3339 Boulevard des Sources /Brunswick Boul.
Telephone : (514) 684-3131
Cost: $ 75.37 for two tax & tip included.
Chef Hats: 3.5
I first heard of Maiko Sushi on Bernard Street in the late 80’s, at the time it was one of the first sushi restaurants to pop onto the Montreal restaurant scene. It was a popular place not only for its location but for its fresh sushi, or so I was told by a girlfriend of mine who lived around the corner. She would dine there all the time and raved about how good it was. I never tried the Bernard Street location, but over the years it garnished quite a good reputation and was a proverbial favourite for those near and far until Nov 2016 when it closed for good.
Circa 1997 the second branch of Maiko Sushi opened in the West Island by Chef Maiko herself. This time I was living right around the corner and glad that I could finally get to sample some of their fine Sushi and Japanese speciality after all these years and not have to travel too far.
The West Island branch was a lot posher than the original location and a lot more expensive. Considered fine dining from the onset, it was not a place where you can just pick up and go. The décor was stunning, it had a lounge area for drinks and partying and a cascading waterfall on the side wall. It was the type of place you would go for a special occasion or celebration of sorts. I can count how many times I have been there with one hand in 20 years. Since then it has changed, the waterfall is gone and so is the party section; it has become a more family oriented restaurant. As a family we dine out for sushi a lot, but Maiko Sushi was not always on our list because of the steep prices.
This evening it was time to remedy that and I wanted to bring the next generation to Maiko Sushi. We have literally tried, many times over, most of the Sushi restaurant in the area. Maiko Sushi was a place we had not been to in a while. It remained on my bucket list of places to revisit for last seven years. A visit was overdue.
To my surprise, I found that Maiko Sushi in the West Island is still going as strong as ever. It is always full and very busy. Reservations are required if you go during peak hours and do not want to wait. Service is speedy and food still of good quality. Unwavering, Maiko Sushi has stood the test of time. The décor has changed a little, but it does not look outdated. They have added more tables and chairs to accommodate the demand for more patrons. The menu is relatively the same with all the Japanese favourites, chef specialities and plenty of sushi. The prices are still higher compared to “all you can eat” places, but the experience is more relaxed and finer. The restaurant does tend to get noisy, so it is not totally Zen. Considered a popular place with all age groups, the atmosphere is lively.
Tonight we started our meal by the traditional Oshibori hand towels for cleansing, something only finer Japanese restaurants in Montreal still do. We started by sharing a green tea and an entrée of Gyozas for $ 8.00. Gyozas are Japanese dumplings usually stuffed with some sort of meat and served steamed. At Maiko Sushi they were stuffed with a mix of pork, chicken and shrimp and served crispy with a citrus infused soya sauce. They were delicious; we only got two each which was just not enough. One entrée per person would have sufficed.
For my main meal, I ordered Shrimp Tempura for $ 24.00. A generous portion of six long shrimp coated in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried. The dish also contained a mix of vegetable tempura. These were crispy and good, not overly oily and fresh. I was content with my choice.
My dining partner had the Sushi Matsu for $ 25.00, with a complimentary Miso soup. Her dish contained 14 pieces of sushi, comprised of a mix of sashimi, maki and a chef special.
She liked her dish, she thought the sushi to be fresh enough and she got four extra sushi’s. The Miso soup was generic but good.
The tea was also complimentary and we were not charged. Our waiter was quick and efficient but not overly friendly or much of a conversationalist. We were in and out quickly and did not linger as our table was needed. Just another casual dinner out, that seemed pretty low key to this foodie.
Les Enfants Terribles-Place Ville Marie
1 Place Ville Marie /University Street (Boul Robert-Bourassa)
Telephone : (514) 544-8884
Cost: $ 208.10 (for three persons, with tax, tip not included)
Chef Hats: 3.5
After all the bad reviews, I was wondering why we were going to Les Enfants Terribles for Red Vixen Birthday. She was much more deserving and with such fine taste, I was wondering if she was losing her fiery touch. But the birthday girl gets what she wants, so all her pals headed to Place Ville Marie to try the new branch of Les Enfants Terribles. Let me say we were not expecting fine dining. it is, after all, a brasserie or Gastro pub, as you may want to call it. But you will find lots on the menu to satisfy any foodie and the most simplest of palates.
