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Saratoga Springs, June 26-28

Not trying to hijack the thread but I just returned from a weekend visit to Saratoga Springs for a wedding and thought I'd comment on some of my dining experiences.

Arrived Friday afternoon and visited Hattie's Chicken Shack (Wilton Mall) for lunch. We split a fried chicken sandwich (two thighs) with Cajun cole slaw and a Shrimp Po-Boy "New Orleans style" (lettuce, tomato and remoulade). Both sandwiches were fine, well fried and non-greasy. The dredge used for the chicken was a bit too aggressively seasoned for our tastes while we expected more punch from the remoulade on the po boy. We also ordered a side of french fries, hush puppies (with honey butter) and collard greens. The fries were okay, some a bit too soggy. The collards had great texture but were surprisingly sweet. I enjoyed the jolt of acidity in them, but prefer savory versions. The hush puppies were our favorite item we ordered. Enjoyed the inclusion of whole corn kernels and the honey butter was fantastic.

After checking into our hotel we walked down Broadway and stopped by Saratoga Gelato for some dessert. While the name of this establishment has gelato in its name, it serves anything but. Neither of us could get past the texture, which instead of being dense, was clearly over frozen to the point where we noticed and tasted ice crystals. Worse yet was the weak clarity of flavor. Unlike Grom or A.B. Biagi's pistachio gelato, the version here lacked much flavor and tasted rather artificial. Similarly, my scoop of salted caramel curiously tasted more of vanilla and butterscotch rather than salted caramel.

The rehearsal dinner was at Harvey's and considering the size of our party I'll hold off any judgement regarding service. However, the food fine. The salads didn't match the menu description and the fried clams were soggy, but the fried fish was fine.

The following morning I walked downtown for coffee and breakfast. I passed by an absolutely slammed Uncommon Grounds and instead stopped at Saratoga Coffee Traders for a latte. Poor latte art aside, I wish I could say anything positive about my coffee. The ratio of milk to espresso must have been off because it tasted a bit washed out.

Walked across the street to Mrs. London's for pastries. Unfortunately, they were out of their ever-so-popular Brittney's (Kouign Amann) and were not making canelés so I opted for two almond croissants to go. I want to point out that upon my disappointment of missing out on the Brittney, the cashier offered to take my name and reserve me some if I wanted to return the following day, an offer I gladly accepted. The following day I grabbed a chocolate croissant, almond croissant and two Brittney's. Everything we sampled from here was excellent quality, both in flavor and technique. After tasting the Brittney, I can understand it's popularity. The chocolate and almond croissants were also very good, with great texture and subtle sweetness that avoided becoming cloying. Despite the long waits, I highly recommend Mrs. London's.

Lunch was a hearty affair at Triangle Diner. Charming in a quaint kind of way, we really like visiting places like this whenever we get to leave our home in Brooklyn. Service was great, from the super friendly hostess/cashier to our rotating servers. Large board with specials as well as a menu with many of the diner classics one would expect to find. Ordered the biscuits and gravy with two eggs over easy and the homemade corn beef hash with scrambled eggs and toast. The biscuits were large and surprisingly light and the gravy contained large chunks of sausage but verged a bit too salty for us. However, the hash was excellent. Clearly homemade, it contained a great ratio of potato and onions and both orders of eggs were cooked with precision. Just wish we had more time or stomach space to try their pancakes or more interesting items like the French Toast Club.

Last meal was brunch the original Hattie's Restaurant on Phila street before leaving town. Arrived around 11:30 AM to a largely empty dining room. Service was fine, but the food was very good. We shared the shrimp and grits and an order of Hattie's famous fried chicken which came with home fries (limited by visiting at brunch). The shrimp and grits were wonderful. The grits had nice consistency and avoided being a clumpy mess as is too often the case in many northern restaurants. The shrimp came six to an order and were good size but more importantly, well cooked and not dry. The sauce was sweet and had a pleasant heat. The sauce really impressed as you could tell it was prepared using the shells to achieve a great depth of flavor. As with our experience at the shack, the chicken was expertly fried and contained a great crust. Unlike our experience at the shack, the chicken here was perfectly seasoned and avoided being too salty. We really enjoyed our experience at Hattie's and while we probably went overboard visiting both the shack as well as the restaurant proper, was glad we tried both.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Day 6
We woke up early to check out and retrieve our car from the valet before heading north to Fous Desserts. Rumored to have the best croissant in Montreal, we split a plain croissant and enjoyed it while waiting out the rain. Still warm, the croissant was the best version we had in Montreal.

We then continued further north to Patisserie Rhubarbe. Second in line, we again ordered a single standout item, the mille feuille. One comment about visiting the patisserie on a Sunday. Rhubarbe serves brunch on Sundays and so we weren't allowed to enjoy our pastry inside even though there was over a half hour before brunch service would begin. I understand the logic to avoid people eating pastry for incoming brunch patrons, but I still found it annoying nonetheless. Regardless, the pastry was outstanding. Layers of caramel and vanilla pastry cream sandwiched between layers of buttery and crisp puff pastry resulted in one great bite after another. The complexity of the caramel was outstanding, tasting almost burnt, I loved the contrast to the creamy vanilla which balanced the flavors.

We traveled south towards Cheskie's but found it closed for some reason. I figured the shop would be closed on Saturday and was confronted with sign in French taped to the front door. Anyways, our chocolate babka dreams were dashed.

