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No. 37: L’Express

No. 37: L’Express


CHECK FOR YOURSELF, and put it down to their sense of humour—or just chalk it up as yet another expression of this restaurant’s seductive obliviousness to changing times.

But when you open the home page for l’Express, the first image you’ll see is of a man lighting up (not a joint, but—quel horreur!—a cigarette). North American political correctness has little traction here; this classic bistro embodies the fantasy of Montreal being a pseudo-European city, where great food and wine and joie de vivre trump all other considerations. It opened in 1980, before Saint Denis was cast as the city’s grand avenue. And now that the street has fallen back on hard times, l’Express is still here, thriving and largely unchanged. Part of its enduring appeal has to do with its timeless brasserie decor, by the late architect Luc Laporte. Much of it hinges on the menu of well-rendered bistro classics. And then there’s the host of ultra-professional waiters and bartenders (like the legendary Claude Masson), who make regulars feel like family.
Renowned original chef Joël Chapoulie retired in 2012, after 32 years at the helm; now the kitchen is run by one of his early trainees, Jean-François Vachon. He has introduced a soupçon of change into the predominant flow of continuity. For example, the venerable poulet de grains sauce moutarde is now instead sauced with sage and lemon. Sometimes something as jarringly foreign and contemporary as le thon tataki will appear amid the daily specials. But the menu still largely revolves around its classics—like veal marrow bones with coarse grey salt (no, that wasn’t invented at London’s St. John) or chicken liver mousse with pistachios, saumon au cerfeuil, steak tartare (bien relevé, of course) with frites and rognons de veau sauce moutarde. The gâteaux Opéra is as good as ever. The francophile wine list is full of treasures, the markup emphatically reasonable. And yes: on weekdays the kitchen is still open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. Bon appétit.

Monday to Friday
8:00 AM until 3:00 AM

10:00 AM until 3:00 AM

10:00 AM until 2:00 AM

Photos: Courtesy of L’Express

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