This evening, we made the trek up the elevator and followed the black hallways to the upper floors which threw us back 30 years ago to the days when disco dancing was all the rage and we would flock to Altitude 737 to dance the night away to the strobe of the floodlight atop PVM. I had forgotten how nice the view was and as soon as the doors opened we ran outside to admire the city. It is a prime spot for terrasse dining and drinks ,weather permitting, today it was not. So we headed inside after some picture taking.
The decor and layout is stunning. We were greeted by floor to ceiling glass doors and wine cellar and a charming hostess, who was positioned at the entrance. We got seated at a long table in the center of the room with big silver candelabras. Chic I thought! The view was just as breathtaking inside as well as out and everything shone with the sun descending and hitting the windows in a particular light. The place is fun and has a particular buzz; it was classy yet casual and filled with all kinds of people young and old. They have a bar, if you choose just to go for drinks.
Service was speedy and efficient and we had no qualms in that respect. They took our order for drinks almost immediately. Our waitress Audrey was hospitable and accommodating. We ordered a bottle of Langhe 2015-Nebbiolo- Produttori Barbaresco for $ 58.00 to be shared by two, and a margarita cocktail for $12.00. Both were to our satisfaction.
Three of us decided to share our entrees and the tab, so we ordered our proverbial favourite and a must when on any menu the salmon tartare $ 15.00. It came served on a bed of guacamole with two fried wonton noodles as garnish instead of bread. The entree was good but we got two bites each and it was gone.
Vixen had her favourite Beef Tartare entree also for $ 15.00, made with AAA Grade beef, with classic dressing and crispy parmesan shavings, and baguette rounds. It was not the best she had but decent.
The third entree was a semi -Grilled Octopus -$ 27.00. Served with lime aioli and chimichurri sauce. A little chewy, but a generous portion for an entree. Larger portions can be ordered as main meals for $47.00.
A platter of a dozen oysters was ordered for whomever wanted to partake. Served raw and naked on a bed of ice, they came garnished with lemon wedges and a spicy sauce. These were fresh and the lemon wedges and spicy sauce a good accompaniment and a must if you wanted any sort of flavour. Such an aphrodisiac, I could have eaten all of them.
Our friend Adri, who wanted something smooth, ordered a potato leek soup for $6.00. Served with chive garnish it was creamy and velvety and had the right blend of oniony flavours. She said it hit the spot, a sort of comfort food for her.
Also ordered was the Fried Calamari for $ 15.00 which was a little sparse and chewy, not the best ever sampled. They also came served with lemon wedges and a smear of tomato aioli sauce, instead of the usual dipping tub. But it was suffice to complete the calamari adding flavour to an otherwise bland dish.
For our main meals we ordered a Sterling Silver Beef flank steak with a mix of Fries and salad for $ 30.00, shared by two, with and additional salad for $ 6.00. It came served with Maitre d’hôtel butter, homemade fries and gravy with an additional mayonnaise on the side for the fries. I enjoyed this cut of beef very much; it was of good quality, well grilled, tender and not overcooked. There was no fat and very flavourful with the beurre on top. The salad was not much to write home about, a classic green salad with garnishes of radishes; it was well oiled and seasoned. The fries not the Belgian frites type were sort of generic and not as crispy as I would have preferred. They came served in a bowl and were sparse especially if shared by two. The presentation could have been nicer, a cone container would maybe have done them justice, but at least they did not taste rancid.
Vixen had the Kamouraska Lamb Keftas- $24.00, two patties shaped latkes, layered beets atop crispy vegetable salad topped with labneh with Sumac –espelette vinaigrette. It sounds better than it tasted, presentation was minimal. The lamb was good and the beets and labneh idea was great, the sumac espelette flavour was lost in the dish.
Also ordered was the Rack of Ribs-$25.00 (not shown) made with Rang 4 Pork served with side of fries and coleslaw. The ribs were fall off bone tender and slathered in homemade BBQ sauce. Fries were a generous portion served alongside the ribs. The vinaigrette coleslaw was served in a tall glass; it was a little generic tasting but edible.
