Driving five hours for a meal is normally out of the question unless you go to Restaurant Bonaparte, a legendary Montreal ‘Institution.’
My quest for the best meal north of the border has been solved. This old-school restaurant, located within Hotel Bonaparte and on one of old Montreal’s famous cobblestone streets, has become an international mecca for fine dining in the province of Quebec. From a storied wine cellar to century-old bricks on the wall, the structure houses a shrine to the culinary industry.
Entering this establishment, you are greeted with sincerity from the staff, then seated in one of the many unique rooms at a white-linen table topped with fresh heaven-sent white flowers.
You are handed a menu – confusion begins almost immediately – should I order from the a la carte menu, the six-course tasting menu, or the six-course tasting menu paired with wines, many of which are Canadian?
I chose the latter.
Enthusiastic, well-mannered, bow-tied waiter Frederic Ryan appeared at the table gleaming as he recited the menu I had chosen paired with appropriate wines. I later found out he was the house wine expert and the person responsible for choosing the wines to pair with the array of prepared dishes. My future was in his hands. Frederic Ryan was the entertainment for the evening, and I was the audience. His recommendations on both ends mattered. What dish? What wine? We are at a crossroads. Selections were difficult, but, with this waiter’s palate, there were no issues. He knew that I grew up in New Orleans, lived in Europe, and married a woman of southern Italian descent. So, let’s start, I said. Help me choose what you would choose if I were you. And the evening began!
Frederic quickly returned with a cold glass of sparkling Cremant d’Alsace followed by a bowl of ‘Bisque de Homard reliever au gingembre’ (Lobster Bisque enhanced with ginger). The soup was velvety, full of depth, strained to the max, and luxurious. The faint ginger flavor with fragments of lobster pieces cut through this liquid homage to the lobster. The Cremant was an exceptional addition that made this out-of-this-world bisque a true tour de force. It’s hard to follow a true masterpiece, but I must admit the next course, a ‘Duck Foie Gras Crème Brûlée’ was as pleasing as a follow-up to the lobster bisque as a dish could be. The creamy, smooth egg custard combination opened the door to the rich, buttery liver pate, which was complimented with diced, sautéed apple pieces and toasted slivers of bread. A glass of Hemmingford (Quebec) Poire de Glacé, Domaine des Salamandes, was the perfect sweet wine to cut through this masterpiece.
No words could adequately describe the Mushroom Ravioli in a sage butter sauce.’ Perfection to the highest standards paired with Twenty Miles Bench (Ontario), Hancock, Bachelder 2020 Pinot Noir.
After this experience, Frederic came over and said it was time to clean my palate and take a short rest before the next courses appeared. He served me an elegant refreshing scoop of pear and tarragon sorbet. After this time out, Mr. Ryan suggested I sample the vanilla-flavored shrimp and scallop dish. Who knew how well the depth of Madagascar vanilla would enhance shrimp and scallops? Definitely, not me. A glass of rich Domaine Billaud-Simon 2020 Chablis heightened this outrageous dish. The main course was next, a full-size Duck Breast flavored with maple syrup and wild berries was presented like a painting. The duck breast was fanned out and was highlighted with a host of vegetables and purées. The sweet potato purée was my favorite compliment to soften the flawless and hearty main course. Only a Saumur-Champigny, Chateau Yvonne, 2019 Cabernet Franc could stand up to this extravagant dish.
Fortunately, I saved a little room for the pastry chef’s dessert selection, which was served with a double espresso in my case. Cheesecake, crème brûlée and a strawberry macaron were served.
Three memorable hours had passed. Thanks to my server, Frederic Ryan, my favorable experience at restaurant Bonaparte will last a lifetime. It was a true bargain for $130 with wine and $90 without the highly recommended wine pairing.
Make sure to ask for a window seat and demand Frederic Ryan to be your server.
I have followed Phil’s food & wine adventures for many years. They are a always a voyage in the mind of taste and texture, atmosphere and imagination. I truly feel I’m sitting next to him as he portrays his experience. Please continue to have his articles in your review section.
Thank you for your comments. I felt the same excitement when I read his article, and will visit Bonaparte the next time I’m in Montreal.
My first initial reaction when reading the first paragraph of this article was excitement as I quickly realized I was invited to join and observe through the eyes of the writer. It was as if the author took me on a journey to the Restaurant Bonaparte in Montreal.
The quote that drew me in “My future was in his hands. Fredric Ryan was the entertainment for the evening and I was the audience.”
From the description of the restaurant to each individual dish with excellent wine pairings has given me motivation to do some investigating into the wines and food that were offered during this incredible meal.
Thank you for the trip to Montreal.
Deliciously written. I’m soaking with envy as I vicariously visualize the room, the tastes and experiences. Life through Phil’s exquisite palate is a must-do.
Phil Kampe’s delectable review of Restaurant Bonaparte transported me to the heart of Montreal, home of the velvety lobster bisque and flavorful Creme Brulee. Kampe’s enticing description of seasoned courses paired with fine wines have spurred my future reservation, for sure!
Just booked my flight! Reserve a table by the window, please!
Well written review placing the reader at the table while choices are made and enjoyed. I feel like I know Frederic as well as the writer, and the review as well as the bisque was a tour de force
I’m seriously contemplating booking a flight. My goodness I want to have the experience of sitting at a window table savoring every bite.
Thant brought back memories. My daughter went to Concordia for 5 years in the early 2000s and I spent quite a lot of time eating in Montreal. It is still one of top North American food cities.