups. Perfect for lunch after a long day of travel this quaint eatery features a richly decorated room that is adorned in understated black and charcoal colors. Like most of Montreal, the patrons of Les 400 Coups are rather stylish and the cuisine is auspicious. Consider starting off with squash soup that has been drizzled with fresh olive oil and is thick and creamy unlike those you find at lesser establishments. Duck is the perfect pairing for the soup course, so make sure to order the duck croquette.

Think of this perfectly cooked, skinless, savory foul as the closest thing to a wagyu duck burger. The pastry chef has begun to become a bit of a Unicorn in most American restaurants, but at Les 400 Coups of Montreal, the deserts provided by the skilled pastry chef are as artistic as they are delicious. We recommend the lemon cream dessert which has a generous dash of sea buckthorn.

After touring the city to work off your rich meal, you should head over to the capital seafood restaurant Le Mousso for dinner. Unlike traditional eateries, this is an all-tasting-menu location that is sure to give your taste buds a run for their money. The look of the joint is very Brooklyn, but the menu prepared by chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard is anything but. He is self-taught, but don’t let the lack of formal training fool you, his seven dish tasting menu is a true work of art.

Most of the flavors he combines you would never expect to find on a plate together, such as wagyu beef from Quebec paired with salty sturgeon caviar. Not only is it a masterful dish, but it is also plated in such an eye-catching manner you would expect to see it on Instagram. He does offer desserts, and the blood sausage ice cream paired with a Quebec cheddar crumble swimming in an apple-vinegar reduction is something you definitely will write home about.

Monday Madness With Local Heroes

After a night on the town followed by a good night of sleep, heat out to Montreal’s revered green space sits Beauty's. It is a capital city seafood luncheonette owned by the vigorous 95-year-old Hymie Skolnick. Not only does he often frequent the shop, but he also will regale you with stories of when he purchased the place for $500 back in 1942. The breakfast menu is hearty, fresh, and will leave you full of energy for the rest of the activities you have planned for the day.

Take a stroll in the nearby park to bask in the glory that is Montreal city. Being built on the Mount Royal slopes, this area is a prime example of what makes the city such an attractive place for foodies and vacationers alike. Also, you will notice that just like New York, Montreal holds a strange love affair with bagels, smoked meat, and other Jewish food.

You can grab the yeasty creations from St.-Viateur bagel shop, or otherwise known as La Maison du Bagel to the locals. It pairs well with "famous mishmash," which is similar to an omelet. It is made of salami, browned scrambled eggs, fried onion, and crisp green peppers.

For lunch, head on over to Le Vin Papillon which is a casual fine dining establishment run by David McMillan. While not strictly a vegetarian place, most of the dishes are meatless. This is a great way to get a taste of fresh ingredients straight from the farm to your table. It opens at exactly three pm and there is always a very long line. One of the doors is always closed so make sure you are standing in front of the right one if you want to taste the forest with a Montreal twist.

Depending on when you decide to move on, you can stop by the capital seafood market before you head downtown for a light dinner at Schwartz's. The original owner is from Romania, but the current owners are actually a consortium of holders, one being the esteemed Céline Dion. You can grab smoked meat in a diverse range of preparations, lean, medium or fatty. Add a side of North Carolina style coleslaw along with a hunk of rye and you have yourself a classic Montreal supper.

A Tuesday Twist of New British and Old French

Daniel Boulud owns the Maison Bould eatery which is located in the Montreal Ritz-Carlton, a historic holding on its own. The duck pond makes a lovely backdrop to the adjoined garden and is the perfect place to dine on French gourmet seafood. Most French dining establishments have left Montreal which makes Maison Bould all the more dear. It may seem strange being that half of the people in Quebec are French speakers, but the cuisine seems to be losing its hold all over North America.

We suggest a delicious lunch of guinea fowl leg in confit which is as fresh as it is rich. It is served floating in a silky foie gras sauce paired with a sheep’s milk cheese stuffed fresh ravioli. Though it is a French restaurant, Riccardo Bertolino, the executive chef, is actually from Bologna which is reflected in the dishes.

After strolling through the town and perhaps dropping in for a few afternoon shows, head over Maison Publique for the best Canadian wines the city has to offer. The meal is mostly hearty meats that are rich in flavor and offer a delicious flavor profile to match the wine. Tender Lonza, or andouille sausage over freshly milled toast brings out the flavor and adds to the ambiance of the evening. While you may have been expecting creative gourmet seafood recipes, we are sure that you won’t be disappointed with the fare or the clientele. The aesthetics of the room pair well with the food. Dark panels, curated wooden floors, and creatively decorated deer heads add to the overall coziness of the location.

