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The 38 Essential Montreal Restaurants, July 2014

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Time to deliver the new Eater 38 for Montreal, which answers the question that begins with, "Can you recommend a restaurant ...?"

This indispensable bunch, in geographic order, covers a mishmash of 'hoods and styles and, like the scene it seeks to rep, is a dynamic work in progress. Every few months we will add front of mind restaurants that have become eligible (open a minimum of six months), as well as older, under the radar restaurants that deserve a boost and a shot at prominence once more.

Beg to differ? State your case in the comments or on the tipline.

Added January 2014: Milos, Tavern on the Square, Le Bremner, Tapeo, Su
Added April 2014: Bouillon Bilk, Damas, Garde Manger, Le Vin Papillon
Added July 2014: Foodlab, Le H4C, Impasto, Le Mitoyen

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Antonio (#fortheloveofthegame) Park has a private fish import license and is not afraid to use it. The affable native of Argentina and Culinary Institute of Japan alum has knife skills as sharp as his hashtag game.

Tuck Shop

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Tuck Shop's brand of consistent and sophisticated comfort food was a forerunner on the now heavily engaged Notre-Dame strip in Saint-Henri. Year in and year out, a restaurant that seems to continually improve.

Le H4C

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Innovative chef Dany Bolduc has hit his stride in this revamped greystone post office in Saint-Henri. Le H4C is one of the best new restaurants to open in Montreal over the past year.

Tavern on the Square

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Whether at Monkland Tavern or the more upscale Tavern on the Square in Westmount, chef-owner Stephen Leslie knows how to engage with pimped comfort food that is shy of precious. And the room is wonderful. As Lesley Chesterman once wrote: "The ambiance feels more like a dinner party than a restaurant." A quintessential Montreal restaurant in a manner completely unlike a L'Express or Leméac, say.

Le Vin Papillon

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Open one year now, Dave McMillan, Fred Morin, Vanya Filipovic and Marc-Olivier Frappier's no res wine bar is an elegant companion to Joe Beef and Liverpool House. The hours (3:00 p.m. to midnight) and recent terrasse upgrade make Le Vin Papillon the perfect summer spot.

Liverpool House

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Joe Beef's lively and boisterous little brother is a trip. Fine art adorns the walls, the considerate wine list invariably compels and plates like foie gras parfait with roasted prunes, calf's liver à la Montréalaise and raspberry trifle with sprinkles exude the creed that has become Dave McMillan and Fred Morin's hallmark: sit, relax, enjoy and check all self-importance at the door.

Joe Beef

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David McMillan, Frédéric Morin and Allison Cunningham opened their first restaurant together in 2005 on a moribund stretch of Notre-Dame in Little Burgundy. Montreal (and the world, frankly) has yet to recover. "People ask me all the time what my favorite restaurant in the world is, and I always give them the wrong answer. My favorite restaurant in the world is Joe Beef." David Chang

Nora Gray

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It has been three years since Emma Cardarelli, Lisa McConnell and Ryan Gray transformed a derelict strip of Little Burgundy below the Bell Centre into one of the most sought-after tables in town. The trio’s poise is at an apex and, with it, the expert wine service and southern Italian fare. It is hard to reap more total satisfaction from any other restaurant in the city right now.

Maison Boulud Ritz-Carlton

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Three Michelin star chef Daniel Boulud's sleek restaurant in the august Ritz-Carlton hotel has galvanized Montreal's Golden Square Mile. Riccardo Bertolino's résumé is duly impressive and the executive chef's efforts in the kitchen have won over a lot of skeptics leery of hotel restaurant food.

Garde Manger

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Food Network turns and a win versus Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America put Chuck Hughes on the radar for many. But it all began over a decade ago at Garde Manger, where a close-knit crew, led by partners Tim Rozon, Kyle Marshall Nares and general manager Jessica Midlash, still make this Old Montreal spot one of the indefatigable places to be. [Photo]

Toqué!