Our friend Tomtom ordered the fish and chips for $19.00. Two codfish sticks battered in crispy panko style breadcrumbs and also served with a generous portion of fries, coleslaw and lemon wedge as garnish. He found his fish to be but lacking in flavour thus the oomph factor was not there. This can be said about all the food at this branch of Les Enfants Terribles. One must remember it is a brasserie and good times are more to be had with food taking the backburner and being complimentary to the drinking.
The reason why we came to Les Enfants Terribles at Place Ville Marie was more to share good times with friends, and to celebrate this special occasion. Prices were reasonable and convenient for all, and we wanted to experience this landmark establishment in its new form. The Altitude 737 which closed in 2013, died like a piece of our past.
It is always sad to see a landmark disappear from our beautiful city. But its re-opening as Les Enfants Terribles in 2016 brings hope that the next generation will enjoy this location as much as we did. One thing is for sure is that the location is ideal and conducive to not only reminiscing about a bygone era and reliving our youth but a fantastic way of creating new memories and experiences for this generation, no matter what its name.
Montreal skyline has changed in the last couple of decades and PVM no longer is the tallest building in this city. Even our famous University street’s name has been changed to Boulevard Robert Bourassa (when did that happen and why?) One thing still remains and is for sure, the view atop PVM is amazing and Les Enfants Terribles’ positioning is great for dinning on one of the few remaining downtown rooftop terrasse in this beautiful city. It’s nice to be at the top of the world sometimes, even if it’s for a couple of hours.
Avocado Sushi du Village
270 Lakeshore Drive/Ave.des Lourdes
Chef Hats: 4
Cost: $ 66.78 (tax, tip included)
Some places leave lasting impressions and Avocado Sushi du Village in the Pointe Claire Village does more than that. Avocado for those who are curious opened in fall 2012. It was started by two women and long time friends, Dominque St Laurent and Sylvie Longtin, who wanted a place of their own to call home. Longtin, as some may know used to be the sushi chef at the Willows Inn. I remember hearing rumors a while back way before the Willows closed that the sushi at The Willows Inn was outstanding and a visit just for brunch to have just the sushi was in order. My friends from downtown would trek to Hudson just to go for brunch just to sample the sushi. We can thank Longtin for this; she was already making a name for herself.
I had only heard of Avocado Sushi last fall when a colleague of mine Miss Kam, mentioned she loved their lunch specials and went there often. I placed it on my bucket list for the next time we were in the mood for sushi and did not want to travel far.
Five years have gone by since their opening and it has become a popular place with the locals since then. Set in a cute little house on Lakeshore road in Pointe Claire between Cartier and Ave Lourdes, it is a little gem. The interior is small but quaint and very cozy. The décor is soothing, the interior layout which has been totally renovated is not only functional but fun. Nicely decorated in hues of serenity white and grey green, it incorporates Nantucket style décor with themes of the sea, nature and flowers. At the bar and sushi counter you will find baskets of avocados, bouquets of fresh herbs and lit lanterns evoking an indoor garden theme. Mason jars filled with sand and candles line the counter flickering as the night descends. The flower arrangements are stunning, beautiful arrangements of phalenopsises are scattered her and there and used to decorate plates.
We found out later that they are brought in weekly by Westmount Florist down the street. At peak hours and on weekends it is hard to get a table. Avocado is always filled with patrons from different parts of the West Island and afar. How it has remained a secret for those East of the St John Boulevard eludes me.
This evening after six months of contemplating a pit stop to the neighborhood and Avocado, we walked in for a bite and luckily found the last two seats at the sushi counter and bar. My sides kick Brains; an avid sushi aficionado had come with me. After quickly scanning the menu we decided to go with two sushi’s Apero for $ 18.00, which came recommended as first time patrons. I also ordered an entrée of Tuna Carpaccio for $ 12.00 which I could not resist and jasmine tea for two for $ 2.50. We were served our tea quickly and the brought two Japanese salads and two miso soups which were included with the Apero dish we had chosen.
The only issue was we had no utensils and it took a while to flag down the waitress to get some. She profusely apologized but made it up later by being super attentive and coming to make sure we were comfortable every ten minutes and enlighten us with her stories of restaurant and how it came to be.
