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Oct 25, 2008 01:29 PM

Best Chinese dumplings?

My son has recently become addicted to dumplings and is particularly fond of shrimp dumplings (har gao), pork dumplings (siu mai) and potstickers. Where are Montreal's best dumplings to be found? Our current haunt is Mon Nan on Clarke but surely there are other purveyors in town. While we generally head to Chinatown, have car will travel!

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  1. Le Président in Cartierville has to rank high on any list.

    22 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      no yr wrong Foo Wor #1
      New Jing Hua #2

      1. re: carswell

        Is President open on Sunday nights?

        1. re: eat2much

          Dunno (and am not having much luck with Web searches, even using its other name, Tain Kim Theng) but would be surprised if it weren't, especially as it's open on Sunday afternoons. You could always call and ask:
          12242 boulevard Laurentien
          514 331-8883

          1. re: carswell

            President is actually temporarily closed for renovations.

            1. re: cherylmtl

              The President sign has been replaced by one that reads Tong Por St-Laurent. The same lettering and color is maintained though. What happened? I wonder if they were the same owners, i.e. Tong Por and Le President or were they bought out?
              I hope their quality will be unaltered when they re-open because if it is I am in deep doo-doo. Where will I get my chinese fix in VSL?
              BTW, I have kind of written off Fu Kam Wah after my initial enthusiasm. A repeat visit with friends no less (to whom I had raved) was extremely disappointing with several dishes having a funky smell and taste. I was a little embarassed to have dragged them there after the horible meal we had.

              1. re: hungryann

                Hungryann, we ate at Fu Kam Wah a few weeks ago, and I agree. they were a bit ho hum. I tried the mapo tofu and was very disappointed in their version of this dish, but this was the first time we ordered this dish here. The bok choy vegetable dish was also disappointing. We ordered crab Cantonese style, and that was excellent but very expensive! I had hoped this was a anomalous visit, but now that I see your report.... Guess we will have to see if this is a permanent change of quality, or if this is a sign of inconsistency. Anyone else noticing some slippage?

                1. re: hungryann

                  Yes, The President was bought over the by the owners of Tong Por, same one from Chinatown.

                  1. re: keelo

                    EEEK! Why oh why? I thought they were doing quite well, although business may have slowed down after the huge price hike about 2-3 years ago. Any other details?

                    1. re: hungryann

                      Second EEEEK! Hmm, I hope they kept the same chefs.I had really enjoyed their dim sum before they closed for the changeover... I like Tong Por, but I like the fact that there are differences at each place, and different strengths. So Tong Por is branching out eh? Spreading its tentacles throughout the city...

                      1. re: moh

                        moh, you should probably start a dim sum thread, comparing the various restaurants. The only one I have tried in Montreal is Kam Fung, and really enjoy it. Unfortunately, the last time I was there, 2 weeks ago, they did not have their wonderful winter melon dessert.

                        1. re: souschef

                          yes , Tong Por has recently bought Le president - Did you guys read the article in the Gazette published on Dec 20th, 2008 - it is a very good article
                          I've been going to Tong Por ( in Chinatown) since I was a baby and I still do go there all the time - I think Tong Por's owner made a good thing by buying Le Presisent - because of the parking lot...however, I must say that the DIM Sum in both restaurant are a bit different - you may find a few dishes in Chinatown that the new one doesn't have and vice versa...
                          By the way, I think you are wrong and Tong Por are not the one's building the new " SWATOW" - please get your facts right before starting any rumors...

                        2. re: moh

                          They're branching out. The Tong por in chinatown is still open, they took over President and they're the ones that are building the new "SWATOW" building in chinatown across the street from Ruby Rouge.

                          As for the staff, with a lot of chinese restaurants chefs get moved around or come out of retirement. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

                          1. re: keelo

                            Thanks very much Keelo! appreciate your helping out with these key tips!