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Normand Laprise won a James Beard award for his 444-page cookbook, Toqué!: Creators of a New Quebec Gastronomy. After two decades, the Relais & Châteaux chef's flagship restaurant is as crucial as ever.

Le Club Chasse et Pêche

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A decade in and Hubert Marsolais and Claude Pelletier's artful homage to both gun and rod is as excellent as ever. Le Club Chasse et Pêche is a restaurant that manages refinement without grandiloquence.

Le Bremner

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Chuck Hughes' second venture hit the scene in 2011 with nary a whisper of a sophomore slump. In many respects in fact, Le Bremner is Garde Manger's superior. The room is a charmer and chef Danny Smiles, a former Top Chef Canada contestant, has serious game.

Les 400 Coups

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Les 400 Coups' original founders recently left to tackle other projects. The transition to chef Guillaume Cantin et al. has been relatively seamless, with recent critical raves and a room that still hums with the best of them in Montreal.

Foodlab

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Michelle Marek and Seth Gabrielse run the eclectic Labo Culinaire, or Foodlab, inside the Société des arts technologiques on the edge of the Quartier des Spectacles and Chinatown. The ex-Laloux chefs immerse themselves in sundry culinary styles - recent menu themes include Mongolia and Turkey - to deliver one of the most unpredictable and dynamic restaurants in the city. The terrasse is pretty spectacular too.

Bouillon Bilk

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After stints at the likes of Globe, Brontë, Portus Calle, Trois Petits Bouchons and XO, veteran chef François Nadon has hit his stride on a most unlikely strip of Saint-Laurent and wrested a loyal following in the process. A recent facelift and expansion means there's now more of Bouillon Bilk to love.
Laloux has been on the scene for almost three decades. If the French restaurant lacks the cult iconic status of a L'Express it has less to do with the quality of food than with the fact it turns over chefs at a whiplash clip. That should not divert anyone, however, from the soigné des Pins spot.

L'Express

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The city's bellwether bistro feels even more indispensable since the untimely death of founder Colette Brossoit.

Au Pied de Cochon

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It is difficult to remember where Montreal's restaurant scene was before Martin Picard wrote his love letter to Quebec cuisine, in the form of Au Pied de Cochon, in 2001. It was less audacious, that much is certain. "Au Pied de Cochon is simply one of my favourite restaurants on the planet - and the Rabelesian Martin Picard one of my favourite chefs." Anthony Bourdain

Le Filet

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The eminent foursome of Le Club Chasse et Pêche's Claude Pelletier and Hubert Marsolais, sommelier Patrick St-Vincent and chef Yaku Okazaki has won Plateau fidelity with emphasis on quality surf sans turf and one of the best wine lists in Montreal.

La Salle à Manger

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La Salle à Manger is the poster child for Plateau scenesterdom but the restaurant is not too cool to forget what binds a place to a particular 'hood in the long run.

Maison Publique

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Derek Dammann is one of the most ardent boosters of a coast-to-coast-to-coast Canadian culinary identity. The Maison Publique chef's recent work to introduce wild game to restaurant kitchens in Montreal may prove to be a game changer.

Leméac

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Veteran restaurateur and chef Richard Bastien runs one of the tightest, brightest restaurants in Montreal. Leméac is an exemplary bistro with arguably the most loyal clientele in the city.

BarBounya

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Fisun Ercan prepares comfort food classics from her native Turkey with the flair of a chef schooled in French culinary technique. The result is one of the most fetching restaurants to hit the scene over the last year.

La Chronique

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Chef-owners Marc De Canck and Olivier de Montigny steward one of Montreal's foremost temples of French gastronomy. La Chronique has a "fussy, no-nonsene", "save it for a special occasion" rep but the food is often playful and not solely for a Saturday anniversary dinner.

Hôtel Herman

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If Mile End is Montreal’s restaurant mecca, Hôtel Herman is partly to blame. The horseshoe bar, curated playlists and monochrome décor all play well with the neighbourhood’s moneyed hipsters but it really is all about the food (and that unusual wine list). Dishes like foie gras terrine with rhubarb, yogurt and brioche and horse tartare with ox-eye daisy capers and burnt onion powder resonate. Chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier deserves his Eater Young Gun title.

