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Posts Tagged ‘Chinatown’

Since we’ve left Old Montreal, now seems like a good time for a review of our culinary experience there.

Chinese:

La Maison Kam Fung – dimsum everyday is ok, though dishes on the cart are sometimes cold or the carts don’t run very frequently later on in the service. Also has a sizable dinner menu, but the English translations of the Chinese menu aren’t always exact so the diner is best describing what they want rather than using names. Like Canadian-style eggplant (otherwise called hot garlic eggplant) and chicken with crispy fried spinach. Long wait for a table, though you can sometimes shorten the wait if willing to share a table with strangers.

Ruby Rouge – while the dimsum selection and quality here is not as good as La Maison Kam Fung, but there is much more seating in the huge banquet area.

Niukee – we stopped coming here because the food quality was variable and became more often than not not very good. Liked the green beans with pork stir fry and the crispy fried beef.

Mai Xiang Yuan – also known to us as the “Olympics dumpling place” because they seemed to always have a recording of the Beijing Olympics playing. No frills service, but the dumplings are very good – preferred boiled, not fried.

Qing hua Dumpling – not as good as the other dumpling place. Service slow, quality of food varies. Liked the spicy tofu appetizer. This resto has a sister resto downtown which is much better.

Korean:

Chez Bong – unfortunately, this hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown is the best Korean resto we’ve yet found in the city. The food is standard, but I find the kimchee to be a bit too sour for my taste and it is after all in a basement.

Ice cream:

Muki – our favourite artisan ice cream shop. The owner is always making improvements and the ice cream is very good if expensive. Excellent thin homemade waffle cones. Also offers waffle sandwiches for lunch.

Chez Catherine – our second favourite ice cream shop. Has soft serve ice cream as well.

Japanese:

Kagayaki – hole in the wall shabu shabu place in Chinatown. Service is very slow, but it’s fun to cook your own food in a hot pot.

Kyo bar Japonaise – new sake bar. Expensive. Service is good, small plate dishes hit-or-miss. Somewhat of a fushion place and not strictly Japanese.

Tatami – inventive sushi options with fish tanks for tables. The tempura usually comes out overly battered and burned, but the sushi rolls are interesting and we especially liked the “pizza” with avocado, salmon sushi, and shredded crab meat. Service can be slow, even during slow nights.

Tokyo – mediocre sushi restaurant, not really worth the effort. Quality of food is not that great.

Sumo ramen – if you want a big bowl of ramen, this is your place. I happen to enjoy ramen, and liked climbing up the stairs to the hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown.

Everything else:

l’Arrivage – pleasant contemporary bistro on the top of the archeology museum. Nice view of the Old Port and very reasonable brunch menu. Service can be a little slow.

l’Atelier Argentine – fairly new Argentine restaurant. Can be quite crowded, reservations recommended. We enjoyed the novelty when it had first opened, but thought the quality went down somewhat on subsequent visits.

Bonaparte – the food is somewhat old-fashioned, and I was disappointed when my entrees came out with boring little sections of plainly boiled or steamed vegetables on the plate. It’s all right if you’re just staying in the area for a few days, but it’s not a truly great dining experience, and the food unfortunately doesn’t match the romantic decor or service.

Boris Bistro – for some reason, we often had trouble locating the restaurant. The food is not that great, but we went back repeatedly for one reason or another and liked their small plates options the best.

Bourlingueur – only ate here once when we first moved in. Wasn’t impressed – felt like food could have come out of a can and did not want to go back.

Brit & Chips – somewhat greasy fish and chips place. Not bad, no frills.

Le Cartet – I never liked this place, as the line to get into brunch was always very long and I found the somewhat traditional Quebec brunch dishes overly large and not to my taste. Part of the bistro is a gourmet food store and the other part is a series of long tables.

Chez Delmo – oddly decorated seafood place. Food only ok and not worth a repeat.

