Montréal has long offered delights to fans of gastronomy, but there’s a major difference between the culinary scene of today and even just a decade back. Whereas Montréal used to be chock-a-block with amazing, homey French-style bistros and holes in the wall, today’s Québecois chefs have truly embraced the region’s indigenous farm-to-table bounty and flavors, and married them with contemporary technique and innovation.
A substantial melting-pot population (including Latino and Vietnamese) has also spawned an impressive international variety of cuisines and ethnic specialties from Peruvian Nikkei fusion at Tiradito to authentic Salvadorian pupusas(a sort of corn tortilla pouch stuffed with savory fillings) at neighborhood fave, Los Planes.
The excellent “Beyond the Market” walking tour from gay-owned, decidedly nontouristy Spade & Palacio Tours (Tel: 1-514806-3263. www.spadeandpalacio.com), features a pupusa tasting stop at Los Planes, bites from other venues including Montréal’s famed Jean Talon Market, where vendor Fromage Fermier’s local goat cheese and Havre-aux-Galce’s seasonal ice cream and sorbets alone are worth a visit. The tour concludes with a picnic lunch and takeaway “cheat sheet” with a map of their favorite restaurants and cafés.
Of course, here we have a Montréal “cheat sheet” of our own, which runs the gamut from a game-changing restaurant that has since launched Montréal’s biggest new generation of kitchen talents to a lesbian-owned craft beer pub to a new, buzzy Japanese-fusion bistro. Bonus: those with a penchant for international fine dining can find Canada’s first L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, from French superstar chef Joel Robuchon, at Casino Montréal.
Montréal’s craft-beer scene easily warrants its own feature article: there are some 35plus-brew pubs within the city at present, and around 150 microbreweries throughout the Québec region. A lesbian-owned, threeyear-old brasserie and microbrewer, straddling the Mile Ex and Little Italy neighborhoods, Brasserie Harricana represents a fabulous spot to give some of these brews, ciders, liquors, and even local kombucha a whirl. As indicated on the drinks menu, some draughts are served at specific temperatures, with alcohol content indicated.
The Brasserie’s space is lovely, and be sure to crane your neck and glance upward at the ceiling’s enlarged images of women’s body parts, which are partially obscured by wooden panels resembling window shutters. I created my own flight with tastes of several Harricana brews, including a sourapricot wheat beer, a Berliner Weisse infused with coffee from artisanal local roasters Dispatch, and a raspberry milk stout, plus lip-smacking ice cider from rural Québec’s Cidrerie Milton. The food menu, meanwhile, encompasses gastropub fare: deviled eggs, ale-braised lamb shank, beerroasted chicken, and generous veggie options. Weekend brunch sees crêpés, stuffed French toast, a bacon and egg brekkie sandwich with potato latkes, and decadent ribeye eggs Benedict. 95 rue Jean Talon West. Tel: 514-303-3039.