72A De La Gauchetiere O.
Metro: Place d’Armes
Bus: STM 55, 80, 129, 150, 410, 427, 430, 435, 747
Visit: October 26, 2012
A lot of people would agree, Montreal is one of the place’s with the greatest wealth of Chinese restaurants in North America. However, one of the other things that we would also agree with is the fact that despite an abundance of those places, there aren’t very many that truly satisfy their customers. It’s no wonder that when a new place opens up in the midst of Chinatown, it gets the attention of many. Today’s place in question is Ethan, right in the middle of the pedestrian walkway known as De La Gauchetiere.
In the past, I’ve had the wonderful chance to be able to set up burger, Greek, and Caribbean nights. One of the themes that I always wanted to put together was a Chinese night. That thought has either always been met by pessimism or just sheer crickets. People were never confident with the selection of Chinese restaurants in this city and we’re never really eager to seek out others. So, with that in mind, I was happy that a few people that I know were willing to join me in getting trying to see what’s out there. For that, I’m very thankful for their presence.
Restaurant Ethan is one that you can’t miss. From the outside, it’s extremely hard to miss the roasting pigs. Since I managed to get there a little earlier than planned, I was able to observe the restaurant from the outside. The place was jam packed and the turnover rate was quite good. Whenever one table left, others managed to take their place rather quickly. What was even more telling were the many Asian looking clients to be found on this evening.
Upon observation, you could easily see this tall figure walking around the restaurant like a general managing their army. This was our server for the evening. We all know that Chinatown waiters are some of the more unique people you can find on the entire island. Some are overly friendly, while others are extremely cold. This one, in a way, takes a little more time to figure out.
This individual was like a commanding figure. There were times where their charisma was quite clear and other times, you were wondering if you were getting on their nerves. We were a group of 6 people and perhaps, from an outsider’s view, it seemed like we didn’t know what we were doing. Some answers that we were given were quite helpful, while others seemed a tad bit too aggressive or even sarcastic, a page out of my playbook if you really want to know. I wonder if we were just a number like the tables we had.
The ordering process was a little different than the norm. Since we were 5 people eating all together, we had a plan in mind to make the best of it. The sixth individual didn’t eat “meat” and ordered on their own. We decided to all pick one main dish and offer it up for sharing for the rest of us. Then, we added anything that we wanted to try to round things out.
When we sat down, there was no paper provided, so remembering what we wanted required a method worthy of someone who doesn’t think inside the box. This is where I pulled out a napkin that I carry in my shirt pocket. I proceeded to write down all the numbers of the dishes we wanted. I was ready to list this all out for the server, but they decided to take a chance and take it from me. Once the order was put in, my napkin was promptly returned to me. The worse thing of it was that, seconds later, I found a piece of paper in that same pocket.
Within mere seconds of our order being put in, we were all amazed to find food flying towards the 4 tables pushed together for our convenience. I’ve never seen so much food being made so quickly. Food was coming faster than we could account for and take pictures of. Thankfully, despite my napkin serving as the order of the day, everything we ordered was accounted for.
This large amount of food created a problem. Here we were with 4 tables and 6 people. With all the needed accessories, there wasn’t enough space to put everything. I swear that while we were eating, at least one plate was being held in mid-air, ensuring someone was uncomfortable. So, it was a great game of juggling that we had to play in order to make sure that everyone got fed appropriately.
In all, with all the food that was ordered, the prices are still quite generous. We found ourselves paying about 20 dollars each for something like a dozen dishes. The thing that we were worried about coming in was the fact that we wouldn’t be able to finish everything. So, I’m glad to report that only 2 dishes were left and they were taken home.
The thing that we noted was the wide variety of items that could be ordered on the menu. Along with the traditional dishes that you’d get at any sit-down Chinese restaurants, there were also some Dim Sum items that were available. Ordering was a little difficult, since there was so much that we wanted to try. I think we managed to cover our bases with what we ended up getting.
Shrimp Won Ton Soup
This is a won ton soup where the dumplings are filled with pieces of shrimp. There are no noodles to this soup, but plenty of veggies.
One of the items I make a point of trying out are various won ton soups. I have an affinity to the shrimp variety. Originally, we were just going to order a simpler version of the soup. That was the case until I saw that they offered a shrimp variety. Right there on the spot, the people who went in agreed and we were on our way.