Chez Queux – there’s something charming about such an old-fashioned restaurant, which seems stuck around the 1960s. Unfortunately, you can still hear the Old Port buskers through the walls, and the decor is horrible, but the table service is charming and you can enjoy sentimental dishes like sole meuniere prepared at your table.

Le Club Chasse et Peche – was taken here once. Food was only ok for the steep price. Decor is somewhat dim and almost dingy.

Dolcetto – we went here a number of times during the summer, but stopped going because the quality seemed to be slipping. Bread is offered with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Small plates. Can be noisy and crowded.

Eggspectations – unfortunately, the Old Montreal incarnations are never good – eggs are underdone, venue is dreary.

Epicier – we dined here once a couple of years ago, but I recall the experience with pleasure. One of those pretentious restaurants with single apples as centerpieces and decorated like a high end gourmet grocery store, this is a very nice fine dining restaurant with contemporary dishes and good food.

Europea Espace Boutique – high end takeout sandwich shop. When I really want to treat myself and if I’m home for whatever reason during the week, I go here for a takeout bag of sandwich – I liked the pomme et brie or the boeuf et chevre – beverage and dessert.

Restaurant Gandhi – ok but nothing special Indian resto. Nothing to draw us back there again.

Holder – noisy, boisterous masculine restaurant with equal room on the menu for alcohol as for food. But if you can squeeze in, the food is very good, though the menu does not vary.

Keg Steakhouse – unfortunately the best steakhouse we’ve been to so far in Montreal. Plates are sometimes greasy, service can be a little slow, and I think the bread is microwaved. A little expensive for what it is, too, though all right. Liked the appetizers like artichoke dip and shrimp cocktail. Bar selection is fine, too. Sometimes I felt like I went here just to stock up on their little mints with chocolate inside.

l’Arrivage – this bistro has a nice view of the Old Port on top of the architectural museum. The brunch menu doesn’t vary, but is a good deal for what it is. Service can be slow, but the 3-course experience is usually worth it.

Mechant Boeuf – one of those somewhat sleazy steak restaurants where the music is too loud and the other patrons are mostly older men dining with much younger women. Food wasn’t worth the headache.

Ming Tao Xuan – exotic-looking Chinese tea shop. Nice for an afternoon tea.

Modavie – the sort of mediocre steak and jazz resto that attract starry-eyed tourists. Food is only ok, music not so great (though I admit that I don’t care for jazz myself).

l’Orignal – pleasant little high end basement bistro.

Olive et Gourmando – our Saturday brunch ritual. Difficult to get a table, we often took our orders to go and ate them in a nearby cafe. The menu changes a little seasonally, and the service is a little odd – there’s a certain ritual to ordering in one place and then lining up in another to pay or order drinks. My favourites were the chevre chaud sandwich with homemade ketchup and the salty ricotta maison.

l’Orignal – went here once and always intended to go again but never did. A sort of upscale basement bistro with a lot of game. Felt very Quebecois for some reason.

Osteria Venti – it can be very hard to get a reservation here, but we rarely tried reserving a table in advance. The menu changes often. I especially liked the tender spare rib with creamy polenta and we long for the slice of bread spread with creamy marscapone, roasted squash, and fried sage.

Safran et Cannelle – the set up is odd, as you’re greeted by a nicely set up table setting when you walk in through the door…but are then directed to walk upstairs which looks nowhere near as nice. Not sure if anyone is allowed to sit downstairs, perhaps it’s just for show. Moroccan food was only ok, and nothing to really draw you back again and again.

Stash Cafe – the only Polish restaurant I’ve ever been to. Always get the borscht (which they spell differently) consomme and either the stuffed cabbage rolls or the placki. Avoid the fruit squares, which are served cold with sour cream. Service can be a little too laidback. Live inane piano music.

Titanic – popular weekday lunch spot. I didn’t care for it, mostly because my sandwich ended up completely drenched in mayonnaise and it was impossible to get a seat. The sort of place that you go to if you work nearby, but which leaves newcomers a bit lost due to the ordering system as you wait awkwardly by the cashier for your order to be ready.

