An important part of traveling is the sampling of local cuisine. Not only does it gives us the opportunity to literally taste a country, but also to participate in the traditions and customs that are inseparably paired with eating.
But, perhaps ironically, some of the most memorable culinary experiences that I’ve had were in dining establishments that contrasted local cuisine, such as a Moroccan meal in Paris, Indian food in Christchurch (NZ) or an Argentinean BBQ in Costa Rica. Part of the charm is in the juxtaposition.
Montreal is a North American foodie heaven. And a major factor in this epicurean positioning is the multitude of ethnicities that have chosen to establish new lives and enterprises in the city. Local gourmands rejoice on the abundance of diversity.
Here are 10 ways to savor the international offerings…
[France] CHEZ ALEXANDRE – You’ll be convinced that you are sitting in a Parisian bistro at this charming downtown restaurant. It’s a chic ‘Brasserie’ that takes pride in remaining unpretentious, which ironically is pas très francais. Try the French onion soup to maintain full French immersion.
[Ethiopia] THE BLUE NILE – If you have yet to encounter the Ethiopian eating experience, you are in for a messy treat. At this well-known Montreal institution you can chose from a variety of stewed dishes that include chicken, lamb or pulses (vegetarian). All meals served with crêpe-like fermented flatbread, which you use to sop up the stewy deliciousness. Eating with your hands makes the experience all the more jovial.
[Brazil] LELE Da CUCA – Located on an unassuming street just a step off ‘The Main’ (Boulevard St. Laurent), this eclectic Brazilian restaurant features a selection of wallet-friendly, yet delicious, “Table d’hote” choices. Try the feijoada (national dish of Brazil), and enjoy the adorable man strumming his guitar to South American standards. Reservations recommended. Bring your own wine or beer.
[Syria] KAZA MAZA – My vote for the best potatoes in the city, garnished simply with cumin and cilantro. The friendly Syrian owner often mingles and chats as he replenishes water glasses. On the weekend people share poetry & music as the restaurant becomes a makeshift cultural center.
[China] RESTAURANT BEIJING – I know I’ve stumbled across an authentic Chinese resto when there are actual Chinese families dining inside. Located unsurprisingly in the heart of Montreal’s Chinatown, you might have to wait for a table at this no-frills eatery, but it’s worth it as you’ll be in the company of folks who know good Chinese food. The lemon chicken and Chinese broccoli are personal faves.
[Afghani] KHYBER PASS – For many novice ‘Foodies,’ Afghani cuisine isn’t the most obvious of choices. But with basic ingredients, such as fresh yogurt, coriander, garlic, onions, tomatoes and potatoes, Khyber Pass does great job of creating saliva-inducing dishes from classic middle eastern fixins. Bring your own wine.
[Mexico] CHIPOTLE & JALAPENO – An authentic Mexican eatery and food boutique in the Montreal Gay Village. Start with one of their savory traditional soups, continue with a bean burrito and finish with a flan or custard. And if you like something you ate, buy the ingredients and recreate the magic!
[India] BOMBAY MAHAL – If you’re willing to go the distance for amazingly delicious and ridiculously cheap India food, then you’ll head up to the heart of Park X , one of Canada’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Bombay Mahal serves up the best butter chicken in the western hemisphere. And they can adjust menu piquant levels from Caucasian-spice-trepidation to jalapeño-hotness-warrior. Servers are pleasantly playful.
[Portugal] CHEZ DOVAL – There are a ton of options for eating Portuguese along Boulevard Saint Laurent (The Main) ranging from fancy high-end bistros to hole-in-the-wall cafés with animated, older Portuguese men. Chez Doval is a cozy, affordably romantic, middle-of-the-road option. There are many options on the menu, but the classic rotisserie chicken always seems to be calling my name.
[Quebec] AU PIED De COCHON – If you’re visiting Montreal, then you’ll probably want to sample the local culinary offerings. Many would argue that poutine is the national dish, and you can swing by any location of La Belle Province to sample this workin’ class Quebecoise fare. But for a real treat, Au Pied de Cochon is the place for higher-end, creative dining – including their decadent, famed Foie Gras Poutine.