Instead, we went to the nearby St-Viateur Bagel Shop sampling a sesame and poppy seed as well as taking two dozen home for family and friends.

My coffee fix was satisfied next door at Cafe Myriade II where I enjoyed my favorite latte of the trip. I was also impressed with the workers there who seemed genuinely interested in coffee when I asked them to do a coarse grind on a bag of 49th Parallel beans. I told them that I was going to use it for cold brew and they suggested the same size grind they use for their in house cold brew.

Our first lunch stop was a classic poutine at La Banquise. Is this Montreal's best poutine? I'm pretty sure it is certainly not. Is this poutine still satisfying in a trashy food kind of way? Unequivocally yes. My wife didn't find the fries to be crispy enough for her liking but I loved every bite. Perhaps a bit nostalgic from my initial visit years ago, but the poutine tasted just as good as I remembered. Is La Banquise a can't miss destination for visitors? No, but it does serve a reliably tasty and relatively cheap poutine option open 24/hours.

Our final visit in Montreal was Rotisserie Romados. Otherwise known simply as Romados to locals I was sure visit considering NYC's lack of Portugese chicken restaurants. Having failed to remember to call in an order ahead of time, we had to wait in line while the smell of charcoal and chicken fat refueling our hunger. Finally making it to the front of the counter, we ordered one half chicken (spicy) combo with french fries, salad and a Portuguese roll. We were sure to request an additional side of piri piri sauce, an orange sumol soda and two egg tarts before descending on our food at one of the small (and I do mean small) tables in the restaurant. The chicken was very good. An ample portion, juicy and picking up a hint of the charcoal flavor, it was further enhanced with a coating of the spicy piri piri sauce. The french fries were very good, crunchier and more to my wife's desired preference, seasoned with salt and pepper. The salad, which seemed at first glance as a throw away item, was welcome as it provided some acidity. The roll was fine, but was mostly a vehicle used to mop up leftover chicken fat and piri piri sauce. The egg tarts were fine, but we've enjoyed much better in Macau. That said, Romados is fantastic on almost every level. It's cheap, relatively fast and delicious. I usually focus more on the high end foods when visiting, but am glad I took the time to listen to people on this board and made a visit. Overall, our time in Montreal was fantastic and I hope to return in the near future. Thanks again for all of the helpful advice and input and hope others find this extremely long thread helpful!

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Glad you are finding this helpful. As I mentioned below, I often find previous reports extremely helpful along with the input from local hounds on their respective board. Many people seek out advice when visiting a city, but few write about their experiences. Anyways, I hope you enjoy your trip in July.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Agreed, but considering we had been hitting the seafood specials hard on our previous stops we decided to focus on some of ADPC's signature just so happens that many contain copious amounts of foie gras and are extremely rich.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Glad to hear about your experience. As I mentioned, I'm hopeful that our experience was an outlier as a restaurant of this caliber is certainly capable of wonderful service. Regarding service in general between Montreal and NYC, I was much more impressed as a whole with what we experienced in Montreal. I feel their service model more closely resembles the European model which we prefer.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Glad to be of some help. I was able to fine tune my itinerary based on previous trip reports and the advice from hounds on this board. Enjoy your trip, Montreal is a great city to visit.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Day 5
Woke up early to ensure a limited to no wait brunch at Lawrence. Arrived about five minutes past ten and received the final two top in the first seating. Almost unanimously praised for it's brunch service, our expectations were easily surpassed at Lawrence. Coffee and apple juice were a nice welcome as were the doughnuts. Three medium sized doughnut holes arrived still hot from the fryer, covered with sugar and filled with lemon, vanilla custard and chocolate. Each filling were good, but the chocolate had some real depth and was our favorite of the bunch. Wife ordered the ham, cheese and fried egg on toast that came with a smartly dressed salad. Little touches, like the acidic salad dressing pairing with the rich ham and cheese toast were very welcome. However, the scrambled eggs with smoked Arctic char was the real standout. The char was fatty without being too oily and wasn't overly smoked, but those scrambled eggs! Small curds and cooked until just starting to set was just marvelous. For someone who prefers their eggs scrambled very soft this was heaven, in fact, even our server mentioned how some locals aren't as comfortable with their eggs being cooked this lightly.

Took the metro to Jean-Talon market which was much livelier than Atwater. Still full, we walked around the market but passed on crepes and lobster. Instead, we eventually found our way to a few shops purchasing some local ice cider, honey and maple gifts for family and friends.

Since dinner wasn't until 8 PM, we decided on a "small" snack of smoked meat from Schwartz's. Yes, I've read from multiple accounts that this is no longer the best smoked meat in Montreal, but frankly, given our time constraints we were not about to get our car from parking to drive to Smoked Meat Pete. Regardless, we waited a good 5-10 minutes in line with other tourists before being crammed into a shared table with another family visiting from New Jersey (wife had went to undergrad in Montreal at McGill). Two medium fat smoked meat sandwiches with mustard, an order of french fries and two Cott's black cherry sodas. Everything was very enjoyable. Not as obscenely sized (or obscenely priced as Katz's) but very good. Again, my wife and I differed in our preferences. Wife enjoys the thicker hand cut sliced pastrami at Katz's, while I prefer the better meat quality as well as the less aggressive seasoning of the smoked meat at Schwartz's. Schwartz's has better fries, but I prefer doctor browns to the cott's soda.