Wednesday is The Best Day For A Poutine Challange

Hump day is always hard when you have to think about work, but when you are enjoying a tasting tour in Montreal, it can be a delight. We suggest Montreal Poll Room located on Saint Lawrence Boulevard for a fun but light lunch to leave your evening open for more serious dining. This is no gourmet seafood restaurant, instead, you will get all American favorites such as cheeseburgers, Hot dogs, and hamburgers.  While they may seem bland upon the first inspection, they are actually served properly. Hot, steamed, and covered with relish, mustard, and chopped shallots. If you are feeling frisky, you can even try your luck with the poutine.

If you are full of such a filling lunch, it makes sense to stop by Hotel Herman for a unique dinner. The food is very elegant which is in opposition to the rough-hewn decorations of the restaurant. Keep in mind that the dishes are served on very small plates, including the Neptune gourmet seafood. The small servings, however, are big on taste which will help you understand just why Montreal is becoming the “IT” place to eat.

The housemade foie gras shaped into small logs and topped with cranberries and crumbs have a wonderful composition. The bread is hand baked by the head chef  Marc-Alexandre Mercier. If you are a fan of sweetbreads, the Ozette mashed potatoes that are mixed with local buttermilk and organic cream are delicious enough to make you consider migrating.

Thursday Flambé

Lawrence is one of the Anglo establishments and is a gourmet delight seafood restaurant that has a view that is to die for. It has large bay windows that let in a generous amount of light to chase away sour moods or even a hangover. The staff are as sweet as the wing, and the dishes used to serve each meal are so quaint you can’t help but to smile.

The gourmet seafood dishes will have you hooked on Montreal from the first bite. We suggest the snowy crab covered with fried endive. The complement of juiciness and crunchiness work together to create an unforgettable medley of flavors in your mouth. The dessert is not overly complicated, but the chocolate crème brûlée is sure to be a favorite for any age diner. If you are not into chocolate, you can always opt for the warm ginger cake that is crowned with crème anglaise creamy enough to drink.

For the evening, head over to some of the newer restaurants in Montreal, specifically those in the gentrified areas. Both Foxi and Hogan & Beaufort are located in historically interesting locations that make them stand out from traditional fine dining establishments. Because they are off the beaten path, the locations have more space for diners while also offering lower overhead to the proprietors.

Both locations offer dishes that are prepared in wood-burning ovens such as flatbread that is generously garnished with red onions, smoked ham, and then covered in melted raclette cheese. You can probably compare it most with Alsatian tarte flambée, but with a modern twist. If you are looking for a trendy spot, this is the perfect place. 


Make Your Friday Sweet As You End The Week

As you round up your week-long trip to Montreal, you might want to start thinking about what type of dish gourmet or otherwise you can take with you. We suggest stocking up on a couple dozen round yeasties from St.-Viateur  bagel shop. If you mention Hymie's name, you might even get a few extras at no charge.

For a luxurious and precise meal on your last day, or just to pick up some gourmet halibut side dish recipes, stop by Toque. Laprise, one of the premier chefs of Montreal runs his kitchen like it is his life, which is probably not far from the truth. The cuisine is a departure from traditional Montreal fare but is considered among the best haute cuisine in all of North America.

Start with the arctic char appetizer for a smokey, citrus filled dish that is one party silky and two parts creamy. It is almost like you are eating cotton candy fish without the extra surgery kick. Pair that with a perfectly cooked runny egg sitting in a fresh duck sauce reduction.

On to dessert, and though this is the last, it is far from the least on this Montreal tasting tour. You just can’t escape without a stop at Patrice Patissier. The chocolate-banana cream puffs are a lesson in luxury made from cream, homey, and jelly all handmade daily in limited quantities. They are stuffed on the spot so you will never get a soggy puff, and the owner,  Patrice Demers, is often on hand to prepare your order herself.

Final Thoughts

Fine and casual dining are art forms that take years to perfect. In Montreal, the skilled artisans and chefs take pride in their craft and use only the best ingredients in every meal. If you are tired of the cookie-cutter dinners and photo-op meals that flood the states, head on up to Montreal for a true foodies delight. 

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