Annex 2 Revisited: Fung Shing | Mr. Lew's Great Burger Search

This is a Revisited post for Fung Shing.  Click HERE to see that original post.

1102 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
Montreal, Quebec

Metro:  Place-d’Armes, Champ-de-Mars, Saint-Laurent
Bus:  STM 14, 15, 55, 80, 129, 150, 410, 427, 430, 435, 747

Visit:  March 9, 2012

Months ago, I made the decision to revisit some of the places that I did not do justice the first time around.  For the time being, I’m reserving the distinction of a revisit to places where I did not give the 2011-2012 treatment.  If you haven’t noticed by now, starting in the middle of 2011, my posts have been more detailed.  With the fact that what I’m doing is getting more noticed, I am forced to put a lot more work and effort into what I post here.  I should also note that once a restaurant gets revisited, I will never do another post on it, no matter what happens.  So, with that being said, the first restaurant that gets the “lucky” distinction of being the first one to be revisited is my regular Chinese haunt, Fung Shing.

Fung Shing is an important part of my past and an important part of my current life.  It is the only restaurant in Montreal that I enter regularly.  I’ve done a lot of posts for this blog in the last 2 and a half years, but this is the only place that sticks around.  It also was one of the few restaurants that was part of my family since its opening in the late 70s.  There aren’t very many restaurants that can make the claim of being part of the Lew tradition, along with La Maison V.I.P., Fung Shing is the only other one.  If I were to compare this to V.I.P., Fung Shing would surpass because I frequent this restaurant more.

This leads me to why I chose to revisit this restaurant.  If you take a look at the previous post I put together on Fung Shing, you’ll notice that it’s really not my best work.  The part that ate at me was the quality of the pictures taken on many visits over the last 4 years.  Last September, I replaced my older camera with a sleeker version.  Ever since then, I’ve been in love with the results I’m getting with my tinier, yet much newer camera.  More or less, I wanted to give you a better account of what this place is.

I’m not here to discuss where the best Chinese food in Montreal is, that’s not the point.  I’m here to give you another peek into what is my less than hectic life.  Fung Shing is just another piece of the puzzle that is Mr. Lew.  After your average, normal week, I would accompany my father to Fung Shing on a Friday night.  Unless there’s something more pressing, you’ll probably find me here.  I won’t say what time I show up or anything like that, but odds are, I’m there, albeit for a short period of time.

My family started coming here in the late 70s and I could easily remember coming here as a younger Mr. Lew.  I remember days where we’d go to the Saint-Eustache flea market and coming here to cap things off.  I remember sitting at the table, gawking at my classic WWE trading cards that I nagged my parents in getting for me.  As a matter of fact, as I’m writing this, I’m staring at 4 of them, which have been sitting on my desk for a while now.  As the 90s progressed, our visits to this place became fewer and further between.  It wasn’t until sometime in 2008 where we made our grand return to Fung Shing.

In 2008, I noticed that things weren’t quite the way they used to be.  Gone were the older waiters with the red vests.  The servers were not wearing black vests, if they were wearing one at all.  What didn’t change was the main reason I keep coming back, the won ton soup.  I’ll get back to that a little later on, but it’s one of the main strengths of the restaurant back then and in the present.

Our weekly entrances were greeted by the owner’s daughter, who hasn’t returned since becoming a mother for the very first time.  I would describe her as someone who was able to lend a hand anywhere.  It was this kind of family involvement that kept my interest in my weekly observations.

The owner, from what I hear and see first-hand, is not the easiest person to work for.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know of many restaurant owners is Chinatown that are peachy.  Since we’ve been, more or less, regulars, the owner has taken a habit at coming by and talking to my father. Even though I am half-Chinese, I don’t speak Cantonese and am therefore oblivious to what they’re talking about.

One of the big things I’ve noticed in coming here for the last 4 years is the turnover rate for servers.  Since we came back, the servers who we there then are not there now.  Usually, you’ll find 2-3 servers on duty, depending on how busy it is.  One day, while waiting to cross Saint-Laurent, one of the former servers got my attention.  I didn’t recognize him at first, but he knew who I was.  He remembered me playing with my older camera in the restaurant one day, back when I was pursuing my other hobby regularly.  Let’s just say, I’ve seen staff come and go, but there’s always one thing that remained a constant, the way they treat their customers.  Compared to other places, I’ve never seen them mistreat anyone.  They might be lacking in all the official Montreal languages, but they make up for that in the hospitality department.

When this restaurant is packed, it’s packed.  The way you know if its decent is if it passes the Chinese person eating in a Chinese restaurant test.  I am happy to say that I have witnessed many times my fellow Chinese compatriots dining here.  After a certain point, there are some faces that you recognize because you’ve seen them so often.

