As is tradition at Eater, we close the year by asking a group of food writers, editors, photographers, and others about town to weigh in on the past year in food. Their answers — unedited (except for grammar and translation) and in no particular order — will be revealed in several posts by the time the clock runs out on 2021. Here they share which newcomer on the scene excited them most this year.
Erik Leijon, freelance writer, Montreal Gazette, Cult MTL, and others: Café Entre-Deux. NDG doesn’t really have any wine-bar/bistro-type places, and at first I wasn’t sure how the community would respond. But the atmosphere has been great and they’ve fit in well with the neighbourhood. I’d hate to see NDG lose its mom and pop character, but Entre-Deux proved you can bring in something new and do it respectfully.
Rachel Cheng, photographer and food security and restaurant work activist: Bar à Flot is not in my neighbourhood at all, but the few times I’ve been on their terrasse, their small plates, tidy but fun wine list, and warm ambiance make this new bar feel like a staple already. I also loved Parcelles out in Austin, where you walk through a vegetable patch to be greeted by some plucky chickens and a series of picnic tables overlooking a valley in the Eastern Townships. With wood-fired pizzas and delicious small plates, Parcelles embodies why local, sustainable agriculture is vital, not only for the future of food systems, but also for the pleasure of eating good food under the summer sun.
Alison Slattery, principal photographer, Two Food Photographers: Shoshur Bari was new to me so that was exciting since Farah says it tastes like home to her. Gia in Saint-Henri — the arrosticini were incredible; I can’t wait to go back to their huge terrasse next summer. Moccione Pizza was delicious and finally Place Carmin (the space alone is so beautiful).
Jason Lee, food blogger, Shut Up and Eat: I was excited to hear that Anita Feng was opening a place of her own this year (J’ai Feng) — Biang bang noodles with extra homemade chilli oil, please!
Daniel Bromberg, Eater Montreal contributor: Always a hard choice, but I’d have to say Café Entre-Deux wins my vote. I’m a sucker for the cafe-buvette style sweeping the scene and can describe their vibe as a slice of Mile End in NDG. (Runner-ups go to Pichai for creativity and design, and Bar à Flot as a truly irresistible wine bar.)
JP Karwacki, editor, Time Out Montreal: I’ve been immensely pleased by Okeya Kyujiro and Kokochi Izakaya for freshening up the sushi scene; Tropikàl and Pichai for being stupendous standouts; Le Pontiac because eggs Benedict sandwiches, and no, I needn’t say more; Meetha for making the best ice cream all year; Bernie Beigne for chart-topper donuts; Chef Lee for its taste of Hong Kong; and Hang Time Pizza for keeping Fungool alive while making a very nice NYC-style pie.
Biggest praise of all goes to Projet Pilote and their fascinating multifunctional space, the beautifully-designed Tiramisu, every menu item at Mui Mui, and — when I can get a table — Barbara Vin.
Ivy Lerner-Frank, Eater Montreal contributor: Considering the obstacles, it’s incredible what a great year this was for openings. I was delighted when Deexit and Aakruti Patel opened up Crémerie Meetha for Indian-flavoured ice creams in Park Ex; I loved getting to know them and their mums this year, and tasting their terrific Elaichi Pista ice cream. Anita Feng’s J’ai Feng is a great addition to the food scene; her petite épicerie with homemade pickled veggies and Sichuan specials is introducing folks to a range of Chinese flavours the city hasn’t really seen to date and needs to know about. The re-opening of Erin Mahoney’s dining room at Joon made me very happy, especially when she serves her cold yogurt soup and any kebab — her knowledge and passion for Persian and Caucasus foods is unparalleled. And, of course, Pichai.
Iris Gagnon-Paradis, restaurant reporter and critic, La Presse: Despite the pandemic, a lot of new restaurants opened this past year. One of the most original projects I’ve seen is Fleurs & Cadeaux in Chinatown — a really fun vibe, beautiful dishes, and really cool spot overall. I was also very pleased with my visits to Parcelles, a new farm-to-table in Austin (Estrie); Mastard, Simon Mathys’s new restaurant; and BarBara, in Saint-Henri — a really fun spot.
Elise Tastet, founder and CEO, Tastet: My husband opened a sandwich shop + caviste in the Mile End called Nita so I was obviously excited about that because he started the work two weeks after I gave birth, lol. Mastard was exciting, BarBara is killing it, Place Carmin is delicious and gorgeous, and Gia from the Elena team is also huge!
Clay Sandhu, food editor, Cult MTL: The newcomer on the scene that I think blew everyone away was Salle Climatisée. I mean, it’s a hole in the wall on a busy part of St. Laurent and it’s named in honour of air conditioning and yet it’s home to some of the smartest, most refined and least pretentious cooking I’ve had the pleasure of eating. I’m still excited about it going into 2022!
Tommy Dion, food blogger, Le Cuisinomane: Mastard, Gia Vin & Grill, and Pichai. If 2021 was this exciting, I have a feeling 2022 with be even more so.