                            1. re: moh

                              Sure, no problem! Just another fun fact: There's a fairly new Chinese restaurant on L'acadie across the street from Marche Centrale (across from McDonalds, more specifically) called "Zao". The head chefs there were the chefs at the OLD Kam Fung in chinatown, which used to be where Red Ruby is now... This is in the 90s' and before!

                    2. re: hungryann

                      Sources tell me that Zao's on Acadie has now been bough over by the previous owners of President!
                      9394 DE L'ACADIE

                      1. re: keelo

                        <squeals of joy>

                        It would be very exciting if they are able to recreate the excellence that was Le President!

                        I recently went back to Le President with some friends for dim sum, and although it was still very good, it had lost a little edge. In particular, the rice noodle wrapped items and the har gao (shrimp dumplings) were no longer the jewels I had come to expect. The rice noodle and the skin of the har gao no longer had this texture combining firm, soft, and gelatinous qualities in a magical way that make me weak at the knees. The stuffings were still delicious, but the skins... Also, the har gao skin broke quite easily when manipulated, making it less aesthetically pleasing. But other items were still very good, and I am happy to say that my beloved footballs were as tasty as ever.

                        I still like the Le President/new Tong Por, and would happily go back. But I am really hoping I can recover some of the har gao magic at this new place, Zao!

                        1. re: moh

                          It wasn't just the wrappers that were lacking. The formerly delicious chive dumplings were heavy, oily and bland. The tripe was *correct, pas plus* and sat largely untouched at the end of the meal. The baby octopus tasted fishier than usual.

                          On the other hand, the footballs and stuffed taro were as good as ever and the fried squid the best ever. There were those oddly addictive rolled rice wrappers sautéed with chile. And, as is/was often the case at the original Tong Por, there were a few dishes not often seen on Montreal dim sum carts, the incredibly tasty braised tendon being a prime example.

                          So, yes, a mixed bag. Overall very good but sometimes lacking the finesse that made Le Président worth a special trip and arguably the city's top dim sum palace. Can't wait to see if Zao picks up the torch and runs with it.

                          1. re: carswell

                            Tong Por is run by "Chew Jiao"... (chew chow, teo chow... various spelling) Chinese. A clan of Chinese mainly found in south east Asia. This explains why they have dishes not found in other dim sum places (as the majority of the other places are run by Cantonese Chinese). Chew jiao cuisine is influenced by south-east Asia, this is why you'll find use of chili in the dishes.

                        2. re: keelo

                          Yipee!! X-mas has come early for chinese food lovers... what with moh's sleuthing and your insider tips. We are being spoiled!

                          1. re: keelo

                            How's the Chinese food at Zao's? Do you have an opinion on the best Chinese restaurants in Montreal? Any hidden Chinese restaurant gems in the city, that never gets mentioned on this board?

                            1. re: BLM

                              Zao's is not too bad. It's an *OK* place to go to get chinatown food uptown. But overall it can be a lot better. Most *Chinese* dishes are drowned out with garlic. I say "CHINESE" because they offer, Vietnamese, and Thai food on the same menu. I'm weary of this... I feel as though it's a sign that they aren't good at one thing so they decided to throw everything together.

                            2. re: keelo

                              Do you know of they will have the same chefs, including the one that was Thai?

                  2. I recently surveyed a number of places in Chinatown and found that the Har Gao (and most of the other dumplings) at Tong Por served during the week were excellent. Oddly enough, the dumplings served on the weekend were over cooked and mushy on 2 occasions.

                    These are my criteria for a good dumpling:

                    - a firm springy dough, that is not mushy, and does not show signs of being over steamed or re-steamed (after around or two on the cart)..

                    - The appearance should have a bit of a shine, and not look flat and flaccid.

                    - The filling should not be soggy

                    - Har Gao should be composed mostly of shrimp chunks bound by a modest binding of smooth ground shrimp paste (like what would be in Shu mai, or Shrimp toast). The chunks should standout. The filling should have a bit of a crunch and not be rubbery or mushy).

