So after sampling some borscht at St. Viateur on Northern St. Laurent, my appetite had awoken but not bedded down. So I knew there was only one place to go – The Main. This restaurant was my standby during my previous life in Montreal: an old Jewish deli with Quebecois flare, it has an extensive menu of sandwiches – including tongue and smoked meat – as well as poutine, matzo ball soup, vareniki (pierogies), blintzes, cheesecake and full-sour dill pickles. They also have unbelievable hamburgers; throughout university, going to the Main for a mozzaburger, dill pickle and Diet Coke was the perfect hangover remedy.
During my visit to Montreal, I almost went to the Main twice – once for vareniki, and once for a mozzaburger. However, it was the vareniki that won out twice, although I did take the unusual step of ordering a dill pickle with them. At The Main, you have the choice of boiled or fried vareniki, and in an unusual step I went for fried as opposed to boiled. Perhaps I felt like being dangerous.
I love pierogies. I usually love them more when they involve fried Polish sausage or bacon – but these, despite that dearth, were good. The crispy outsides gave way to smooth potato insides made beautiful with a touch of sour cream and crispy, savoury onions.
The next day I awoke with a hankering for what had been a Sunday morning brunch tradition amongst friends of mine when I lived in Montreal: dim sum. I can’t boast that I was there every Sunday; to be honest, 90% of the time I chose to stay in bed rather than trek down to Chinatown. But this time was to be different – I would finally visit La Maison Kam Fung.
The dim sum here is legendary – as I soon figured out when I arrived at 2pm on a Tuesday to find a line up edging out the door. A room full of large round tables with white tablecloths fanned out before me, with people seated together in a delightfully chaotic but jovial atmosphere. Interestingly enough, La Maison is located not on Chinatown’s main drag but on the first floor of an indoor shopping plaza/mall/office building on St. Urbain, just off to one side of the neighbourhood. Thus, the place had a nice secret air to it – you could walk by the building and have no idea what treasure it held, but at soon as you went up a tiny escalator and saw the line, you’d realise you’d discovered a culinary treasure, a secret guarded by those ‘in-the-know’.
I ordered four dishes, all chosen from carts rattling by staffed by women yelling in Chinese, French and English what delicacies they had. I have no idea what the real names of my dishes were – I ordered “Chinese Pizza” with hoisin sauce (picture 1), steamed shrimp dumplings with chili oil (above), fried squid with black vinegar, and a generic fried pork dumpling served with red vinegar. I was seated quickly, being a single diner, with two French Canadian businessmen who spoke to each other in French, to the waitress in English and to the hostess in Chinese. I was pretty impressed.
Although I loved all the dishes I chose, the squid portion ended up being slightly too plentiful for me in combination with everything else I ordered – a bit chewy and greasy to boot, after eating half I gave it away to the businessmen. They seemed appreciative enough. The shrimp dumplings were my favourite – each bite revealed three juicy, succulent whole prawns stuffed inside a glutinous rice wrapper. With a touch of chili oil or soy sauce, they were heavenly.
This meal ended up being my solo birthday lunch, and it suited my mindset for the day perfectly. It was delicious, fast, chaotic and cheap: the total for all four dishes plus tea was $14 Canadian dollars, now worth approximately 16USD or 7GBP (how times change).
Although I’m currently in Toronto (until Friday) I have one last Montreal posting for you – mostly made up of all the places I didn’t get to eat at, but wanted to. Ah Montreal, vixen of eateries – je t’aime.