Drumroll, please — it’s time to announce the winners of the 2016 Eater Awards. in three central categories — chef, restaurant, and design of the year — and a host of special categories, the winners represent a diverse group of chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, bartenders, and general restaurant folk who defined the year in dining across 24 Eater cities. They deserve your praise.
To recap, Eater editors selected winners for five local categories: Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, Stone Cold Stunner, and specific to Montreal, Cheap and Casual Restaurant of the Year, and the Best Bar Program. Eater readers then had the chance to vote for Readers’ Choice Award winners in each of those categories, from a selection of five nominees chosen by Eater.
Read on to see who won in Montreal — and why.
Chef of the Year: Marc-André Jetté
Former Les 400 Coups chef Marc-André Jetté opened up his own Rosemont restaurant, Hoogan et Beaufort in December alongside sommelier William Saulnier. And his cuisine, which straddled the divide between “fresh and delicate” and travaillé (not “rustic”, Jetté insists), has pretty much stunned crowds uniformly ever since.
And yet for the refined nature of the food, Jetté also made it accessible; he wasn’t aspiring to make another 400 Coups. “I’m a father now—my daughter is nine months old—so I want to create a space where everyone feels welcome,” he told Eater back before the opening. “We don't want to be a restaurant that people just go to once a year for a special occasion.” A pasta station, vegetables cooked over a fire pit and fewer heavy, meaty options than many other prominent Montreal restaurants all figure prominently, along with seasonal, local freshness. Read through the most recent menu, and Jetté’s creations feel perfectly like late fall in Quebec.
Chef of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Danny St-Pierre (Petite Maison)
Restaurant of the Year: Hvor
With bright and fresh degustation menus to match its dazzlingly bright interior, Hvor has impressed crowds at its Griffintown location since opening in May. With head chef S’Arto Chartier Otis (Soubois supper club), backed up by Janice Tiefenbach (previously of Nora Gray) and pastry chef Mayumi Tsukihara, Hvor focused on locavore cuisine, sourced partly from its own on-site garden. That was matched with tip-top wine pairing from sommelier Fred Fortin (ex-Laurea).
In a city with ample meaty and rich French-influenced menus, Hvor swung the pendulum the other way towards a light and even healthy approach — and succeeded. With house-grown producce, Chartier Otis is able to stay up-to-the-second seasonal, and while the ever-shifting menus meant (to paraphrase one critic) the Hvor team had no real safety net for menu misfires, they pulled everything off impressively.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice: Larry’s
Design of the Year: Agrikol
When Agrikol was first announced, partner Win Butler (man about Montreal’s nightlife and frontman of Arcade Fire) said it wasn’t to just be a restaurant, it would be “an art project”, “a cultural space”. And Butler, along with bandmate Régine Chassagne and Toronto restaurateurs Jen Agg and Roland Jean certainly executed that at their Amherst Street house-turned-Haitian restaurant and bar.
With stained-glass windows, artwork from Arcade Fire’s personal collections, jungle wallpaper, a touch of neon, and Jean’s huge and impressive painting alongside the staircase, Agg and company hit on a perfect design balance: an eclectic space that conjures up Haiti without straying anywhere near overkill — and importantly, a space customers want to visit for the vibe, as well as food and cocktails.
Design of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Foiegwa
Best Cheap and Casual Restaurant: Noren
Hidenori Tsuda and partner Élyse Garand opened up their pocket-sized Japanese snack bar Noren on Rachel back in June, importing something thoroughly new to the mid-Plateau — a dead zone for Japanese cuisine in a city that already doesn’t have much of it. Tsuda (who hails from Japan) and Garand (who lived there for several years) have focused on importing just two dishes: takoyaki (informally called “octopus balls”) and the pancake-like okonomiyaki. By keeping the menu extremely tight — with just a salad, a dessert and a special beyond that — they’ve been able to knock the (octopus) ball out of the park. All that, and the pair had barely even worked hospitality before.
Best Cheap and Casual Readers’ Choice Winner: Chez Tousignant
Best Bar Program: Candide
Opening in a converted church last November, Candide impressed many with chef John Winter Russell’s earthy plants-and-protein dishes, but its star shone the brightest on the wine front. Young sommelier Emily Campeau started not long after Candide’s opening and deserves plenty of credit for this — Campeau’s wine selection and matching skills at Candide cannot be faulted. But this award is for more than just good wine-matching, and it’s that Campeau has compiled wines that are original and challenging. They’re presented in a way that encourages engagement, even from those who might shy away from the wilder side of natural wine.
Best Bar Program Readers’ Choice Winner: Chez Lavigne