And then there are restaurants that don't need to prove anything: as long as they stay true to their mission and character, they will be deservedly popular.
L'Express at 3927 rue St-Denis belongs to the second category. In the 20-odd years that the place has existed, it slowly transformed its status from that of a "cool new thing" to that of a Montreal institution.
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L'Express is a Paris-style bistro/brasserie, done right. The formula is as simple as it is effective: the lights are bright, the wine list is impressive, the menu is exactly one page long (a hand-written page at that), the kitchen's output is remarkably reliable, the waitstaff is mostly French, the hours are long (making it one of the few places in Montreal where you can order your meal after midnight) and despite years' worth of travel press mentions, the clientele is still mostly local..
Over the past few years I've visited more than two dozen times and by now probably have ordered most things on the menu. In all honesty, I would be hard-pressed to remember a single negative experience with any of the dishes. Some may have been better than others, but the quality is such that when I decide on my order, the only question on my mind is: "What do I feel like having today?" (Ok, I am simplifying my thought process, but not by much).
Personally, I usually go for something light to start with (like, the chèvre chaud salad), but if you want to dive right into an artery-blocking indulgence, you can order foie gras as an appetizer: it's very good.
Specials of the day are listed on little menu inserts and are typically quite good, but if you'd rather stay with the "regular" menu, my suggestions would be the pot-au-feu (if you like bone marrow.. I didn't think I did until I tried it) or the poulet de grain, for example. The steak dishes are excellent as well.
The dessert menu is good without being outstanding, although I nearly always order something. Lately, I realized that the two or three options on the dessert menu that are not made in-house actually work better for me, but honestly, the in-house stuff is not bad either.
A short note on the restaurant's atmosphere. As I mentioned, it's distinctly Parisian - an impression that's reinforced by the décor and waitstaff. The clientele gravitates towards the bobo "middle-aged creative professional" profile, but without over-specialization. My point is, you'll probably feel at home no matter what your profession is, but it could serve as a nice observation deck for watching the media crowd and the Place des Arts gang dine in their natural habitat, particularly late at night.
3927 rue St-Denis