HOME > Chowhound > Quebec (inc. Montreal) >

Tapioca Thé?!

carswell Mar 20, 2008 12:48 PM

Today's Mirror has a review -- wait, make that a rave -- of Tapioca Thé, a place that had slipped under my radar until now. And more's the pity, from the sounds of it: "But don’t let the twee décor fool you: Tapioca Thé may look like a kitten—in fact, it may look kind of Hello Kitty—but a tiger lurks within. You see, like pretty much every other bubble tea establishment in town, Tapioca Thé offered snacks and light meals to go along with their impressive selection of hot and cold teas, but unlike any other bubble tea establishment in town that I know of, the owner of Tapioca Thé decided to raise the stakes, bringing in a certified Szechwanese chef to man the kitchen. Not only have they successfully raised the stakes, they’re raising the roof with their fiery Szechwan cuisine."

Lots of mouth-watering -- and thoroughly unMontrealish -- descriptors: "explosive broth ... swimming with hot chilies and laced with chili oil", "mind-altering qualities of Szechwan peppercorns", "chilies setting your mouth ablaze", "our mouths literally tingling from the sensory overload", "highly flavourful soft tofu with ground pork and copious amounts of ground chilies", "no holds barred". Sounds like a new Niu Kee. On steroids.

Last one there is a thousand year egg!

Tapioca Thé
1672 de Maisonneuve W.
514 223-4095
www.montrealmirror.com/2008/032008/re...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. m
    Moosemeat RE: carswell Mar 20, 2008 06:21 PM

    Carswell, I think you just picked what I'm having for lunch tomorrow.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Moosemeat
      humbert RE: Moosemeat Apr 9, 2009 02:47 PM

      The food here iis amazing, really authentic, flavourful and not too expensive. I loved the cumin lamb, sadly they didn't have it when I went the second time. I also had the cucumber and jellyfish salad, twice. The hot and sour soup was apparently amazing as well. I recommend as much if not more than Cuisine Szechuan.

    2. b
      BLM RE: carswell Mar 21, 2008 07:27 PM

      Went there this afternoon. Tried their hot chili wonton soup & twice-cooked pork. Both dishes excellent. The best wonton soup I have ever tasted. Both dishes were very spicy(around the same level as original incarnation of Niu Kee). What a find! Thanks to A.J. Kinik for his Montreal Mirror review.

      5 Replies
      1. re: BLM
        m
        Moosemeat RE: BLM Mar 21, 2008 08:04 PM

        When were you there? I went this afternoon as well. I had the cumin & chilli chicken. I too was very impressed. The only thing that bothered me was that the chicken was chopped very small, with the bone still in. This meant a lot of little bone shards.

        I know that's the style of the food, but if they had just chopped it slightly larger, it would have been easier to pick out the bone. Anyways, this is a minor complaint, and it certainly won't stop me from returning again.

        1. re: Moosemeat
          b
          BLM RE: Moosemeat Mar 22, 2008 02:11 AM

          I was there approx. from 2pm to 3:15pm or so. What time were you there? I also got one of the bubble tea drinks along with the 2 dishes. I want to try them again later today.

          1. re: BLM
            m
            Moosemeat RE: BLM Mar 22, 2008 08:31 AM

            We must have just missed each other, I left just before 2pm. I forgot to say in my previous post, but I had the cold mango tea with milk yesterday, and it was very good.

            1. re: Moosemeat
              b
              BLM RE: Moosemeat Mar 22, 2008 09:54 AM

              Correct myself, I had their coffee milk tea drink. When I was there, the Tapioca The owner(I'm guessing she's the owner) wasn't aware of the Montreal Mirror review that just came out(I gave her a copy of the review).

        2. re: BLM
          b
          BLM RE: BLM Mar 22, 2008 06:19 PM

          Today my experience at Tapioca The was less successful. Tried their wonton again. This time, I felt there was very little filling in their wontons, although the wonton soup still tasted very good. The second dish I ordered, ended up being the wrong dish I had wanted. I didn't check too carefully(partly my fault), as the picture of one of dishes, didn't match the dish number on the menu.

        3. s
          Speveo RE: carswell Mar 22, 2008 09:17 AM

          I went last night with my girlfriend and we had the beef with szechuan sauce and the imperial shrimp. Both dishes were excellent and thoroughly heaped with chilis and szechuan peppercorns.

          The beef dish was quite hot, and reminded me of Niu Kee's better days for sure. The beef was served with large chunks of cabbage, both swimming in the glowing red sauce. We got the mandatory warning too . . "It's very spicy are you sure?" My last trip to Niu Kee was a disaster so I'm quite excited about this new spot.

          The Imperial Shrimp had a very interesting sweet and sour tang and the numbing effect of the szechuan peppers was very interesting with this. It was quite different to anything I've tasted before.

          I'm trying to find a subsitute for Niu Kee's salted crispy shrimp but at Tapioca Thé they were out of their salt and pepper shrimp, so I'm curious as whether it's similar or not.

          I've been trying salt and pepper shrimp and similar dishes at quite a few places and so far Beijing comes closest, but you have to specify that you want the full shrimps in the shell. Nui Kee's had a gingery and salty edge that was quite unique and I miss it so. Enough rambling!

