“People love lists”: it’s a basic rule of online publishing, and one that the folks at Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants evidently subscribe to. That list, now in its second year of existence, dropped Tuesday night. It features 26 Montreal restaurants, two more than the 2016 list. This is the third year these rankings have been put together.
Normand Laprise’s Toqué! remains the top restaurant in the city according to the list, at number two, after being knocked off the highest position by Toronto’s Alo. It’s closely followed by a Dave McMillan and Fred Morin double-act: Joe Beef and Vin Papillon were in third and fourth place, up one spot each from 2016. Montrealers also took out two special prizes: Montréal Plaza chefs Cheryl Johnson and Charles-Antoine Crête were named most innovative chef(s), and Maison Boulud dessert royalty Claude Guérin was named best pastry chef. Full details on the other Montreal restaurants included are below.
It’s important to take this list with a grain of salt, and not to treat it as some sort of indisputable holy book for the Canadian food scene: while the restaurants on there are good through to truly excellent, there are some glaring omissions — Lawrence, number 44 last year is not on the list (although its next-door sibling Larrys is number 88), and perhaps more heinous, Au Pied de Cochon is missing, after hitting 34th place last year. The PDC sugar shack near Mirabel is, however, on the 2017 list. Similarly, classic French spot L’Express was left off last year’s rankings, although that’s been remedied on the 2017 list. There are also some odd placements within the 100, observed Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman.
When I see a restaurant list that ranks Les Deux Singes de Montarvie 16 spots (!) above Le Mousso, I can only scratch my head. #WTF— Lesley Chesterman (@lesleychestrman) March 1, 2017
A look at the judging process might help to explain these issues: some of the judges are reputable: independent writers or educators with relevant expertise — from La Presse critic Marie-Claude Lortie to dean of hospitality and tourism at Ottawa’s Algonquin College Jim Kyte. But a large number of the other judges have no apparent connection to the culinary and restaurant world whatsoever and little sign of professional experience in the field — fine dining hobbyists, if you will. Among the Ontario judges are the lead singer from Canadian rock band Rush (Geddy Lee), a lawyer (Clayton Ruby), an American Express marketing exec (Tina Santoro) and not one, but two eye doctors (Josh Josephson and James Oestreicher).
Beyond possibly unqualified judges, there’s also a number of judges with vested business interests in the rankings — among the judges there’s employees from Quebec wine importer Oenopole and Toronto fromager Cheese Boutique, both of whom would do business with restaurants that are candidates for a Best 100 list.
There’s also plenty of marketing and public relations professionals as judges who (aside from being non-experts in food) may work with restaurants competing to be on the list, too.
On top of that, restaurateurs like Normand Laprise and David McMillan whose restaurants are on the list also act as judges. This is less problematic, as they’re not allowed to vote for their own restaurants, but they’re not exactly independent from the industry.
In contrast, merit-based awards in other fields — the Polaris Prize, for Canadian music, for example — use only judges who are experts or experienced, and who are independent and don’t stand to benefit from certain candidates being recognized over others.
In short: this list has some validity, but let’s not pretend that it’s the most definitive assessment of Canadian restaurants. Anyway, here are the Montreal restaurants that made the cut this year, along with their 2016 ranking in brackets — bold denotes the restaurants that did better this year, and italics for those who did worse. Below that are the five restaurants that made the 2016 list but not the 2017 edition.
2. Toqué (1)
3. Joe Beef (4)
4. Le Vin Papillon (5)
11. Montréal Plaza (31)
13. Maison Publique (13)
19. Nora Gray (24)
22. Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon (32)
25. Liverpool House (42)
34. Bouillon Bilk (20)
35. Foxy (72)
36. Milos (47)
37. L’Express (new to list)
38. Maison Boulud
43. Hoogan & Beaufort (new to list)
44. Jun I (45)
45. Park (19)
47. Damas (57)
49. Candide (91)
50. Impasto (76)
54. Le Filet (new to list)
56. (tied) Le Club Chasse et Pêche (26), Europea (50)
66. Les Deux Singes de Montarvie (new to list)
82. Le Mousso (new to list)
88. Larrys (new to list)
92. Le Serpent (new to list)
98. Les 400 Coups (new to list)
Taken Off The List
- Au Pied de Cochon (34)
- Hôtel Herman (40 — now closed)
- Lawrence (44)
- Satay Brothers (85)
- Mercuri (89)