Today, we’re excited to announce the winners of the 2021 Eater Awards, celebrating some of the best in new dining to grace Montreal since January 2020. From St-Hubert Street’s happening new Thai restaurant Pichai to NDG quick hit Café Entre-Deux, the spots below are just a few of the new restaurants that have made their mark on Montreal’s vibrant dining scene over the past two years, even as unprecedented crisis unfolded all around.
Without further ado, take a look below at the Eater Award winners, and why they’ve become such indispensable additions to Montreal’s restaurant world.
Restaurant of the Year
Owners conceived St-Hubert Street’s radiant new Thai restaurant Pichai as the “grown up” counterpart to their casual curry shop Pumpui in Little Italy. That description — and the restaurant’s name, which translates to “older brother” in Thai — tracks: Opened in May 2021, Pichai is a more polished (though still playful) haunt, where diners can spend evenings working through intricate spreads of laab dok kalaam (a fiery cauliflower salad eaten with sticky rice), hoy lai pad nam prik pao (a heaping pile of clams and Thai basil sitting in a brothy puddle), and kor moo yang (grilled pork in a dried chili sauce, served alongside leafy greens on ice for a cooling intermission). Each item is more revelatory than the last. Everything about Pichai — its splashy flavours, compelling wine list, affable staff, and unequivocally cool design that layers citrusy colours with South East Asian cues and some 1960’s flair — says scrupulous and self-aware, but never showy or too serious.
Chef of the Year
With all that he does, rising culinary star chef Paul Toussaint says he aims to chip away at misconceptions of the Caribbean as some nondescript, easily interchangeable vacation destination. He’s been making waves doing so since taking the helm of the kitchen at now-foregone Haitian favourite Agrikol in 2017, and has gone on to open two stalls in Time Out Market (one just last week) and his first standalone restaurant: upscale pan-Caribbean haven Kamúy in prime-time Quartier des Spectacles. The glass-walled, single-storey structure sits surrounded by downtown skyscrapers, enclosing an unbridled celebration of Caribbean cultures, communities, and flavours within. While Montreal boasts its share of Caribbean (predominantly Haitian) restaurants, here Toussaint is approaching the cuisines of the islands with a meticulousness typically reserved for French fine dining — he did, after all, cut his teeth at Normand Laprise’s acclaimed Toqué!. The results are some finely calibrated dishes like fish draped in a passion fruit-infused beurre blanc, and pillowy doumbrey (sweet potato dough dumplings) swimming in a coconutty seafood bisque.
Menu of the Year
Can a menu dictated by the whims of the seasons, with dishes and ingredients swapped in and out at intervals, be dubbed one of the city’s new best? If it’s anything like the one at Little Italy’s Joon, inspired by the culinary traditions of the Southern Caucasus and Caspian regions, it certainly warrants the recognition.
No matter which iteration, chef and first-time restaurant owner Erin Mahoney’s menu conveys an unwavering curiosity in Georgian, Armenian, and Persian flavours, along with a commitment to spotlighting Quebec’s locally grown ingredients du jour. Diners can always count on bold spices and bright herbs liberally strewn throughout; several now-signature dishes, such as a trio of zucchini fritters served with barberries, or a chalice of saffron-infused, pistachio-speckled ice cream, which have earned their keep on the menu; and a dozen-or-so-item-long make-up that’s exactly the right length for diners with a few companions in tow to work through in one, assuredly satisfying, sitting.
Multi-Hyphenate of the Year
“Entre-Deux” means “between two” in French, but that might be inadequate to describe all that this exciting new NDG arrival, from a group of industry vets, can do. It’s an all-day café, chic evening wine bar, killer cocktail slinger, stellar sandwich shop, and consummate neighbourhood bistro all rolled into one. Chef Vincent Monast (formerly of Italian snack bar Mano Cornuto) dazzles with an oft-changing menu that interlaces Nordic fermentation techniques (think salmon gravlax with smoked yogurt and fried shallots), hearty Western European fare (ranging from pastas and risottos to red wine-braised rabbit and duck breast in a coffee demi-glaze), and some decidedly local inflections — like a recent take on pouding chômeur, a Depression-era Québécois dessert, which it executes flawlessly.
Cafe of the Year
Café Chez Téta
Montreal ushers in buzzy new coffee shops like nobody’s business, but none stood out more over the past two years than new Plateau spot Café Chez Téta. Designed by local firm Ivy Studio, the luminous next-generation Lebanese cafe is outfitted with walnut wood furniture, smooth concrete and marble surfaces, and rusty red details that echo the colour of the gas-fired brick oven tucked into the corner of its open kitchen. The operation, run by life and business partners chef Antoun Aoun and Mélodie Roukoz, churns out some wondrous manousheh (flatbreads typical of Aoun’s native Lebanon ), alongside a pared-down menu of dips and salads, and cardamon-infused coffee poured into traditional Lebanese thimble cups — Téta (“grandmother” in Lebanese) would be proud.
Hangout of the Year
Fleurs & Cadeaux
Chinatown’s new Japanese snack and sake bar Fleurs & Cadeaux offers all the elements for an enviable night out with friends: copious amounts of natural wine, a winning cocktail list, easy-to-devour grub, some catchy though unobtrusive tunes, and a dimly lit, overall unfussy atmosphere. It all lies behind a peachy concrete exterior, once home to the florist and gift shop from which it got its name. Chef-owner Tetsuya Shimizu dishes out stunning sashimi and sizzling yakitori, while audiophile partners Hideyuki Imaizumi and Kris Guilty curate an unbeatable playlist, and remaining team members attend to the sake selection, service, and all else with care. With a central bar, pockets of seating dispersed around, and a new subterranean drink den, Fleurs & Cadeaux may just be the best new hangout to emerge in the midst of these seemingly interminable pandemic days.