          As for Tapioca Thé, I'll definately be going back to sample the rest of the menu. There's loads of unconventional stuff there too for the adventurous. Pork blood jelly, swamp eel, pigs ears, etc.

          1. carswell RE: carswell Mar 22, 2008 08:49 PM

            Despite some glitches in the food and service, I was impressed enough this evening to want to return. My wontons were nicely stuffed and obviously house-made but the broth was way salty, though so flavourful and spicy it almost didn't matter. The cumin beef was wow-worthy: a big pile of thinly sliced steak and onions in a light brown sauce (soy sauce, ginger, garlic and maybe some Shaoxing wine?) riddled with dried chiles, Szechuan peppercorns and a whack of crushed, not ground, cumin. Spicing was intense, even sinus-clearing though not discomfort-inducing. Stir-fried napa cabbage was a perfectly acceptable side though the spicing -- chiles and Szechuan peppercorns -- seemed a little redundant, if not boring, after the beef. Steamed rice was good. Tsingtao was the only beer on offer.

            The place was hopping at around 8 and the staff seemed a little overwhelmed. Nearly all the tables were taken (I and another guy were the only non-Chinese, too) and they were doing a brisk takeout business. It took 15 minutes after ordering to be served the beer. Fifteen minutes after that, the first dish -- the beef, not the soup -- showed up. Five minutes later, the rice. Five minutes later, the cabbage. Five or ten minutes later, the spicy wonton soup. It's also not an oasis of tranquility, what with the music videos and sports reports on the widescreen TV, the constant ringing of the phone, the whirl of the blender making iced drinks, the chimes signaling there's a dish ready for a waiter to pick up in the kitchen, the people queuing to order and pick up takeout, etc.

            Nonetheless, the food all tasted homey/authentic and was fearlessly spiced. And just looking at some of the other dishes passing by the table made my mouth water. Plus the menu has all kinds of intriguing options: along with the swamp eel, pig's ears and blood jelly, who could resist a stir-fry of "flavoured pig kidneys and hearts with spicy sauce"?

            I spoke briefly with the owner, who hails from Szechuan. The tea bar has been open for about four years. The Szechuan cook -- who I think I saw (if so, she's a woman) -- was hired about five months ago.

            12 Replies
            1. re: carswell
              b
              BLM RE: carswell Mar 22, 2008 11:17 PM

              From my first visit, Friday afternoon. I thought the Szechuan cook was a male. He was bringing up the dishes, to the waiters.

              1. re: BLM
                carswell RE: BLM Mar 23, 2008 07:34 AM

                Interesting. I assumed the woman I saw was the cook because she briefly came out of the kitchen for a refill of her stein of tea and the steady stream of dishes stopped. Soon after she returned, it started up again. One of us should ask on a follow-up visit.

                1. re: carswell
                  b
                  BLM RE: carswell Oct 17, 2008 10:35 PM

                  I was at Tapioca The Friday night, & spoke with the owner. She told me, the Szechuan cook(you are right, she's female) doesn't work at Tapioca The anymore. They have another chef from China. That could account for differences in more recents visits now. Tried their spicy won ton soup again Friday, & it's a little different(IMO) than when the female Szechuan chef was still working at Tapioca The.

                  1. re: BLM
                    e
                    emerilcantcook RE: BLM Oct 18, 2008 07:17 AM

                    That really explains it. The cumin beef I had the last time looked and tasted like someone else's interpretation of the old recipe.

                    Now I wonder if we can track down the old chef.

                    1. re: emerilcantcook
                      b
                      BLM RE: emerilcantcook Oct 18, 2008 08:00 AM

                      If I were to guess, the female Szechuan chef is probably back in China.

                      1. re: BLM
                        m
                        moh RE: BLM Dec 15, 2008 04:16 AM

                        I may have a scoop on the Szechaun chef. I was speaking to a woman who told me that the female Szechuan chef left Tapioca The and has now opened a place of her own... I am going to investigate and find out what I can, but this is a promising lead. I have an address... I'm looking for time and stomach space to check it out.

                        1. re: moh
                          e
                          emerilcantcook RE: moh Dec 15, 2008 05:44 AM

                          OK I have a wonderful idea of a new primetime show: moh, PI.

                          It is about a cheery private detective and who tries to solve chow mysteries such as tracking lost chefs or elusive mangoes. I think the proper tone of the show should be something akin to Mathnet (lets see if you are geeky enough to remember it), not CSI Miami; though we can perhaps get you some David Caruso glasses to up the mystery factor.

                          Sign here.....

                          1. re: emerilcantcook
                            m
                            moh RE: emerilcantcook Dec 15, 2008 03:04 PM

                            I can totally do this chow detective show! Here's the scoop on the new place!

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/580348

                            By the way, I passed by Tapioca The today, and they were closed. They had a gigantic banner with Chinese characters and the number "5" on it, and I suspect that what it is trying to say is that the place is closed until January 5, when the new semester starts at Concordia. At least this is my best guess as I actually do not read or speak Chinese. So if anyone can help me with this, I'd be very grateful. I do recall that Tapioca The is usually open on Mondays.

