The lights of Montreal sparkled like a giant, multi-hued gemstone necklace thrown over the city but they paled in comparison to the golden lights of the Casino de Montreal as we pulled up in our taxi. Located on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, this fabulous building was originally the French Pavilion for the Expo’67, but was inaugurated as the Casino de Montréal on October 9, 1993. At the time, it housed 65 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines. The casino opened its doors on October 9, 1993 and was an instant success, with average daily visitor numbers reaching the 12,000 mark. It has expanded several times and major renovations began in the fall of 2009.
The Casino de Montreal is one of the world’s largest casinos, provides five floors of gaming and is one of the city’s star attractions. It now has more than 2,900 slot machines, 130 gaming tables and it never closes. That’s right – it’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Some gamblers will be dismayed to hear that the rules at this casino are a little different – no smoking at all and no drinking while you are playing.
We wandered through the gaming rooms where bright lights and colors combined with hundreds of visitors enjoying themselves to create an exciting panorama. But we weren’t here to gamble. We were here to eat.
Dinner, to be precise. Dinner at Nuances, the only 5 Diamond CAA-AAA restaurant in Montreal and one which is maintained this lofty status since 2000. The contemporary beauty of the small restaurant located on the 5th floor of the Casino is set off by the huge windows which overlook the St. Lawrence River and the reflected lights of Montreal. We were seated at a small table by the windows and marveled at the incredible view before we were presented with our menus.
We looked at each other, a little overwhelmed by all the choices. Nuances presents a truly unique dining experience with modern and classic French cuisine and everything on the menu looked absolutely wonderful. Our waitress, perhaps sensing that we were overwhelmed with the choices, suggested a special tasting or decouverte (discovery) menu. This is not even on the regular menu but consists of several small courses, chosen by the chef, which allow you to try a variety of items. This sounded just right, so we agreed. This was the best restaurant decision we have ever made in our lives.
I can’t even begin to tell you about all the wonderful food we had, all in tiny portions beautifully arranged on the plate so they were just the right amount. I remember creamy asparagus soup with a crab-stuffed spring roll perched on top; halibut that had been pan-fried to a golden brown and covered with some creamy sauce that was the best thing I have ever tasted; mushroom ravioli; and thin strips of venison which I was leery about but she assured us would be delicious. And they were. By this point, we were completely full but, somehow, we managed to eat some sort of delicious, warm chocolate cake with a hot fudge center.
That might very well have been the best meal we have ever eaten. If you are in Montreal and looking for the perfect place to spend a little time being entertained by as many gaming opportunities as you can possibly imagine and having the best dinner of your lives, I recommend the Casino de Montreal. It was an easy cab ride from the Auberge Bonaparte – not more than 15 minutes and the cab was about $15 – $17. Dinner was a little more than that. But totally worth it.
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