After weeks of public nominations which were then whittled down to a shortlist, today we announce the winners of the tenth annual Eater Awards, celebrating the restaurants that made the largest impact on all 24 Eater cities over the past twelve months.
Here now are the establishments — fine dining and casual — that have shone bright in the Montreal food world this year. Thank you to everyone who contributed nominations, and congratulations to the winners. Read on to learn more about this year’s best of the best. Winners will receive an illustrious tomato can trophy via courier, along with a window sticker announcing them as an award-winner.
Note: Establishments eligible for awards were required to have opened between September 2018 and August 2019 inclusive — restaurants opened after that will be eligible for the 2020 awards.
Restaurant of the Year
Moccione, 380 Rue Villeray (Villeray)
Opened without great fanfare in late 2018, Moccione rapidly became a hot spot for Italian cuisine in Montreal. Under owners Maxime Landry and Luca Cianciulli (ex-Toqué), it seemed that with its tiny small dining room of just 24 seats, Moccione aspired to be a neighbourhood restaurant; a solid table for Villeray denizens. But it quickly became a destination, and the reasons for that are manifold.
First, of course, is the superb food — a restrained menu allows the flavour of tangy heirloom tomatoes, herbaceous sage, and umami-laden parmesan or pecorino to shine through. The classics like bolognese or all’amatriciana are done with nary a strand of pasta out of place, on a menu that looks home-style but feels highly refined.
Beyond the food, there’s exceptionally warm service, in a dining room that’s at once homey and unpretentious while also exuding a simple beauty. Plus, manager and sommelier Maxime Lavallée caps it off with a tidy selection of mostly Italian wines.
Design of the Year
Marcus (designed by Zebulon Perron), 1440 Rue de la Montagne, in the Four Seasons Hotel (Downtown)
American chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Montreal restaurant may have landed mixed reviews, but there’s one thing it seemed most agreed upon: the space itself is a stone-cold stunner. Designer about town Zebulon Perron and his team put forward an array of brassy tones and geometric, line-driven forms. There’s more than a hint of art déco influence here, yet with splashes of plant life and a few carefully-selected millennial pink items of lounge furniture, it avoids falling into the trap of being too retro, or too much of an homage.
Of course, Marcus is part of the fairly fancy Four Seasons Hotel, which means that the design budget was likely fairly high. But at the same time, money can’t buy taste, and Perron has showed on many other occasions that he has a refined eye, regardless of budget. In the case of Marcus, the design is radiant without being aggressively shiny; opulent without crossing the line into frivolous glitz. Then, there’s the terrasse, a gleaming white palate-cleanser that looks out over the city from its third-floor perch — all up, a feast for the eyes, even if you’re only stopping by for a drink.
Casual Restaurant of the Year
Mae Sri, 224 Rue Milton (Plateau)
Students and other residents of the so-called McGill Ghetto should count themselves lucky that former diner Place Milton morphed into this Thai noodle counter, instead of a chain coffee shop or vape store. It’s the brainchild of Pamika Sukla, chef-owner of Sherbrooke East Thai resto Pamika. Here, Sukla swings more casual — the focus is Thai street food, with a focus on kuai tiao, a rice noodle soup with a rich, flavourful broth, and loaded up with toppings from peanuts to meatballs.
And Mae Sri’s success proves that there’s a thirst (or hunger?) for something fresh in Montreal (and that the restaurants offering it don’t need to be sequestered in some kind of “international food neighbourhood”). Mae Sri isn’t perfect — the long menu does feature various well-worn Thai staples like pad thai and green curry, and not all of these deliver at the same level as the kuai tiao. Yet Sukla and her team are to be commended for offering something hard to come by in Montreal — and doing it well, in a cozy space, for an affordable price. More, please.