                            1. re: emerilcantcook
                              carswell RE: emerilcantcook Dec 15, 2008 03:07 PM

                              I volunteer to be the handsome hunky sidekick!

                        2. re: emerilcantcook
                          bomobob RE: emerilcantcook Oct 19, 2008 12:44 PM

                          Oh, say it ain't so! I go away for three weeks, and my world falls apart.

                          1. re: bomobob
                            porker RE: bomobob Oct 19, 2008 01:01 PM

                            Thanks to this board, we tried it last night.
                            We asked our waitress if she was cooking (she was the oldest of the 4 servers and apparently somewhat in charge), she laughed and said that it was her husband, so we had a male cook.

                            I was worried about the conflicting reports here, but it was fantastic nonetheless.

                            They're menu most likely changed since this thread was started as there are no 'cute' chilies as heat indicators (they're now asterisks, 1, 2, or 3). Although theres pig kidney, blood jelly, and stomach (tripe), there's no swamp eel or pigs ears.
                            Our server said they are now 'specials' and pointed to the handwritten boards near the cash. We were then full, so the eels and ears will wait 'til next time.
                            Service is quirky, decor is... well, no decor, our table was rickety (I hand tightened the leg bolts) and we loved every bit. The older girl went way beyond her call of duty in making us happy; she made not only one, but two trips outside the restaurant and around the corner to get requested items.
                            Definitely going back to eat our way through that menu!

                  2. re: carswell
                    carswell RE: carswell Mar 23, 2008 09:19 AM

                    Just had the leftover cabbage and beef for lunch. Out of curiosity, I piled the uneaten chile pods -- the standard issue 1½-inch dried red chiles you'll find in any Chinese grocery -- from the two dishes in a measuring cup: a scant one cup's worth! About two-thirds of them came from the beef, which also had at least two or three tablespoons of Szechuan peppercorns. Of course, the resto will adjust the spiciness to your preference and when ordering I told the owner not to skimp. What's great is that they didn't.

                  3. f
                    fedelst1 RE: carswell Mar 22, 2008 10:31 PM

                    Can't say that the food is as good as the original Nui Kee, but it will certainly suffice until the Nui kee folks (hopefully) return. I found the Cumin beef is a bit on the mushy side,and the spicing was not as intense as Nui kee, but still good.

                    The Twice cooked pork was definitely not my favorite, a bit too much fat on the pork, and the veggies were cooked to limp.

                    The green beans were nice, but could have been better if the beans were cooked from fresh. The chopped pickled mustard really made the world of difference with the beans.

                    The Taro bubble tea was one of the better ones sold in the city. I guess the generous helping of coffeemate really gives the drink a lot more body.

                    The original Nui Kee really spoiled it for a lot of us, as they truly raised the standard on Northern Chinese cuisine in Montreal. When they closed on St. Laurent, we all mourned the loss of this great dive. In the final days before closing, she was complaining that her husband was not well and that they had to return to China. Yet, 2 years later, they opened in the old Chinese cooking school on Clarke. Let's hope that the Nui Kee folks return to grace us with their excellent food.

                    Despite having sold Nui Kee to new owners, during the first months of the new management, the food was abysmal. I did return recently and can say that they have improved. Yet, it is not the same as it used to be. Many dishes were on par with Tapioca The.

                    1. carswell RE: carswell Mar 24, 2008 07:29 PM

                      An update from A.J. Kinik, the author of the Mirror review, which is especially interesting in view of the mixed reports here:

                      "But please note: since submitting that review, we’ve had one less than stellar dish at Tapioca Thé and strangely enough it was the Gong Bao Chicken. In other words, one time it was stellar and another time it was mediocre: overly sweet, overly starchy, and disappointing. Hmm...."
                      http://endlessbanquet.blogspot.com/20...

                      The certified Szechuan chef probably doesn't work 18-hour days seven days a week. Could that be the explanation? Someone should discretely inquire about his/her work schedule.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: carswell
                        bomobob RE: carswell Mar 31, 2008 07:02 AM

                        Finally made it there on Saturday night, and you can bet we'll be back there pretty darn soon!

                        Waiting for a table, first of all, we spied a woman eating the most gorgeous bowl full of fiery broth, filled with all sorts of delights. We found out this was the Park with Vegetable in Spicy Sauce. Looked more like a soup, but what's in a name? Anyway, anything that looks that good will be on our list for next time.

                        We started with the spicy wonton soup, as well as a regular wonton soup (there was one young kid with us). The spicy soup was lovely, the wontons super fresh (grandpa brought them freshly wrapped from upstairs), and the broth delicious. My only comment is that the broth, although very good, was a bit of a one-trick-pony. Chili was the main theme, but a little more complexity would have taken it from very good to stellar.

                        Funny thing was that the regular wonton soup was actually just as spicy. Don't let the yellowy colour of the broth fool you!

                        Based on what I read here, we ordered the cumin beef, and this is an absolute superstar. The alkali peppercorns just opened up the tastebuds for the assault of the cumin and onions. This is a magnificent dish, and an instant lifetime favourite. Incredible. Everyone was blown away.

