It’s called a joie de vivre and in French that musical expression translates to a ‘joy of life. In the 400-year old city of Montreal, that joy of life is palpable on the cobblestone streets that line the Old City, in the hip nightclubs that dot the trendy neighborhoods and in the top-shelf gourmet restaurants that are presided over by world-class Chefs.
For a gastronomic experience par excellence, Aix Cuisine du Terroir -pronounced “X”-, sits pretty on the promenade level of the uber-luxe Hôtel Place d’Armes in Old Montreal. Boasting a deliciously innovative menu with desserts so rich they come with their own pre-nup, Aix is also one of the finest restaurants in the city for a romantic dinner pour deux. “There is a lot of passion in our restaurant,” smiles maître d‘ Yannick Rouillon with his ooh-la-la French accent, “our ambience is so cozy and our food is so tasty that it puts future grooms in the mood to propose marriage to their brides even before dessert arrives.”
Kitty-corner from the Notre-Dame Basilica where superstar Celine Dion tied the knot with her longtime love René Angelil, Aix serves a symphony of artisanal foods that change seasonally. Soft lighting radiating from fringed retro- light fixtures set the mood for dinner in the comfy banquettes with window views of the historic streets just outside. Mellow jazz, polished service and a no-rush mantra have earned Aix legions of adoring fans both in Quebec and globally.
“We work with farmers here in Quebec,” adds Yannick Rouillon as he describes a delectable seafood appetizer bursting with crab legs, smoked salmon and shrimp, “80% of all the food on our menu is from Canada.” Stand-out main courses include the wonderfully exotic ‘Morue Poelee’ or pan-seared cod with salted herbs, chestnut and parsnip puree and smoked bread chips, agneau de Kamouraska or braised lamb with hashed fingerlip potatoes and ‘le boeuf des cantons de l’est’ , a divine filet of AAA beef adorned with seared foie gras and truffles. Wines are hand-picked by a house sommelier although Yannick is delighted to suggest a 2008 Barbera D’Alba red wine from Italy. Side dishes worth the splurge include fries cooked in duck fat and a dish of velvety smooth mashed potatoes.
Celebrating the finest Quebec has to offer, desserts are to-die-for like an apple and Tonka bean cheesecake with pecans and cider ice cream and an unapologetically sinful Crème Brulee tasting tray. “Try all of them,” Yannick says as he expertly explains the sweet ingredients in all of the homemade desserts, “or order both and share them.” And for an added treat, a glass of apple cider made in Quebec is the crème de la crème of liqueurs.
For a pre-dinner cocktail or an après-dinner drink, the snazzy Suite 701 bar, also in the hotel, is the place to see and be seen. Light bites from a perfectly-grilled Kobe burger to a plate of classic fish and chips comes from the same kitchen as the spectacular dishes served downstairs in Aix.
Aix Cuisine du Terroir is open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. An outdoor Terrace is open during the summer from 11 to 11. Call or click 514 842-6469 or www.aixcuisine.com.
A Weekend in Old Montreal
Known in French as “Vieux-Montréal”, the city of Montreal was born here in 1642, down by the river at Pointe-à-Callière. Today, especially in the warmer weather, happy tourists and savvy locals converge around Place Jacques-Cartier where cafes, bistros, galleries and shoppes line both sides of the narrow streets. The Tourist Information Office at 174 Notre-Dame East has knowledgeable staff and a great assortment of brochures and maps.
For fans of Formula 1 racing, Grand Prix du Canada draws thousands to the city from June 10 to June 12. And for fans of all-things-French, Les FrancoFolies de Montreal celebrates French cultures from around the world from June 10 to June 18.
Click on www.tourisme-montreal.org for a wealth of information from bistros and bars to salons and shopping.
Insider Travel Tip
Ideal for a weekend getaway and primo for shopping, the brand-new ChicoBag Duffel is our suggestion for convenience and style. Lightweight and eco-friendly, the fashionable
Bags are so popular with travelers-in-the-know that they have a Twitter fan club and a Facebook page. “Our job is to develop functional reusable bags that inspire consumers to change their lifestyles and help build a better future,” said Andy Keller, founder, “The new duffel bag is vibrant, durable and perfect for an overnight trip or an international adventure.” Visit http://www.chicobag.com, http://www.twitter.com/chicobag, http://www.facebook.com/chicobag