I remember with repugnant clarity the last time I drank. It was Nov 4, 2010 and the night started off innocuously with a dinner reservation for four friends at Union restaurant on Ossington.
As soon as I took my seat I couldn’t get a glass of wine fast enough, and before the first was finished, the next one was ordered. Frankly, I didn’t care what farm to table dish I ate, as long as I could drown it with red wine. I savoured nothing, what a waste. That night rolled on until 6am; I’ll spare you the details.
Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to dine at three exquisite Montreal restaurants. I take time with the menu, contemplate my choices and slowly savour meals with enthusiastic attention to detail. I “mmmm” a lot when something wonderful hits my palette. I chew, suck, swallow and taste carefully; allowing my senses to reap intense pleasure from each bite. Sound sexual? It is. With booze off the table, my sensuality is heightened; I quite enjoy making love to my dinner.
Everyone knows about the famous Au Pied du Cochon, but have you heard of Pinxto and Lawrence? I would say that all three dining experiences have been equally pleasing while incredibly distinct from one another.
Known for their oysters, this dimly lit Mile-End restaurant is the hip place right now, but unlike most trendy spots, it has a poetic and soothing ambiance. I found the menu exotic, offering lesser known cuts of meat like braised veal tail and lamb’s heart that were artfully accompanied with seasonal Quebec vegetables. Floor to ceiling windows look out onto bustling Saint-Laurent but the interior is soft and romantic with thoughtful service that feels the opposite of rushed. Word on the street is that this is where the most civilized brunch can be found.
Lawrence is located at 5201 Blvd Saint-Laurent
Unassumingly situated on Roy Street, Pinxto is where you go if you want to try an assortment of small, creative Spanish-influenced dishes. (But they prefer pinxtos to tapas.) Poached octopus carpaccio with cava vinegar, stuffed fig with serrano ham and mahon cheese, ragout of snails and wild mushrooms with parsley oil: Just three examples of thirty-nine small portions that are priced between $4 and $12. For $36, the Menu Degustastion offers four pinxto size samplings – as selected by Chef – and a main. Terrific value, excellent choice and delightful service in a bright venue that feels like a reorganized living room in an old Montreal home.
Pinxto is located at 256 Roy Street East
Au Pied de Cochon
Decadent, rich, sugary heaven; this, my friends, is the taste of Quebec. Au Pied de Cochon has an international reputation but the vibe is spirited and unpretentious. With an open kitchen, you can hear and see the hectic insanity of grilling meat and plating food but the noise and chaos doesn’t impede a relaxing dinner. With foie gras poutine and fatty goodness drenched in maple syrup it’s easy to go over board but if you choose wisely, you will experience local cuisine at its finest and most lively. With no sign marking the restaurant, this is highly revered spot on cobblestoned Duluth, where waitstaff wear jeans, could easily be confused for just another Apporter Votre Vin. Instead, it’s the contemporary home of Quebec gastronomy. And it’s really fun.
Au Pied de Cochon is located at 536 Duluth Street East
~ Jen McNeely
On day 1, Jen outed herself as a recovering alcoholic. On day 2, she wondered why the hell she did that. On day 3, she compares the dark days of 1999 with vibrant life in 2012. On day 4 Jen randomly meets Steven Tyler while strolling the streets late at night. On day 5 Jen took a meditative morning walk through the Plateau.On day 6 she found serenity in the Fuchsia Tea Room. On day 7 she hits the town for mocktails and shots of OJ. On day 8 she broke down the stereotypes of AA. On Day 9, Jen had a run-in with the circus. On day 10 Jen talks about how she knew she had a problem.