                        The imperial chicken had everything going for it; sweet, sour, hot, and loads of yummy peanuts, but the only complaint was that it was a bit too sweet. I would have preferred if the sugar was toned down just a tad. It was delicious, but...

                        The eggplant with garlic sauce was amazing. Eggplants perfectly tender and buttery smooth, but not falling apart. The sauce was perfectly balanced with the hot bean paste and the garlic. This was another standout.

                        Junior Miss got an order of pan fried noodles. They first brought the wrong thing, a big plate of fried rice, and it took some time before the noodle showed up, but they were wonderful as well. Lots of Napa cabbage shredded in, and still crunchy, which was a perfect foil for the noodles.

                        Hooray!!!

                      2. e
                        emerilcantcook RE: carswell Jul 1, 2008 04:08 PM

                        It's been a while since someone reported about the food, but it looks like Tapioca Thé is alive and kicking. Here is a report from a very recent outing:

                        Five of us, three chowhounds and two of their victims, had dinner at Tapioca Thé about a week ago. We weren't sure how much food to order first, but after deliberating for about half an hour (with much patience from our server) we ordered five dishes and asked our server to recommend us a sixth one: something with vegetables. Overall, this was a kickass meal, complemented with the graciousness of the hosts. One person declared, "the meal was as good as any I've had in a Montreal Chinese restaurant, with the possible exception of Niu Kee back in the old days.". While the theme “stir fried bla bla with chilis and Szechuan peppercorns“ sounds repetitive in theory, all dishes we tasted had a unique quality of their own. Despite the heat level and the generosity of the portions, there were only pieces of fearless chili peppers in our plates at the end of the meal. More importantly, all cost 15 bucks a head, including tax and tip (we didn't drink). Yowza!

                        Here is what we ate:

                        (35) Cumin beef:
                        This is a recipe that perhaps defines what Tapioca Thé is all about. Really thinly sliced, exceptionally flavorful beef is mixed with –again thinly- sliced onions, in an amount that otherwise could have been too much. However, in this case, the amount of onions is perfect, because they add the required sweetness to balance the remaining sharp components of the dish: a generous mix of Szechuan peppercorns, crushed cumin and lots of small dried chilis. The end result is a mixture of hot and cool (achieved through the contrast between chilis and the camphor-like tingling effect of the Szechuan peppercorns) accentuated by the slight bitterness of cumin, helping sweet onions and tender beef become some happy (even perhaps somewhat psychedelic) couple. It is a dish that I keep ordering at Tapioca, and seems like I never get enough of it.

                        (42) Chili Chicken:
                        This dish consisted of dice size bits of chicken, fried and mixed with peanuts, a pornographic amount of chili peppers and a light brown sauce. The bits of chicken were somewhat over-fried to the point of getting chewy and crunchy, and there were some bone shards in it (we don’t need to take calcium supplements for a while). After some discussion we concluded that the overcooking was intentional, but at the beginning, all of us showed some resistance to eating it due to the texture. Still, we kept picking at it, and when our server came to pick up the empties, there were no leftovers (well except for a mountain of… yes you guessed it: peppers). Unusually addictive oddness, and deadline spiciness. Pepper/meat ratio was almost 1/1.

                        (51) Stir fried green beans with pork:
                        Another hit dish that is simple, but perfectly executed. Tender green beans were fried with ground pork and chilis, until they were slightly wrinkled. Nothing else to say, except for that it is really yummy, and it is another dish I keep ordering every time I visit.

                        (64) Soft tofu with eggplant and pork:
                        This was the plate that received a standing ovation: A round clay pot of lightly fried custardy tofu, pieces of tender braised eggplant and bits of ground pork, all swimming in a rich broth that seemed to be a product of some long cooking that coalesced all the flavors. While I have been frequently eating a similar dish at Pret A Manger, this one beat its ass and then danced around to humiliate it. Other comparisons were made with Cuisine Bangkok's squid with eggplant and Hsing eggplant at MM Legende; not in terms of style, but on the league of greatness. One chowhound extraordinaire compared its complexity to a moussaka dish.

                        (101) Szechuanese style cold noodles:
                        This was the only “meh” of the bunch. The noodles had a nice bite, but the meat accompanying it was dry and more importantly it didn’t have any of the rich complexity of the other plates we have shared. It perfectly worked as a “counterpoint” to the spices we were ingesting, and occasionally was doctored up with other dishes (went pretty well with the cumin beef) but I am not sure I’d order it again; especially if it is the only thing I am eating.

                        Unidentified cabbage dish: This was the pick of our server. It might have been 73 (Chinese cabbage with hot and sour sauce), but there wasn’t much sourness to it. Chopped cabbage was stir fried with *again* chilis and Szechuan peppercorns. The cabbage was fried just enough to give it some sweetness, but still had the bite. This plate disappeared in just a few minutes.