I’ve been here so often that I’ve become numb to the food, which I guess it isn’t that great of a thing to say.  But, it’s not really my choice to give when we come here.  However, I wouldn’t hesitate bringing people here at all.  I’ve brought my work colleagues here twice and even the Fat Squirrel Society back when it was my turn to choose my strong point.  These days, whenever I tell my colleague Steakman that I’m planning to do another Chinese outing, he immediately tells me he’s in, as long as its Fung Shing.  Let’s just say, it makes the non-Chinese people happy and satisfied.

I think I’m going to take this opportunity to take you through one of my average Friday nights at Fung Shing.  As you can see above, this is the normal table set-up when you sit down.  You can see everything put nicely in its place.  You’ll notice forks on the table.  I mention that because they rarely ever get used by us.  There was a point where they stopped giving us forks, but the restaurant may have forgotten about that a bit.  Depending on the table we’ve been given, I take a moment to replace the cutlery and napkin to my right, while placing the plate in front of me.

This is your average tea pot, that you can find in nearly every normal Chinese restaurant.  If you don’t find one of these in a Chinese restaurant, I suggest you rethink the choice you’ve just made.

What you see here is something that I rarely drink anymore.  I made a point to mention it in my V.I.P. post, so I’ll quickly reiterate it here.  It’s not that I don’t like tea, it’s just that it’s not something that I would normally drink.  Right now, I’m staring at the box of iced tea I finished upon coming home.  I know, I’m kind of a like a hypocrite when it comes to tea.

I took a picture of a glass of iced water.  Let that sink in for a moment.  It’s a glass of water, what could  he possibly say about it?  Well, I’m just going to illustrate once again the advantages of having a regular restaurant to go to.  It’s now gotten to the point where the servers don’t even have to be asked, the glass of water just shows up.  Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get two glasses.  There was one former server who had fun refilling my glass.  I’m the kind of person who gets guilt when I don’t touch something, like a glass of water.  So, every time I would finish the glass of water, that server would refill it.  No matter how close I was to leaving the restaurant, my conscience forced me to take a sip.  I hate waste.

Now, you must be asking yourself what the purpose is of the picture of the tiny bowl.  Well, I’ll tell you.  First of all, I have no clue what the real purpose of this bowl is.  Since that was and still is the case, I decided to take matters in my own hand and give the small bowl a better purpose.  You’ll see the next picture is that of won ton soup.  The bowl plays an instrumental role in facilitating my consumption of my favorite dish outside a bacon cheeseburger (obligatory bacon mention, check!).

As I said, I use the bowl to aid my eating of won ton soup.  When I get the soup, I take 6 of the 12 won tons out of the soup and place them in this bowl.  Once I finish them, I then use my chop sticks to eat all the greens in the soup.  After that, I place the remaining won tons in my tiny bowl and finish the process.  Four years of doing that makes it so much easier to streamline my evening.

Won Ton Soup w/12 pieces

Now, after hyping the tiny bowl so much, here is my favorite part of my visits to Fung Shing, the won ton soup.  Before I get to what the dish means to me, I cannot go any further without addressing something that’s really irking me.  If I hear someone ask for wong tung soup one more time at my regular restaurant, I swear I’m going to pitch my chop sticks at them.  The last time I checked, there are no Gs in my soup.  I find it kind of insulting whenever I hear that.  The day before, I went out of my way to ask how Indian dishes were pronounce as to not offend someone.  How hard can it be to pronounce something that tastes so darn good?

The won ton soup is what I’ll refer to as my version of comfort food.  This brings me back to my childhood.  It’s not made like any other won ton soups you’ll find in Chinatown.  The fact that the inner workings are filled with shrimp is what makes it so special.  I’ve had at least 5 other different won ton soups in and around Montreal, with none of them coming close to this one. 

When I mentioned the Fat Squirrel Society above, it reminded me of that evening a bit.  It wasn’t documented on this site like I do with most of my restaurant outings, but it’s something that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since then.  I’ve made a claim that this is the best won ton soup in Montreal.  I have a few people who backed me up on that claim and a few who opposed me.  Well, one of the members of the Society had the won ton and didn’t like it.  Mind you, that night, it wasn’t the normal soup that I was so used to.  Since then, I’ve been doubting my tastes a bit.  I’ll look around for other won ton soups and see if there’s really better out there, that’s how the Burger Search started.

On this evening, I noticed that the soup was a little better than normal.  I tend to like draining the soup from the dumplings as they tend to taste a little better than without the soup.