Toque – I only ate here once, and had the tasting menu, but was disappointed by the over application of soy sauce to all of the dishes and the lack of artistry in the presentation. It’s supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the city, but aside from the imposing service regime and large amount of space between tables, the food did not recommend itself.

Vallier – we basically only went here when we couldn’t get into Holder, which is next door. Service is slow and inattentive, the menu never changes and is limited. Hamburgers are served on enormous bready buns with a sizable side salad and fries and the soups are never quite properly seasoned. My favourite part of coming here was eating the bit of wet maple sugar that comes with my husband’s latte.

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A comforting sign on the sidewalk bears the image of a cartoon sumo wrestler. Diners walk up a flight of stairs to the hole in a wall on the second floor. Multiple portable air conditioners and fans occupy every available window and at least one other one by the cash register, which displays a few Japanese snacks for sale, keeping the place reasonably cool during the summer. Diners sit at tables covered in plastic and peruse a menu with items ranging from the promised ramen (replete with helpful picture and labels), to edamame or eel appetizers and mochi ice cream dessert. I got #8, the beef ramen, the both times we’ve dined here. The large, satisfying bowl includes house-made ramen noodles (not the squiggly instant noodles, in case anyone was wondering), bean sprouts, half a medium-boiled egg, thinly sliced beef, corn, scallions, dried garlic stems. The miso broth was a tad salty and the soya broth less so. Prices are reasonable. The clientele seems to be mostly young people and families.

Metro: Place d’Armes

1007 Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue de la Gauchetiere Ouest

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Bustling hole-in-the-wall 2nd floor resto in Chinatown. Some might think the Cantonese food is too greasy, since most things seem to be stir fried with a thickened glaze. There is a sufficient Asian-to-Caucasian ratio to warrant it attention. It’s politically incorrect, but realistically a good gauge of Chinese restaurant quality if there are more Asians to Caucasians diners. Lots of large tables with lazy susans and lots of slurping. Yes, there is General Tao’s chicken and Kung Pao chicken, too. The soups seemed to be popular – perhaps one day I’ll get my husband to try the shark fin soup or one of the various squid and seafood dishes with me. The chowmein is tasty, but needs to be eaten quickly before the sauce soaks into it. The mushrooms, bamboo and bokchoy were ok, too. Two main dishes is sufficient for two people. Many specials are written on the walls in Chinese.

70 Rue de la Gauchetiere O. at Rue St. Urbain

metro: Place d’Armes

See my September 2009 review here.

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This used to be Hanashima in 2009 – I don’t know what the story is behind the name change, but the menu, decor, and servers stayed the same.

Minimalistic modern shabu shabu hole in the wall, seated communally around a long u-shaped table. Affordable yet satisfying. Diners select their main course – chicken, pork, beef, or vegetable – and their broth – traditional, spicy, or chicken. Spicy seemed to be the most popular, though I enjoy chicken broth. You get a small bowl of rice, a large wok of broth and two plates – one with thin raw slices of your meat or veggie entrée and one full of sliced napa, greens, carrot, daikon, mushroom, and udon. I enjoy playing with my food (looove mushu pork and those Vietnamese rice tortillas that you roll yourselves at the table), and I get a kick out of placing each item into the broth just before I eat it. The meat slices cook within seconds. My husband enjoys the food, though is sometimes frustrated at the effort involved with dipping things into the broth and then scooping them out – it does tend to get a little messy and I’m not sure I’d recommend it for those unused to using chopsticks or for small children who might not be trusted near a hot pot. This might be a good date place.

Service is hit or miss; one to two servers take care of the entire restaurant (and possibly everything in the kitchen, too, from what we’ve seen). Sometimes there’s green tea or red bean ice cream, sometimes not.

75 Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest at Rue St. Urbain

metro: Place d’Armes

See my September 2009 review here.

