If there’s one thing that totally rocked in 2016, it was the slate of new restaurant openings in Montreal. From Peruvian-Japanese street food to African classics, this was a year of diversity, carefully crafted menus, and creative chaos -- and we loved every bite of it. Check out our choices for Montreal’s best restaurants of 2016.
With a whimsical spirit and attention to detail exemplified in (but far surpassing) its infamous peanut butter and foie gras sandwich, Le Fantôme excels at serving classics revamped into artful dishes that also taste both delicious and familiar. The six of nine course tasting menus, some of the city's best, are both playful and elegant at the same time, reinforcing that Montreal's culinary world is a slugger that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Agrikol and its baby sister, Ti-Agrikol, opened this year to a resounding chorus of applause (and hype, thanks to its proprietors being in Arcade Fire). But thankfully, the restaurant lived up to every expectation, with its transportive decor and menu filled with traditional Haitian dishes like oxtail, accra fritters, and generous rum cocktails. These days, it’s almost impossible to score a seat here on the weekend, and the reasons are plain to see.
Hvor’s culinary ethos is driven by what's local and seasonal in a true homage to Quebec farmers and biodiversity, while also unintentionally capitalizing on the trend of giving the Danish a nod ("hvor" means "where"). The plates are thoughtfully sculpted; the food, constantly in flux, is colourful yet always balanced. But most importantly, the flavours here are clean, bright, and surprising. And in a year that was heavy on our hearts and minds, Hvor’s beautiful cuisine was a source for a breath of fresh air.
Playful, colourful, and daring: those three words easily summarize the surprise hit of the year, Tiradito. Upon first blush, the marriage between Peruvian cuisine, with its quinoa and corn, and Japanese, the mecca of simple and clean flavours, may seem like a tenuous one at best. But once you enter the culinary realm of Tiradito, you will see that pisco and sashimi were always meant to belong together.
Though African food may be an incredibly broad catch-all term, Le Virunga does its chosen cuisine justice by showcasing the variety of the continent’s food traditions. With sparse Quebecoise adaptations, Le Virunga is one place where you can expect a modern and well-composed yet authentic plate of food.
A French-American diner with a bastardized spelling of 'foie gras' quickly became one of Montreal’s newest late-night hotspots, and is proving itself as more than just the cool new place to be seen. With reinvented bistro classics and quality drinks, Foiegwa is an easy-going, charming, and accessible alternative to the city’s stuffier French offerings. When you're eating at a place where you can order a chocolate milkshake and garlicky escargot in the same breath, you know all pretensions have been thrown out the back door.
Arthurs Nosh Bar, though only open for brunch and lunch, just can’t sling its artisanal lox fast enough. Come here for an elevated Jewish deli experience that pays homage to New York-style Ashkenazi classics like in-house smoked fish and plenty of cured meats. Plus, the housemade pierogi are good enough to put a Polish grandma to shame. Despite opening in the second half of the year, Arthurs has already established itself as a brunch staple.
La Petite Patrie
Hidden inside the shopping maze of St. Hubert in La Petite Patrie, Montreal Plaza is a gem that doesn’t sacrifice its poshness for hominess in excess. Ex-Toqué! chef Charles-Antoine Crête and co-chef Blanchette Cheryl Johnson manage to delight and surprise, while still making us feel like we’re eating an exceptional meal at a good friend’s house.
Located in an arresting space with high ceilings, gigantic windows, and a long, almost nautical-themed bar, Hoogan et Beaufort is where the former chefs of another Montreal favourite Les 400 Coups get to play and explore with the best and freshest ingredients this province has to offer. From the two farmers the restaurant honours with its name (who sold their land to CP Rail in the 1800s) to the unfussy a-la carte menu, there is a true commitment to honouring producers in every step of the way.
Foxy, the newest space from the team behind Old Montreal favourite Olive et Gourmando, has broken our never-ending cynicism with its expertly crafted house-churned butters and methodically thought-out menu that banks on the smokiness of its wood and charcoal ovens to create full-bodied dishes. The hearth-like interior only adds to this warmth. The plates are simple, intentional, recognizable, and elegant while being extremely delicious at the same time -- the true marks of mastery.