Took the bus west to KemCoba for their seasonal soft serve twist. During our visit it was a mix of coconut and strawberry. Both flavors were very good independently, and even better when eaten together. Really enjoyed how the acidity of the strawberry contrasted with the richness of the coconut. Between Les Givres and KemCoba, we much preferred the latter. If I lived in Montreal, I'd readily brave the weekend lines every two weeks for their new flavor.

Walked back to our hotel, but not before picking up a strawberry rugelach from Hof Kelsten. Unfortunately, the chocolate brioche was sold out, but their rugelach was no joke, a very good rendition.

Dinner was at Toque!. Easily the most divisive meal during our trip with the food being uniformly excellent while the service was downright awful. First the food. A nice amuse of smoked gravlax on grissini with creme fraiche proceeded an excellent first course of marinated snow crab with a chardonnay vinaigrette and cucumber. Next was a halibut sashimi/crudo served ceviche style. Wife received the lobster with asparagus, lobster butter and lemon sabayon while I enjoyed a torchon of foie gras with brioche, a strawberry vinegar reduction and sesame tuile. I have to note that both the lobster and foie gras were easily some of the best versions of these dishes we've ever eaten. I much preferred the flavor and texture of this lobster prep over Per Se or the French Laundry. Additionally, I've read that foie gras is one of Laprise's specialties and this was a stellar example. Excellent balance of textures, flavors and seasoning. A playful dish of beef marrow with spot prawns, olive puree, eggplant, oyster mushrooms and a shellfish sauce was perhaps a bit too rich and would've benefited from one fewer element. The lamb with beets, Jerusalem artichoke, morels and cherries was another outstanding dish. Wife preferred a pre-dessert of sea buckthorn, honey, carrot reduction and an oat ice cream while I chose the duo of Quebec cheeses. Fuoco and a cow's milk ricotta was served with a seaweed puree, vinegar reduction and fried rice vermicelli. Dessert was a strawberry foam with cream cheese, strawberries, thyme meringue and a citronella gel. This was just ok, as my wife commented the meringue and gel tasted like a scented candle. Petits fours were cinnamon finances and maple fudge.

Unfortunately, we'd be remiss if we didn't speak about the service. I know service is a pretty subjective standard, especially at a fine dining establishment, however, we are fairly well traveled and are no stranger to fine dining across the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia so I feel confident in my assessment. Our primary server for the first half of the evening was a trainee or stage. She was nice enough but either struggled with English or simply did not understand our stated preferences. Worse, the captain who was overseeing our section of the dining room failed to address us personally even after several service snafus. My wife is pregnant and wished to avoid certain items, yet our server attempted to push a wine pairing on her. Dead serious. Worse yet, after stating that I wanted only two glasses (due to drinking solo): a white and a red, she proceeded with a pairing until I had to explicitly tell her to stop wine. I'm not sure if Toque is known for pushing their pairings, but regardless, this is inexcusable for a restaurant of this caliber. Several dishes arrived without explanation which is a bit odd considering the tasting menu is blind (no written menu). Our trainee's shift must have ended mid way through our meal but our initial request for a copy of the tasting menu left with her, and so we sat for an additional 15 minutes after paying our bill when the request had to be made again. I'm sure that some reading this will find these complaints unduly critical or petty, but a restaurant of this quality should be free of such hiccups. We left Toque feeling happy that we were able to experience some extremely refined and well crafted food, but the service issues ultimately marred our experience and upon returning we'd probably opt to skip it in lieu of some of Montreal's up and coming restaurants such as Hotel Herman and Bouillon Bilk. That said, if visitors are seeking out a fine dining destination, Toque is recommended as I hope these service issues were not the norm.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Day 4
Visited Flocon Espresso for a latte. Ok, but much weaker than the version at Pikolo. Found it amusing that the restroom was in the "office."

Stopped by Au Kouign Amann again. Seating is limited, like three tables limited. We shared a table and struck up a friendly conversation with a local over a hot chocolate and slices of kouign amann. Sad to report that they no longer make the Far Breton.

After a morning wandering the Museum of Fine Arts, we enjoyed a lazy lunch at Laloux. Started with a green salad and the parsnip soup with pear and toasted sunflower seeds, complimented by the excellent and warm baguette. The soup had a great consistency and the sunflowers lent a textural element but the pear made the soup a bit too sweet for my tastes. We then split the foie gras torchon with Genoa bread, almonds and raspberry gel and a smoked duck leg with a carrot, walnut and orange salad. The torchon was an excellent version with the almonds and pieces of torn cake substituting for bread. The duck had a great smokey perfume but was a tad dry. Service was good but the restaurant was largely empty. The room was beautiful with the sun streaming in from the front windows. I read that Laloux has been a veritable breeding grounds for emerging Montreal chefs, but it remains highly rated and we were glad we visited.

We had skipped dessert at Laloux in lieu for a soft serve twist at Les Givres. The weekly flavor was strawberry sorbet with vanilla soft serve. The sorbet avoided being too sweet and contained seeds which was better than the faint taste of freezer burn in the soft serve.