                    BTW, The Chao Yao Yu (deep fried Squid tentacles) during the week were hot, fresh, tender and not greasy. The best I have had in a Dim Sum joint in Montreal in the 30+ years I have been eating DS in this city.


                    1. Sounds to me like he would enjoy dimsum! My sons both love har gow and also sticky rice in lotus leaf (nor my gai). We go to Maison Kam Fung and sometimes Ruby Rouge. Good pot stickers are harder to find - we haven't found a place like the Dumpling House or Mama's Dumpling which we usually visit when we are in Toronto. I've ordered nice big plates of dumplings (not fried) at Niu Kee which were quite good. I tend to make pot stickers from scratch or else buy some frozen gyoza or pork cabbage dumplings and then steam/fry them.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: Plateaumaman

                        Sadly, he is not a dim sum kind of guy. It takes forever to get him to try new things so for the time being we're better off with places where we can order exactly what he wants.

                        1. re: eat2much

                          You can often order à la carte from dim sum places, either before cart service starts (about 11 a.m. on a weekday) or after it ends (usually 2 p.m. or so), and even while carts are still making the rounds, if they're not too busy. And last I checked, Ruby Rouge and Kam Fung both offered a limited à la carte dim sum menu in the evenings, too. Other places known for dim sum probably do as well.

                          There's also Chez Chine in the Holiday Inn Chinatown. Haven't been for years (good quality, but a bit stuffy and expensive), but their dim sum was always à la carte at all times. No idea whether it still is.

                          1. re: eat2much

                            I assumed you were originally looking for an a la carte type of place. When saying "he's not a dim sum kind of guy", I now assume that perhaps you did not at least try dim sum.
                            I only say this because har gao and siu mai are pretty much standard to all dim sum in Montreal and potstickers are also plentiful.
                            With this said, the lad CAN have exactly what he wants at dim sum.
                            OK, he doesn't want to try new things, but there are other dumpling varieties at dim sum that may just offer some appeal. Plus you get a chance to look before deciding. Plus, seeing other non-dumpling items (I dunno, noodles or shrimp or spare ribs in black bean or dumpling in broth or tendon or spring roll or clams or greens or...well you get the jist) may just sway him to try.
                            Just an idear.

                            1. re: porker

                              I have to agree that getting har gow and siu mai in dimsum restaurants is pretty much guaranteed and you can always order them if the wait is too long.

                              Btw, my sons really like the dumplings at Zyng in the Quartier Latin. I'm not blown away by their noodles but was pleasantly surprised by the har gow there. I haven't had har gow at Mon Nan, will try them. Have you tried the shrimp toast at Mon Nan? Very retro, greasy, good fun.

                              Regarding pot stickers, although lots of places serve them I'm looking for very, very good ones, very fresh, crunchy, preferably with pork and cabbage or chives filling. Like these (ignoring for a moment the charred bit on the the top right:

                              1. re: Plateaumaman

                                I've been meaning to report in that a week or two ago we decided to try out the Noodle Factory. I had been just after it had opened and was underwhelmed. I am happy to report that the quality has improved substantially over the past few months. Between the two of us we put away a whopping 60 dumplings including the elusive (and delicious) soup dumplings. Will definitely repeat!

                                1. re: eat2much

                                  Is this based on two visits or several visits(',,,improved substantially over the past few months')?

                                  1. re: BLM

                                    3 visits but the first two were in the first month after opening.

                                    1. re: eat2much

                                      Have they added more items to their menu, since they started(that's what I was told, was going to happen)? I don't remember soup dumplings, in their initial menu.

                                  2. re: eat2much

                                    Can you confirm again that they have soup dumplings or Shanghai steamed dumplings or xiao long bao? We are not talking about just dumplings in soup, right?

                                    1. re: emerilcantcook

                                      Nope, not dumplings in soup. We're talking dumplings that if you bite into them when they first arrive at the table release a burst of scalding hot soup into your mouth....