The salad was a generous portion of mixed greens with Wafu dressing and sprinkles of black sesame seeds. Brains loved the miso soup, packed with flavors and garnished with green onions, it was perfect, and the best she has had in a while. I loved the salad and the dressing, I was craving greens and this was simple and perfect.
Our entrée of Tuna Carpaccio followed next. Six slices of lightly seared Tuna with wasabi sauce, garnished with swirls of red beets. I enjoyed this dish immensely. The tuna was fresh and perfectly seared. The wasabi sauce had a kick but was not overpowering. The beet swirls were refreshing and a great palate cleanser.
We also liked the Apero dish, which had 8 pieces of sushi 6 makes and 2 nigri. These came topped with their specialty tartar of salmon and tuna, which is a must here. We found the sushi to be very fresh and Brains can vouch for that. The quality and freshness is optimal and everything is very good.
As we ate we watched the amazing sushi platters being created before us for other patrons. The one I liked the most was the tartar served in a martini glass. How ingenious and creative I thought.
We also discovered that they have Special Martini Thursday which are very popular and attract a big crowd for Happy Hour so much that reservations are required.
They also have a few tables outside in summer, if you want to dine alfresco. Avocado also has take out service and they cater for events.
Avocado merits a definite return. I just loved the overall feel of the place. I loved the vibe, the décor and the food and found the prices to be very reasonable. A definite recommendation for all sushi lovers.
5024 Chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges/at Queen Mary & Chemin Frere Andre
Tel: (514) 735-3886
Chef Hats: 3
Cost: $ 45.62 per person
When it comes to Russian restaurants in Montreal I can name only but a few that have withstood the test of time. Restaurant Ermitage is one of them. Opened in 1998, it was originally located on Queen Mary road, a skip away from Snowdon metro. It has since relocated next to Duc Lorraine Bakery known for its famous croissants on Chemin Frere Andre/Cote des Neiges.
I had never been to the old location on Queen Mary at the time of inception but always heard good reviews and it came highly recommended. The restaurants’ name stems from a mix of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Hermitage Restaurant in Moscow, where the Russian Salad was invented. Restaurant Ermitage (Montreal) goal is to keep up the traditions of both institutions in Russia by combining both artistic atmosphere and fine French/Russian cuisine.
Back in the days what kept me away was not its location or the fact that I did not like Russian food, but just time constraints and popularity factor. I had gone to other Russian restaurants in the city with friends. Troika on Crescent Street was a proverbial favorite and La Georgia on Decarie Street /Queen Mary was the other. If I wanted Chicken Kiev or Beef Stroganoff, it was on the menu at home all the time for a while, along with Pierogies and other Eastern European favorites.
My favorite Russian restaurant in this city was Troika on Crescent Street with its flamboyant ambiance. I loved the velvet red chairs and curtains which transported us to Saint Basil Cathedral in The Red Square with its red brick façade and multicolored helmeted cupolas. We felt like we were in the bowels of some seedy clandestine nightclub drinking gallons of vodka and hiding from the KGB (or at least we pretended). Troika closed in 2012 and just in time as it was in terrible decline and reviews were horrific. The last time I dined there was in 2004, the décor looked so outdated and consumed , the red plush velvet chairs so worn down you can see the threading, the red curtains has lost their luster and were totally faded. The food was tasteless, rancid, and stinky and service was so slow and null. Meanwhile prices were still astronomical and a 15% gratuity was imposed. . It died a slow death like a mean tattooed Russian mafia boss.
Since then, the Russian community has grown over the years, and a few more restaurants have opened .Mostly concentrated in the Decarie area which is a stronghold of the Russian community. Most have live music and dancing which is synonymous with Russian way of life and of courses plenty of frozen vodka shots. This is a good route to go if entertainment is for you. For those who want a quiet evening in a classic setting than Ermitage is a definite contender with its formal dining, and offerings of traditional Russian & European fare.
I have to admit that I was impressed when I walked into Ermitage; the ambiance is pleasant, well decorated, and clean. Run by a Russian matriarch with an iron fist who has been stealing this show for over a decade. The walls are tastefully decorated with paintings, a bar in the corner and Cornish framed mirror on the ceiling. They have white table cloth service and a nice circular bay window looking out onto the street. The restaurant is a small place but spacious, seating around 30 people. It is very quaint and can border on the fancy side for some but not at all pretentious.
