Sample ReviewsThe price rating shown in the heading above each entry indicates the average cost of dinner for two with a modest wine, tax and tip. The cost of dinner, bed and breakfast (if available) is given in parentheses. Where one, two or three stars also appear in the heading, this indicates that, in our opinion, the restaurant has something unusual or outstanding to offer. Restaurants that represent exceptional value for money are indicated by the presence of a pointer. The map number assigned to each city, town and village gives its location on one or more of the maps at the front of the book.
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For more than twenty years people have been willing to line up for Vij’s remarkable food—with no exceptions made for the rich or famous. No wonder. Vij has amazing flavours and flawless service. He offers a nice range of vegetarian dishes and we can without hesitation recommend many of his creations: spiced shiitake mushrooms, curried portobello mushrooms with porcini, curried chickpeas on sweet-potato cookies and jack fruit with cardamom and cumin. Vikram Vij is more expensive this year, but he’s still worth every dollar.
Model Milk occupies the old Model Milk Dairy building and it has a lively, original menu. The menu begins with small plates of milkfed-veal sweetbreads, fried quail, elk tartar and albacore tuna. Milkfed veal is rare everywhere except Montreal and at Model Milk the sweetbreads, served with charred romaine, are lovely. So is the elk tartar and the raw tuna. Large plates come next and there’s rump of lamb from Driview Farms, rainbow trout, line-caught halibut and Wagyu beef (cheap at 36.00). The best of these—not counting the Wagyu beef—is the halibut, which is served in a light broth with cucumber and kelp. They make their own ice cream and it shows. Their cheese comes from the Drunken Cow and their apple crisp is made with hand-picked apples. They make their own sparkling water too and carry a ﬁne pinot noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The service is well informed and the prices are reasonable.
The all-new Splendido is back in form after a brief lapse. There’s a new menu, of course, and meals now usually begin (and begin very well indeed) with green-pea soup with fresh herbs and croûtons. Then there’s soft-shelled crab with pickled cucumber—another superb dish. The foie gras with quail is certainly expensive at 24.00, but it makes the most of its pickled beets, purple potatoes and crème fraîche. The rib-eye steak comes from Cumbrae Farms, which actually is no guarantee of quality, but they also have pastured veal from Haldimand County, sea-bass decorated with pea-shoots and preserved lemon, organic salmon with smoked peppers and (for a supplément of 9.00) Brussels sprouts in a wasabi vinaigrette. The wine-list offers a number of the best clarets, but if you can’t afford any of these, try the V.Q.A. Tawse.
Joe Beef has its own vegetable garden and its own smoker, designed and built by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan’s long-time partner. The restaurant itself takes some getting used to. It’s small and packed with people. There’s often a lineup at the door and if you have a booking (as you should), that doesn’t seem to matter. There’s no printed menu or wine-list. The food and wines are chalked up on big blackboards that are hard to read in the dim light. Relax. They have oysters from the East and West Coasts, and the best are from New Brunswick. They have smelts, cod (on a bed of potato mash), spaghetti with lobster (at a great price) and whole trout. You won’t be able to see any of these items on the wall, but never mind, you have this guide in your hand. Anyway, the trout is the thing to have. There’s no use looking for a wine of your choice. Simply ask for the house white or the house red—they’re both good, drinkable wines. Joe Beef is real Montreal and David McMillan probably knows more about food and wine than anyone else in the city. Talk to him if you can—he’s the big man on the scene.
The La Have Bakery exudes character and charm. It operates in an old outfitters building, where for years they’ve baked and sold some of the best oatcakes in the world. The woman who baked them, however, has now retired. More recently, they’ve lost their long-time chef, though they still carry a variety of breads (among them Irish-style potato bread and Russian black bread) and make a number of first-class sandwiches—roast beef, ham and chicken. There’s also an abundance of Nanaimo bars, Queen Elizabeth cakes and date squares. Their cappuccino machine makes double shots every time out. Each Sunday they put on a splendid brunch, and they serve—or will serve when a new chef arrives—themed dinners every second Thursday evening.