                                      1. re: eat2much

                                        Moh, moh, where's moh! Sounds like your ship has arrived! ;-)

                                        1. re: eat2much

                                          OMG, they have real soup dumplings at the Noodle Factory?!
                                          How did I not know this before??

                                          I am so there...thanks guys! Will report back...

                                          (Before I go, in the interest of not completely hijacking this thread, I must recommend the dumplings at Mei on St. Laurent near Fairmount (nowhere near Chinatown, mind you). They have an extensive dumpling menu and you can order everything à la carte - plus you can watch the cooks steaming and wokking away in the open kitchen. I've been going here pretty often for years and have only had one off-night when the stuff was over-steamed and sticky.

                                          Mei Le Caf
                                          5309 Boul Saint-Laurent, Montreal, QC H2T1S5, CA

                                          1. re: eat2much

                                            Woo hoo!

                                            Of course, I am going to go in with skepticism. Must not get hopes up too high... Soup dumplings can break your heart! But surely we must be due for soup dumplings here...

                                            1. re: moh

                                              Well, I think everything will be fine, moh. The soup dumplings have arrived.

                                              I went with my two sons today and they had such a big appetite that we tried nearly all the dumplings offered. Now, for the soup dumplings we got dumplings in soup the first time around .. I was going to send them back but my 5 year old really wanted them so we did enjoy them a lot, very nice light broth. I can imagine a dumpling noodle soup here being a great snack.

                                              Then I explained that I wanted my soup inside my dumplings and remembered the magic word "juicy" .. aha! so next came our order of "Chinese" dumplings. I told the waiter this wasn't such a good name for them since, frankly, all the dumplings on their menu are Chinese as far as I'm concerned. So best to ask for xian long bao probably or else "juicy dumplings" conveys the gist of it too. They were our favourites.

                                              The pan fried dumplings were a far cry from the potstickers I am searching for but adequate. Oh, I realize now we never had straight-ahead steamed dumplings .. we had the peanut butter dumplings which were okay, a big hit with my 8 year old.

                                              They are all fresh and as mentioned by others rather on the bland side but we all like to make our own dipping sauce with the vinegar, soya sauce and hot sauce provided anyway. The green onion pancake was deep-fried and crunchy .. not my favourite as I find the onion flavour gets lost that way. So yeah, could all be saltier, juicy dumpling sauce could have some ginger, portions could be 12 instead of 10 but we left happy. The food all came fast and furious and the service was attentive and friendly so we'll definitely go back.

                                              1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                I think we might have been there at the same time! I meant to mention that the soup dumplings were called "Chinese dumplings". There seemed to be some confusion at the table in front of me with a bowl of soup for a youngster.

                                                1. re: eat2much

                                                  In front of you? Was that you wrapping a scarf around your son's drinking bottle? We were sitting in front of the dumpling rolling window, four of us, around .. noon maybe?

                                                  1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                    That's when we were there. Sitting against the back wall. My son is almost 6 feet tall and 180lbs. If I tried wrapping a scarf around his drinking bottle he'd wrap me into a pretzel!

                                                    1. re: eat2much

                                                      Ack, don't do that then! Sorry we were so rowdy about our soup dumplings. First we sent them away, then we asked for them back and got the others as well. My kids were inhaling the dumplings faster than they were being made.

                                                      Funny to think the place is filled with incognito chowhounds. The staff was a little suspicious of us and our very particular dumpling interests. Perhaps they'll alter their menu .. after I complained that all the dumplings are Chinese they spoke together and laughed a great deal. I am hoping that is a good sign.

                                                      Btw, potstickers I am still searching for are called wor tip in Cantonese ...

                              2. So I tried the soup dumplings at Noodle Factory and unfortunately wasn't impressed. The amount of soup inside each dumpling was measly: it didn't give you that explosive feeling. Also, IMHO the soup inside should be richer and perhaps a tad fattier. There is a little bit of broth you consume with each order, so the juice needs to be special, almost decadent. Unfortunately, this tasted like any other ordinary soup broth. Besides there wasn't enough of it inside most dumplings. Too bad these were the only xiao long bao sightings in town.