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1. Le Fantome1840 Rue William, Montréal
2. Agrikol1844, rue Amherst, Montréal
3. Hvor1414 Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal
4. Tiradito1076, rue de Bleury, Montréal
5. Le Virunga851 rue Rachel Est, Montréal
6. Foiegwa3001, rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal
7. Arthurs4621 Notre-Dame O, Montréal
8. Montréal Plaza6230, rue Saint-Hubert, Montreal
9. Hoogan et Beaufort4095 Rue Molson, Montréal
10. Foxy1638, rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal
First making headlines with its peanut-butter and foie gras sandwich, Le Fantôme has gone on to prove that its whimsical spirit and attention to detail extends much further than revamped cult classics. Come here for beautiful dishes that are playful and elegant at the same time.
Housed in a white-washed cottage and marked by a bright pink light in the doorway, Agrikol is a popular Haitian food and cocktail haven co-owned by members of Arcade Fire. The colorful and lively space is named after the style of rum distilled from cane juice, so you know the liquor is going to be taken seriously here. The rum selection runs 40 bottles deep, and though cocktails are the highlight, a bottle of Prestige -- Haiti's national lager -- will do just fine for beer loyalists. The Caribbean dishes, like fried plantain discos and lamb-tossed rice, are made for soaking up booze.
Although its name is a nod towards Nordic cuisine, don't expect a menu of hard-to-pronounce Danish words here. Hvor's ethos is driven by what's local and seasonal, an homage to Quebec farmers, and the most arresting view is what’s on your plate. And with a name that asks 'where,' it’s clear that Hvor’s answer to the question is 'right here.' Hvor also has a phenomenal garden, which is located in the middle of the restaurant's own organic garden.
Tiradito is a tribute to Nikkei cuisine, the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavors that was born in the 1800s when South America received a wave of Japanese immigrants. Chef Marcel Larrea studied under Peru's celebrated chef Gaston Acurio, and he puts his learned knowledge to use in a menu where both cultures shine.
Le Virunga elevates pan-African cuisine above its casual comfort food perception at the foot of Pac La Fontaine, imbuing hints of Quebecois flare into the presentation. Named after the Congolese Virunga National Park, home to many rare species like gorillas and rhinos, this restaurant run by a mother-daughter team focuses on flavors that are rare in this city: shrimps get a bed of mango, papaya, and avocado in the Virunga salad, and a thick chicken leg is coated in peanut sauce with pureed plantain. A soundtrack of drum-heavy African music and colorful wall art give a lively home to the powerfully flavoed changing menus.
French fare is combined with the American penchant for casualness and large portions at Foiegwa, whose name is a play on how we barbarians so often mispronounce the French delicacy. The concept fuses French cuisine with American diner sensibilities, so expect dishes like onion soup, garlic butter escargot, and croque madam served in a white-tiled space devoid of the stuffiness typical of formal French restaurants. Sketches of famous Montreal natives lining the walls remind you that you're in French-speaking territory, while milkshakes and Coke floats transport you to an old-school New York soda fountain.
Arthurs Nosh Bar takes on Eastern European Jewish staples like chicken liver, gravlax, pickled salmon, as well as Sephardic dishes like shakshuka. Anything but a deli, Arthurs celebrates a traditional cuisine with fresh takes on ingredients, using Quebec strawberry jam in its blintzes and fresh beets in its borscht. Tradition is also given a facelift in Arthurs décor, combining a penny-tiled floor and black-and-white family photos with bistro chairs and letter board menus.
A restaurant from the Toqué school of New Quebec cuisine, Plaza offers affordable options and delivers half specials and half classics in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
The transformation of this 3000sqft industrial warehouse into Hoogan et Beaufort in 2016 electrified the Montreal foodie scene, thanks in no small part by the culinary prowess of chef Marc-André Jetté. He makes it worth the trek to Rosemont, with a focus on a fire-pit that charrs, grills and smokes his meat and seafood. The list of delicate pastas, including a strozzapretti tossed with brown butter and cured duck, is a lure of its own. Wines and beers curated by the former beverage lead at 400 Coups make for excellent food pairings. Jetté's plates may be elevated, but the relaxed concrete, wood, and steel dining room creates a casual atmosphere, equally suitable for a family meal or a date.
Griffintown's Foxy revolves around its wood-fired oven, without which dishes like charred coleslaw with pulled duck and Parmesan, blackened chicken thighs tossed with avocado tomatillo salsa, and oven-baked pita with house feta would not be possible. The 68-seat space is cozy, with stacks of firewood and modern light fixtures creating a juxtaposing warmth.