'Tis the season for 'best of' restaurant lists. Mere hours after Le Journal de Montréal published Thierry Daraize's non-fact-checked top 10 yesterday, The Gazette put out lists from both Lesley Chesterman and Sarah Musgrave.
The combined collection of restaurants, with one or two exceptions, underscores places that opened over the past year or went through some kind of significant change or chef shuffle. In this regard, the two lists feel timely and relevant.
Here are Chesterman's fine-dining faves of 2014.
Without a doubt, Bouillon Bilk was my top restaurant of 2014.
Les 400 Coups
I was worried that Les 400 Coups might falter when its original kitchen crew departed last year (...) but within six months [chef Guillaume Cantin and pastry chef Brian Verstraten] had not only maintained the high level, but may even have surpassed it.
The cooking is sharp. Prices are quite high, making this an occasion restaurant.
Montreal isn’t considered much of a sushi town, but now with the likes of Shinji, Antonio Park at Park and Junichi Ikematsu at Jun-i, sushi hounds are well served.
Les Coudes sur la Table
In a scene filled with noisy dining rooms and pork-belly-filled plates, this sophisticated bistro provides an oasis of civility.
La Table des Gourmets
Sometimes you just want a change and if so, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better restaurant "en région" than the six-month-old La Table des Gourmets.
Lawrence has quickly become one of Mile End’s signature restaurants, popular at brunch and lunch, and exceptional at dinner time.
Gosh, I never wanted to leave that restaurant.
There is a dearth of ethnic restaurants on the fine-dining beat, which is why Ikanos was such a favourite this year.
The surprise of 2014.
Sarah Musgrave's best casual restaurants of 2014 include:
The windows of [meatball restaurant] Le Ballpark look out over the southern boundary of Little Italy, and it’s particularly cozy on a snowy night as buses and cars go by silently.
Tucked away on a side street behind St. James United Church, in an enclave that was once the city’s fur district, this hip hideaway in the commercial core is owned by the same team as the popular-to-overflowing Furco wine bar next door.
Best for: The pleasures of al fresco dining at the rancho, under a warm roof.
Best for: Szechuan spices that kill winter. Dead.
Raquel Zagury and David Bloom have transformed a former St-Henri reptile store into an airy backdrop for colourful Middle Eastern meals.
Sammi & Soupe Dumplings
The third eatery from the Qing Hua dumpling emporium is a utilitarian space dedicated to one purpose: delivering bamboo steamers of China’s famous satisfyingly soupy xiao long bao to the table.
Best for: Making brunch your main meal of the day.
Replacing long-standing Souvenirs d’Indochine, Hà is a hopping new spot for easy-to-like Asian bites, beer and cocktails.
Great wines, great pastries and thoughtful dishes, and did I mention dessert for breakfast?