                        And after all that, we were treated some fragrant tapioca ice, on the house. We speculated about why we were treated? Perhaps we were a bunch of brave souls that ate all the hot food? Perhaps we looked too inquisitive (restaurant reviewer alert?) or perhaps like most restaurant owners/workers, these people possessed that sixth sense of identifying people that really really love food and ergo wanted to treat us. For whatever the reason those little cups were bestowed upon us, it was a perfect ending. It was light, slightly crunchy, and fragrant with some lychee flavored jelly and coconut milk: just like a bedtime story for our over-stimulated tastebuds. A sweet landing after the spicy high of Tapioca Thé.

                        It was a great night.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: emerilcantcook
                          i
                          InterFoodie RE: emerilcantcook Oct 2, 2008 02:33 PM

                          After reading several positive posts and favorable comparisons to Niu Kee my all time favorite Montreal Chinese restaurant I decided to try Tapioca Tea today.

                          WOW what a great experience.

                          The menu is quite large, but we ordered according to the suggestions I have seen posted here.

                          We ordered the Seafood Soup, Imperial Chicken, Cumin Beef, White Steamed Rice and Jasmine Tea
                          Total Cost (before tip) $36

                          All was fresh, cooked perfectly and served in large portions.

                          The service is outstanding; the lady taking care of us could not have been nicer.

                          At the end of the meal the cook comes out to make sure you enjoyed your meal, these are people that really care about what they are doing and the satisfaction of their clientele.

                          Tapioca Tea, is now on my “must” list and a place that I will encourage my friends to try.

                          1. re: InterFoodie
                            p
                            Plateaumaman RE: InterFoodie Oct 4, 2008 07:26 AM

                            I was there with friends yesterday and we also ordered according to the suggestions here. I didn't realize their menu would be so extensive! We had the spicy wontons, very nice and fresh, the Imperial Chicken which was my favourite, so spicy and sweet and salty at the same time, and the mapo tofu which was okay but in retrospect I would have rather had something with eggplant or bok choy. It paled in comparison to the chicken dish. That with some chrysanthemum tea and a great lunch was had by the three of us for under $30.

                            1. re: Plateaumaman
                              a
                              Anth RE: Plateaumaman Oct 4, 2008 08:33 AM

                              I can't put off trying this any longer (seeing especially as it's 5 minutes away from me). I hope to continue the chorus of rave reports.

                              1. re: Anth
                                x
                                xIcewind RE: Anth Oct 5, 2008 05:32 AM

                                It was pretty good. Being a Chinese person from northern China, I'd like to say that though "I"ve had better," this was also pretty amazing.

                                I brought along three friends that claimed they were able to take the heat. Were.

                                We ordered the Imperial Chicken, the Water-Boiled Beef, Ma-Po tofu, two bowls of rice (they downed this like no other, since it was the only non-spicy thing on the menu), and the spicy wonton soup.

                                The total bill, everything included, was $13 each for four people. I found that more than reasonable considering the amount and quality of the food.

                                The highlight of the dishes I'd say would be the water-boiled beef, though next time I'd probably order the water-boiled fish. It's a spicy broth with large pieces of nappa and tender pieces of beef, absolutely stunning. The imperial chicken was a hit to my three guests, but I found it a bit too mild, as I started on the water-boiled beef.

                                The Asian lady talked up there is the owner, I think, but she also does some of the cooking. We overheard her talking to a male (the chef?) about how he should try to make the wontons bigger, because customers like it like that, while making some in her hands.

                                That's customer appreciation and feedback for you.

                                Cheers.

                                1. re: Anth
                                  c
                                  chocoholics RE: Anth Oct 5, 2008 08:52 AM

                                  Went there yesterday and it was really amazind. The spicy Wonton as recommended, was awsome. Wow.,..what a selection...had a hard time deciding..what to get..but in the end, it was very satisfying. Highly recommended.

                            2. re: emerilcantcook
                              TheSnowpea RE: emerilcantcook Oct 10, 2008 07:06 PM

                              The husband and me went tonight, and I of course had to order the cumin beef, which is everything ECC described. It was lightly spiced (to me anyhow, just a few pepper pods), as well as sweet from all the onions, and redolent of cumin. Scary amount of oil in the plate, but I somehow got over that LOL It was that good. So add another thumbs up for that dish. It arrived first on the table.

                              Second dish to show up was pork with garlic shoots (they used another word, but I can't remember -- except it wasn't the right one). My CSA basket usually comes with lots of bundles of garlic shoots in July and I can't ever figure out what to do with it, as I had nothing to compare my cooking against, so I've been trading mine for other herbs. What showed up was very finely sliced long strips of pork and bright green sautéed shoots (cut in 2 inch lenghts) in a savoury sauce. Not spicy, just really garlicky and luscious. A good counterpoint to the sweeter cumin beef.

                              Third dish was picked by the husband on account of the word 'chile' LOL. It showed up somewhat later than the other two. I had forgotten that this is the dish of finely cut up chicken, bones and all, fried to a dark mahogany colour and indeed mixed with about the same amount of those crazy peppercorns and whole peanuts. The bits are small and fried enough that you can eat the bones, but I didn't quite like that. I didn't really like how fried it was either (no sauce this night), but the peppers were oddly addictive, as reported... numbing and spicy at the same time, and with a fleeting fragrance that is quite hard to capture. The more you ate, the more you wanted to eat it. Weird! It made the other two dishes even more interesting, because of our numbed lips and tongues!

