As is tradition at Eater, we close the year with a survey of food critics, writers, bloggers, and people about town. This year we posed eight questions, from meal of the year, to top restaurant newcomers. All will be revealed by the time we turn off the lights at the end of 2018. Responses are unedited, except for grammar and translations, which are italicized.
Q: What was the biggest dining surprise of 2018?
Lesley Chesterman, Montreal Gazette dining critic:
So much food that tasted as good as it looked — and it looked great.
Jean-Philippe Tastet, Le Devoir dining critic:
A little place at the corner of Rachel and Rivard streets called Clairon. A small, warm place and a couple of very talented and witty young cooks.
Ian Harrison, Ricardo magazine; Eater Montreal founding editor:
Pastel. I didn’t see that one coming. Tasting menus are back, I guess?
JP Karwacki, Eater Montreal and Cult MTL contributor:
Le XVI XVI. It opened at an odd time, being too cold to take advantage of how much space it occupies indoors and outside, but a robot bartender plus plans to open a 360-degree multi-sensory chamber and plans for mixing dining experiences with art installations? I’d call that surprising.
Mallory Frayn, Eater Montreal contributor:
Falafel Yoni. There was a lot of hype leading up to the opening and I was afraid that they were never going to be able to live up to it. I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Hands down the best falafel I’ve ever had.
Iris Paradis-Gagnon, La Presse restaurant reporter and critic:
La Cabane d’à Côté, où je suis allée souper par une belle fin d’après-midi d’été! Que de talent dans cette cuisine qui sort des sentiers battus pour proposer un menu tout en fraîcheur, fort délicieux et évidemment axé sur le terroir local. Un moment mémorable partagé entre amis, dans un cadre champêtre et bucolique.
La Cabane d’à Côté, where I went for dinner one beautiful summer afternoon. So much talent in this off-the-beaten-track kitchen. A menu full of freshness, delicious, and clearly focused on local produce — a memorable moment among friends in a lovely countryside setting.
Ève Dumas, La Presse restaurant reporter:
I really enjoyed dining and staying at Auberge Willow Inn in Hudson. The homemade bread and charcuterie are outstanding. But the biggest surprise? Finding Les Vins Dame-Jeanne references on the wine list (yes, I’m obsessed with natural wine!). Being able to eat, drink and sleep so well in an incredibly charming village just 40 minutes away from Montreal? Gotta love that!
Mayssam Samaha, Will Travel For Food blog:
Lesley Chesterman quitting the Gazette.
Stelio Perombelon quitting the restaurant business.
Marcus Samuelsson coming to Montreal.
Vin Mon Lapin’s sunflower butter.
Élise Tastet, Tastet blog:
My first meal at every top newcomer was amazing. And when I ate FCO’s gelato for the first time (OMG so amazing).
Mélanie Boudreau, La Pique-Assiette blog:
Pop-up restaurant Espadon, located outside of Kabinet/Datcha, by chef John Mike.
Tommy Dion, Nightlife.ca critic and writer, blogger for Le Cuisinomane:
I would say that my biggest discovery was Redipizza in LaSalle. Michele, the owner, is a real passionate and I can easily say that he is doing some of the best pizza al taglio in Montreal.
Allison Van Rassel, food columnist at CBC/Radio-Canada Quebec City (note: these are Quebec City restaurants):
La Planque’s revamped, rethought, reinterpreted environment.