2013 saw a mini bumper crop of new restaurants in Montreal that have done well, thusfar, with critics and diners alike. Le Vin Papillon, Impasto, La Famille, Lili Co., Racines, Le H4C and hybrids like Hof Kelsten and Boucherie Lawrence all hit the scene lo these past 12 months. Others, however, for various reasons, bid us farewell.
114 av. Laurier O.
Open since 2005, ambitious chef cum restaurateur Mario Navarrete Jr. shut down his flagship kitchen at the conclusion of Taste MTL 2013. The native of Peru has deft skills and won accolades from critics and customers but his artful Nuevo Latino fare never quite took hold on the cutthroat Laurier strip (the restaurant was often empty). Raza is still open for private events and fans of Navarrete Jr. can take solace at Madre and Madre sur Fleury.
4075 rue Sainte-Catherine O.
If Michael Sniatowski's Kaizen was not quite a Montreal institution, it was close. The Japanese restaurant had been a Westmount staple for close to 18 years. No details have come forth on the September shutter since this Facebook message: "We are currently closed. Updates to follow in the next week. Thank you for your understanding."
L'eau à la bouche
3003 boul. Sainte-Adèle, Sainte-Adèle
The shutter of L'eau à la bouche in April got blanket press coverage. The Relais & Châteaux auberge slash restaurant from chef Anne Desjardins and husband Pierre Audette had been under economic duress for some time.
1011 rue Wellington
A one-time Louis-François Marcotte joint (the Signé M television chef subsequently sold his restaurant interests in March 2012) that was a bit of a shitshow from the start. This statement from Restaurants du Nouveau Montréal on January 8 was not much of a surprise: "Avec les différents projets touchant les autres entreprises du groupe, nous avons décidé de nous retirer pour quelque temps du Sud-Ouest afin de nous concentrer sur l'évolution des autres filiales."
1744 rue Notre-Dame O.
Jane got major buzz back in 2010 when it was seen as a Griffintown revival harbinger. Chef Ryan Dixon's pizza was the subject of adulatory analysis from a parade of food writers and bloggers. The restaurant's deathwatch began for most, however, after the LaSalle native left for Old Montreal diner Le Gros Jambon in February 2012.
381 av. Laurier O.
Arguably the restaurant shitshow of the decade in Montreal (so far), venerable Laurier 1936 (Rôtisserie Laurier) bit the dust this year after a very public legal battle with Gordon Ramsay and a change in ownership in 2010.
3779 rue Wellington
[Photo: Google Maps]
For those who champion tirelessly on behalf of Sud-Ouest Montréal, this was the heartbreaker of 2013. The Wellington strip - ever in transition - was fortunate to have a chef of Michel Ross' caliber but Mas may have been a little much for Verdun. The 'hood's loss is a huge gain for the students at the Pearson School of Culinary Arts in LaSalle.
Bu Bar à Vin
5245 boul. Saint-Laurent
Bu held on for a long time on a very competitive strip but left for good after a decade in June. Sel Gras took up the old space and was summarily razed by arson in September (with plans to re-open soon).
16 av. des Pins E.
Invariably, conversations about the best Japanese in Montreal once included Ginger. The Plateau restaurant was a hip fixture a decade or so ago but, alas, the momentum was difficult to maintain. Whispers of new ventures in Villeray and Saint-Henri abound.
3619 boul. Saint-Laurent
A home for vagabond artists and nocturnal noshers for decades, Euro Deli was a victim of economic pressures and relentless construction work on the Main. "It was a place you could go and run into people you know. It's been an institution on the Main for decades, and it's a real loss," said Alex Norris, city councillor for the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.
414 St-Zotique E.
[Photo: Café Ellefsen]
Ellefsen's "Café Scandinave" flair had a flock of regulars but was barely on the radar for some when it suddenly shut down in September. Café Beaufort quickly took up the choice Petite-Patrie space.
Le Piment Rouge
1170 rue Peel
[Photo: Le Devoir]
Le Piment Rouge, a formal Chinese standby for the powerbroker set, was part of a last gasp of vanguard old school restaurants in Downtown Montreal. Restaurants that skew older customer-wise and seem very far from tables of the moment, like a Hôtel Herman or Le Vin Papillon, or, to compare apples with apples, Chinatown newcomer Orange Rouge. This snippet from Lesley Chesterman's last Gazette review of the place resonates: "It was odd to sit in a room this pretty, yet feel almost a complete lack of ambience. Some elegant tunes would surely enhance the chic Chinois atmosphere. And as for the food: I'm all for exoticism, but how about dropping the highly prized yet politically incorrect shark's fin soup? That would really bring this Montreal institution into the modern age."