                              I think we exclaimed over our dishes the whole time we ate... and we ate a lot more than expected. We couldn't stop nibbling at this and that, and had no space for bubble tea after. Next time, I guess.

                              With two bowls of plain rice, it came out to about 35$ plus tip.

                              Next time, we'll bring more folks along so we can sample more dishes. I'll also order a few veggie dishes too: I was missing that.

                              I'm most decidedly going back. Cumin beef and garlic shoot pork are high on my list!

                              1. re: TheSnowpea
                                m
                                Mr F RE: TheSnowpea Oct 11, 2008 07:38 AM

                                The chili chicken was the highlight of my two recent visits. Not wild about the bones either, but I'm sure the dish works the way it does largely because of the way the chicken is cut. It just wouldn't be the same with chunks of boneless chicken.

                                Sad to say, I wasn't wowed by the cumin beef. Had this on our second visit, when it seems they held back on the spicing across the board. It was OK, no better, as was the whole meal that night.

                                I find it annoying when a server asks about heat level, is clearly asked not to hold back, and yet dishes come out noticeably tamer than the last time and/or don't really resemble rave reviews from others. Consistency is a must in this department as in everything else a kitchen does. If we tell you we can take the heat, we mean it, period.

                                And I have to agree with erufiku that it really has a greasy-spoon vibe. No problem when the food lives up to the raves, but when it doesn't, TV and/or blender noises turn from ambiance to irritants.

                                Conclusion: I would return to Tapioca Thé for a bite after an afternoon of shopping, but it's off the list for family dinners.

                                1. re: Mr F
                                  e
                                  emerilcantcook RE: Mr F Oct 11, 2008 08:18 AM

                                  We had a really oddly made cumin beef last week (and no it wasn't a Monday which was reported as the day their usual cook is off). The onions were cut in thick and blunt slices, and were just lightly cooked, not enough to bring out their sweetness or kill their sharpness. We could count only a few Schzeuan peppers, and the heat level was tame (despite our request).

                                  So yes, consistency has been a big problem and if I wasn't working in the neighborhood, I would perhaps not bother to go there at all. But since they also gave me wonderful meals, and I am literally a stones throw away from their restaurant, I give them a chance once in a while. Sometimes they deliver; sometimes they don't. Frankly, I find this really really annoying.

                                  1. re: emerilcantcook
                                    m
                                    Mr F RE: emerilcantcook Oct 11, 2008 10:53 AM

                                    Sounds like the cumin beef we had (also not on a Monday) -- trace amounts of Szechuan peppercorn, few hot chilies, lots of thickly cut onions, not a whole lot of cumin, mild heat level.

                            3. e
                              erufiku RE: carswell Oct 10, 2008 06:52 PM

                              Had dinner there two days ago. Taste-wise I would place it among the chinese fast-food stands in Vancouver. Like many cheap Chinese places, it suffers from placing quantity over quality. Really, bring me a single serving that will actually taste good instead of a mountain of mediocrity. The bubble tea was OK, nothing to write home about, and much too sweet. As expected, it's made from powder. Meh, I guess I'll just have to fly back to the West Coast for any decent asian food, and stick with European cuisine in the meantime.

                              By Montreal standards it's dirt cheap, so one can't expect any decor. But pink wall and rickety tables... really? Ugh.

                              Needless to say, won't be coming back although I live a few blocks away.

                              PS: Their little chilli-pepper rating system is cute... But definitely adapted for the western palate.

                              1. humbert RE: carswell Apr 25, 2009 07:49 PM

                                The mapo tofu I had this evening was out of this world, absolutely beautiful with the rice.

                                1. Andria RE: carswell Aug 13, 2009 06:57 PM

                                  I really wanted to like this place, but after tonight, it just isn't happening.

                                  First the negative: The twice cooked pork lacked flavor. The special fried rice tasted like boiled rice - with shrimp, chicken, peas, etc. added,,, but no added flavor. Granted, we ordered it sans soy sauce, but Wok does the same rice wonderfully. The salt & pepper shrimp were... popcorn shrimp?!! I have NEVER had such small shrimp in restaurant (excluding those added to rice). To make matters worse, they were cooked to a rubbery consistency.

                                  Now for the positive: The waitress did her best to please us. She was friendly, attentive & pleasant. She brought us each a watermelon smoothie for no charge at the end of our meal. Also, we ordered a small hot & sour soup and received enough soup to fill four small bowls.

                                  Please convince me this was just an off night.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Andria
                                    b
                                    BLM RE: Andria Aug 14, 2009 04:40 PM

                                    So the dish you ordered was called salt & pepper shrimp, not popcorn shrimp? Because from what I remember they have a dish called popcorn chicken on their menu(of course using chicken).

                                    1. re: BLM
                                      Andria RE: BLM Aug 14, 2009 07:56 PM

                                      Nope, it was the salt & pepper shrimp. I asked the waitress about their tiny size and she explained the supplier delivered those... maybe they would be bigger next time.

