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Making our way through the perpetual crush of people in New York City, we headed towards Nom Wah Tea Parlour for a late dim sum lunch. Our journey there was seemingly maze-like – I couldn’t tell where we had come from, how we had got there or how we even got out. Almost hidden, the restaurant is tucked into a bend on a street just off the main. After reading up on the history of Doyer street, I learned that it has been called the “Bloody Angle” for the numerous shootings and gang related violence that occurred there back in the mid 20th century. Whoa.
Cuisine Szechuan serves exactly what its name advertises. There’s no dancing around it – this place serves legit Szechuan food, plain and simple. There are no frills, no added extras – just real food that stays true to its roots. There’s a mixed aura of respect and fear around the restaurant for its ability to produce delicious but mind-blowingly spicy food. I’m talking fish filets marinated in chili peppers and I’m talking cucumbers marinated in chili flakes and oil. Basically hot on hot on hot.
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.
Situated in what one could call the Little India of Montreal, Bombay Mahal is at the centre of all the commotion. Competition is fierce for customers craving Indian food in the area, with the likes of Curry House right across the street and places like the Chand Palace, Punjab Palace, Moti Mehal and India’s Oven (the list goes on) beckoning on every street corner and nook and cranny of Parc Extension.
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…
Yes, the consensus is that brunch is one of the most hated courses among the majority of chefs. The thing is though, places that serve continental or Western style breakfasts have got it all wrong. Out with the boiled eggs, hash browns and sausages and in with grilled vegetables, feta eggs and healthy meat and veggie dips. Places like Byblos have managed to revitalize the way the meal is served and turned into one of my favorite spots to get some amazing late morning grub.
Once we saw Sarah Musgrave’s review in the Gazette about Honi Rose, we decided to give it a shot. It was a weekend afternoon and we didn’t have much to do. Obviously my reflex to counter boredom is to ask myself: “what can I eat today?”. Opting to try out something new, this restaurant seemed like it would be an interesting pick for the downtown area.
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.
Having gone to school in NDG for over 13 years, I visited Vendome metro regularly. Whenever I was in the area, I made sure to have my wits about me – bordering NDG and lower Westmount, the area is arguably a little “sketchy”. I mostly came in and out of the metro and didn’t dally around too long – I didn’t have much business with the surrounding shops. This time though, a friend and I made a specific trip to this very area! He wanted to show me one of his favourite Middle-Eastern eateries in Montreal, and it happened to be located adjacent to the station. Always game to try new foods and restaurants, I accepted. Typical, right?
Fully decked out in Christmas lights, Chao Phraya casts a warm glow onto the snowy street outside even though the holiday season has long passed. Hurrying inside to escape the cold on a Thursday night, we were seated almost immediately in arguably the best seats of the house. We were a party of three sitting right by the front window looking out onto Laurier street.
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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Damas is the other major contender for the top spot in Syrian cuisine in Montreal’s Mile End. Going quite literally head to head with Kaza Maza (the two restaurants are within a couple blocks of each other), I have to say both places are very good – but there are slight differences that may sway one diner towards one or the other. For example, Kaza Maza has more of a casual dining atmosphere and prices to match. It is smaller and has a more homey feel with a little couch in the front, some throw pillows and a beautiful Syrian printed cover to match as well as a house-like interior with alcoves and a variety of different rooms partitioned by stucco-like walls. Damas has more of a fancy “night out” feel as the place is more ornately decorated, has dimmer lighting and a more open space concept. Prices here are significantly higher but the size of the main meals are more than enough to fill one hungry person whereas at Kaza, you might order a few mains to share to get full. Both places though, as mentioned before, are phenomenal. You’d be in good hands no matter which of the two you choose!
The Zagat rated Bistro Isakaya is a quiet, delightful little place on Parc avenue. In close proximity to McGill university, students, families and seniors alike frequent the authentic Japanese restaurant. Featuring daily specials based on the freshest ingredients in house, the menu changes a little every time we go. Selling a variety of Asian candies, cookies and novelty knick knacks (sushi erasers) by the front cash, there is a friendly and homey type vibe from the minute you walk in.
Let me start off by saying La Fabrique is amazing. Everything about the place is perfect. The design, both interior and exterior is impeccable, the service was well-timed and the view from the terrasse at the Annexe was beautiful. Boasting minimalistic wooden chairs with ultra low backs, vintage/rustic decor (typewriter, spigot type faucets, warm wooden paneling) and a friendly and inviting vibe, the restaurant finds an optimal stylistic balance somewhere between antique and modern. On top of all of this, the food is great.
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!
This was our first ever attempt at making risotto and it turned out great. We didn’t follow any formal recipe but were inspired by the presence of fiddleheads at the local grocer. Our recent trip to Lawrence also got us in the mood to try out fiddleheads in a vegetarian dish. Although we were at first tempted to use the California brown rice we already had, we went out and bought some Arborio rice to get that starchy creamy consistency. We began by sauteing the vegetables in a large saucepan and eventually added 2 cups of rice. From then all it took was constantly stirring and adding half a cup of vegetable broth at a time until 6 cups had been absorbed. Shaved Parmesan to top it off and some apple crisp and vanilla ice cream for desert.
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).