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Sep 17, 2007 07:46 PM

Montreal Chinatown

We hunted Chowhound for a good Chinese restaurant in Montreal's Chinatown but couldn't find anything that hit us. Then we asked around and heard about Beijing at 92 Rue La Gauchetiere at the corner of Rue St. Urbaine. The first thing we noticed was that it was PACKED on a Tuesday night, while other nearby restaurants were empty. The other notable was that many of the customers were CHINESE. This was a very good sign! We were not disappointed. My friend said the best way to tell a good Chinese restaurant is the Hot and Sour soup. It is complex to make and difficult to pull off. Beijing's H&S Soup was wonderful! We loved the Chicken & Walnuts and shrimp with peapods. We decided we would like to come back and try everything on the extensive menu. One thing to note is that the Chinese customers did appear to be served more quickly than anyone else, but we figured they were the returning locals, so probably deserved the better service. It is worth trying!

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  1. I would only judge a Szechuan restaurant by their hot and sour soup, not a Cantonese restaurant which I might judge instead by their beancurd and seafood soup. Keung Kee, also on la Gauchetiere, is very good for that soup. Is the hot and sour soup still good at Niu Kee? You might want to try that one and compare. It is just a little bit outside of Chinatown, walkable. In other Chinatown thoughts, have you tried the peking duck special at Village Mon Nan? That's on Clark.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Plateaumaman

      the h&s at niu kee has been watered down some. I agree that Beijing has a killer hot and sour and my newish find "amigo" does a fantastic one too.

      1. re: celfie

        I have always found Niu Kee hot & sour soup to be watered down(tried it 2-3 times there).

        1. re: BLM

          Back under the original owner and kitchen staff, I found the hot and sour soup at Niu Kee to be unusually thin, as in not thickened with cornstarch, but utterly delicious. Excellent broth, well seasoned, spicy, sour. Those days are long gone.

          I had it last night and it was hugely disappointing. Watery and bland. When you have to use the pepper and vinegar on the table to add your own heat and sourness to the soup, it's a big miss.

          The current version of Niu Kee is otherwise disappointing, based on a sampling of three dishes, though not as uninspired as that soup.

          I suspect they are on their second or third chef, as homestyle tofu is now a third distinct recipe (at least) since the restaurant opened. And this one is very good. The tofu is that dense, tough-on-the-outside, soft inside kind whose name I don't know, but it's just right for this dish.

          Crispy fish in spicy garlic sauce is a pale imitation of earlier versions. No heat, no garlic to speak of. OK, but dull.

          Seafood combination stir-fried with hot pepper: some decent heat, a tasty sauce and some very positive elements overall, but could use some addition by subtraction. Remove the fake crab, sad little mussels and tiny shrimp and you would have a very nice dish of spicy baby squid. (I never had this one from the original kitchen, so I suspect I would be more critical if I really knew what I was missing.)

          We also saw and smelled a number of very nice-looking dishes on their way to other tables. Almost everyone but us seemed to be having the dry garlic spareribs, for example, which were always a standout in the past and must still have something going for them.

          Bottom line: if you had no experience of Niu Kee before the ownership change last year, you'd probably be reasonably impressed as long as you skipped the disastrous soup.

          Those who do remember the old days will likely feel somewhat let down, but it might still be possible to put together an excellent meal by re-exploring the menu and making sure the staff knows you like it hot.

        2. re: celfie

          You don't go to Nuikee for H&S. You got what you deserved.

          Nuikee has excellent Eggplant, Spicy beef, and Kung Pau Chicken.... although it is not as good as it once was, since the original owners had hightailed it back to China... again... perhaps they will return as they did last time.

          Nuikee is Northern Chinese, not Szechuan...

          1. re: fedelst1

            I have heard niu kee refered to as north chinese over and over again but the family who owned it told me the cuisine is Szechuan. And I disagree re: soup. When I first discovered niu kee, the medicinal properties of the H&S soup was perhaps their crowning achievement.

            I guess the wheat noodle dishes have more in common with the North than Sichuan, but from what I understand of Northern Chinese cuisine, it doesn't havem uch in common with niu kee.

      2. several years ago my husband and i visited montreal and found a fantastic chinese restaurant called pavillion nanpinc. great food, lots of locals. It was so good, we ate there 2 out of 3 nights we were there.

        1. I work at a great Chinese restaurant in Vermont, when I or any staff members go up to Montreal we always go to Maison Kam Fung for Dim Sum. I haven't been for dinner but I can tell you there is always a line, no matter what day, and it's really great dim sum. I am especially fond of their Radish Cake and fried tofu, but they also have very traditional dishes like Chicken Feet, if you're feeling up to it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: biggirlco

            I have been eating Dim Sum in Chinatown for over 25 years, and have moved from Kam Fung to Mon Nan in the early 80's then to Tong Por, and then to Lotte Furama on Rene Levesque, then back to in the Kam Fung, and then back to Lotte on St. Laurent. These migrations were due to the failure to execute at each establishment. They would start out producing top quality product, and ultimately, poof, one day they are pushing out slop. I am convinced that there is a gang of Dim Sum Chefs who rule the kitchen, and they migrate from one place to the other.

            So how do you know when your DS is not on top of the game.. well your chau yau yeu (deep fried squid tentacles ( or alternate translation is 'you're fired')) is greasy and coated in a thick cold batter, your har gao (shrimp dumplings) have a thick pasty dough, and the Chau Fun (steamed rice noodles) are mushy and starchy (how you can screw up Chau fun is beyond me). Presently, I am torn between Lotte and Tong Por, but have to go back to Kam Fung to check in. The Lotte seems to have a good selection of dumplings, whereas Tong Por seems to have a better selection. Yet the Fried Squid at Tong Por is still being served cold and greasy, and the dumplings are hit and miss. Perhaps the gang disbursed causing general confusion.

            1. re: fedelst1

              Thanks for the list! I am a Chinese student from Calgary and every time my family comes to visit or help me move in we're always so disappointed by the Chinese restaurants here. It's doubly hard since a lot of the Chinese restaurants are not southern Chinese. Kam Fung seems to be the only one my family's liked so far, but I'll definitely give Lotte and Tong Por (and maybe even Beijing) a whirl.

          2. Thanks for this review--I love Chinese and am never quite sure where to go in Chinatown--we will definitely give Beijing a whirl.

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