                                      1. re: Andria
                                        c
                                        chanmao RE: Andria Feb 7, 2010 01:59 PM

                                        Anyone know what happen to Tapioca tea? It seems the owner has left although the manu and the setup still the same.

                                        1. re: chanmao
                                          porker RE: chanmao Feb 9, 2010 03:03 AM

                                          I don't know if the setup is exactly the same...always enjoying a glass or two with dinner, we'd always call up ahead of time to make sure she had a bottle of wine (or 5 depending on the size of our group) {;-/).
                                          Anyways, gave them a call last week and a young hard-to-understand-waitress said there was no wine (which I expect - thats the reason for calling...)
                                          So I ask to speak to the manager, expecting the lady who usually ran the show (and would personally get us wine), but it was a guy. He also said "no wine". I explained that the previous lady would get for us.
                                          "Not anymore."
                                          "So you don't offer wine at all?"
                                          "No."
                                          "Can I bring my own?" The wife gives me a dirty look on this side, the guy on the other end says "No, that would be interdit."
                                          Still not comprehending, I ask "Is this Tapioca The? You used to offer wine all the time?"
                                          "Not since February, don't have license."
                                          "But its February 4th, you mean you JUST lost the license?"
                                          "Yes."
                                          "Are you going to get it again?"
                                          "We're not sure."
                                          "OK, thanks."

                                          So something is definitely up.

                                  2. k
                                    karela RE: carswell May 30, 2010 03:38 PM

                                    Oh dear, I fear that this restaurant is not what it used to be....

                                    We stopped in to just have a bubble tea on the way home from a movie, but the bubble tea turned into a small snack which eventually became a meal.

                                    In fact, the whole experience seemed to be a comedy of misunderstandings, where, despite not one but two languages in common, no one seemed to understand anyone else.

                                    To start with (when we just thought we were getting a bubble tea to go) I asked if the coffee and tea milk tea was what people describe as "Hong Kong Style," which was met by rather blank looks followed by a negative answer, and much surprise that I still wanted to order it. "You know, it is coffee AND tea" the waitress said.

                                    Then my friend, who is Taiwanese, suggested that we have some noodles as a snack. My husband saw some people eating the potato dish that we had tried as the Shuang Xiang BBQ /Golden Stone and since we had described it to our friend earlier and she had never tried anything like it, we decided to have that too.

                                    Unfortunately none of the dishes on the menu clearly described the desired potato dish, so I asked the waitress which one the people were having. She showed me a picture menu of a dish with potatoes and green pepppers and said "potatoes with green peppers", but I said that it had lots of RED peppers and szechwan peppercorns and she said "potatoes with green peppers". I said "the one that the two guys are having" but she had trouble seeing it from where she was standing so she said "potatoes with green peppers". Eventually we convinced her to actually move to where she could see the dish, but it seemed to be an effort requiring much sighing.

                                    Five minutes after she had taken our order, she came back to say that the noodle dish that we had ordered was not on the menu that night. I was intrigued to try the Dan-dan noodles, so even though my Taiwanese friend claimed that they were only really good in Taiwan, in a certain village, we came to the conclusion that we were unlikely to go there anytime soon and would try them here. After discussing with the waitress, she told us that they weren't what we were thinking of, they were only vegetables, with no meat.

                                    "What kind of vegetables?" I asked the waitress.
                                    "Vegetables" she replied "and some peanuts on top"
                                    "Preserved vegetables?"
                                    "Yeah, sure"

                                    Not particularily helpful. My friend asked her about the other noodle dishes on the menu, a few of which she had been interested in, but they turned out to not be exactly what she had in mind, since she admittedly is not an expert on Szechwan cooking, so we asked to see the menus again. My friend was shocked. "Wow," she whispered to us when the waitress left "she totally made me feel like some sort of ignorant country bumpkin!"

                                    After much debate (after all, we had wanted more a snack than a meal) we decided that we would ask what about the mushroom dish that the couple behind us was having and probably order it, if not then our usual stand-by, the mapo tofu. The waitress seemed to have demoted my friend from any further discussion about the meal and only spoke to me and my husband in English after that. I asked her what the mushroom dish the people behind us were having and she said "It's fish" I asked if the other dish they were having was mushrooms, but she said "no, it's fish". Since that didn't lead anywhere, I decided the simplest was to order the mapo tofu. "But it has no mushrooms in it" she warned.

                                    Needless to say with the amount of time that had elapsed between the two dishes being ordered, the first one came out well ahead of the second. Both dishes were acceptable, but not great. The chilis in the potato dish were either scorched or raw, which, as some one who enjoys the taste of the cooked chilis as well as their heat, I found annoying. With three truly amazing restaurants (Cuisine Szechwan, Golden Stone and Maison du Nord) so close by, I can't see what would bring people here. Certainly not the service.

                                    ETA: My friend wants to also point out that they were stingy with the tapioca. My husband thinks I was far too kind in my review.

