As a food and travel writer based in Montreal, I love sharing my delicious discoveries with my readers. I’m the founder and author behind my personal blog Will Travel for Food and a regular contributor to the Tourisme Montreal blog. I’m also an avid traveller, as the title of my website suggests. Luckily, MTLàTABLE is already in my hometown, but trust me, if it wasn’t, I’d be adding a hole to my belt and booking my train there.
Recently, I met with chef David Pellizzari, the owner of restaurant Lili.Co, a critically acclaimed, market driven restaurant in the heart of Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood to talk about MTLàTABLE, Montreal’s Restaurant week. The food festival will be back for a 5th edition from November 3 to 13, 2016 with 150 participating restaurants. A slew of gastronomic activities will also be taking place within the event, including brunches, culinary tours and wine-centric events.
MS: What do you like about MTLàTABLE? What surprised you most the first time you participated last year?
DP: Just really how big it is. Everybody kept telling us that it was going to be huge, but we were literally booked solid for every service, which was crazy for a small restaurant like us. It was really a matter of keeping up with all the prep to be able to actually perform the menu and stay on top of things.
MS: This year, will you have a smaller menu maybe? A large menu involves so much prep…
DP: No, we’re going to push our limits. MTLàTABLE restaurants are required to give two choices per service but we’ll be giving multiple choices. We’re also going to offer a trou normand in the middle of the menu. There will be multiple things that people will be able to add on if they so choose. That’s the great thing about this event, 95% of the people who are in the restaurant are people I’ve never seen before.
MS: During restaurant week, are you basically cooking the same menu over and over again?
DP: Our regular menu changes at least a little bit every day. With going to the market and getting new products on a daily basis, having the guys being locked into the menu where there’s no room for playing… That’s tough for them but that’s the way it needs to be during MTLàTABLE. We will, however, try and perfect those recipes during the course of the festival.
MS: I know you’re a big fan of offal, will you have some on your MTLàTABLE menu?
DP: Absolutely, that’s a guarantee! It’s a feather in our cap to have people walk in and say, I don’t like kidneys, for example, and to have them walk away saying wow, I really like that!
MS: So what advice do you have for someone visiting Montreal for MTLàTABLE?
DP: Well my first advice would surely be to try LiliCo! But I would say challenge yourself and look for the audacious menus. Look for the restaurant that’s not taking it easy, look for the ones saying we want to impress and have fun!
MS: Which restaurants would you go to?
DP: La Récolte is on my list. I find the food very exciting from what I’ve seen. There seems to be a joy in each plate.
MS: I’ve been a few times and there’s a joy in the kitchen as well. They’re having so much fun! They seem to love what they’re doing and their philosophy of serving only local ingredients.
DP: I would say Dany’s (Dany Bolduc) cuisine at H4C because he’s not going to take it easy. He’s going to challenge himself and every cook in his kitchen to really blow your mind. I worked for him for a year and a half and he destroyed me but in the best possible way. People need to start paying more attention to his cuisine.
Sousbois is also on my list. It’s so interesting what they’re doing. Everybody keeps talking to me about it.
Le St-Urbain! He (chef Marc-André Royal) is a total rock star! Everything he touches turns to gold and he’s one of the hottest chefs in the province right now.
MS: Any other recommendations?
DP: I would go to La Chronique and blow my whole budget on wine! They have an amazing wine list and you can have an amazing time at that restaurant!
MS: Are you noticing any specific food trends in Montreal lately?
DP: All you have to do is read an article on Lucky Peach and you can see what will happen in the next five years. So I think the idea that every high-end restaurant will open a casse-croûte. For example, look at chef Michele Forgione and what he’s done with Chez Tousignant. He went down one notch (from his restaurant Impasto) and opened Gema, a beautiful pizzeria. And again, one more step with Chez Tousignant, a casse-croûte serving great quality fast food. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that going on. And I think we’re finally starting to see the Nordic trend created by René Redzepi really affect the food scene here. It’s been evident in the past two years. But how long is that going to last before the next trend? And what is the next thing? I think chefs like Derek Dammann are redefining that by saying: let’s all calm down a little bit and let’s bring it back to basics by cooking really delicious food.
Top image of Lili.Co by Randall Brodeur