The dumplings are quite comparable to my favorite shrimp won ton soups I’ve had in the past. The only slight difference was the fact the shrimp were a little too tough and provided a bit of resistance.
Normally, I don’t drink the broth of the soup, but I decided to give it a whirl this time around. The broth wasn’t as tasteless as I thought it would be, but comprised of the remnants of the aftertaste of shrimp. Overall, it’s won ton soup that I would recommend trying.
General Tao Chicken
This was probably the most popular dish of the evening and always a must when it comes to ordering in Chinese restaurants. I know that it’s really a North American inspired dish, but it really has become part of the whole Chinese restaurant experience.
For this version, the pieces of chicken were quite generous in size and packed the necessary punch. I found myself picking at the small pieces near the end of the meal, just to make sure I made the most of this dish. It was definitely one of the stronger selections to me.
BBQ Pork Plate
This dish includes some steamed rice, various veggies, and BBQ pork.
This dish was actually quite popular and many of the group were helping themselves to the rice that was on the dish. The thing that really surprised me was the quality of the BBQ pork. I only managed to get to this at the end of the meal, but once I did, I was actually quite happy with the piece I had. It wasn’t too tough and went down easy.
Chicken Fried Rice
This is a run of the mill chicken fried rice. This was actually one of the two dishes that didn’t quite make it all the way down, since there was some still left. What you have here is rice that is quite fluffy. The only thing that I would complain about is the fact that you don’t quite get the flavour of the chicken in this. The rice is definitely the part that comes out first.
For the purpose of our evening, we ordered an entire roasted duck. This is also available halved.
When you get something like this, you are always taking a gamble. Some pieces are probably full of meat and are worth it. Then, you have the pieces that are more bone than meat. When you got the right piece, it was very satisfying. Get one with more bone, and you find yourself struggling with the piece you got.
Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll
When I saw this on the menu, I just had to make sure we got this. This was the first of three Dim Sum selections we made on the evening.
The rice noodle rolls themselves were somewhat lighter than the kinds you’ll get at other more reputable Dim Sum places. The thing that stuck out for me was the fact that the shrimp were literally bursting out of the seams. It wasn’t the best rice noodle rolls I’ve ever had, but some that I wouldn’t mind having again.
Shrimps in Black Pepper Sauce
This was my choice for the evening when it came to major plates. These shrimp are generous in size and pack the taste. I definitely recommend this because it went pretty quickly. I made sure to sample the shrimp here mainly due to their rather sizable entry on the plate.
Eggplant in General Tao Sauce
This was the choice made by the member of the group who didn’t eat any meat.
Beef Rice Noodles
These are rice noodles with beef, chop suey, onions, and other various items.
When compared with other dishes I’ve tried in other establishments, this one is on par with them all. The noodles are not too tough and go down rather easily.
Eggplants in Spicy Sauce
This was a vegetarian dish shared by us all. I only really tried this once during the course of the evening. For me, it was a little out of my comfort zone and didn’t sit well with me. The rest of the group enjoyed this as it was more in their range of taste.
This is the second of the three Dim Sum selections we ordered. I can’t imagine a Dim Sum experience without getting these. These one of the are the signature items of the whole Dim Sum experience in my opinion.
These were actually quite generous with the amount of shrimp included here. Since they are more complicated to make, these actually came out a little later than the rest of the dishes. This was most definitely worth it.
Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
This was the last Dim Sum dish and overall selection to arrive at the table. Compared to the other dumplings, it wasn’t quite my favorite. I’m more biased when it comes to having shrimp. For what it was, it was alright.
What Restaurant Ethan is to Montreal’s Chinese food scene is a sleek and quick place to get food. While the staff might be your typical Chinatown waiter, you should look past that and think about the food that is comparable to other similar establishments. It might not be a place that you can fit a rather large group, but one that anyone can casually try a wide variety of dishes that are really worth it.
This finish things off, one of our members, whilst attending to the nearby ATM machine, brought back some Dragon Beard candy. Believe it or not, I have never had this before in my entire life. I was encouraged to try this and I was more than happy to oblige. The candy really sticks to your teeth and the peanut butter interior makes sure of that. It’s not something that you eat every day. Plus, you don’t eat more than 1 or 2 pieces of the stuff. In all, I can cross that off my list of things I haven’t tried.