This small bowl isn’t really placed in this post to show you what it looks like, but to add another facet to the evening that is my weekly visit.  Whenever my father decides to order his won ton noodle soup, he always forks over a few dumplings to me.  I’m fat like that.  What I meant to say is that he knows how much I like the won ton dumplings.  So, here, he place 5 of them, instead of his normal 4.  If you want to keep count at home, the 12 in my soup in addition to the 5 here, equals a whopping 17 won tons.  It’s funny, at Mahli, L.A. was talking about how her nephew could down about 18 of them.

This is what my won ton soup looks like when I’m done with it.  Now, I’m probably going to get some flak for this, but I do not drink the soup whatsoever.  I didn’t back in the good old days and I haven’t since I’ve been back.  I know that I said above that I dislike waste, but I have to think about the long run in my eating strategy.  Yes, I do have an eating strategy going into my weekly visits.  If I fill up on soup, how am I expected to carry on?  My stomach is not a bottomless vacuum pit where food disappears forever.  Plus, getting older, the liquid doesn’t go easy on the bladder, you know.

This is a picture of a normal plate that you’d get in a Chinese restaurant.  Unlike your average full sized plate, this is somewhat smaller.  You can speculate as to why the plates are not bigger, but they server their purpose.

Beef Rice Noodles

This is the dish that I’ve been having regularly for the last 4 years.  It’s basically rice noodles garnished with beef, onions, chop suey, and ginger.  This is one of the more common dishes you’ll find in Chinatown and you can probably even find a decent one nearby at the buffet.

Like I did with the whole won ton soup process, you’re lucky that I don’t have so much more to say.  Having this dish exposes one of my biggest dining weaknesses.  It’s pretty much why it isn’t called Mr. Lew’s Great Noodle Search, burgers are so much easier to pick up and eat.  Having to put portions of this on my plate isn’t as easy as I would like to hope and I can’t have other people doing this for me.  What kind of Mr. Lew would I look like if I let other people fix my plate up for me? 

A few weeks ago, I was criticized a little bit by my father for picking up the noodles from the far end of the dish.  Well, I did that because I found it easier to get a better grip that way.  Sometimes, the noodles are so long that they flop over onto the plate.  I don’t think I’ll ever order noodles with other people because I might scare people away.  I know, at my last colleague outing here, I didn’t touch any noodle dish.  Alright, that’s not the reason why, but it could’ve been, I’ll keep you guessing on that one.

Something that took me by surprise is when I found out that there was ginger in the actual dish.  I’ve been eating this dish for almost 4 years and never noticed it before.  Then, out of the blue, I made a passing comment that they put ginger in there for the first time.  I was promptly told by my Chinese father that it’s always been in there, making me look foolish for not noticing.  That means I’ll never put up my palette in Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen taste test any time soon.

This is a picture of what the dish used to look like when I was finished with it.  Tonight, that was not the case because I’m no longer capable of eating the entire thing by myself.  At my peak and when I was bigger (60 lbs. lost and counting), I would have my entire won ton soup, the extra dumplings, and an entire dish of these noodles.  If I was feeling froggy, I would have some chicken fried rice to boot.  But, these days, I cannot eat what I used to easily put down and I’m glad it’s that way.

The remaining noodles means that there will be some that I will take home.  My relationship with the leftover rice noodles is on and off at best.  At one point, I changed what I ate at the restaurant because I didn’t like the way it tasted when it got home.  However, these days, I don’t mind it as much.  The best part of going to Chinese restaurants sometimes is knowing that the next day’s meals would be covered.

You’ll notice that I wasn’t really able to wipe clean what’s on my plate.  I find that the most annoying thing about these noodles are how they are annoying with chopsticks at the end of the meal.  I’m way too stubborn to pick up the blasted fork to pick them up one by one.  I would much rather leave things like this than to bruise my ego trying to manually pick them up.

Final Verdict

Now that you’ve made it past my nearly 3,000 word diatribe about my regular Friday night Chinese fix, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope you understand how fickle I can be sometimes and how much I really do enjoy going to restaurants.  Every year, now that I’ve started the Burger Search, I get to visit almost 100 different places.  No matter how many places I go to, I always have Fung Shing to fall back on.  I hope to, one day, introduce this place to the next generation of Lews.  They may be less Chinese than I am, but I feel it’s my duty to show them what the family used to get its traditional fix.

For those of you reading, Fung Shing is that place deep in the heart of Chinatown where you can get Chinese food for relatively cheap.  The quality of the food will probably satisfy most of you and in the end, it’s all that matters.

So far, in 2012, I’ve brought you through a lot of the places that define me and I hope to hear from you about the places that define you.  You can find me on Twitter or interact with me on my Facebook fan page.

Also, I would be more than interested to see what place you’d like to revisit next, let me know.

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