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 the best meal they had all year.
Clay Sandhu, food editor, Cult MTL: This is a bit of a toss-up for me. I had an incredible meal at Beba in the summer that cemented in my mind that it is probably the best restaurant in the city. However, the meal I’d most like to repeat is one I had at Pichai. I think a special mention should also go to Parcelles in the townships — I waited nearly 4 hours to eat but damn, talk about dinner with a view.
Erik Lejon, freelance writer, Montreal Gazette, Cult MTL, and others: I did takeout at Fleurs et Cadeaux in Chinatown a few times when it opened, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the pleasure of eating there. The lively ambiance, the cool music, the talkative sake sommeliers, the silky onsen eggs, the eye-popping concrete grey nanban sauce — despite being the new kid on the block, it was such a pleasant, entertaining, finely tuned experience. I still think about the miso duck.
Elise Tastet, founder and CEO, Tastet: The Montreal Plaza tasting menu for my birthday (wow!), and Mon Lapin was also one of the greatest nights of the year.
Alison Slattery, principal photographer, Two Food Photographers: Maison Publique, Jun I, Brasserie Bernard, and Salle Climatisée
JP Karwacki, editor, Time Out Montreal: There was Beba and Pigor in Verdun, La Franquette in Westmount, Marcus (ever since Jason Morris took on the kitchen), Chinatown’s Dobe & Andy, dumplings from Chef Lee downtown, sitting in the orchards of La Cabane d’à Côté, Ayla in Griffintown was great, a pasta pop-up at Tuck Shop from Kira German and Will Weston’s upcoming Paradiso… I couldn’t possibly name just one.
Jason Lee, food blogger, Shut Up and Eat: This meal isn’t necessarily the best, but it was the most memorable. It was the first time I was able to dine-in at a restaurant (a big box chain, not to be mentioned). After over a year of not being in a restaurant, I thought my first dine-in experience would be at one of my favourite restaurants. It was a spur of the moment work lunch. I didn’t have time to psychologically prepare for the experience and before I knew it, I was ordering a quarter-chicken combo with creamy dressing. As weird as the situation was, it felt nice to feel normal.
Rachel Cheng, photographer and food security and restaurant work activist: I’m going to cheat again and name two: Bika was such a special treat, with Fisun Ercan and her team working magic with the vegetables grown on site, serving guests in a greenhouse. A wild storm hit halfway through the meal and we lost electricity for an hour, and somehow Ercan’s team was able to adapt and continue to bring out minimalist, thoughtful dishes that let their summer produce shine. Otherwise, I only had a couple indoor restaurant meals this year, and am so glad that one of them was at Pichai. Every dish was surprising, the service is on point, and omg the miang pia – whole fried trout, topped with ginger and peanuts. Plus they have such progressive well-being policies for their staff.
Daniel Bromberg, Eater Montreal contributor: Easy — dinner on the beautifully decorated sidewalk of Maison Publique on a warm summer evening. Great food and excellent wine paired with wonderful company. A close second would be Knuckles, which provided exceptional service in a boisterous environment for my birthday celebration. Hélicoptère was, as usual, another knockout.
Tommy Dion, food blogger, Le Cuisinomane: Pastel, Mon Lapin, and Hoogan et Beaufort, just to name a few — I have to say that this year chefs and restaurateurs have completely outdone themselves.
Iris Gagnon-Paradis, restaurant reporter and critic, La Presse: Definitely at La Belle Histoire, in Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson (Laurentides). This restaurant is just amazing: the food is superb, the wine list is spot on, and the space, so beautiful. Five stars!
Ivy Lerner-Frank, Eater Montreal contributor: Can a casse-croûte meal be considered a restaurant meal? If so, I’m still thinking about the lobster guédille I had in La Malbaie at Chez Chantal this summer. Still on that lobster theme, the umami-packed lobster butter mazemen at Bistro Otto was (exceedingly indulgent) comfort food. But probably the best restaurant meal of 2021 was my first restaurant meal, the first night, at Pichai. The yum kai dao salad with perfectly jammy duck eggs, the duck laab, and the sai krok Isan sausages with fermented sticky rice made by Aliments Viens totally blew my mind, along with the Thai tea tiramisu. Hooray to every Jesse involved in that place!