We spent the afternoon back in Little Burgundy walking around Atwater market. The market was nice and fairly compact (at least it seemed compact compared to Jean-Talon). We picked up some maple syrup for family and walked down Notre Dame for an afternoon snack at Patrice Patisserie. The first thing that hits you upon walking into Patrice is the intoxicating smell of butter and sugar. The space has lots of wood and the large windows allows lots of natural light into the space. Patrice was spotted working on confections in the kitchen towards the back. My only complaint was that you were instructed to order first before you were seated. In our situation, we ordered two Demers classics: Le Vert and the Pot de Creme au Chocolat along with a kouign amann. The chocolate pot de creme was fantastic. Alternating textures of smooth chocolate mousse and crunchy chocolate with the caramel and Maldon salt made this an outstanding chocolate dessert even for those like us, who don't usually prefer them. However, Le Vert was my favorite dessert of this year. I'm just sorry it's taken me until now to have sampled it. I loved the grassy notes of the olive oil played off the tart and acidic slices of apple before mellowing out with the white chocolate yogurt. Demers' kouign amann is much more in line with the one I'm more familiar with at Dominique Ansel. However, I thought Demers' version was more caramelized, and tasting a bit more complex. As we went to pay our bill, we attempted to order a canele to go but they had already sold out. My mistake was noted and in the future I'll be sure to order beforehand.

After a generous nap, it was off to dinner at Au Pied de Cochon. Making our way to the restaurant, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Having read multiple blogs and other Chowhound reports I knew the food was going to be ridiculous but I wasn't quite prepared for the atmosphere. We arrived to a line (those with reservations) about six deep. Waiting in the very cramped doorway was not the most ideal start to the evening. That said, the hostess was wonderfully honest, but attempted to accommodate everyone. We were invited to grab a drink at the bar while our table was being cleared and I couldn't stop watching the non-stop action of the cooks. I've sat and observed many an open kitchen, but nothing was quite like this. Drinks in hand, we were ushered to a corner table near the very front of the restaurant. We chose to skip many of the specials since they were seafood heavy. They did have seafood platters but started at $100 for two, we deferred to a sampling of many of the restaurant's "classics." We started like everyone with a warm baguette and butter. Frankly, the bread was much better than it needed to be in a restaurant like this, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Next were two piping hot foie gras cromesquis. Excellent, hot nuggets of liquid foie gras. Followed by the duck carpaccio which very well may have been the lightest dish of the night. The kitchen sent the foie gras poutine and the plogue a Champlain out together. The poutine was the fanciest, albeit not the best, version of the dish I've ever tried. Still, it was mighty tasty. The plogue was like breakfast on steroids. The combination of foie gras, maple syrup and salty cheddar was overwhelming in the best possible way. Finally, we split the famous duck in a can. Aside from the unrendered fat on the duck breast, all of the components worked together. While the food was all very good, the sheer amount of foie gras was a bit overwhelming towards the end of the evening. Combined with cramped seating arrangements and very slow pacing (no doubt a result of an overwhelmed kitchen) I regret saying our meal at APDC was not the most pleasant. Certainly, we were happy to have visited Martin Picard's famed restaurant, but might have to exhibit much more restraint in future visits.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Day 3
Started the morning with a latte from Pikolo Espresso Bar. Happy to hear they use double shots for all of their espresso based drinks.

Walked to Old Montreal and explored until we were hungry and visited Olive et Gourmando. Little to no wait, although we were seated at a communal table (not a problem with us) and were actually recognized by another couple visiting who had saw us the night before at Joe Beef. Shared a sweet version of the housemade ricotta with honey, toast and orange zest and a poached egg on your face panini. Both were uniformly excellent. The housemade ricotta was stellar, light (whipped slightly perhaps?) and the orange zest helped lighten the dish. Reminded us of the standout ricotta and honey dish in NYC's Locanda Verde. The panini arrived piping hot and packed a ton of flavor between the sriracha, egg, comte and speck. Also, the bread was just great, crunchy exterior but with chewy innards. Was tempted to grab a chocolate brioche but our upcoming lunch reservation at Lemeac prevented this. Based on our visit, we both agreed that all of the praise for O&G is highly deserved.

We continued to walk around Old Montreal, heading north towards Notre Dame and the Old Port before heading for Lemeac. The sun was out and the terrace was packed with people enjoying lunch. I thought the restaurant was beautiful. From the enclosed terrace that allowed the sun to peak in, to the long wood bar, we really enjoyed the ambiance. I ordered the blood pudding while my wife opted for the moules frites lunch special that included a green salad. The texture of the blood pudding was excellent, I believe our server told us it was steamed, creating a very light - almost mousse-like texture. The puree (parsnip?) was smooth and rich and just begged to be mopped with some of the excellent house baguette. My wife's portion of mussels was comically large (not necessarily a bad thing), plus it included a side of french fries! Again, a proper rendition with plenty more of that baguette to mop up the white wine and mussel juice sauce. We couldn't leave without trying the restaurant's famed pain perdu. Arriving ~3-4 inches thick, this was similar to some Asian dessert toasts. The dish was great and the milk jam ice cream and maple caramel putting it over the top. Our experience at Lemeac was extremely satisfying. Considering the lack of good bistros/brasseries in the NYC/Brooklyn area, we were glad to have visited L'Express, Lemeac and Laloux for different perspectives on this restaurant genre.

