Les Cavistes, Montreal
While the dining scene in many major North American cities are heading in a decidedly casual direction, Montreal’s love of stately French-style dining persists unabated. There is one spot, however, that manages to synthesize a supposedly “upscale” focus on good wine and Quebecois cuisine with practices that typically aren’t mentioned in the same breath as “fine dining.” Welcome to the Plateau, Les Cavistes – part intimate bistro, part wine boutique, part take-out counter.
Les Cavistes loosely translates to “the cellar” and it definitely feels like a shrine to wine. The venue’s entrance doesn’t lead into the dining room, but into the boutique. Here, over 45 unique labels are offered, while 85 diverse selections are offered in the dining room. Les Cavistes is committed to bringing that number up to 100 apiece, but since most bottles are exclusive private imports, it’s a slow crawl. Not only does the boutique allow diners to leave with the same vinos they enjoy while eating out, but it allows the general public access to wines by the bottle that would otherwise only be available from private retailers by the case.
But Les Cavistes is also a traditional restaurant/wine bar. The 46-seat wood-trodden dining room, designed by Blazy Gerard, manages to be both elegant and bustling. Rows of tables and banquettes are lined in close conjunction, while a long 16-seat bar acts as the hub for social-yet-civilized wine drinking. In keeping with its affordable wine list (most bottles are priced under $80 and sold at only a 1.2x markup), the space is neither stuffy nor pretentious, a place to enjoy a glass of wine and the company it’s quaffed in (unless, of course, it’s taken to go). In the summer, a terrasse will give the space a bit of a loungier feel.
As for edibles, the menu is suitably Quebecois, but the prices are reasonable. Appetizers like oysters and Ppn seared foie gras with pudding chômeur make excellent companions to a good vintage, while a “comfort food” selection of braised beef shoulder, pork cheek, and lamb shank offer something a bit more substantial. Anyone who’s looking for a full meal should veer towards the grilled buffalo flank steak or (yes, really), beef and horse tartar. Then the innovation ? some of the dishes, among them preserved duck leg and braised rabbit “a la provencale”, are available vacuum packed and taken to go for just $9. Add a bottle of wine and it’s the classiest take-out meal you’ll ever have.
Address: 4115 Saint-Denis Street, Montreal, QC
Venue: Restaurant, Bar
Hours: Daily: 11:00am – 11:00pm
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Master Card, Visa, American Express
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