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Think casino food, and hot dogs may come more readily to mind than haute cuisine. Not so in the province of Quebec, where visitors to its three internationally renowned casinos can dine in some of Canada’s best restaurants. Nuances, located in the Casino de Montreal near the heart of Montreal, and Le Baccara, at the Casino du Lac-Leamy on the border near Ottawa, have both garnered prestigious Five Diamond awards from the Canadian and American Automobile Associations. The much smaller Casino de Charlevoix, north of Quebec City, adjoins Fairmont’s Le Manoir Richelieu, which also offers excellent dining in its four-diamond restaurant, Le Charlevoix. All three casinos offer extensive gambling opportunities. Casino de Montreal, by far the largest, boasts more than 3,000 slot machines and 124 tables offering blackjack, roulette, baccarat, pai gow poker, Caribbean stud poker, grand prix poker, and Sic Bo, plus craps, electronic Bingo, Keno, and two electronic “Royal Ascot” horse race tracks. (For the uninitiated, the latter looks like a children’s game, with three-inch horses galloping around an oval track. The stakes, however, are decidedly grown-up.) Much of the Casino de Montreal is located in the renovated French and Quebec pavilions originally built for Expo ’67. Along with gambling, it offers cabaret performances and dinner shows. The casino’s big draw, however, is its premier restaurant, Nuances, which has also earned awards from Wine Spectator magazine for its impressive wine cellar. Executive chef Jean-Pierre Curtat emphasizes fresh, local produce and has a light touch with traditional French cuisine. Among the signature dishes that have helped it earn five diamonds are such appetizers as house-smoked salmon with potato galette and mascarpone, and a veloute of mussels and clams, served in puff pastry. A main course of lamb prepared with marjoram, spring vegetables, and couscous with truffle sauce is exquisite and aromatic when it emerges from the oven in its earthenware pot. Among Nuances’s other dishes are beef tenderloin with red wine shallot compote, and grilled red tuna with eggplant caviar. Its dessert-to-die-for is a chocolate gateau with a vanilla fondant center, served with maple and pecan ice cream. Open seven days a week, the Casino de Montreal buzzes 24 hours a day, but if its charms pale briefly, the city beckons just minutes away with its plethora of cafes, museums, and churches, as well as 19 miles of underground shopping. Auberge Bonaparte (Tel. 514-844-1448) is a charming place to stay in Old Montreal. A comfortable 90-minute train ride from Montreal brings travelers to Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. and spectacularly beautiful with its plants, waterfalls, and cherry wood interior. Expansive windows let in sunshine and light, a departure from the closed-in design of many gambling venues. The casino has 1,870 slot machines and 64 tables, as well as a 1,000-seat performance hall that has attracted such performers as Bill Cosby and Chubby Checker. Located on the shores of a small lake, it provides docking facilities for 20 boats from mid-May to mid-October. The adjoining five-star Hilton Lac-Leamy (Tel. 866-488-7888) offers year-round heated indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a spa, a fitness center and upscale boutiques. Lac-Leamy’s Le Baccara restaurant is noteworthy for executive chef Denis Girard’s creative interpretations of traditional French cuisine. His menu degustation, or tasting menu, offers diners a way to sample a variety of foods in small portions, served with appropriate wines. These might include appetizers of lobster, smoked halibut and green papayas served in a tomato crown, or duck foie gras garnished with ginger-poached quince. A main-course tasting portion of partridge breast served in truffle sauce might be followed by a few bites of roast veal marinated in port enhanced with licorice and served with a squash gratin. The casino is just across the Ottawa River from the capital city’s myriad attractions, but a popular side trip in Gatineau is the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the country’s most-visited museum. Its permanent exhibitions depict 1,000 years of Canadian history. The more modest Casino de Charlevoix (780 slot machines and 22 tables), located in a bucolic setting 60 miles north of Quebec City, makes it easy to balance time at the slots with outdoor activities. A designated World Biosphere Reserve, the Charlevoix region challenges rock climbers who tackle the highest rock face east of the Rockies and golfers who enjoy the area’s scenic courses. The casino’s location near the St. Lawrence River also provides ample opportunities for water activities, including ice fishing during the frigid winter months. An indoor corridor connects the casino to the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu (Tel. 418-665-3703). Although Quebec is primarily French-speaking, staff at the casinos and restaurants are bilingual, and language is never a barrier. But Lady Luck, it must be remembered, speaks only when she chooses. THE BASICS � Casino information: www.casinos-quebec.com; Tel. 800-665-2274. � Getting there: Air Canada serves both Montreal and Ottawa airports, as do most major U.S. carriers. � Getting around: Canada’s VIA Rail offers train service several times daily between Montreal and Quebec City, Toronto and Ottawa/Gatineau. � On the Web: bonjourquebec.com.

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