Who better to ask about the biggest movers and shakers of Montreal's dining scene than the people who eat it all up for a living?
Here's what local writers, critics, photographers, and bloggers had to dish on in 2023, from their favourite meals to the chefs and new addresses that had the biggest impact on their year of eating out.
Where did you love to eat in 2023?
Michael Grande and Alessandro Rea, food bloggers, @mangiabeneboys: Moccione, McKiernan, Bistro Amerigo, Pichai, and Neotokyo are the restaurants that come to mind, they were all so good every time we went. Amazing food and the service was great every time we visited.
Tommy Dion, food writer, @lecuisinomane: In the regions! Honestly, my best dining experiences were outside Montreal. Espace Old Mill, Auberge Saint-Mathieu, Parcelles, Baumier, Le Hatley, Les Mal-Aimés and Maison de Soma, to name but a few. In Quebec City, I had two memorable experiences at La Tanière and Kebec Club Privé. In Montreal, my five stars go to Park, Lawrence, Alma, Foxy and Tuck Shop. Mon Lapin also lived up to my expectations.
Scott Usheroff, photographer and writer, @cravingcurator: Marconi celebrated its 7th year open in 2023 and they are crushing it. They have an amazing team, room, and are always taking culinary risks in all the right ways.
Bar-Saint-Denis, Mon Lapin, Cabaret L'enfer, Mano Cornuto, Moccione, Kitano Shokudo, Taverne on the Square, Salle Climatisée, Double's Late Night, Mange Dans Mon Hood, and Snowdon Deli are all up there for 2023.
Ivy Lerner-Frank, writer, @ivylernerfrank: My centre of gravity is Little Italy and Jean Talon Market, and to be honest I have no reason to roam much further, save for forays to the Sud-Ouest every once in a while for a hoagie or a pizza at Elena, a caviar knish at Beba, or some pasta at Nora Gray. Between Mon Lapin, Pumpui/Pichai, Salle Climatisée, Bottega/San Gennaro, Impasto, Bar-St-Denis, J’ai Feng, Le Kahéra, Caffè Italia (those sandwiches are classics for a reason!), and cooking at home, I’m pretty content staying within a ten-minute walk from our place.
Charles Nguyen, food & wine blogger, @mtlcharles: There are so many that come to mind, but let’s start with J’ai Feng’s comforting spicy Szechuan noodle soups where each bowl is visual work of art, and then you have Bo’Dégât’s soulful classic and modern tapas from Barcelona, followed by nearby La Belle Tonki's mouthwatering Vietnamese-Cambodian fusion comfort food and hip-hop vibes.
There’s also Bonheur d'Occasion gourmet dishes with sauces so good you’ll consider licking the plate as a compliment and Palomar’s umami-charged buttery textured dry-aged fish creations. Last, Restaurant T’ami serving Northern Vietnamese dishes that can’t be found anywhere on the island.
Daniel Bromberg, co-founder of The Main: Paloma—especially in the backyard hidden garden. The service was kind-hearted and gentle, with smiles all-around. Small, shared plates of fresh, summer vegetables alongside grilled fish and local wine. The dessert was the star of the show (we had two, actually) and sealed the deal as far as the most memorable meal of the year.
Phil Tabah, co-founder of The Main: Bistro La Franquette – it already feels like a Montreal staple. It's a cozy spot, the food is delicious, the service is surprisingly thoughtful and personal for a new-ish restaurant.
What was your best restaurant meal of 2023?
Michael Grande and Alessandro Rea, food bloggers, @mangiabeneboys: This is a tough question, there were many great meals had in 2023, but we think we would have to narrow it down to the grilled octopus and fregula dish from Bistro Amerigo and the Pla Rad Prik from Pichai (fried arctic char with tamarind sauce and fried garlic).
Tommy Dion, food writer, @lecuisinomane: Auberge Saint-Mathieu. What a sensational meal by Samy Benabed and his team, all overseen by Étienne Prud'homme in the dining room! I must also mention the fabulous bowl of Niku udon noodles at Noren, the Tantan udon at Fleurs et Cadeaux and the shawarma on saj bread at Lulu.
Scott Usheroff, photographer and writer, @cravingcurator: I’m not going to throw myself into the flames with this one but I will say that for me there’s nothing like sitting down to a hot bowl of krepelach soup, a grilled stick of karnatzal, a full sour, a Cott Black Cherry, and a deli Club Roll with fries from the sacred institution Snowdon Deli.
Ivy Lerner-Frank, writer, @ivylernerfrank: Oooh, I’d rather think about special dishes! Simon Mathys’ savoury parsley tart at Mastard. Marc Cohen’s corn and clam chowder with eel at Lawrence. David Gauthier’s razor clams with tabbouleh and salicorne at Bar-St-Denis. Buttery, lemony cervelles under the trees and the stars at Paloma. Ari Schor’s Japanese mackerel on a sesame bun at Beba, right after his schmaltzy knish with caviar. The croque-pétoncle at Mon Lapin—followed by tagliatelle with oursin from Rimouski. And anything Charles Lacroix mixes with burrata at Impasto (and Deborah Simard-Gagné’s focaccia there, too.) But for one particular meal, a recent return trip to L’Express for the first time in a long time, enjoying the classic steak-frites with cornichons on the side was a happy and satisfying throwback.
Daniel Bromberg, co-founder of The Main: Again, hard to choose... but Moccione came through for my birthday with a deliciously memorable meal. And a great meal at KazaMaza early in the summer was surprisingly good—better than expected, really.
Phil Tabah, co-founder of The Main: Restaurant Daou. I took a few friends there—they had never been—so ordered my favourite dishes and treated them to some of the best Lebanese food in Montreal. This place is so underrated and the prices are still reasonable. They can also accommodate large groups and almost always have a table open, so it's perfect for walk-ins.