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Nov 12, 2007 08:40 PM

Chez Hwang

tried chez hwang tonight (upper lachne road), good seafood pancake and kalbi. not too impressed with the pan chan. i thought the kimchi was a bit wilty.
service was great and belienv it or not, it was pretty busy on a monday night.
other reviews? anyone tried kapoga on st jacques recently?

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  1. Went to BBQ Hwang a few weeks ago, and what we had was fantastic. We started with steamed dumplings, expecting just a few each, but it was a serving of about 12 very generous dumplings. The dough was perfectly light, yet with just the lovely hint of chewiness, and the filling was very flavourful.
    I had the kimchi-pork-tofu soup/stew - I forget the name - and it was positively sublime. Wonderfully hot, with a rich broth, and lots of delicious treasures inside. I would call it an instant favourite.

    1. We loved Chez Hwang. The pajeon was great and we had no complaints about the banchan. We thought the quality level was very high and everything was very well prepared.

      As for Kagopa, it would have been a much better experience had the owner not systematically refused to serve us black goat stew or anything that was not bulgogi or galbi. He was trying to be nice about it, but it was very frustrating to be told that everything is too spicy for you and being refused everything you want to try on the menu. They were so amazed that my GF ate her dish (which was not even that spicy) without choking to death. The food there is really good, but I'm not sure it's worth spending ten minutes arguing with the owner to get it.

      31 Replies
      1. re: SnackHappy

        That's something that really annoys me. No, no, you won't like this. Only _____ people like this.
        Drives me crazy.
        I remember once explaining to the waiter in a Thai restaurant that we've been to Thailand many times and for a very long time, and we would love if they could make it "Thai people style", just like in Thailand, because we know the alternative. He said he understood, but the food was the usual, dull, plain stuff. We told him why we didn't like it, and he went through a long explanation about how people come in and ask for dishes to be "like in Thailand", but then find it too hot, too many strong flavours, whatever. He said next time he''ll know we really mean it. There was no next time, and never will be. That was Souvenirs de Bangkok, and every time we walk by we say, "Nope, doesn't remind me of Bangkok at all".

        I find the Chinese places much more amenable to giving you what you want. I remember the first time I ordered fish ma soup (fish stomach) at Hong Kong on St. Laurent, and the waiter said, "Ugh, You like that? Even I don't like that"

        1. re: bomobob

          went to chez hwang to try the pork bone soup and table grilling. good soup but not very spicy. i told the waiter the food is not spicy, he brought me a bowl of spice paste, also quite bland. i ask him if this is howe he likes it, he said no im korean! and you're western! he seemed genuinenly perplexed thta i would want the spicier food. what is this? a montreal thing? a korean thing? living in TO i didnt feel this watering down of food in restaurants. am i wrong?

          1. re: redroses

            That's also my only complaint about Hwang, as exactly the same thing happened to me. I'm starting to think that maybe it is a Montreal thing. I sometimes have to jump up and down and stand on my head and implore the waiters to make food like they cook it in their home country, assuring them that I have been there, have eaten the food, the real stuff, the hot stuff, and they still rarely listen.
            Many years ago, we used to joke that French Quebeckers had a very low tolerance for hot food, and it was generally true, but that's no longer the case, and my theory is that many restaurants still play by those rules and blindly assume that nobody will eat the food if it's hot.
            I remember trying a new Thai place on Wellington several years ago. It was opening week and we chatted with the owner, who was so proud to tell us that he was Thai, his cook was Thai, his staff was his Thai family. We told him how much we loved Thailand, spoke to him in Thai, told him all about doing apprenticeships in Thai cooking in his country, and mostly how we were so anxious to have them cook us something authentic, which he promised he would.
            The food was desperately dull and genuinely, North Americanly, uninteresting. When we told him as much, he said he was afraid real Thai food would be too hot for us.
            So it begs the question: What hell are you supposed to do???

            1. re: bomobob

              There was a review in the Gazette a few weeks ago about a Chinese restaurant on Rene-Levesque, I forget what it was called, that has 2 menus: one for white people, and one for Chinese people. The reviewer was tipped off beforehand, but she still had to fight with them to get the Chinese-people menu!

              1. re: cutelittlebirdie

                Interesting. That's like when I go to Chinatown with a group from work (many of whom are Chinese) and they order from a Chinese only menu, for a Chinese New Year's meal. The food's always great too.

                1. re: cutelittlebirdie

                  That was the Yu Hang restaurant. After Sarah's review in the Gazette, I posted her asking if anybody had any experience at Yu Hang, I got no response.

