As this thread is fairly active, I’ll append here, rather than starting an ‘Upscale Dining’ thread.
But be aware that most of our dining when we travel is ‘upscale’ as we want to try the (supposed) ‘best’.
Our trip this month was our third since the Pandemic. Because out-of-country travel was difficult we concentrated on within Canada travel. Accordingly, all our experiences are relatively recent.
I’ll start in Quebec City, as that was the star performer. On all 3 visits we visited Tanière³ (the visit last week was to try the Spring menu – almost entirely different from the two Fall menus we had previously). If anybody wants to try ‘Canadian’ (or more correctly ‘Quebecois’) cuisine this is definitely the destination of choice. ALL the ingredients are local and seasonal, and many dishes come with a historical reference. All three visits got my top rating (a feat achieved by only Alo in Toronto and Raymond’s (not yet reopened from COVID shutdown) in St. John’s). Everything (excepting the wines [fortunately]) is local. The tasting menu is currently transitioning from winter to spring, featuring the currently available fresh snow crab, and various game options and seasonal seafood. Fresh snow crab is only available for 6-8 weeks and all of the top places now have it on their menu (we had it at all four restaurants we tried in Montreal and Quebec). But the Tanière³ version was not my favourite (the flavours were very subtle so the crab was experienced more in the aftertaste of the dish, rather than upfront – for me, a rare ingredient would preferably be front and centre). I’ll also comment on the bone marrow crema that was my top taste of the evening (they apologised that they had run out of the Moose bone marrow, usually used in this dish, so had chosen to use Bison bone marrow instead). But still the best meal of the trip.
A little behind was Le Clan, also using almost entirely Quebecois ingredients in a 6-course menu (optionally 4-course) that is less than half the cost of the Tanière³ tasting menu that has twice as many courses. The snow crab here entered the nasal passages even before being tasted.
We are now planning a summer trip to stay 3 days and will return to try both places and add another for some variety.
Nothing in Montreal matched those experiences. We returned to Le Mousso (mentioned elsewhere in this thread - which had been our favourite on a previous trip) but this time it didn’t work as well. The food is still intensely local, and the snow crab dish here was our favourite, but the format doesn’t quite work for me. Essentially everybody (around 30 patrons) is served each dish at the same time. The wine pairings and dish delivery are superbly achieved, but then comes a ‘chef-description of the food’ and ‘sommelier description of the wines’ AFTER the delivery of the food (in French, but translations are given for non-French speakers). This ‘delay’ allows the food to cool down and I found the cold (often on ice) dishes to work better than the ’hot’ dishes. And if one takes the pairings, the wines are ‘quirky’ – lots of ‘sommelier favourites’ (e.g. orange, pet-nat, and hybrid). Wine geeks will love this, but some of the flavours are ‘unusual’!
Our final choice was FoieGwa (also mentioned earlier) way cheaper than anything else we visited (and close to Atwater market). Also, open Sunday (a difficult day – two of our tentative choices when planning decided to close on Sundays). Also featured snow crab – competent with an excellent fennel salad, but this is a neighbourhood place, not intending to compete with the upscale places.
Completing our dining week was Atelier in Ottawa (technically should discuss on Ontario board but we took the train from Toronto-Ottawa-Quebec City-Montreal-Toronto as easy connections on this route). This is a holdover of ‘Modernist Cuisine’ and features a 44-taste menu that amuses in parts and makes one sigh in others. Sort of a ‘greatest hits’ but with a few updates (e.g. the Ferran Adria ‘olives’ are replaced with ‘spring peas’, although the somewhat tired helium candy balloon still appears). Served for two people (almost all small dishes are to be shared), I actually enjoyed the meal although some of the excesses didn’t work (e.g. pickles on a string – described as ‘the future of dining’). I’m suspicious that the chef is sort-of-parodying the tendency of the ‘Instagram Generation’ to photograph every dish (yes, all 44), each of which is accompanied by a QR code that allows the diner to explore more about each dish.
But it was fun!
In the two prior trips we did visit places mentioned elsewhere, so my comments are all ‘since COVID’.
We chose to skip Au Pied de Cochon and Toque because previous experiences at both (pre COVID) didn’t entice us to return.
We did try Joe Beef on one of our recent trips, and the menu was particularly exciting, but what we received was large portions of pedestrian food. Not sure what the staffing situation was, and would welcome other reports.
Also visited Pastel last time. An excellent meal well worthy of a re-visit. However, I know the chef changed (the original TV-celebrity chef left) last year around the time we visited – I don’t know whether we experienced the original or current chef, but it was closed Sunday and we chose Le Mousso this time around (although expect to return to Pastel next time).
It’s been a tough time so I’d prefer not to slag places in general – but Jerome Ferrer was so bad I can’t recommend it at all. Totally gimmicky – all flash, no substance.
Hope this helps to finalize your choices.