Dinner was at Nora Gray. It was between here and Impasto with us ultimately choosing Nora Gray based on their current menu. Besides being nearby the Bell Centre, we both felt the location was odd. The restaurant appeared to be on a residential strip which threw us slightly off as we walked from the metro. Regardless, the service, wine and food were all fantastic. Similar to Joe Beef, our server basically had a conversation with us about our preferences and helped us order so we could best sample Emma Cardarelli's food. Ryan wasn't behind the bar, but our wine selections were more than taken care of by the staff. We started with half a Quebec snow crab with ramp butter. Being seafood season, we were hard pressed not to order seafood specials at every restaurant. The snow crab was succulent and sweet, tasting even better after a generous dunk in the ramp infused clarified butter. An interesting (at least to us) twist was an additional accompaniment of marinara sauce which complimented the crab very well. We then split two half portions of pasta. The ramp papperdelle with lobster and the fresh pea and homemade goat's milk ricotta tortellini with mint and pea shoots were both very good. Next, was a pan seared halibut with radishes and wild asparagus and a special of grilled BC spot prawns over polenta and sea beans. The halibut was properly cooked and seasoned simply, with the radishes and asparagus acting as nice seasonal sides. However, the spot prawns were just outstanding. I'm a sucker for spot prawns and chef did them justice. A generous five per order arrived head on making for some very pleasurable head sucking action before proceeding to the sweet tail meat. While our initial plan was to skip out on dessert and grab soft serve closer to our hotel, time wasn't on our side and we resorted to splitting a strawberry trifle with sea buckthorn adding a balancing tart element. Service was great, knowledgeable and friendly but by no means overbearing. In fact, we ended up providing a short list of our favorite Brooklyn spots after hearing we were visiting. Many have commented on the noise level as the night gets later. While it certainly wasn't tranquil, I'd advise any considering a visit to consider a reservation during the early seating. Regardless, we were both extremely happy with our experience at Nora Gray.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Day 2
Chilly morning meant a brisk walk to Au Kouign Amann for a croissant and kougin amann. Both excellent versions, although I will echo the sentiment from others who have tried both this version as well as Dominique Ansel's "DKA" in that they are both good, but different. Having tried both, my wife and I both preferred the version at Au Kouign Amann, finding it flakier and less sweet. I should point out we prefer less sweet desserts/pastry having grown up eating Asian desserts. The croissant was also excellent, everything you'd want but slightly less impressive than the ones at Fous Desserts.

The savory portion of our breakfast was at Fairmount Bagel. One poppy seed with cream cheese for her and a sesame with cream cheese and smoked salmon for myself. Having visited Montreal previously, I was familiar with the bagels and still prefer the Montreal versions. Being a born and bred New Yorker, my wife preferred the New York versions due to the lack of salt in the Montreal versions.

Thank goodness your bagels aren't the gut bombs that are New York bagels, because we were able to enjoy our lunch at L'Express. First off, the restaurant is just beautiful. But unlike some NYC bistros/brasseries that nail the aesthetics, the food at L'Express felt more authentic. Shared some marrow bones with sea salt over glasses of rose. The marrow was a superb rendition and we were sure to put good use to the house bread jar of cornichons. Wife ordered the hanger steak with french fries while I had steak tartare (spicy) with a green salad. Both dishes were very good but I was actually surprised at how spicy the tartare tasted. Dessert was the stunning Ile Flottante with caramel, which was light but perhaps a bit sweet for our tastes. Service was brisk, not rude, but efficient, which is a given during any lunch rush. Only complaint if you can call it that was the waitress didn't allow me to photograph the bottle of rose we enjoyed saying it was a private import and we wouldn't be able to find it. This may be true (I have no reason not to believe her) but still found it interesting that she refused my request. Regardless, I think I understand the praise for L'Express. It's not a restaurant offering life altering food, but rather a dependable destination for quality food and an excellent wine list.

Wife returned to the hotel for a nap while I explored the Plateau and Mile End by foot. Stopped by Cafe Olimpico for a cafe latte freddo and drank it at the bar while I people watched. To say the coffee is good would be generous, however, the atmosphere is just great. Men enjoying the soccer games on TV while others enjoyed their coffees outside in the sun, Cafe Olimpico is a classic for a reason.

Dinner at Joe Beef. Reserved online for 6:45 PM and was seated in the front room. Service was great, more of a dialogue with the server rather than the standard service. The atmosphere was laid back and relaxed, but not at any expense of professionalism. Started with two smoked meat croquettes which were just genius. Then oysters and sea urchin from Quebec. A salad of asparagus with a poached duck egg was seasonally appropriate while the soft shell crab "Chinatown" style (soy vinaigrette) was too salty. The foie gras parfait with pickled rhubarb and brioche was very good. Loved how the rhubarb wasn't sweet, but the acidity was just right to help cut the fattiness of the foie. Shared the lobster spaghetti which tasted like spaghetti with lobster in a sauce of lobster bisque. I'm not sure if the recipe calls for sherry but it tasted like it to us. Regardless, the spaghetti was excellent as was the lobster as our visit coincided with Quebec lobster season. Shared a Quebec strawberry gratin with caramelized cream which was a perfect Spring send off to our meal. As expected, wine was great, we didn't ask for bread (I believe they charge) and the crowd appeared to be 50/50 tourists/locals. Buffalo in the restroom was a surprise and we didn't find the tables set too closely together unlike others, especially compared to NYC standards. Bottom line, you'll probably either really like or really dislike Joe Beef, we were in the group that really liked the whole experience.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

@painperdu yes we did go to Lawrence for brunch and in short, completely worth the visit. Those scrambled eggs were so good I still think about them!

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

@roastedchestnuts which restaurant/s are you referring to?

