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The West Island has been steadily becoming known for it’s vibrant South East Asian community and the gloriously heavy, fragrant food its natives produce. It makes total sense. The immigrant population here is thriving – just take a look at the perpetually busy Adonis, Akhavan, Mourelatos grocery stores and the packed ethnic restaurants down the Sources strip (Tandoor & Grille, Aryana, Shahi Palace, Pushap etc.). Rumor has it that another Indian restaurant is quickly taking over the scene, attracting customers away from the more popular places previously mentioned and into another, more discreet counterpart: Bombay Choupati. Our curiosity was piqued – what could seriously rival Tandoor & Grille in the West Island? We went in to find out.
La Famille des Oeufs occupies the space formerly known as Eggspectations in the West Island. Funnily enough, the place has hardly changed – the decor, the layout, the staff… even the menu itself. Granted, the fonts are a little bit different and the paper maybe a little bit newer but everything else? Same kind of food, different names (ie Yolk Around the Clock = Bagelette).
As an ex-resident of the West Island, I’m happy to say that I still frequently go back and visit. Panama has been one of the newer, ‘trendier’ restaurants to appear in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, along with the installments of La Verita and Panne Pazzo by Marche de l’Ouest. After hearing several acquaintances praise the Jean Talon location of Panama for their authentic Greek food, we decided to try it closer to home.
Divided between the Shahi Palace and Tandoor & Grille, we opted for the former as it seemed advocates for it were stronger than for the latter. I personally had never been so I was totally game. Ya’ll know how much I love trying new restaurants…
With the recent popularity of froyo aka frozen yogurt – cue Yeh!, Pinkberry and others – gelato seems to have taken a back seat. Places like Havre aux Glaces and Leo le Glacier in Montreal as well as La Dolce Vita and Paysanne Gelato in the West Island are part of the growing movement to bring it back. Every bucket of gelato is unique, from the color, the consistency and of course, the taste.
Aikawa is not what it used to be. Once a shining beacon of light in the West Island sushi scene (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration), Aikawa brought a sort of sophistication to the Japanese cuisine relative to the other places around here. Serving primarily Japanese fusion, the place definitely does not stick to the rules and has no qualms about serving items such as
Don’t be fooled by the tinted windows or the somewhat seedy exterior (i.e. purple and red neon signs, worn in seating and carpeting). Pekin Garden serves some great Peking duck – that is in fact, their specialty. We’ve been going here for years on and off, probably once every year or two. It’s a place that will do when you’re craving straight up Chinese food and some greasy, fatty, delicious duck.
Revamping the space of a former sushi restaurant on Des Sources, Carribean Tasty Treats (spelt like so on purpose) has a mission to bring the West Island a taste of of the tropical islands. With a huge poster of Bob Marley on the wall and a calming beach landscape adjacent to it, the place attempts to bring diners to a warmer climate despite the erratic precipitation falling just outside the door. There is nothing quite like spicy jerk chicken and a glass of cold Red Stripe to take you there, amiright?
The Wok Cafe goes for a more understated name that doesn’t rely on a play on words that incites a smirk or an outright laugh. Take Wok and Roll or Wok and Run, where the puns are taken to another level. Don’t get me wrong, they’re hilarious – I chuckle every time. We’ve caught fleeting glimpses of the Wok Cafe on our way to the fish market but never looked at it long enough to realize that it is much more than just a cafe. Actually, it’s not really even a cafe at all. It’s a Chinese restaurant that serves some pretty great dishes that include your typical crowd pleasers like General Tao chicken, sweet n’ sour pork and crispy noodles but more importantly, some authentic ones – look out for the menu written in Chinese only at the last page. If you don’t know how to read the characters, just ask. I’m sure the servers would be more than willing to explain. One of these items is the fish belly, crab and squid soup we ordered to start. The texture is admittedly unique, with the fish belly and squid tasting a little more jelly-ish and rubbery that you would expect (this is good) and the soup just between thick and thin in consistency. With a spoonful of black vinegar mixed in, this soup is not quite like any other. I love this soup – it’s an old favorite that’s served at almost any Chinese restaurant and if you haven’t tried it before, I say go for it.
We had a red curry and coconut beef dish that was served along with some red and green peppers. They amount of peppers was overkill and for some reason the red ones tasted much fresher and crunchier than the green ones… There were easily at least ten slices of green peppers left on the plate when we left. Luckily, that didn’t take away from the tastiness of the protein. The eggplants were served hot sufficiently mushy – these have a strong taste and are harder to eat alone but on top of rice, they’re just right. Lastly, we had an order of Thai seafood which came with crab meat, shrimps, peppers, onions and a variety of other veggies. I noticed that all the crab meat served was artificial which I wasn’t a big fan of. Either deal with that or order dishes that don’t include the crab. All in all – definitely check this place out if you’re in the West and are at a loss of where to go out for a quick and easy dinner.
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One of the snazzier restaurants the West Island has to offer, Enoteca Mozza has a full bar as well as a separate dining area, both of which were incidentally humming as we stopped by for Friday night dinner. Boasting wood-fire ovens, an authentic selection of Italian eats and a penchant for simple, fresh cooking, Enoteca seems to be doing things right. Tailored to the suburban clientele, the place is accommodating to families (almost every dish on the menu is offered in ‘family size’, reinforcing this idea), larger groups and sports fans (large TVs broadcasting sporting events are strategically placed by the bar and in key spots in the dining room). In the course of ten minutes, we heard three “Happy Birthdays” sung around us.
Tandoor & Grille’s new digs on des Sources street is more than a few steps up from the comparatively smaller space they occupied for years before just a block over on the strip. Boasting chandeliers that hang from the high ceilings, flat screen TVs on opposing walls and a seating capacity that’s about triple the size of the old restaurant, Tandoor is clearly doing very well. And it’s all because of the amazing food they serve there. Loyal customers from the beginning, we have come to be acquaintances with the Pakistani chef. As we tried to order the famous dahl soup, he came out to tell us that it wasn’t ready (we were some of the only diners in the restaurant at noon on a Sunday) and suggested the chicken vegetable soup instead. So we took it! It was hearty and actually had some Chinese influence – coming with optional toppings of two types of chili and soy sauce, that much was obvious. If you’re going to order a big meal, this soup is not recommended with those with smaller stomachs – you won’t have room to eat much else!
The West Island welcomes a new addition to its ethnic roster of restaurants: Aryana. And no, it’s not another serving Indian food – this time its Afghan. It’s nice to see some more diversity in the curry, stew and grill departments on des Sources Boulevard. Having been open a mere three weeks, the family run restaurant is still very new to the scene in terms of notoriety and recognition – hopefully people will hear more about it and take the time to visit the place because it is unbelievably good. Some even make comparisons to the more established Khyber Pass on Duluth and conclude that Aryana has a better grasp on the authenticity of the cuisine!
Mundo Trattoria is probably the ‘hottest’ restaurant in the West Island – the place to see and be seen, if you’re into that. The outdoor seating area is limited (fits less than ten) but is quite pleasant to look at, what with an immaculately manicured patch of grass and perfectly trimmed bushes. The windows stretch up to the ceilings – at least twenty feet high, giving the restaurant the illusion of being bigger than it really is (not a bad thing).