Lawrence

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Lawrence owner Sefi Amir's commitment to source locally and respectfully raised meat has taken brick and mortar hold a few doors down from her restaurant at Boucherie Lawrence. The butcher shop feels like a natural extension and complement to chef Marc Cohen and company's food at the restaurant on the corner of Saint-Laurent and Fairmount.
Damas was a breath of fresh air when it hit the scene in 2011, prompting critic Lesley Chesterman to cite it among her best of the year. The restaurant has not lost a step since and is poster child proof that Montreal excels at upscale Levantine cuisine. [Photo]
Milos has been a fixture on Montreal's restaurant scene for over three decades. Over that span, owner Costas Spiliadis has forged a singular legacy, with estiatorio outposts in New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Athens. Despite a turn to more local ingredients in recent times, Spiliadis' fidelity to Greece, most notably in the form of fish, seafood and wine, is the Mile End restaurant's most identifiable characteristic.

Van Horne

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Sylvie Lachance and Urs Jakob's chic Outremont restaurant has a new attitude. Chef Jens Ruoff comes by way of Bouillon Bilk and stints at kitchens all over continental Europe. The German is cranking out some of the most interesting-looking plates in the city.

Pastaga

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Most diners are now hip to the fact that Pastaga, despite the name, Little Italy address and playful vitello tonnato, is not an Italian restaurant. Kudos go to veteran restaurateur and chef Martin Juneau, who, at 35, has finally won a measure of celebrity beyond Montreal. The 2011 Canada Gold Medal Plates champ helms a restaurant that has presence.

Dinette Triple Crown

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Colin Perry’s ode to his native Kentucky serves up the finger lickin’ goods but beyond the fried chicken (which is the best in the city) you have to admire Triple Crown’s audacity. Smoked black cod with grits and old-fashioned tomato gravy; pork belly and chicken liver mousse bahn-mis; Arnold Palmer meringue pie … just, c’mon. [Photo Credit]

Hostaria

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With owners and staff from the likes of Il Mulino, Bottega and BU, Hostaria is in capable hands. The kitchen's elegant touch with rustic Italian has helped transform Saint-Zotique Est into a restaurant row of note.

Impasto

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Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita hit a nerve with Montreal diners in 2013 with this finely-tuned Little Italy collaborazione. Now the duo is about to deliver GEMA, a new wave pizzeria, down the street.

Le St-Urbain

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Le St-Urbain put Ahuntsic on the map for many. Half a decade on and chef Marc-André Royal and co. have yet to slow down. This restaurant is home to one of the most professional, indefatigable crews in the city.

Le Mitoyen

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Trends and chefs come and go but this smart, old-school country house restaurant in Laval from Richard Bastien (Leméac) is still at it. As critic Lesley Chesterman put it: "There’s no denying that Le Mitoyen is far from being the hip restaurant filled with foodie fashionistas. But I’m all hipped out when it comes to restaurants these days. Sometimes you just want to go somewhere for a relaxed dinner in a tranquil setting and be pampered by a smart waiter who knows his stuff."

Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon

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Martin Picard's homage to sugar shack culture is part working farm, part Felliniesque fever dream. Apple season starts August 15.

À la table des jardins sauvages

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François Brouillard is the forager, Nancy Hinton the chef. Together, the couple run one of the most unusual BYOB restaurants in the province, with seasonal menus that make brilliant use of ingredients they personally source from their own backyard. A typical menu item is described thusly: spit roasted Quebec lamb with ‘wild steak spice’, summer bolete sauce, cattail pollen polenta and cattail spear, goatsbeard sprouts and beech peas.

Park

Antonio (#fortheloveofthegame) Park has a private fish import license and is not afraid to use it. The affable native of Argentina and Culinary Institute of Japan alum has knife skills as sharp as his hashtag game.