In recent years, Montreal’s food scene has shifted gears, ditching tried-and-tested formulas for more adventurous ventures.
Creative restaurants now fill this charming, French-accented city. A Japanese restaurant offers a multisensory spectacle featuring a sake sommelier and bamboo leaf artists. An ambitious counter-service spot uses its social media accounts to inform the world about different African cuisines. A New Canadian spot says no to processed and pre-prepared ingredients on its elegant, seasonal plates.
These creative spots represent Montreal’s increasingly experimental side. Here are six especially cutting-edge restaurants to book a table at now.
Okeya Kyujiro (Downtown)
You don’t just come to Okeya Kyujiro for a casual meal. With its elaborate omakase (chef’s choice) menu, the restaurant offers up a unique, multi-sensory spectacle. Beyond the one-of-a-kind tasting menu, critics have compared the service at Okeya Kyujiro to a choreographed performance. In addition to tasting exquisitely prepared seafood, you’ll see staff show off their skills, from a sake sommelier to sasa-giri artists, carving intricate designs out of bamboo leaves. One of many high points at Okeya Kyjuiro is the concluding tea ceremony, a soothing close to the two-hour meal, executed by a trio of kimono-clad servers. Reservations are essential, as the highly intimate restaurant only seats ten. Don’t be late—the coordinated nature of this omakase means that service will start without you.
A glimpse at Mokili’s social media profiles suggests it’s an educational institute focused on African cuisines, not a restaurant. Mokili’s chef and co-owner Épepe Tukala Vuvu uses his restaurant’s TikTok and Instagram accounts to explore ingredients and cooking techniques from a range of African traditions, dropping knowledge on how to eat West African fufu and the linguistic history of pili-pili spice (spoiler: it’s not Portuguese). But the pioneering Villeray spot is most definitely a restaurant, serving deeply flavored peanut stew mafé and ntaba, a grilled goat dish with plantains. Show up early: Mokili’s cozy storefront on de Castelnau East only seats a handful of people and doesn’t take reservations, although you can order takeout in advance via the restaurant’s website.
Hoogan & Beaufort (Montreal East)
Chef-owner Marc-André Jetté steers clear of any processed or pre-prepared ingredients on his seasonal menus at this refined restaurant. Many of the dishes stick to just a handful of ingredients, allowing them to shine brightly. To keep with that earthy approach, much of Hoogan & Beaufort’s menu is cooked on an in-house fire grill. No foams and emulsions here, just Quebec vegetables served with just the right amount of char. There are also carefully selected, juicy cuts of meat, and a few hand-crafted pasta dishes. Jetté is so committed to the provenance of his ingredients that he’s opened a butcher shop, Boucherie Édouard & Léo, which accepts orders from the public. For a truly unique meal, opt for the Woodfire Experience, which begins with oysters and Champagne by the firepit before moving on to a six-course degustation and an optional wine pairing.
L’Idéal Bar & Contenus (Quartier des Spectacles)
Montreal is home to a range of hybrid businesses—clothes shops with cafés, a department store with a bistro—but one of the most out-of-the-box is L’Idéal, a café-bar-podcast studio. Opened by an all-female team from the creative and entrepreneurial worlds, L’Idéal was conceived of as a post-pandemic bar. When Quebec’s restaurant industry was upended by three separate lockdowns and a population that was reluctant to dine out, new venues had to think innovatively to survive. L’Idéal was imagined as an artistic hub to develop talent and support ideas, big and small. The podcasting studio is an intimate place for audiences to attend live recordings. But you can also stop in the 3,400-sqaure-foot space for a glass of natural wine and winning small plates such as confit tomato ravioli. Beyond podcasts, L’Idéal hosts events, such as a wine club and speed dating nights for the queer community.
Bloom Sushi (Old Montreal, Quartier des Spectacles)
Bloom Sushi might just be the most innovative answer to the question, “what if you made sushi without the fish?” It’s the brainchild of entrepreneur Dominic Bujold, whose other noteworthy Quebec concepts include No. 900 Pizzeria (a Neapolitan spot specializing in custom pies) and LOV, a chic vegan destination. Bloom is arguably Bujold’s most creative venture yet, serving outré rolls such as smoked “salmon” made with konjac, a starchy root vegetable, shibazuke, (a brined eggplant and cucumber pickle), and lotus chips. With its sleek, minimalist interiors and tempting sake list, it’s a solid spot for a creative, meat-free date. Montrealers love it so much that within just a couple of years of opening, Bloom added a second location in the Quartier des Spectacles, right by Place-des-Arts.
Labo Culinaire-Foodlab (Quartier Latin/Quartier des Spectacles)
Foodlab (or Labo Culinaire, its French name) isn’t your standard restaurant. It’s part of the Montreal non-profit Société des Arts Technologiques (Society for Arts and Technology, or SAT), dedicated to digital culture and developing new forms of creativity within a variety of artistic fields. The SAT occupies a quirky, pseudo-industrial building in the city center, known for hosting everything from electronic music shows to Christmas markets for local artisans. Foodlab, committed to finding new ways to use Québécois produce, is perched at the top of the building with a rooftop terrasse for the warmer months. With its rooftop garden, brimming with predominantly indigenous plants (edible flowers, aromatics, and vegetables), it’s one of the few places in Montreal to grow most of its food onsite. On the menu, chef Virginie Picard inventive seasonal plates focus on vegetables and Quebec’s top-notch seafood.
Tim Forster is a freelance writer and editor focusing on food, culture and technology.
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