What threw me off were the mirrored frames on the ceiling that I noticed as I sat there waiting for other guests to arrive. Unbeknownst at the time, but to which I discovered upon researching the meaning of mirrors on ceilings. Is that in Russian culture there is a belief steeped in old world traditions, that the presence of mirrors shapes the production of imagination, self-creation and social interactions. Used as an illusionistic décor and as a tool for obtaining knowledge, this had to be a well thought out idea somewhat subliminal for those who are unknowing. Hmm, very KGB was my afterthought, exactly! Kidding aside, I thought it cool and very smart thinking after my kinky thoughts subsided.
I was brought the menu shortly after I arrived by a young waiter with a heavy Russian accent and was asked in broken English if I wanted to order a cocktail before dinner. I chose a glass of Chardonnay- $ 7.00. I was going to wait for the bottle service of Grey Goose vodka at $ 115.00 till my friends arrived.
Ermitage has an extensive menu with all the classical Russian favorites and some classic French dishes too. The table hôte starts at $ 35.00, which gives you two courses and coffee or tea, but no dessert, that is an extra $4.00. You could go all out and have the tasting menu at $ 85.00 which will give you a good sample of Russian cuisine.
A must is the caviar and blinis, with a shot of Stolichnaya for $ 16.00. You have not tasted Russian culture if you do not go this route, even if just for fun. Of course they have all the other favorites too on the à la carte menu like Pirozhki, Vareniki, Pelmeni, Stroganoff and Chicken Kiev, and all at a reasonable price.
This evening I went with the Balkan salad for $ 8.50, as I wanted to eat light. This was not a good idea. The salad looked great, a healthy mix of greens, romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, onions and cubed feta with sprigs of fresh parsley it looked very refreshing and appetizing, but the salad dressing was overpowering. The chef must have accidently dropped too much garlic powder and dry mustard into the dressing. After a couple of bites it was burning my palate. I left most of it behind, as it was not edible. I was not asked if it was to my liking.
My main dish was the Chicken Kiev, for $ 19.00 which was a good price. The dish will not win awards in plate presentations, but the chicken was tender and packed with loads of parsley butter. Lightly breaded and sautéed, it came served with a side of potatoes and delicious sautéed vegetables and cranberry sauce.
My dining partner, Daniel went with the Table hôte and chose a cream of mushroom soup and a Salmon in Cream for $ 35.00. The soup was okay, but of the generic sort that comes out of a can, nothing to write home about.He enjoyed the salmon which was tender and not too overcooked. It came topped with slivers of almonds and a light citrus cream sauce. The salmon was also served with a side of sautéed seasonal vegetables, potatoes and lemon garnish.
Too complete our meal we had a complimentary shot of vodka that was totally unexpected. We had coffee to complete the meal but opted out for dessert. Desserts are not listed and you have to ask for the daily specials.
We were so stuffed; we could not eat another bite. Russian meals tend to be heavy and very filling. We liked Ermitage and were happy with the way our evening turned out, would definitely recommend it, even though some items are a hit or miss. Nonetheless, Ermitage is a good choice for decent old style Russian comfort food in a nice setting.
5011 Sources Blvd/ Gouin
Tel: (514) 421-3130
Cost: $ 53.21 (for two)
Chef Hats: 3
The first time I ate at Bombay Choupati was over 15 years ago when it had first opened. A family run restaurant, it was considered back then and still is an authentic Indian Restaurant experience. Since then many Indian restaurants have come and gone in the West Island. Heavily populated with a large Indian and Pakistani community, Dollard des Ormeaux has no shortage of Indian Restaurants on Sources Boulevard alone. In the last decade, I can list at least five that are now closed and only a few still remain open. They were all good and each had their own qualities. Some were expansive and some too expensive. The restaurant business is not an easy job, with its long hours, lots of wastage, low profits and difficult clientele, you have to have the perfect formulas or just enough of that entrepreneurial fire in your gut to survive and keep going. Bombay Choupati has withstood the test of time.