                2. re: bomobob

                  This is not just a Montreal thing, it is a "any market that doesn't tolerate spicy food" thing. I remember a Korean restaurant in Winnipeg in the late 80's called "Soons Steak and Pizza House: Specializing in Korean Cuisine". I kid you not, that was the name of the restaurant. We knew the owners, and if they did not have the steak and pizza, they would have no business. And of course, the Korean cuisine was toned down in case some non-Korean felt adventurous. Fortunately, he would revise it when Korean families went in.

                  You need to have a certain base population to support certain cuisines in their authentic form. Montreal's Korean population is not big. However, Korean cuisine seems to be the newest "ethnic" rising star. This is evidenced by the number of people who are posting on CH and other boards about Korean, and by the increasing number of articles on Korean cuisine in the food magazines. There are also more and more Korean restaurants opening up in many cities, including Montreal. In the past, Korean restaurant owners would open up hybrid Japanese/Korean restos, or even pure Japanese restos. So things are looking up, and clearly tastes are changing. But Montreal is still a very conservative market compared to many cities of the same size. Spices and smelly food like kimchi are still a little too much for many people here. I still meet a lot of people who tell me they don't like dim sum or have never had it, and that is pretty accessible fare.

                  I think restauranteurs will get the idea if customers continue to bug them for spicier food. The key is to be vocal. Find a place you like at least a bit, be a regular, and keep asking them for spicier and spicier. Then see what happens as your relationship with the restaurant evolves. If you still aren't getting enough spicy love, then do what my Korean mother does when she goes into "western" restaurants: bring some Tabasco, or that srichacha sauce, and load it on in direct view of the owners, saying "it's just not spicy enough!" Maybe then they'll get the message! or you may have to start the hunt for another restaurant...)

                  But patience please. For every one customer like you who wants it more authentic, there are 10 who find the water too spicy. That's just our market. But times they are a changing....

                  1. re: moh

                    Addendum: I went to Fu Kam Wah again. Tonight, the waiter recognized me from before, and somehow I got a Chinese only menu. I told him that I did not speak or read Chinese (I am Korean). He pointed out a set menu on the Chinese menu, and tried to explain it. In the end, we got it, and it was interesting! The most interesting item we had was a black chicken soup with various Chinese herbs, pork, and what we thought was some kind of mollusc. Either clam, or geoduck, or maybe some kind of snail? it was described as some kind of snail. The soup was some kind of herbal Chinese medicine soup, tasty but slightly bitter. Very authentic, but not necessarily something that would appeal to Western tastes. The other dishes were more approachable: Oyster with black bean paste and coriander, white fish stirfried with pea pods, mushrooms, baby corn, and a beef dish in a red sweet sauce with onions. Everything was delicious. But the whole experience got me thinking about another strategy to get more authentic food: Go with an Asian person. I'm not Chinese, but it was probably much easier for me to get the Chinese menu. And if you go to a Korean resto with me, well, you might be able to get spicier food. In fact, I'm thinking of starting a sideline business: Asian for Hire: I will accompany non Asians to restaurants and help them get more authentic food.

                    1. re: moh

                      I love it !! How much will you charge for this "escort" service?? You might just be in great demand.

                      I'll book ya!

                      1. re: maisonbistro

                        I don't think I am in a position to charge, I'm still developing the concept, and I couldn't guarantee the results at this point in time. We were quite lucky, our dining companion is an adventurous eater, so the black chicken soup with unrecognizable ingredients and slightly bitter medicinal flavour did not phase him. So for now, I'd go with anyone who is willing to experiment a bit. I shall continue my experiments with the Fu Kam Wah people, now that I have a contact.

                        What is Murray's? I only know of the old sports equipment store on Peel where i used to get my ultimate frisbee cleats...

                        Re: Black Chicken soup: It is truly black chicken soup, but it is not a jet black as the one you had in Vietman, Bomobob. I saw a picture of a truly black chicken in an Asian cookbook I own, and that was probably what you had. This chicken has Grey/black skin, and the flesh is slightly grey. The chicken foot (also in my soup) was jet black. I saw some of them frozen in one of the Chinese grocery stores this morning. I'm not sure that this soup will match your great experience in Vietnam, sometimes there are magical moments that are linked to time and place.

                        Indeed, thank goodness for Bangkok! I am intrigued by the extra spicy. As someone who breaks into a sweat at the medium spicy level, I am impressed....

                        1. re: moh

                          Murray's is a million year old restaurant chain in Montreal that serves clients who are mostly also a million years old. There is only one left now, in TMR, but there used to be quite a few. To put it into perspective, my mother used to take me there in the 1960s for egg sandwiches and rice pudding.