I will say that, not having any children of my own, I would feel uncomfortable bringing a 3 year old to a restaurant such as CCeP or Toque, regardless of how well behaved they are/were. Interestingly enough, when we were first seated at Toque the table next to us was a two top with a child (~ 6-7 years old) and her mother celebrating her birthday. The child was extremely well behaved and the staff was extremely gracious to her (extra dessert, kitchen visit, copy of the menu).

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

CaptCrunch, I tend to agree with Fintastic regarding the bill splitting issue and am unsure whether this is strictly an American issue.

That being said, at least in NYC/Brooklyn, I'd argue that it's not a lack of technology but rather convenience for the restaurant/server. If you were (and I'm not trying to imply you didn't) tell your server upfront that you'd like to split the bill between x people, they might be better prepared to honor your request.

Other restaurants explicitly limit or even prohibit bill splitting, though the latter is extremely rare. I feel the main reason restaurants try to limit the amount of ways the bill is split is a combination of your factors as well as the additional credit card processing fees. This is a bit tacky but the higher processing fees AMEX charges restaurants/vendors is the reason many smaller restaurants only accept Visa and Mastercard.

While I can only speak as to my group dining habits I will say that with few exceptions, if dining with two couples, I will almost always just split the bill in half. I understand things get more complicated for a party of 8 or more but it's often the just the easiest way to pay.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Considering how subjective service can be from person to person, I find often find it one of the most difficult aspects of the dining experience to judge.

I'm sure many Montreal hounds have heard countless stories from American tourists complaining about service experiences. From potential language issues to having to ask for the bill/check, many might find different, and therefore worse. However, anyone familiar with the European service model would be pretty happy to see service professionals alive and well in Montreal. That's not to say we didn't encounter any disappointing service, but surprisingly (at least to us) we encountered some of the best at places we least expected (CCeP, APDC, Joe Beef) and the worst at the place we expected the best (Toque).

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

I apologize for the delay, but wanted to report back about my recent trip to Montreal. First and foremost, I wanted to thank everyone on the Montreal board for providing great information, recommendations and feedback to my questions while constructing our itinerary. I will attempt to update consistently but my schedule has been a little hectic since returning.

Day 1
We arrived to Montreal and checked into our hotel around six which was later than expected, but we hit some traffic coming out of Manhattan (expected), and stopped for a sit down lunch in Saratoga. We quickly changed and cabbed it our dinner at Le Club Chasse et Peche. Was a little surprised at how lively this caliber of restaurant was on a Tuesday evening, but that may be an unfair comparison to those in New York. We were seated at a corner table in the bar area. The crowd seemed a bit of a mixed lot, from a pair of tourists wearing shorts to a ten top on a business dinner, we enjoyed people watching.

Food was good to excellent. We shared six oysters served three ways: raw, raw with a mango salsa and fried with mayonnaise. All were properly shucked, and while I prefer mine natural with just a bit of lemon, even I found the other preps not too overpowering.

Shared a portion of the scallops with fennel puree and lemon confit. Scallops had a near perfect sear on just the one side and were still medium rare in the middle. Lemon confit was perhaps a bit too sweet by themselves, but tasted balanced after taking a sip of chablis.

Shared a portion of the suckling pig risotto with shaved foie gras. Probably the most memorable dish of the trip, it lived up to all of the hype I had read while researching it. The rice was al dente and the shaved frozen foie gras created an amazing temperature and textural contrast.

Wife had the suckling pig while I had the chasse et peche which was a wagyu beef and lobster combo. I had hoped for a sweetbread and lobster combo but it was not to be. Instead, the lobster and beef were merely good. However, the suckling pig was outstanding, just incredible ingredient quality.

Dessert was a poached pear with mascarpone cream and a breton sable and the bomb, a milk chocolate and caramel tart with a dark chocolate sorbet. Both were good, with us preferring the bomb.

Some other notes, bread was nothing memorable. In fact, I much preferred the bread at most of the high end casual restaurants to the bread served here as well as Toque. Service was fantastic. It pains me to say this, this trip solidified just how poor the service industry is in NYC at this type of restaurant. Not overly intrusive, but perfectly informed and taking the initiative to split portions for us was a welcome sight. Overall, we really enjoyed CCeP and believe it deserves all of the praise it receives.

Australia Honeymoon - Sydney

Glad my reports could be of some help. We like a lot of the same restaurants in NYC and you seem pretty well informed of current food news. I know they are both degustations but I think either Sixpenny or Cafe Paci would be perfect compliments to Quay. Both are emerging talents with serious fine dining pedigrees, utilize modern technique but manage not to overwhelm the ingredients. While there aren't any direct NYC comparisons, I liken both to the food behind Contra, Estela and Semilla.

As for Melbourne, very glad to hear you are visiting Brae. I agree with kersizm about the drive, but feel the bread they are making in the outdoor bread oven is the best I had during my entire trip, and the cultured butter from Jersey cream, while no Bordier, is better than about anything I've had state side.

Also really enjoyed Town Mouse. Felt the service and food was punching way above it's weight, a la Estela. Looks like you'll be eating very well on your honeymoon, congrats!

Australia Honeymoon - Sydney

cubicles, sounds like you have a great itinerary so far! As a fellow New Yorker (Brooklyn), my wife and I spent two weeks between Sydney and Melbourne eating our way through both last year. We visited a number of the restaurants you listed (Quay, Sepia, Billy Kwong, Sixpenny) and you might enjoy reading about our experiences that can be found on this board. Also, it might be of some value to name some of your favorite restaurants in NYC to get a better idea of the type of restaurants you enjoy, after all, this is your honeymoon. Your dining preferences (classic/modern or formal/casual) could be useful for others offering suggestions. Being from NYC do enjoy certain types of cuisines over others? While Australia has better Thai food than NYC, Japanese is much better here than Sydney and Melbourne.

