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From the Editor

DON’T GET ME WRONG. I like my Kaluga Queen caviar from China just as much as the next guy. And, if next week a waiter at my Toronto local restaurant goes hog-wild over my Dover sole with a slicer and a fat Tasmanian-farmed Périgord truffle, I will certainly not ask him to stop. But as much as I enjoy my international delicacies, for me the highest order of restaurant cooking is rooted in its place and time.

In short, nothing beats the feeling of being in an unfamiliar restaurant somewhere, looking down at a beautiful dish freshly arrived at the table, and knowing that even if you’d been transported to that place blindfolded, there are enough clues on the plate to effectively communicate exactly where you are, and what time of year it is, too.

That’s exactly how things transpire time and again at Mon Lapin in Montreal. Sit down to an array of small plates that might include sliced tender razor clam mixed with white asparagus, some fried stuffed courgette flowers topped with small lobes of oursin, or a slow-baked tail of Gaspé halibut doused with chamomile-infused emulsified butter and topped with sea spinach, and you know you’re in Quebec, in springtime. Clock the culinary whimsy (croque-pétoncles, tomato steak with beef-tallow Choron, fried chicken mushrooms, etc.), the exceptionally finessed execution and the palpable joie de vivre in the room and you could only be at Mon Lapin.

What a restaurant. There is no other à la carte restaurant in the country I can think of where I am so willing to forgo both menu and wine list and, instead, defer to the waitstaff as to what they think is best.

But there’s no need to take it from me. This year, we had more judges than ever before (135, all told) voting across the country. And it was they who anointed Mon Lapin as the best restaurant in Canada and our first top-ranked restaurant from Quebec since Toqué! in 2016. Sincerest congratulations to Vanya Filipovic, Marc-Olivier Frappier, Jessica Noël, Marc-Antoine Gélinas, Alex Landry and the rest of the Mon Lapin team. I look forward to dining with them again soon.

It is profoundly satisfying to see restaurants like Mon Lapin — and so many others across the country — shaking off their pandemic travails and returning to good health and the highest standards. Our 2023 list is, as usual, bristling with quality choices. And in the details, much has changed. Three restaurants — AnnaLena and Kissa Tanto (both in Vancouver) and Beba (in Verdun) — are new to the top 10 this year. Four others — led by the hard-charging 20 Victoria and 2023’s Best New Restaurant, Prime Seafood Palace — are new to the top 20. Another seven have cracked the top 50 for the first time. And there are some 14 other newcomers to the final 50. Of which I have to admit that, while looking over the early polling results, none had me quite so excited as Parcelles, in Austin, Quebec (population under 2,000). Because when I was growing up there, in the ’70s, the only restaurant in town was a casse-croûte peddling pogo sticks and horrid fish and chips (translated on the French side of the typewritten menu as “fish n chip”).

Restaurants like Parcelles, that have people travelling to places they would never have previously bothered with for the exclusive pleasures of a great table have been singled out for extensive recognition in this issue in our Best Destinations series, which starts on page 16 and culminates in our Best Destination Restaurant Award (page 28). We’ve also introduced a new award for 2023 for the very important category of Best Restaurant Bar, while Best Pastry Chef has returned, after a pandemic hiatus.

We hope you enjoy this issue. And stay tuned for exciting changes coming for our 10th anniversary next year.