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Posts Tagged ‘hole in the wall’

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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If you like handmade Chinese dumplings, and only handmade Chinese dumplings, then this is your hole-in-the-wall. If you want anything else, like egg rolls or General Tso’s Chicken or fortune cookies, this is not the place for you. The dumplings here are small, tasty, and so juicy that you have to either stick a whole dumpling in your mouth to prevent squirting liquid across the table, or bite a tiny bit from the top and suck out a little bit of the broth before eating the rest of it (both options impossible while the little silk purses are still scalding hot from the kitchen).

Service and decor is minimal, but one doesn’t require much service or decor to enjoy a platter of dumplings. I recommend the fried option instead of steaming, since it isn’t oily at all and leaves the dumpling slightly chewy. The price might not be as cheap as one would expect from a hole-in-the-wall, but dumplings like this can’t be found just anywhere in Montreal.

Metro: Guy-Concordia

1676 Avenue Lincoln at Rue Guy

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Finally, we’ve found a decent Korean bbq place in Montreal. Nestled in a basement in Chinatown, the surprisingly clean hole in the wall serves tasty Korean food.

We were served too sweet radish kimchi, decent cabbage kimchi, and seasoned potatoes. The slightly spicy soup we were served also had potato in it – Quebecoise Korean-style, I suppose. For consistency, we ordered dol sot bibimbap, jap chae, and bulgolgi. The bulgolgi was thicker than it usually is, but was attractively served in a sizzling stone plate; table-side cooking is also available, but the other tables were taken. All of the dishes were churned out in an impressively short time and were hot and delicious – especially nice on a chilly, wet night. The hot tea was made with a tea bag and we were initially served dishes without chopsticks and spoons, but I can overlook that in a small basement resto. Pay at the counter.

B-1021 Blvd. St. Laurent at Rue de la Gauchetiere

metro: Place d’Armes

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