My wife and I really enjoyed Quay, but we went for lunch. The textures as well as Australian ingredients chef Gilmore incorporates into his menues (we did the degustation), were a fantastic example of Australian fine dining. If you care about the view, do contact the restaurant to see if a cruise ship will be docked.

While Sepia was good, I feel we were both underwhelmed from our experience given all of the praise surrounding the restaurant. However, It was most likely just an off night and I should note that the night we ate there, neither chef Benn nor his wife were in the restaurant. However, that should hardly be an excuse for a restaurant of this caliber. Interestingly enough, chef Benn was recently invited to NYC to cook a lunch at Le Bernardin as Eric Ripert was imoressed with his food. The degustation was largely seafood-centric with many Japanese accents. You can see chef Benn on season 3 of Avec Eric.

In terms of a more casual second restaurant I highly recommend Sixpenny. This was one of the most exciting restaurants of our trip, with two very up and coming chefs. We found many of the flavors to be very clean with an emphasis on pristine seasonal produce (backyard garden) and modern technique/plating. The restaurant is in Stanmore, and we took the train for an enjoyable lunch. The restaurant has a casual feel but with knowledgeable servers and many of the chefs will present courses throughout the meal.

I should note that most restaurants are far more casual in Australia than NYC. This isn't meant as a comment on service as both cities offer fine service, however, I never felt pressure to wear a suite anywhere even though I did.

As for other suggestions, I'd suggest at least one Thai meal. We ate at Chaat Thai and Spice I Am. We thought both were better than what we have in NYC, even the more popular restaurants in Queens and Brooklyn.

I liked Billy Kwong but would hesitate to suggest visiting since you are from NYC and have many good Chinese restaurants. Flour and Drum is a very high end Cantonese restaurant but does not seem too different than many of the high end restaurants in Hong Kong. Spice Temple pays homage to many of the regional Chinese cuisines, but the prices might be a bit shocking compared to what you can find in Queens. That being said, I found Rockpool to be a very good experience. Phil Wood is doing the best "fusion" I've had and would be my suggestion for Chinese-inflected fine dining. We also considered Tetsuya's but chose to pass considering the stagnant menu and multiple reports on him focusing on Waku Ginn. We did really enjoy a Friday lunch at Marque if you like modern cuisine. I had a great solo meal at Cafe Paci but the food had a new Nordic feel. Also I believe Nathan Sassi has left Nomad.

In terms of coffee and pastry, you have many of the best already identified. Additionally, I'd listen to Mr Gimlet and PhilD as they provided me with excellent suggestions. I would add Flour and Stone as a bakery to consider, especially for their panna cotta lamington which is very Australian. I visited Gumption almost daily, but we were also staying less than three blocks away. We liked both Messina and N2 and both can be found in Melbourne and Sydney. If you like soft serve, Aqua S is making interesting sea salt flavored soft serve and has been clogging my Instagram feed lately.

Any ideas what you are considering for Melbourne? I'd highly recommend Brae, but two days might make it rather limiting.

Brae [Birregurra, about 90 mins west of melbourne]

Glad to hear that you enjoyed your meal. Brae was definately among the highlights of our trip. Definately detected some subtle (and some not so) nods to chef Hunter's time at Mugaritz.

I might add that, even as a tourist, the "hassle" of hiring a car and making the drive to Birregurra was well worth the effort considering the experience. While I feel more frequent trains would make the restaurant more accessible, I end to agree with kersizm and feel it's location adds to that "sense of place" (food wankery or not).

As an fyi, although we weren't able to partake in full beverage pairing due to having to make the drive back to Melbourne, the restaurant does offer half pours which we enjoyed.

Hard to say whether we felt it was better/worse than Attica. IMO they are both excellent restaurants doing exciting things.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

According to a lunch menu posted on his facebook page on Feb 18th it looks like you can order his famous pot de creme and vert dessert.

Rochester - anything great?

Yeah, it seems Rochester (and the rest of Western New York) is lacking many good ethnic options, which is strange with so many international and foreign students in the area...That being said, my wife's family lives in Toronto which has some of the best Cantonese food outside Hong Kong.

I'd love for Rochester to get some regional Chinese (Dongbei, Sichuan, Hunan, Shanghainese) restaurants but understand this may take some time. That's why I was curious about Butapub since they are riffing on Asian flavor profiles but presenting them in an acessible form of bar/izakaya foods. Personally, I think a dumpling place selling steamed and pan fried varities would do very good business. But maybe this is just wishful thinking on my behalf as I often crave xiao long bao!

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

I do like cook books. Aside from food, I try to limit my discrectional income purchases for myself but often splurge on cookbooks. I'll be sure to check one out, especially for the selections I'm less likely to come across back home.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

That's an ambitious dining strategy. I've done something similar whenever I return home to visit family during the holidays.

When visiting a fine dining restaurant on vacation I often struggle with the a la carte vs tasting option. I'm more prone to order a la carte at restaurant's in NYC or Brooklyn since I can visit mmore frequently. The other reason for ordering a la carte IMO, is if you want a proper sized entree and main compared to small bites of multiple courses. The current trend in NYC fine dining are tasting only bars where a select group of guests eat 20 or so courses (Atera, Momofuku Ko, Brooklyn Fare, Blanca). I'm currently discussing Toque! with my wife and will be sure to report back whatever we decide.