I will be blatantly honest and purely subjective for some of you by saying that Bombay Choupati will not win any awards in gourmet fine dining or décor. It is a local restaurant that has flown under the radar for so many years with the exception of its list of loyal clientele that find it totally exceptional. Nestled in the corner of a strip mall between Shooters Bar and a police station, to first time patrons it looks basically like just another a hole in the wall. The restaurant is extremely small, narrow and dark. The décor with its red walls consists of a mix of unflattering wallpaper, peeling paint and faded lithographs.
The quarters are cramped, with rows of tables set too close to each other against the walls creating one narrow aisle for the waiters to pass to serve dinners. The food consists of a mix of stews and purees of vegetables and meats in heavy sauces that look like slop placed on aluminum sectional dishes reminiscent of institutional type food. They do not take reservations and when they are too busy they do not deliver food but you can pick up at the counter. The line ups at the door are long and the stream of people is endless especially at lunch and on the weekends.
What are the perks of Bombay Choupati, besides a dedicated clientele that vow that it is the best Indian food in the world. The prices are very affordable and every time I ate there the food was fresh and flavorful. Indian food never won prizes for plate presentations anyways and if you try to modify the look, it is no longer authentic.
The staff at Bombay Choupati is extremely hospitable to its regular clientele and you will be treated like family. If you are looking for decent Indian food, you will get homemade fresh meals here. My Indian friends swear by the place.
My taste in Indian food is limited to the most popular dishes. I have tasted mostly everything on the menu at Bombay Choupati but my proverbial favorite has got to be the Butter Chicken, Tikka Masala, Aloo Goobi and Chole Chat and of course the Naan bread. All their vegetables dishes are packed with curry and exude all the spices of India. The combos are a steal and a good way to sample their food without breaking your budget. This is the route to go for first time patrons. Dishes can be a little watered down here, and the consistency and thickness of some of the stews are lacking, but all dishes are very flavorful and their freshness is ultimate.
If you are not too picky vis à vis décor and dishware and are willing to overlook these things, a visit to sample the food is worthwhile. Arrive early or go off hours when it is quiet. Call ahead and do take out, you may be surprised and become a loyal patron too.
Yuan Lei Restaurant Gourmet
4880 Sources Blvd (between Anselme Lavigne/Joseph Paiement)
Dollard-Des Ormeaux, Quebec
Phone: (514) 418-8726
Cost: $ 65.30
Chef Hats: 3
A relatively newcomer to the West Island, Yuan Lei opened in late 2016 amid very little fanfare. Nestled between other commercial businesses, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you take a closer look. Located lower on Sources Boulevard, in the same mall that houses a slew of restaurants like Pho Thanh, Aryana and Les 3 Maria’s, it is up against some pretty good contenders. There is no shortage of Asian Restaurants in this area, but if you want something truly authentic, you need to try Yuan Lei. The menu is extensive, serving all the classics as well as different dishes from Szchecuan, Cantonese and Shandong regions. Portions are generous and the cost is very affordable. It does not have a famous chef manning its kitchen, but one who brings us his love of good homemade Asian food cooked from his region.
This evening, we dropped in after shopping in the area. Looking for a quick bite and some comfort food, it looked like a good pick. We are always looking for new restaurants to try in the area and my sidekick Brains will never say no to Asian food. We were pleasantly surprised with the hospitality we received upon walking in and felt immediately comfortable. Yuan Lei’s is simple and unpretentious. Its decor is minimalistic with it has black leather banquettes placed in the center of the restaurants forming private booths. Against the other wall more banquettes and dark wood tables and chairs. The white walls have a few oriental lithographs and the place looks clean and decor sparse and streamlined. Red Chinese emblems cover the windows on the entrance.
Yuan Lei also works on a skeletal staff, there was only one waiter and one chef, but we didn’t have to wait too long to get served. Our waiter was extremely courteous and accommodating. He brought us our tea, a large pot to be shared by two and went over the menu with us. The restaurant is also very quiet. Looking around we noticed that most of the dinners were Asian, and it goes without saying if you see only Asian patrons in the restaurant, it must be homemade and authentic.