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: karela
                                      porker RE: karela May 31, 2010 04:30 AM

                                      Besides the fun banter and exchanges of ideas on CH, I always appreciate learning or discovering something new here. Tapioca The was one such discovery.
                                      I really liked it, but my friends became addicted, visiting at least weekly, sometimes more.
                                      Although I haven't been since February (after the zany phone call described above), my friends did visit a coupla times.
                                      Simply put, it is not the same and we have no desire to return. Sad really, as I liked this place over the other szechuan places mentioned....

                                      1. re: karela
                                        SourberryLily RE: karela Aug 30, 2011 10:23 AM

                                        I went here on a whim because we heard good things about this place.
                                        There was only one group at the very back of the restaurant, and we are seated at the front. Tehre was a giant flat screen on the wall to our right playing the CTV evening news. First a broadcast about a fundraiser for african children. Not to sound heartless, but in the quiet empty restaurant, it was weird "background music". Then a news report about a man who molested his daughter. Then a rapist. As our food came it was lepracy (i'm not kidding, when is that ever on the news??).

                                        The waiterSS were at the bar just behind us, idle for a long time before getting our order. When she finally idles up to us, her now only customers:

                                        "What's inside the tofu and vegetable soup?"
                                        "Tofu and vegetables in a chicken broth"
                                        "um ok, how big is the large?"
                                        (she gestures the size of a 6 inch bowl).

                                        Well i assumed the large soup was the size of a "meal" soup for one and the little was meant as a starter.

                                        What i got was a large bowl of 2 liters of water with cubes of soft tofu and bok choy floating in it. That's it, that's the vegetables. The size could feed about 6, we were 2. Wish she would've realized this and pointed it out.

                                        We also ordered:
                                        -popcorn chicken (delicious, i would go back to order this to go).
                                        -hunan dumplings (watery sauce, good dumplings)
                                        -beef with lettuce, bok choy, and mushrooms (sorry i forgot the name), it was very good but too salty. We didn't eat half of it.

                                        After we were done and waited for her to come, she wouldn't. So after awhile we got up and went directly to her to pay.

                                        The overall meal took 1h30.

                                        I am dissapointed because the reviews on this place were good. But having lived in china and eating a lot of asian food, my experience did not live up to par. Mainly if the service was good, it could've saved us from the soup choice. I won't be returning.

                                        1. re: SourberryLily
                                          b
                                          BLM RE: SourberryLily Aug 30, 2011 02:38 PM

                                          The good reviews were from 3 years ago. Things have changed at this restaurant.

                                          1. re: BLM
                                            SourberryLily RE: BLM Aug 31, 2011 06:29 AM

                                            Yeah but i've been reading CH for 3 years now... I never got around to going before then.

                                            Maybe i should hurry to try Kazu before that changes as well! :P

                                            -----
                                            Kazu
                                            1862 Sainte-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC H3H 1M1, CA

                                            1. re: SourberryLily
                                              porker RE: SourberryLily Aug 31, 2011 08:27 AM

                                              In a word, yes.
                                              Sometimes a place will close down before I get to try it - get it while its hot!

                                              1. re: SourberryLily
                                                humbert RE: SourberryLily Aug 31, 2011 08:42 AM

                                                I have had a few bad meals there over the past couple of years and will not be returning. Almost raw lobster, bad cumin lamb and really vinegary mushroom salad turned me off. In 2009 I loved it but somehow it went totally downhill. My dining partners (4 others) agreed. I never had an issue with cuizine szechuan so that's where we are staying for spicy szechuan.

                                                1. re: humbert
                                                  kpzoo RE: humbert Aug 31, 2011 09:14 AM

                                                  Agree about Tapioca Thé, sadly. I believe it has changed chefs - and all my favourite dishes have been ruined - dan dan noodles now has blobs of pork (which I don't eat) and is tasteless, twice-cooked fish is now no such thing - it's just a gloppy stir fry. Très triste.

                                                  Not to mention the service has completely deteriorated. I used to love the waiter at TT because he was so clear about everything, and cheerful, to boot. The last time I went there were numerous communication issues and forgotten drinks and delayed dishes.

                                                  Good news is that the twice-cooked fish and dan dan noodles are now made the old TT way over at Cuisine Szechuan. Not sure if they snagged the TT chef at some point, maybe...?

                                                  1. re: kpzoo
                                                    cherylmtl RE: kpzoo Aug 31, 2011 05:17 PM

                                                    It was mentioned here at the time - the chef from TT did indeed move to Cuisine Szechuan when it opened (as did at least one of the waitresses) - that would be about when TT went downhill...

                                                    1. re: cherylmtl
                                                      b
                                                      BLM RE: cherylmtl Aug 31, 2011 09:45 PM

                                                      Do you find Cuisine Szechuan currently the best Szechuan restaurant in Montreal? Haven't tried Szechuan food in a long time.

                                                      1. re: BLM
                                                        cherylmtl RE: BLM Aug 31, 2011 09:48 PM

                                                        Absolutely - they don't dumb down the flavours or the spicing either. It's well worth trying, if you haven't been yet.

                                                        1. re: BLM
                                                          porker RE: BLM Sep 1, 2011 03:30 AM

                                                          Theres a new kid on the block:
                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/803141

                                          Show Hidden Posts