                          1. re: bomobob

                            Yeah. And you need to go with a WASP if you want access to the special extra bland menu.

                            Just kidding!

                            1. re: carswell

                              You know its odd, when one grows up in an Asian household, one doesn't know how good they have it until later. I used to complain about having Korean food all the time. Now, I'm quite nostalgic about all those dishes... That being said, I have the unique perspective of thinking about mashed potatoes as an "exotic" food. And meatloaf! I used to go over the moon when i got to eat at a non-Asian friend's house and we got that for dinner! Tuna Casserole...yummm. Egg salad and rice pudding.... yummm. And don't even get me started about jello salads!!!! Yup, I still have a soft spot for "white people food". Is Murray's any good? It'll give me a break from kimchi induced ROF (think Johnny Cash)

                              1. re: moh

                                Ummm, is Murrays any good. Probably not. But Murrays to a native Montreal is like "white people food" to a Korean LOL.

                                It's just Murrays. Just like the Brown Derby was all about great and not so great deli - but it was just the whole Brown Derby "thing".

                                1. re: maisonbistro

                                  Ah yes, like the big orange julep thing? Don't care what they serve, it's just fun ordering food from a giant orange...

                                  1. re: moh

                                    Speaking of which, they tore down the one on the south shore. It had been closed for a while, but it was still a shock to see it gone.

                                    1. re: SnackHappy

                                      There was an Orange Julep on the South Shore??! Who knew!

                                      1. re: kpzoo

                                        It was near St. Constant, and was a burger place after the Julep closed, all painted up like a giant hamburger, but in the shape of an orange. Weird.

                                      2. re: SnackHappy

                                        Isn't there a Orange Julep in the east end somewhere(besides the one on Decarie)?

                                        1. re: BLM

                                          On Sherbrooke East (I think) out near the Olympic Stadium.

                                          1. re: BLM

                                            There's a place on Sherbrooke East called Orange Julep Enrg. It's not a Gibeau Orange Julep. It's a breakfast and lunch joint. The building itself is one of the few examples of late art deco (streamline moderne?) architecture in Montreal, and has often been featured in the media. I've never eaten there, though.


                                2. re: bomobob

                                  In this week's Eater's Digest column in the Montreal Gazette, they printed the steamed fruit pudding recipe from Murray's restaurant. It's the third time the Gazette has printed the recipe(it must be very popular with readers). Murray's restaurant opened in 1954, where this steam fruit pudding has been on their menu since their inception.

                            2. re: moh

                              How about an exchange of services?

                              You accompany me to Chez Hwang. I accompany you to Murray's.

                              1. re: moh

                                Black chicken?!? In Montreal?!? You had me going there for a second.
                                Last January I was in Northern Vietnam in a small town in the mountains. It was freezing cold at night, but the vendors were at the night market, all bundled up. One guy heard us mumbling about how good a hotpot would be, and as it was the only English word he knew, he started shouting "hotpot hotpot" and pointing to his stall. He said he could make ga den, or mountain chicken in a hotpot. When it came to the table, it was a bubbling, aromatic cauldron of the blackest "meat" I've ever seen. I too thought it was some sort of mollusk and that I'd have to learn my rudimentary Vietnamese all over again. As we stared at it he obviously sensed the trepidation and came over and pointed to the bobbing black clumps, saying "ga den, ga den" over and over. Upon closer inspection, it was indeed chicken with both skin and flesh as black as asphalt. But much tastier. It was delicious.

                                My favourite thing about the Chinese places in Montreal is that they will serve you anything you want, but rather than them questioning your fortitude for spice, it's more a question of your gag factor. I love fish ma soup, made with fish stomach, but any place I order it, the waiter invariably says something like, "you sure you want that?", or, "you know what this is, right?", or my favourite, "ah, you won't like that one". But they'll always make it for you.

                                I understand restaurants wanting to please as many customers as possible, thus not satisfying those who want "the real thing", but why not offer it for those who do?
                                My personal quest is for a Thai restaurant that will make pork with chili and basil the way it's supposed to be done. In Northern Thailand, it's practically the hotdogs and fries of the region. Ground pork fried up with a bit of shallot, an ungodly amount of fresh prik ke nu, one of the hottest of the hot, and half a cup of basil, along with the requisite amounts of nam pla and lime juice. You scoop it up in balls of sticky rice, and it's sensational. It's about the 2nd hottest thing I've ever eaten. but the combination of flavours goes so far beyond the hotness.
                                Without exception, in every place here I've ordered it, it comes as a bland mixture of sweet green and red peppers, slices of meat, and a beef broth-tapioca starch sauce, which could simply be labelled as Cantonese Pork with Green Pepper.
                                So why not offer the real thing with a warning? I just don't get it.

