Alan Richman, the éminence grise of food criticism, GQ contributor, and Montreal Star alum, loves to write about his former city. In a Town & Country article this week, Richman revisits the city he calls "a sort of culinary orphan, free to seek its own path", and fires off some choice lines about the city's restaurants and chefs. Some of Montreal's chefs, in turn, get off some memorable quotes too.
Joe Beef's David McMillan: "I'll tell you why Montreal is the best restaurant city, and it's not about the skill of our cooking. We have the most advanced dining public in North America. I serve lamb liver cooked rare to 17-year-old girls."
Toqué!'s Normand Laprise: "I visit pastry shops in the States, and I know Americans are not open- minded customers."
Richman, after a masterful dinner at Le Mousso: "I suggest to [chef-owner Antonin] Mousseau-Rivard that he might be a crazy genius, and he replies, 'I like the word crazy more than genius.'"
On Hymie Sckolnick, the 95-year-old owner of Beauty's: "Hymie bought the shop in 1942 for $500. He is nice enough not to brag about his investment prowess."
On the congeniality of Schwartz's servers: "I order my smoked meat fatty—most customers request medium or lean—and the waiter says, 'Good for you.' Maybe the place has changed: That's a long speech for a Schwartz's waiter."
On Maison Boulud: "I order a lunch that spins me back in time: housemade pâté of startling freshness and eminent richness, and confit of guinea fowl leg in a miraculously silken foie gras sauce."
On chef Derek Dammann's Maison Publique: "I never miss a chance to eat here."
On the legendary Montreal Pool Room: "In case you have trouble finding it, directly across the street is the garish marquee of Café Cléopatre, which features stripteaseuses and danseuses à gogo."
On Hôtel Herman chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier's skill with vegetables: "Mercier tells me his way with vegetables is a result of childhood trauma: His mother made him eat a bowl of rutabaga so awful it made him cry."
On why Richman loves to eat at Lawrence: "The staff is sweet, the wine list just right, the crockery seemingly from a church basement sale, and the menu filled with dishes you might never have eaten before."
On Laprise's Toqué!: "The food isn't what I think of as new Montreal cuisine—it's too precise and luxurious—but it's up there with the best haute cuisine in North America."
On why he had to stop for desserts at Patrice Pâtissier on the way to the airport: "Patrice Demers, the owner of this new shop on Notre Dame West, was the first pastry chef at Les 400 Coups and thus is a hero of mine. But then, so many Montreal chefs are."