Thanks for the coffee info. Recently, I've been drinking more espresso based drinks (thanks Australia for your flat whites) but if really interested in tasting various coffees, will often order an americano and an espresso. I'm not too worried about coffee, seems like there are a number of good options near where we will be staying.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

I enjoy them and asked since there is a strong Montreal pastry scene. I'm also not a fan of the ones at DA. Balthazar can be hit or miss. The best I've had in the USA were from Boulette's Larder at the ferry building in San Francisco. They produce a limited quanitity each day and usually run out.

Pretty much everything I've seen at Patrice looks delicious. I'm saddened by the fact that no longer serve evenings since I'm more interested in experiencing some of his more composed desserts.

Rochester - anything great?

Indy67 is totally correct. Please take the reports in the link I provided with a grain of salt. I've only visited Cure and Aunt Rosie's once, so my poor experiences hopefully were not the norm. I have heard nothing but great reports about Aunt Rosie's from another trusted Rochester hound. Ruth Reichl also ate at Cure when she visited Rochester on a recent speaking engagement and the current menu looks better than when we visited.

I have a number of good meals at Good Luck and to be fair, I've not been impressed with the charcuterie there either. The cocktails have always been spot on as well as any of the pastas

I have avoided Asian food in Rochester, but mainly because I live in Brooklyn and have access to some very good Asian food and haven't felt the need, or read anything promising enough to for me to seek out. My sister who still lives in the area likes Plum Garden for Japanese, Sodam for Korean, SEA for Vietnamese and Han Noodle Bar for Chinese noodle soups. I'll defer to Indy67's Thai rec. Unfortunately, I'd just go to Toronto for Cantonese and dim sum.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Oh, I've heard about Bête a Pain, especially for their brunch and canales!

Great news regarding Chloe. Will be a priority during our visit.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

No worries, I think I understood what you meant by your comments regarding L'Express. From what I've gathered (and locals please correct me if I'm wrong) is that while not spectacular food by any means, L'Express represents a dependable and not too expensive option for bistro/brasserie classics. I wanted a location where I can get some proper marrow bones, rillets, steak frites, etc. with good wine at any hour.

Your favorite metro in the world? Interesting, I'm pretty partial to the efficient/dependable ones in Japan...but it certainly seems better than our horrible system.

Thanks for the coffee info. I think/thought Myriade uses 49th Parallel? But am interested in Kittle if local to Montreal.

So now I'm actually reconsidering visiting Toqué. We do enjoy fine dining and bumping La Banquise to a late night snack may create an opportunity. During your visit/s did you decide on the tasting or go a la carte? We'd probably just go with the tasting, but I actually prefer a la carte to the tastings at some of NYC's best restaurants.

Also, thanks for the heads up regarding the Quebecoise-French distinction. I was aware of this in Spain when we visited San Sebastian and Barcelona.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

I had known about Dieu du Ciel as a place for great beer. A friend told me about Pullman, which makes sense since he is a wine buff. In any event, both are good to know.

I tend to prefer many of the third wave places in NYC/Brooklyn but will probably end up trying a few due to many being located nearby.

I'll be sure to check out the ice cider. Definately something a bit different and would probably make for a nice gift for family.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Thanks. Heard the ones at La Bete a Pain are good but it seems pretty far out.

Rochester - anything great?

Hi gretchenohar, sorry I didn't see your post sooner. As Indy stated Good Luck and Lento are very close to one another and easily walkable.

It has been awhile since I wrote my last post here, but a more recent report can be found here:

Cure is located in the Public Market and is pretty quiet at night. During our visit, it touted itself as more French leaning than Good Luck which has a slight Italian feel. That being said, I was not a fan. The menu seemed strangely Asian with a Thai papaya salad and no real nod to Vietnamese food. Cocktails were mediocre and the house made charcuterie was way too salty. That being said, it hopefully has improved. Good Luck remains a favorite, but reservations are recommended.

I sadly have also backed away from Lento. Aside from their cocktails and $1 oyster nights I've experienced two underwhelming meals and am in no rush to return. This is despite Art Rogers recently being a semi finalist for a James Beard Award.

If you can, I would go to the Public Market and head straight to Flour City Baking Company. Get a breakfast sandwich made with Swan meats, a pastry or two and a coffee before walking the market.

Swan Market for lunch is a favorite some hearty German fare.

Since my last post here it seems like The Revelry (Low Country/Southern) and Branca (Neapolitan Pizzas/Pastas) seem to be pretty popular.

Cocktails at Cheshire (upstairs inside Solera) are my current favorite but it is popular and fills quickly.

Ice cream at Hedonists just down the street in the South Wedge is always a must visit. Especially for their salted caramel or vegan chocolate sorbet.

A newish Asian themed gastropub opened called Butapub recently opened and I'm very intrigued.

Dogtown remains a solid lunch place for upscale hot dogs. SEA is my go to spot for pho. And if you are in Webster I highly recommend BC's Chicken Coop for fried chicken (free delivery in the area).

Joe Bean and Fuego are both excellent third wave coffee spots for your caffeine fix.

Montreal Advice - 5 Days

Thanks for the rec. Are they known for any particularly pastry or do you have favorites from there.

I was wondering if you guys had any suggestions as to where to find a good canales de bordeaux.