2016 was quite the year in food for Montreal. Not only did the city cement itself as a force to be reckoned with on the national culinary scene, there was also plenty of food-related drama to keep onlookers entertained from January to December. If you’re looking for the Cole’s notes summary, here’s our top 10 culinary happenings, in no particular order.
Fires at multiple beloved restaurants
2016 was the year of restaurant fires in Montreal. From the restaurant Manitoba, to the beloved Italian grocer, Milanos, lots of places went up in smoke. More recently, Anthony Park’s restaurants Park and La Lavenderia were ravaged by flames. Café Bonita was also burned to the ground in the massive fire in Chinatown in November. Let’s hope things cool down a bit in 2017!
Chesterman’s zero-star review
Typically, a one star review is about as bad as it gets, but the Montreal Gazette’s food critic, Leslie Chesterman, handed out something worse--a zero star review--earlier this year. After dining at Les Enfants Terribles PVM, she decided that neither the food nor service warranted any stars at all. As she put it, “There are several words I can drum up to describe the treatment I received at Les Enfants Terribles PVM, but let me limit it to one: shoddy.”
Smoking ban on patios
Quebec is a little behind the time when it comes to smoking laws. It was only as of May 26, 2016 that smoking was officially banned on terrasses (patios) in Montreal. Needless to say, it wasn’t too popular with some, with smokers having to walk out to the curb to light up while finding someone to hold their beer for them in the meantime. It is Montreal though, is drinking in the street really that taboo?
Candide bites back
Between all of the French and English publications in the city, Montreal has a lot of food critics. Not infrequently, they disagree on the ratings they give various restaurants. This year, the new restaurant, Candide, went two and two. While half of the critics gave them stellar reviews, the other half were pretty scathing. Sommelier Emily Campeau publicly defended the restaurant, which prompted a rebuttal letter from Marie-Claude Lortie at La Presse. Based on the number of industry folk that endorsed Campeau’s arguments, it’s fair to say that Candide won this battle.
Le Mousso noise complaints
In more restaurant-related drama, Le Mousso couldn’t keep it down this year, prompting several noise complaints from neighbours. This landed the restaurant not one, but two $1,875 fines over the span of five months. Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard took to social media to rant about the situation, proclaiming the unfairness of it all. Apparently, the almost $20,000 he spent on soundproofing his restaurant wasn’t the best investment.
enRoute magazine nominees and winners
When it came to enRoute’s best new restaurant list this year, Montreal definitely made its mark. Out of eight nominees, three made the final list. Foxy, Agrikol, and Le Fantome were all in the top 10, but even those that didn’t make the cut are pretty stand-out dining options in YUL. In 2016, Montreal showed Canada that they have more in the way of restaurants than just Joe Beef or Maison Publique.
Joël Robuchon casino restaurant
Michelin-starred super-chef Joël Robuchon came to Montreal in 2016 and frankly, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. There was a lot of lead-up to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon opening in Montreal Casino on December 7th and not much of it was positive. Mainly, people denounced the lack of transparency regarding the taxpayer money used to fund the project, and questioned why local culinary talent wasn’t being supported instead. Given the number of excellent restaurants in a city, I’d say that’s a fair question.
Closure of Montreal institutions
Several Montreal restaurants that collectively have been around for well over 100 years closed this year. Little Italy’s Café International, Navarinos, and Capri all called it quits after decades of operation. It doesn’t seem like newer trends are necessarily taking over though. The city has hit its saturation point for Mexican food with the closure of taco joint, Socialito, and many burrito places shut down. Changing of the guard? Perhaps not.
There were plenty of much-anticipated Montreal restaurant openings in 2016, in addition to all of the enRoute nominees and winners. Le Diplomate debuted in Mile-Ex, Jewish food got a facelift at Arthur’s in Saint-Henri, Foiegwa serves French food with a twist, and sister restaurant to Bouillon Bilk, and Cadet opened on St. Laurent. Artisanal breads, pastries, and other sweets also reigned supreme with the opening of Automne Boulangerie, Libertine Bakeshop, Dalla Rose, and more.
Ice cream is finally available year-round!
It may not seem newsworthy to some, but in a city where all of the good ice cream spots (and even simply Dairy Queen) close up shop by Thanksgiving, it leaves ice cream fanatics itching for a scoop when a craving strikes in the dead of winter. La Diperie on Avenue de Pins has come to the rescue, expanding its hours to run all year long. It even added fancy hot chocolates to its menu to satisfy whatever your sweet tooth desires.