As for the menu, you can find some pretty weird things, like Hot & Sour Fungus Soup and Spicy Pork Ears. For a moment, I had a vision of being on an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods. Don’t be alarmed, I believe the errors and wording on the menu is more of a language issue. It is probably stuff you have eaten in an Asian restaurant before. They are not trying to scare you by feeding you disgusting sounding food or anything too exotic other than authentic Asian food that can be found in many food courts or street food in China.
For entrees we ordered a seaweed salad for $ 4.99, which was copious enough to be shared by two. We also ordered half a dozen spring rolls for $2.50, as the regular portion would have been too much for us and a Hot & Sour Soup.
The salad was delicious and better tasting than we had in many places. We were surprised at the quantity as we have never received so much at other Asian counterparts. The egg rolls were the mini version but were equally as good. You can order a dozen for $ 4.99 which is a really good deal. Although Egg rolls can be heavy on the oil, these did not taste rancid and were actually very crispy and tasty. The Hot & Sour Soup a typical staple on any Asian menu hit the spot and although generic, had a good consistency and good balance of flavours, not too watery or too heavy on the rice vinegar.
My dining partner Brains ordered the Ma Po Tofu, for $ 11.99 which is a spicy mix of tofu cubes and ground beef.Brains is not a ground beef fan, and she only later found out through an Asian friend that the authentic version served here is how it is suppose to be. As opposed to others places which serve the non beef version with very little meat. The Ma Po Tofu dish also contained lots of Sichuan peppers and large tofu cubes. The dish was topped with a sliced green onion garnish. It was deliciously garlicky and would be perfect served with steamed rice.
Her second dish was Seafood Dumplings, the dough was made with seaweed, and the filling was a mix of shrimp and pork. These large pockets of steamed tender green dumplings were amazingly delicious and a must try. I could not get enough of them and we received a generous portion as well for $ 8.99. The filling was savoury and delicious and you just wanted to eat as many of them as possible. I will return just to have the dumplings again.
The Foo-Foodie ordered the Spicy Sichuan Shrimp for $ 15.99 and General Tao Chicken for $ 11.99, a usual staple of mine as I base all my Asian adventures on the quality of the these dishes. The Spicy Shrimp were large deep fried shrimp with shell on and topped with a spicy red sauce, sautéed with green peppers, onions and carrots slivers. The flavours were robust with the perfect aroma of garlic, ginger, and green onion medley; they were totally addictive. To be eaten like crayfish, or with shells removed, that is at your discretion.
The General Tao chicken was mediocre and lacking in color and consistency. My first experience with this dish brings me back to the now defunct Piment Rouge. I base my critique of this dish on its likeness to my original experience. A while back I obtained the original recipe of Piment Rouge’s General Tao Chicken and have made the dish so many times, that I was dubbed me the Queen of Sichuan. I have fine tuned my recipe to get the full impact of Asian flavours. My creation is a perfect balance of crispy chicken morsels, spicy red marinade sauce, not too much vinegar and all the aroma of the Holy Trinity of Asian food.
This evening at Yuan Lei, the sauce for the General Tao’s chicken was off in color. It was orange instead of its usual bright dark red color. Also lacking were the aromatic Asian flavours, missing was the medley of aromatic ginger, green onions, garlic and vegetables that make this dish an aphrodisiac. I did receive a heaping bowl full but the chicken pieces were not consistent and some too small to hold much flavour. I also ordered side a bowl of steamed rice to go with our meal. I did not see dessert on the menu, but at this point we were too full for any dessert and just completed our meal with tea.
We had lots of food leftover and we asked to bag it, they were more than happy to bring us a container, which we filled ourselves at the table. It served as lunch for the next day and the leftovers were just as delicious as the day before. Yuan Lei is a good contender and a definite worthwhile return, authentic and original Chinese fare in all its simplistic forms, as close as it can get to authentic Chinese food modified to suit the North American palate.
1624 Rue Sainte-Catherine O. /Guy
Montréal, QC, H3H 2S7
Cost: $ 58.18-tax, tip & alcohol included
Chef Hats: 3
Japanese Pubs are becoming all the rage these days. Since 2010 we have seen a slow rise of at least a dozen izakaya’s in Montreal. The draw is not only the Japanese tapas style food (portions are small), but the convivial and fun atmosphere that can be found in all of them.
