After nearly a week of intensive reader voting, today we announce the winners of the ninth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the chefs and restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past twelve months.
Here now are the establishments — from tasting menu destinations and hot aperitivo spots to an underground bar and casual Thai counter — that have taken the Montreal food world by storm. Thank you to everyone who voted last week, and congratulations to the winners of the readers’ choice and editors’ choice awards. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best. Editor’s Choice winners will receive an illustrious tomato can trophy via courier, along with a full feature on Eater Montreal in the coming year.
Note: Establishments eligible for awards were required to have opened between September 2017 and August 2018 inclusive — restaurants opened after that will be eligible for the 2019 awards.
Restaurant of the Year
Pastel, 124 Rue McGill (Old Montreal)
Kabir Kapoor and Jason Morris were already accomplished Montreal restaurateurs — they made that clear with their Griffintown restaurant Le Fantôme. Now, three years later, their talents have become even stronger as they brought Pastel to Old Montreal.
With Kapoor dubbing Pastel as “the complete yin to the yang of Fantôme”, the new restaurant marked progression from the pair’s first opening. Where Fantôme was playful, Pastel skewed intellectual in its approach, boosted by a much larger space and kitchen that allowed for greater experimentation.
And experiment chef Morris did. Together with chefs de cuisine Daiki Wajima and Louie Deligianis, he crafted elaborate new dishes, creamed, torched, and jellied across tasting and à la carte menus. Complex dishes like a nori and panko-rolled carrot or poultry and zucchini flowers sprayed in yuzu “mist” are produced with flair and never over-designed. Yet there’s also a clear understanding of when a dish needs a simpler approach: grilled strawberries with goat milk ice cream, for one example.
Pastel isn’t just a kitchen-driver operation — sommelier Renée Deschenes worked in tandem with front of house manager Fanie Bernier to put forward natural wines and service befitting the plates, in a calm, classy space that tidily combines pastel softness with some industrial edge.
Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Le Petit Mousso
Chef of the Year
Île Flottante, 176 Rue Saint-Viateur O (Mile End)
When chef Sean Murray Smith and co-owner Nada Abou Younes decided to kill off their Mile End restaurant Les Deux Singes de Montarvie in 2017, replacing it with Île Flottante, it was a risk.
But it paid off — while Les Deux Singes was exceedingly popular, it didn’t garner consistent critical props. Its successor has both popularity and praise — and it’s in no small part due to Smith’s work in the kitchen.
Smith has declined to clearly define his culinary style, using the loose term “international cuisine” but one apt descriptor is “excellent”. With an eye towards the local and seasonal, Smith’s ever-shifting tasting menus lean in to vegetables, often reformulating them into intriguing new dishes such as squash and nori terrine, or savoury carrot cake. Plus, in a city where desserts don’t always shine, they star here — take the titular meringue dessert, île flottante, or “rice five ways”, with different rices served in mousse, pudding, ice cream, puffed, and cracker form.
While Smith does pull in some molecular techniques, with certain plates featuring foams and jellies, he does so in a utilitarian way that doesn’t feel ostentatious or showy — need some salt and sharpness, without the textural bulk of cheese? That’s a foam situation, and Smith has the careful palate to know it.
Chef of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Chanthy Yen, Fieldstone
Design of the Year
Miss Wong (designed by Ménard Dworkind Architecture), 1780 Avenue Pierre-Péladeau (Laval)
The bigger a space is, the more stretched thin its interior designer might be in terms of making it a cohesive whole — but that wasn’t the case at new Laval resto-bar Miss Wong, where designers Guillaume Ménard and David Dworkind didn’t allow a square inch of space to go threadbare.
Guided by Dan Pham of Village restaurants Kamehameha and Le Red Tiger, the end result for this 10,000 square foot space is a multifaceted, dreamlike space that feels equal parts Blade Runner and west coast Chinatown.
Formerly mega-club Moomba, the space is now composed of glassy tabletops, and jade-patterned walls. It’s a veritable rainbow of textures, held together by liberal use of deep, Chinese-restaurant reds. The lighting seals the deal here — from neon signs to floor lights and no shortage of lanterns, it’s a treat for the eyes.
Of course, it should be noted that Miss Wong did have some corporate money behind it: The Foodtastic group (known for chains like La Belle et La Boeuf) is a partner on the venue. But even with a bigger budget, an exciting space like this is not something that can simply be purchased — it takes a careful eye, something which is evident here.
Design of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Elena (Kyle Adams Goforth)
Casual Restaurant of the Year
Un Po’ di Più, 3 Rue de la Commune E (Old Montreal)
While more of the new casual restaurants eligible for an Eater Award this year tended to be faster, counter service spots, Old Montreal newcomer Un Po’ di Più went in the other direction. Drawing on Italian aperitivo hours and their requisite cocktails and snacks, it’s a slower-paced casual eating experience — and with the level of quality here, you’ll want to stick around for hours.
Here, Eric Girard and Dyan Solomon (see also: Olive & Gourmando, Foxy) have a well-rounded operation. And in a bold move, they picked de la Commune and St-Laurent as their corner to do it — with a prime location across from the Old Port known mostly for low-grade tourist traps, it’s a gem of an addition to the street.
Come by in the morning for a coffee and brioche with house-made hazelnut spread, or wait until lunch or evening time and take a Negroni with fatty, tender house porchetta or mushroom bruschetta. From pillowy gnocchi to towers of charcuteries, chef Nick Giambattisto does a bang-up job on the kitchen side, while Catherine Wart’s front of house team are as friendly as can be. Add designer Zebulon Perron’s positively classy space with vintage lamps and tiled mosaics, and it’s a fabulous new addition to the scene.
Casual Restaurant of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Épicerie Pumpui
Bar of the Year
Club Pelicano, 1076 Rue de Bleury #001 (Downtown/Quartier des Spectacles)
Modeled partly after Montreal’s historical public baths (such as the Écomusée du Fier Monde on Amherst), and partly after Parisian art déco icon Piscine Molitor, Club Pelicano clearly had a hook. But it wasn’t a gimmick — although a swimming pool-themed bar sounds like quite the splashy, over-the-top affair, in practice, Club Pelicano exuded an effortless cool.
Pelicano shares its owners partly with upstairs restaurant Tiradito, and is just as much fun. For drinks, it’s an all-rounder: cocktails cover both dryer aperitivo options and sweeter “poolside” drinks, while a wine list boasts mineral natural options, and the beer selection highlights Quebec microbrews. Then there’s the bar food — with a menu partly from Tiradito’s Marcel Larrea and partly from Fabrizia Rollo (known for her Mile End pasta counter) mixing papas rellenos next to focaccias, it’s not your fries-and-aioli “fancy” bar food.
Pelicano is by no means a swanky destination bar — it’s a neighbourhood haunt, and one that’s doing everything right.
Bar of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner: Pamplemousse