                              2. re: moh

                                "For every one customer like you who wants it more authentic, there are 10 who find the water too spicy."

                                LOL, I agree with that last statement! We had a Chinese restaurant for over a decade (don't ask - created a huge disruption in our family life and I don't have fond memories), and I would say that the vast majority of people ordered the mildest dishes on the menu (they were rated with little peppers), and often asked for the hotter dishes to be toned down. But it was always amusing when someone bit into a chili pepper by accident.

                                I'm not sure it's an Asian thing. I am partly Asian myself and have a very mild palate, while nothing is ever spicy enough for my Italian husband; he's only satisfied if he's crying and choking over a meal.

                                1. re: moh

                                  Even at some places in Toronto, the staff would be shocked when their "VERY SPICY" dish did me no harm. I think it's an us vs them kind of thing.

                                  1. re: celfie

                                    You know, come to think of it, it's all restaurants. I used to go to Wings 'n Things in NDG with a friend when we just wanted some beer and chicken. I asked for the "suicide" sauce, and waitress usually asked if I was sure. Honestly, it wasn't very hot at all. Oh, a bit maybe, but really not what I'd hoped for.

                                    1. re: bomobob

                                      yet good ol' bangkok and their 'not responsible for level of spice' sign

                                      1. re: celfie

                                        You know, when I discovered that place (and I KNOW you're not talking about the restaurant of the same name), I thanked her profusely for finally coming into my life. I always feel so bad for Mr. Berber, fiddling with his eggplant while the hordes line up next door.

                                        1. re: celfie

                                          I've once saw someone order "extra spicy" at Bangkok, and the whole line went into silence. He. not once, broke a sweat during eating it. He looked like he was eating vanilla pudding.

                                          1. re: emerilcantcook

                                            You know that's why they had to change their ventilation system several years ago, right? They had a lot of complaints, and ended up closing for quite some time while the work was done. It was really brutal for a lot of people. I mean the smoke was brutal for a lot of people, the closing was brutal for me.

                          2. We went to Chez Hwang again last night. Nothing was spicy enough, especially not the kimchi. We had:

                            • noodles stir-fried with seafood
                            • steamed pigs feet (a little cold but otherwise delicious)
                            • kimchi and pork soup (not spicy enough, too salty - prefer the one at Maison Bulgogi)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mainsqueeze

                              Tonight I'm giving Hwang a miss and going back to the one on Cavendish just below Sherbrooke. Seoul BBQ. Yummy.

                              1. re: bomobob

                                You should really try the Kwang Kum just a bit further down on Sherbrooke. IMHO the best Korean in town.

                                1. re: Arktik

                                  Hwang Kum? I love it and used to go there all the time, but they had closed for quite a long time. Have they reopened?

                            2. I took my parents, my mother in law, and my wife to Montreal recently. While we didn't exactly go there for the Korean food, this was easily the worst Korean food I have ever had in my life. Horrible! Montreal diners deserve better. If this is what people there would consider good Korean food, that is terribly unfortunate. I don't even know where to begin. How is this place still open?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: psychodad

                                I went for dinner this evening: shared the steamed dumplings which were very good and came very hot; ordered the barbecue which has to be ordered for two and could not convince hubby to go along with the bulgogii so we had the chicken which very good.

                                Came with 4 side veggies including kimchi, sprouts and daikon - all delicious. Spice was perfect: enough that we felt not too much that it overwhelmed.

                                Waitress helped cook the barbecue and with that we had miso soup included. Bill with diet coke came to a little under 50 dollars: Would I go back? Definitely.

                                Is it better than Seoul BBQ on Cavendish? Absolutely without question the food is a much higher quality; atmosphere not so dowdy and food without hesitation tastes so much better that IMHO it doesn't rate in the same category. Of course prices are higher, too.

                                1. re: blondee_47

                                  after hearing rave comments on this location, I went for dinner. Oh my god, this is crap food tasteless, not fresh and disgusting. This experience was so disappointing and not worth the money.

                                  1. re: Brett Adams

                                    Brett i don't know what you ate can you be more specific as to which foods you ordered?

                                  2. re: blondee_47

                                    I agree blondee Great food good price.But what I love are the Lunchtime Bento Boxes quick service and all fresh indgredients.They have both Bento's and sizzling platters.My favs are the Kalbi Bento Box and the Spicy Chicken Sizzling Platter. All lunches are under $10

                                    1. re: finefoodie55

                                      definitely going for lunch finefoodie55. If the spicy chicken is the one we ordered that we cooked at the table then that is one 'fine tasting dish'.