En route to the Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal recently, I followed the practice of so many people and made a reservation next door at Bonaparte Restaurant on Saint Francois-Xavier. While this place is indeed a favorite of those heading to or from a show, it has an extraordinary reputation among regulars and newbies alike which is why reservations are definitely recommended.
When I called for a table, I was told they were booked to capacity, but there would be space at the bar. Since I was dining alone on this night, I decided to accept that option, and I could not have been happier with the result.
The manager, Frederic, noted that I would be in the good hands of bartender Maxime Giasson and was correct. Maxime has been working at Bonaparte for nine years now. He works at a feverish pace, but never loses the ability to carry on a good back and forth conversation. I was not drinking on this evening, and we got into a conversation about how my favorite soda beverage was Dr. Pepper. That resulted in a conversation about the classic movie Forest Gump and the Dr. Pepper scene which Maxime said turned him onto that flavor. The next thing I knew he took out a jar of some cherry flavored mix and transformed a can of coca cola into something much sweeter.
Part of a facility which also features a 37-room hotel, the restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner seven days a week and for lunch weekdays. There are à la carte, table d`hôte and pre-theatre menus. The latter caters to a significant number of Centaur regulars, beginning at 5:30 pm. “This service always guarantees that you will be out of the door with plenty of time to see your show,” Director Martin Bédard notes.
Bonaparte itself has been part of this city`s landscape for nearly 35 years. It serves classic French cuisine. There are wonderful soups, salads, hot and cold starters, fish and seafood, meat and poultry to choose from.
I had not been to Bonaparte in more than two years, but I still remembered some of the excellent menu items I enjoyed.
For starters, I ordered a warm bowl of lobster bisque enhanced with ginger. It was seasoned so well I declined Maxime’s offer of salt or pepper. It was superb. That was followed by their homemade smoked salmon, with fresh vegetables and truffle oil. To describe this as “fresh” was an understatement.
Now I do not get to eat duck very often, but I vividly remembered how sensational that was here. For the main course, I chose the roasted duck breast, flavored with maple syrup and wild berries. It came with roasted potatoes, green beans, butternut squash, shredded carrots and broccoli. I savored every bite of the duck. What a treat!
For dessert, I could not resist the temptation of ordering the lime and meringue pie and yes they make it beautifully here. With a cup of decaf coffee, this was a decadent way to conclude my dining experience.
You can also order the “Symphony,” a sampling of cheese cake, red berry mousse cake, and chocolate and hazel mousse cake and crème brûlée.
The restaurant has nice table d’hôte and tasting menus as well.
Bonaparte has a lovely dining room and bar, with three delightfully decorated halls in the Empire style that dominated the Napoleonic era : The “Impératrice” hall, with its chimney, its majestic sideboard and French hotel paneling, can accommodate up to seventy people; The “Verriere,” renovated in 2011, with its stained glass, French doors and the glass roof, offers you maximum of brightness; and The Centre Hall, with its stonework and the small alcoves, gives you the feel for romance.
Bonaparte Restaurant is open Monday to Friday, from 11:30 am to 2 pm, every night from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm and for breakfast. You can make a reservation by calling 514 844-4368 or at Open Table. The address is 447 St-François-Xavier. Info: www.restaurantbonaparte.com