90 De La Gauchetiere O.
Metro: Place d’Armes
Bus: STM 55, 80, 129, 150, 410, 427, 430, 435, 747
Visit: June 21, 2013
In Montreal, there is one thing that is really tough to do. Finding Chinese restaurants that stand out is something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. In most cases, what we see as our favorites doesn’t necessarily work for each and every single person. When our tried and true becomes complacent, it is our duty to seek out an alternative. The first step in that journey is another staple of Chinatown, Mon Shing.
For the last 5 years, every week, my father and I would trek out to Chinatown to get our weekly fix of noodles and won ton soup. For the majority of that time, the place that we chose was always the same. With time, I found that the place has been getting complacent. Also, I’m the type of the person that tunes out after having the same thing repeatedly over and over again. With that in mind, we compared menus on the pedestrian boulevard in Chinatown to see what we’d pick. We could have gone to a place I’ve been to before, but what fun would there be in that.
Mon Shing is one of literally a dozen Chinese restaurants in the small area known as Montreal’s Chinatown. Unless you have a history with them or your family does, you wouldn’t really know where to start and which restaurant is the one that you should rely on. Some people have gotten so fed up with the scene that they have migrated away from the core area of Chinese cuisine to other parts of the island.
When you enter the restaurant, you can’t help but find the decor to be a tad bit dated. But, when you really start to think about it, most other Chinese restaurants share the same feature. It’s something that most other types of restaurants can’t get away with, but Chinese places seem to use that to build their charm. Mon Shing is no different as the abundance of mirrors don’t do anything to help that.
The next item that you have to be aware of when going to any Chinese restaurant is the fact that you won’t be getting the best service. In the majority of cases, you shouldn’t be offended if the server isn’t quite the people person that you would come to expect at the best restaurants. After all, you come for the food, mostly because it is one of the cheaper types of cuisine out there. If that doesn’t really float your boat to speak, there’s always the one server sporting the ‘juicy’ pants.
On this evening, Mon Shing was quite busy when we entered. That was the case for the most part. As the evening went one, under the watchful eye of the owner, tables started to clear and they stayed empty. What struck me the most was the fact that the majority of the crowd that was there were Asian people. I always seem to go with the rule of thumb of if you see a Chinese person eating at a Chinese restaurant, it must be worth it. So, I’ll let that sighting speak for itself.
The menu, much like all the restaurants of the same variety, is quite large. You’ll never get bored if you’re always willing to try new things. Now, on the other hand, if you like to stick to one set dish every outing, you might be overwhelmed by the long list of choices. To my surprise, since my father is of the settling variety, I was able to sneak in a dish that he would normally never order himself.
Won Ton Soup
Before we got started with the core of the dishes, it wouldn’t be an outing without seeing how the won ton soup holds up. If I ever had to give up searching for burgers, I’d definitely go after finding really good won ton soup. Up to this point, I haven’t found many worth going back for and I was hoping to see how this one would stand up.
What we noticed immediately was the fact that the portion size for this soup was half the size of what we were normally used to. The broth was a little watery and we had a hard time really getting a sense of flavour from the whole thing.
To finish, the dumplings, which are the items that I base my judgement of won ton soup on, were quite adequate. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t completely a shrimp based dumpling, as there were traces of pork to be tasted. It wasn’t half bad at all. The smaller size and tougher consistency took it down a few notches, but not enough to ever strike it out forever from trying it again.
Beef Rice Noodles
The first main dish is a hallmark of the majority of my Chinese restaurant visits. It is also the dish that sent me away from our normal restaurant. If the dish is done right, the contents of the plate will disappear rather quickly.
What my father noted was the fact that the noodles looked quite overcooked and they were minced into small pieces, making it harder to pick up. Normally, I don’t question him in matters of food, since he did work in kitchens for most of his life. But, I didn’t find the noodles to be overcooked at all. They were actually just right and made eating them so much easier. The pieces may have been small, but they were still manageable.
With the next dish that I wanted to order, my father insisted that I get a bowl of white rice. I personally didn’t really need it, but that’s life. At least, I listen to my elders when it is reasonable to do so.
General Tao Chicken
This is a plate of General Tao chicken, which is one of the more popular dishes ordered in a Chinese restaurant, which is strange because you won’t really find it in mainland China. Then again, that’s a story for a different blog.
The taste of the chicken was quite alright, but there was one thing that was quite different than other similar plates I tried in other restaurants. Normally, you get a really generously sized portion of chicken. Here, the pieces were quite small, which to this day, I can’t recall another place where that would be true.
The last item to note is the fact that there’s always that decorative item that is placed on a plate that serves absolutely no purpose. For a simple restaurant like this, no one would miss a piece of sculptured carrot.
Beef Chow Mein
Our normal way of doing things is to order something to take out to eat on the next day. The item that we chose to take out was an order of beef chow mein. We also had some other noodles and chicken left over, which all made for quite the meal for the following day.
The noodles weren’t half bad, but they were a whole lot thinner than I’m used to. The choice of vegetables really worked well with the noodles, even if there wasn’t much of it to speak of.
Mon Shing is just like every other Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. The food was acceptable and the service was reminiscent of all the other restaurants in the same category. Then again, it’s just another notch in the belt.