Warning: Ear plugs are in order as these types of places can get loud and within reason and Kinka Isakaya is no exception. Upon entering the restaurant everyone will receive the traditional loud welcome “Arigato Gozaimasu” from across the kitchen; which is open concept. This is part of the ritual here as well as the imminent “Sake Bomb” which occurs at least every fifteen minutes throughout the evening. A touch gimmicky, this adds to the fun and festive atmosphere. It is a new way to experience a taste of Japanese dining and drinking that deviates from the usual foodie adventure.
Kinka Isakaya Montreal is located downtown in new Chinatown, on la rue Ste Catherine between Guy and St Mathieu. Opened in early 2015 by the Kinka Izakaya’s franchise of Toronto it delivers all the fixings for a modern day Japanese pub. The décor is minimalistic with clean lines and boxy simple furnishing. The colors are simple, black slate walls and floors and light colored pine furniture. The scene is straight out of Japanese catalogue, the look is very Zen, until the place starts to fill up and the noise level gets louder.
I was surprised to see the new restaurants that now line the exterior of Le Faubourg, Kinka Izakaya’s and Kampai Garden are some of them that are bringing a sort of revival to Le Faubourg which has been in a slow decline over the last 15 years. The interior of Le Faubourg is no longer accessible and remain a shell of its former self; part of it is being used by Concordia University for classes. Parking can also be found underground if you can’t find parking on the street.
Tonight we were celebrating an anniversary and we were a group of at least twenty. Our party organizer negotiated the special party menu created for our group for a flat rate of $ 30.00 plus tax and tip, sake was not included for $14.00 extra. We sampled seven dishes, and Kinka‘s original sake shared between two.
We started with Miso Soup, which was somewhat generic. It lacked the usual seaweed and tofu cubes; instead it came garnished with floating sliced green onion. The broth was laden with dark soya sauce. I would have preferred a seaweed salad or Edamame instead. Not a good start to the meal.
The next dish was called Gomaee-Blanched Rapini with sesame sauce. We received a generous portion of sautéed Rapini with a drizzle of sesame oil and sesame seed garnish and a base of soya sauce. The Rapini were overcooked and wilted. They lacked texture and crunch. Nonetheless, they were better than the soup.
Our next dish was Maguro Tataki, slices of lightly grilled Albacore Tuna with a base of Ponzu sauce and green onions garnish. This tuna was perfectly cooked, medium rare and very tasty. This dish and the Black Cod were my favorite, unfortunately the portions were too small to be shared and completely enjoyed, but I would return just for this.
Soon afterwards we received the Karaage, deep fried marinated and coated chicken pieces. The food choices were getting better and started arriving quickly. The chicken was marinated with soy sauce and the batter was supposed to be infused with Sapporo beer. It came served with a garlic mayonnaise aioli sauce on the side, a lemon wedge and some lettuce. The chicken was very crispy on the outside, perfect flavors and not too oily. It was super tender and delicious on the inside. We got six portions for two.
The entrees kept coming and next we received Karubi, a side of beef marinated and grilled Japanese style. The beef was flavorful and delicious, except for its uneven texture it was a little chewy and tough to eat. I believe this stems more in the cut of meat chosen than anything else, and maybe a different choice of cut would have been better to eating without knives.
Next was the grilled Gindara, Grilled black cod in yuzu miso sauce, this was absolutely divine and the favorite of the table. The fish was totally blackened on the outside, once cut up it reveals mounds of white fish that fell apart in thick slabs, absolutely decadent and flavorful.
It was served along with Unagi bibimbap, a favorite Korean dish of mine that satisfies every time. A rice dish with eel, burdock and egg served in hot stone bowl.
For dessert, we had a piece of festive vanilla cake that was mediocre at best that was provided by our group organizer. We would have preferred the green tea ice cream that we were charged an extra $ 1.00 for anyways.
Sake bombs were ordered for our organizers and they are always fun to partake in or just too watch and cheer on. I liked Kinka Izakaya’s, it’s a fun place and the ambiance is not only cool but the décor very nice. The experience is different from just a regular pub. Bear in mind that Kinka Izakaya’s falls under the pub banner. First and foremost it is a place to drink and have fun .The food seems secondary with small food portions to quench your appetite, more than a culinary experience.