Chef Notes for Montreal
January 04th 2018
3 Meals and a Bagel: A Day in Montreal
By: McCormick Canada Executive Corporate Chef Juriaan Snellen
One of the things I love most about living in Canada is I can find a totally different food scene in every city across the country. Actually, you can switch up the cuisine just by changing neighbourhoods in our major metropoles. Recently, a companion and I hit the streets of Montréal with the goal of dining out for every meal of the day. We were wildly successful!
The dining scene in Montréal is constantly evolving. The old guard of fine restaurants and popular local joints are always there, but a trendy new scene is emerging, too.
In particular, the influence of new Canadians from the Middle East is already clearly showing in the restaurant listings and in the grocery stores. If you haven’t shopped in an Adonis yet, you owe it to yourself to experience the selection and service!
But, on this trip, we were after meals, not ingredients. Read on as I recount 24 hours of gastronomic exploration in Montréal.
The day began in Old Montréal, a district steeped in history It’s a beautiful place for a walk along the historic streets, or a stroll by the water.
We wanted to start the day low-key, so the chill vibe of Olive and Gourmando on Rue Saint-Paul Ouest really hit the spot. Mind you, this is a popular place for the locals, so you need to arrive early, or be cool with a bit of a wait. It’s all worth it, though.
I selected the “Poached egg on your face” panini. I couldn’t resist the allure of spicy eggs (I’m looking at you sriracha), slow-roasted tomatoes, and Hercules de Charlevoix raw milk cheddar cheese, one of Quebec’s finest. My companion opted for the Cha-cha-chia bowl, a hearty gluten-free, vegan offering loaded with berry chia pudding, quinoa, nut butter muesli, spiced banana (hello!) and coconut.
It was awesome to see local ingredients in play, and to be reminded that dietary restrictions aren’t as restrictive as they once were. Chef (and co-owner) Dyan Solomon has built a local institution in O+G and we offer our sincere thanks for a delicious meal!
With breakfast nicely tucked away, our thoughts turned slowly to lunch.
Bordering Vieux-Montréal is the cultural district called Quartier des Spectacles. Here you’ll find the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and the Place des Arts. What you won’t likely find, unless you’re looking carefully, is Bouillon Bilk. The minimalist restaurant is easy to miss - more’s the pity for any hungry gourmands in the area without access to Google Maps.
This part of the neighbourhood is still what you’d call “up-and-coming” but with this restaurant in the area, it’s going to be a quick resurgence. Despite the lack of a showy exterior, the place was busy – and rightfully so. The flavour combinations employed here show exceptional creativity and understanding of what tastes work together.
My companion and I shared several dishes, each one deliciously complex, and beautifully plated. I’m just going to list some of them here and let you marvel a moment:
- Venison terrine with foie gras, apple, endive and kamut.
- Hiramasa with yuzu kosho, grapefruit and fennel.
- Smoked salmon with rutabaga, cranberries and horseradish.
- Panna cotta with honeyberries, vanilla, buttermilk, cherries and bourbon.
Chef François Nadon demonstrates an expert touch with flavour matching, and he’s clearly not afraid to experiment in the kitchen. He must be a one-man R&D team. Small wonder this tremendous restaurant is ranked in the Top 100 in all Canada.
Now, where to for dinner?
We must have been loath to travel too far, because we ended up back in Vieux-Montréal as the sun started to sink. It really is hard to give up a chance to stroll this historic district, with its charming architecture, narrow, European-style streets, and lovely parks.
When we were finally hungry again, we got a table at Garde Manger, an inviting place on a chilly winter’s eve. It’s dim inside, but that only adds to the cozy, yet lively atmosphere. It’s busy here, and certainly trendy, by which I mean the kitchen duo of Chuck Hughes (Executive Chef) and Chris Merrick (Head Chef) consistently create new and exciting dishes to tempt your tastebuds.
The menu is always changing, which is why you’ll find it on a chalkboard. They’re famous for their seafood here, and, once again, my companion and I decided to share a few plates. If you like to know where your food comes from, you’ll love knowing exactly where your oysters were plucked from the sea. The scallops were also spot on, as were the steak frites. (Yes, even a chef loves good fries!) Finished it off with Pouding Chômeur, a classic French Canadian dessert done to perfection.
To keep an ever-changing menu so consistently good is no easy feat. It’s like a Custom Flavour Solution made fresh every night. Well done, gentlemen!
Late Night Snack
No trip to Montréal is truly complete without indulging in one of their famous bagels. We made the trek (a short one, mind you) to St.Viateur Bagel, a part of the fabric of the city since 1957. There are now 8 locations and one food truck serving delicious bagels to the lucky people of Montréal.
In all that time, the original recipe hasn’t changed. I love their philosophy of serving bagels, “your grandparents enjoyed made with ingredients your children can read.” Now that’s clean-label cooking!
St. Viateur bagels always land at the top of the “Best Bagels in Montréal” lists, and that’s saying something in a city renowned for the baked treat. If you’re ever in town, make sure you take the time to stop in.
It was a whirlwind tour of Montréal, but it was well worth the effort and cab fares. I can’t say enough about the incredible chefs and restaurants in this city, and I’m already looking forward to my next trip. To all you hard-working restaurateurs out there, thanks for keeping the city tasty!
Chef Juriaan Snellen