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Posts Tagged ‘Niu Kee’

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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One of our favourite Chinese restos in Montreal is going away at the end of the month. The owners of Baguette d’Ivoire are retiring and have sold the resto to someone else. So there will still be a restaurant there, but it won’t ever be the same. We’ve been trying to go more frequently since we heard.

Western (pink) décor belies good Chinese food, and not cheap takeout, either. Real Chinese food, resulting from decades of culinary experience. They even have a big gold fish tank. Some spicy Thai options on the menu as well. Kudos regarding the crispy taro birds nest mango chicken and the juicy and tender basil beef is the most popular dish on the menu. While the food is great, the best part of dinner is the feisty server/co-owner. Resto always deserted when we’ve dined, but the waiter assures us it fills up unexpectedly. Interior is better kept than those in Chinatown.

1242 Rue Mackay at Rue St. Catherine O.

Metro: Guy-Concordia (also Lucien L’Allier, if you’re on the orange line)

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Don’t let the shady exterior fool you (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.. La Baguette d’Ivoire definitely has the advantage in appearance, though I find the cuisine at Niu Kee to be slightly more satisfying. Just slightly.

This is my favorite Chinese restaurant thus far in Montreal and eat here regularly. 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 spicy garlic eggplant and crispy shrimp (with the heads still attached), willowy beef, 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 also craved a soy sauce dipping sauce (soy sauce, vinegar, scallions, and maybe fresh garlic and ginger) for the dumplings, which come 20 to a plate, but they only serve a sort of dark vinegar at the side of the table.

Still, the satisfying savory, chewy fare is enough to earn it an A- in my view, especially in light of the disappointing dearth of quality Asian cuisine in Montreal. Lately, I’ve found myself recommending this restaurant to everyone that I see, including several vegetarians.

1163 Rue Clark at Blvd. Rene Levesque O.

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

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Western (pink) décor belies pretty good Chinese food. At least they have a gold fish tank. Some spicy Thai options on the menu as well. Kudos regarding the crispy taro birds nest mango chicken. While the food is great, the best part of dinner is the feisty server. Resto always deserted when we’ve dined, but the waiter assures us it fills up unexpectedly. Interior is better kept than those in Chinatown.  This is my husband’s favorite Chinese resto in Montreal; I rate it 2nd to Niu Kee.

1242 Rue Mackay at Rue St. Catherine O.

Metro: Guy-Concordia

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