Saturday, July 2, 2016

In Montreal, bargain lunches are taking bite out of high cost of eating out

Place Deschamps Bar A Vin and many other fine-dining restaurants in Montreal offer a two-course, fixed-price lunch, usually with a limited selection of dishes, for as little as $20. Ordered a la carte, lunch entrees alone are about $25 each at this wine bar.

Editor's note: All prices are given in Canadian dollars. Our vacation in Montreal brings an added bonus. This week, a U.S. dollar is worth $1.29 against the Canadian dollar.


MONTREAL -- You can eat really well in this French-speaking island city, but to get the biggest bang for your buck, make lunch your major meal.

Year-round, most fine-dining restaurants offer a two-course lunch for a fixed price that includes coffee or tea.

They're called "table d'hote du midi" menus, and for visitors from the United States, they are even a bigger bargain because of the favorable exchange rate against the Canadian dollar.

This week, we enjoyed a two-course lunch for $21 at a Portuguese restaurant and another one for $20 at a wine bar, exclusive of 15% meal taxes and a gratuity.

Sure, fine-dining restaurants in Manhattan offer three-course lunches for $25 during Restaurant Weeks in July and January.

Not only are they more expensive than Montreal's table d'hote lunches, but you'll be forced to choose a dessert as a third-course even if you are watching you're weight and cholesterol.

In recent years, Manhattan restaurants that once substituted fruit for an unwanted dessert at a Restaurant Week lunch have refused to do so. 

In Montreal, one of the best lunch deals around isn't strictly a table d'hot du midi menu, but a choice of three petiscos or "snacks" for $21 at Taverne F, a Portuguese restaurant. Starters include Cod Cakes with Piri Piri Mayo, above; Roasted Sardines and Gaspacho, photos below.

Boneless and headless Portuguese Sardines with Pickled Vegetables.

A cold Tomato and Pepper Gaspacho comes with hard-boiled egg and sausage chips.
For their main course, both my wife and son chose Porco Frito or Portuguese-style slow-cooked suckling pig with Braised Fennel and Bean Puree. Each also had a side of Batatas Fritos or fried potatoes as their third choice, below. The menu at Taverne F lists other choices for the $21 lunch, but some carry a supplement of $1 to $4. 

You can ask for Taverne F's complimentary bread service, which included one of the crustiest baguettes I've ever had with thick Portuguese extra-virgin olive oil for dipping. I poured some of the olive oil over my roasted sardines.

Taverne F, open 7 days for lunch and dinner, is at 1485 Rue Jeanne-Mance, Montreal, in the heart of the city's festival district; 1-514-289-4558.

On Friday, the table d'hote du midi menu at Place Deschamps in Montreal offered one entree and one starter for $20, plus tax and tip. The main course was Cod served over Asparagus and other vegetables, above, and the perfectly cooked fish came to the table with a crispy skin. I asked the kitchen to make it with olive oil, not butter.

My starter was a cold, thick soup of Watermelon and Cucumber, and the meal included a cup of coffee.

My wife ordered a Cesar Salad with Roasted Guineafowl, and we had the kitchen substitute arugula for the iceberg lettuce listed on the menu ($26 a la carte).

I was able to get some extra-virgin olive oil with the bread.

Place Deschamps Bar A Vin, above and below, is open Mondays to Fridays for lunch, Tuesdays to Saturdays for dinner, and on Monday and Sunday evenings when there are performances in one of the halls in the Place Des Artes; 175 Rue Sainte-Catherine West, Montreal (1-514-564-3155).

1000 Grammes, a Tex-Mex restaurant at 1495 Rue Saint-Catherine Street East in Montreal, offers a midi menu for as little as $11.50, including a cold soup or salad and dessert, above and below.

Regency Club

We're eating our breakfasts and light dinners at the Hyatt Regency Montreal, headquarters hotel for the 37th edition of the International Jazz Festival, which runs through July 9.

This year, I booked a two-room suite, and paid a $50 daily Regency Club supplement that entitles the three of us to have complimentary morning and evening meals.

In the hotel's Saveur restaurant, breakfast is an all-you-can-eat buffet with made-to-order omelets, carve-to-order ham and more food than any one person should eat at one time, including bagels, granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, pancakes, bacon, potatoes and too many other items to list (normally, $21.95 per person, plus tax and gratuity).

In the evening, a buffet of soup, salads and hors d'oeuvres is available from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  

After 7:30, coffee, tea and desserts are served.

We've noticed cutbacks, including the elimination of smoothies that were available at breakfast in the past. And I haven't seen any smoked salmon or shrimp in the evenings.

The evening buffet in the Regency Club often includes roasted vegetables, below.

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