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Don’t let the shady exterior fool you (entrance in an alley, rundown look, rusty gate half-pulled over door, walking up creaking stairs to the 2nd floor dining room). It’s also just outside of Chinatown. Actually, the interior looks a little shady, too – plastic over the tables, rundown look, etc..

This hole in the wall is one of the better, authentic Chinese restos in Montreal, though food is variable. Round tables are big enough for large parties, lazy susans are propped up against the wall, a/c during the summer, and never more than 1 or 2 other diners when we’ve been here. Food is brought up from the 1st floor kitchen using a dumb-waiter. I loved their crispy salt and pepper beef, stir fried green beans with salty ground pork, spicy garlic eggplant and crispy shrimp (with the heads still attached), sizzling beef, and even the Kung Po Chicken. This is not a tourist trap – the prices are very reasonable and you’ll often see the servers busy making fresh little dumplings in the middle of the restaurant.

Service is a little spotty, sometimes due to language difficulties. I discussed language issues in Chinatown restaurants with one mainland Chinese server (who no longer works there) who said that at some places they require English (for customers), French (for customers), Cantonese (for the chef), and Vietnamese (for the chef and other servers). This particular restaurant seems to be primarily Chinese with a bit of English and French. I overheard some diners callously trying to play word games with the servers in an attempt to prove their intellectual superiority, and winced at hearing the servers try to earnestly answer the lateral questions (the diners thought that 20 dumplings for ~$5 had to be a typo on the menu; it wasn’t, but they insisted that there must be a translation error and refused to accept the server’s assurances that there were indeed 20 dumplings per plate).

Food quality can also be variable – 1st time willowy beef was phenomenal, but 2nd and 3rd time it was harsher and lacking in something. I don’t think they offer willowy beef anymore – the boiled spicy beef is similar without the tofu. Just don’t eat one of the dried red peppers or you’ll be very sorry.

1163 Rue Clark at Boulevard Rene Levesque Ouest

metro: Place d’Armes, Saint-Laurent, or Place des Arts

See my September 2009 review here.

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Nestled in a basement in Chinatown, this surprisingly clean hole in the wall serves tasty Korean food. This is a humble place, but still has the best Korean food we’ve found in the city.

The banchan, or little amuse bouche-type dishes that are commonly served with meals, includes too sweet radish kimchi, decent cabbage kimchi, and seasoned potatoes. In winter, the thin, spicy soup also has potato in it – Quebec-Korean-style, I suppose. We often order dol sot bibimbap, jap chae, and bulgolgi. The bulgolgi is thicker than it usually is, but is attractively served in a sizzling stone plate; table-side cooking is also available. Dishes were churned out in an impressively short time and are hot and delicious – especially nice on a chilly, wet night – however service can be slow when the resto is full (especially during conventions). The hot tea is made with a tea bag. Kimchi to go is available. Korean pop music videos are played on the flat screen tv. Pay at the counter.

B-1021 Boul. St-Laurent at Rue de la Gauchetière

Metro: Place d’Armes

See my October 2009 review here.

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Buried on the second floor of an unassuming little mall in Chinatown lies a bustling, no-frills dimsum resto. Dimsum is served everyday. The rapid turnover is impressive, even at 1pm on a Sunday with a crowded waiting area, and once seated it is easy to get a cart server’s attention. Dish selection is decent, and our favourite is the fragrant lotus-wrapped sticky rice.  The quality of the food is fine, but nothing special. It’s best to get a table close to where the carts are coming out, or you might get cold food; we were once served cold deep fried taro-wrapped pork. When you want to pay, you have to wave down a waiter – clad in black – and they calculate your bill.  The tab for 5 dimsum dishes was an astonishingly cheap $18, sans tip (it would have been a few bucks more had they had chive dumplings).

1111 Rue St. Urbain, Unit M05 (2nd floor) at Blvd. Rene Levesque O.

metro: Place d’Armes

 

See November 2009 review here.

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