3927 rue St-Denis | Montreal
L'express is one of the restaurants that came up most often when I did a web search for Montreal bistros and it is also recommended in most of the major guidebooks (Frommers, Fodors and Lonely Planet). After checking in at my hotel I took the Metro to the Sherbrooke station and walked up rue St-Dennis for lunch at L'Express.
I walked up pretty far but never saw the bistro. After checking my guidebook for the address, I realized I walked a few blocks too far. As I walked back I remembered what the guidebook said, "No obvious sign announces the presence of this restaurant, only its name discreetly spelled out in white tiles in the sidewalk." How was I to see that when I was taking in all the sights? I guess L'Express is so popular that they don't need to waste money on a sign.
The interior of L'Express is simple, burgundy walls, globe lighting and black & white checked tile floors with seating at simple marble tables and bistro chairs. It's a hot day today and the interior is also nicely cooled. I really appreciate that! I arrived at the peak of the lunch hour and was unable to get a table, so I took a seat at the bar which is covered with stainless steel. For lunch is a good place to sit.
[ce qui à manger]
The menu is handwritten on paper and includes any French classic you may desire. Everything from "confit de canard" to "steak frites". No surprises here! Lunch prices range from CDN$8 to 22.OO depending on how fancy you want to eat. I didn't get any indication that there was an English menu.
For my lunch I ordered a "quiche of the day" (CDN$8.95) which is ham and guryere cheese with leeks. It comes with a side of either "frites" or a salad. I think I will have frites. After placig my order, I am served a big basket of crusty and chewy French bread plus the waiter sits a large jar of cornichons in front of me. Cornichons! I've died and gone to heaven. I love cornichons. I may steal the whole jar.
After gorging myself on cornichoms my quiche arrives. The beautiful quiche is an individual size and is nicely browned on the top. The crust is thin and flakey and very, very buttery but the filling is the star here, it is custardy rich and everything a quiche should be. I never had a quiche in Paris, but I would guess this is better. The mound of frites are crispy and hot and nicely golden browned. They are a bit darker than some people may be use to, but that's probably because of the sugar content in the potato. The dark edges really bring out the flavor. Delicious!
For dessert I select from the specials list and order the Risotto aux Fraises (CDN$4.95) which is a rice pudding made with aborio rice and then topped with strawberries. This dessert is good but nothing great. The strawberries are very sweet and there is a decent amount but there wasn't very much rice pudding.
[in my opinion...]
The total bill here is CDN$20.93 which is about US$16. Not a bad deal for lunch including dessert and a glass of wine (CDN$4.95). Where in New York City can you get a glass of French red wine for $4?
L'Express is a very cool place and like I said earlier, it comes with no surprises. The food is classic French bistro and the service is professional and polite. Most of the staff speaks English and would be happy to assit you with the menu.
Service is decent but I give them 4 hearts for their versions of the French classics and atmosphere. If I don't look out the window I could be in a bistro in Paris.
Here is a photo of the menu, click it to enlarge. It should be easy to read.
Blogging via Blackberry and Cingular Wireless