                                On the other hand, I liked their fried dumplings. They were plump, had a good bite and were generous with the filling. They were wonderfully fried, albeit being on the greasy side.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: emerilcantcook

                                  I would agree with your assessment of the soup dumplings at Noodle Factory. Much more soup is needed in the dumpling, although the flavour of the soup is pretty good. The skins were very good, but not perfect. The skins were not quite thin enough, and they broke too easily when you went to pick up the dumpling, which would be a big problem if the dumplings had as much soup as they should. But the taste and texture of the skins were good.

                                  But they are tasty. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat them, but I'll definitely get them again. when in the neighbourhood. I will however, continue to plan junkets to Markham for my soup dumpling fix.

                                  1. re: moh

                                    Not thin enough or not thick enough?

                                    I thought the skins were way too thin and fragile. The dumplings stuck to the paper that lined the steaming tray and all but two out of the ten broke before we had the chance to slurp the soup up.

                                    My only other experience with soup dumplings was in NYC and the dumplings I had there were larger, much plumper, and had thicker skins.

                                    1. re: mainsqueeze

                                      The skins are a little too thick believe it or not. I've had some glorious soup dumplings where the skin is delicate as paper, and yet sturdy enough to resist breakage as you get them to your spoon or mouth. The skin is a sign of a true master... I don't really know how they manage to do it. I've also had soup dumplings with the thicker skin, and it is fine, but I still prefer the thinner skins.

                                  2. re: emerilcantcook

                                    I ditto all of emerilcantcook's impressions. We went there last night to try the xiao long bao and I was underwhelmed. The worst part was that eight of the ten dumplings either came to us broken or broke in the process of retrieving them from the tray. The rest of the food we had was good. It was very much like our first experience there. I still think it's a good Chinatown option, but not worth going out of your way.

                                    Now, we need to go try the xiao long bao at Soy and hope for better results.

                                    1. re: SnackHappy

                                      Still, as "juicy" dumplings they are pretty good. I usually put them straight onto a soup spoon and then eat them in one bite. Didn't break any of our ten. Didn't manage to dip them in sauce though. I liked the light broth. But then again, I'm more obsessed with potstickers than soup dumplings. Thought the pan fried dumplings were a too greasy.

                                  3. I have a soup dumpling related question. I was wondering if anybody knows of a place here in Montreal that sells frozen soup dumplings that can be prepared at home? I plan on going to try the soup dumplings at noodle factory sometime this week but i would also love to have some to snack on at home.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: blond_america

                                      If anyone does, it's likely to be the newly expanded Marché Hawaii up in Galeries St-Laurent. Their frozen section is absolutly enormous. Worth a look.

                                      1. re: kpzoo

                                        I did a thorough check of the freezers at Hawaï and there were no xiao long bao to be found.

                                        I was, however, very happy to find that they are now stocking my favourite brand of frozen dumplings. O'tasty (that's right) Chinese dumplings are imported from California. Their skins are perfect and their fillings are scrumptious. They are as good if not better than the excellent but much more expensive imported Korean dumplings I'm also addicted to. I think they are the best frozen dumplings you can get in this town and nothing like the locally made frozen Chinese pierogies you find all over Montreal.

                                        1. re: SnackHappy

                                          after discovering this brand this past weekend, I just googled o'tasty and this came up on the first page. I am completely addicted. my local shop (poisonnerie norgate in vsl) sells them for 4.79. I bet marche hawaii has them at a better price.

                                          what fantastic skins on these babies. I pan-fry, then add a little water, cover & steam- perfection.

                                      2. re: blond_america

                                        Every grocery market in Chinatown sells various brands of dumplings with all sorts of filling (unfortunately, only Sunrise brand sells a vegetarian variety and it's medicre at best). My fave brand is sold at the dried and frozen groceries store on Clark just south of de la Gauchetiere; I can't recall the name, but it has a picture of dumplings on the front. The skin is thin and the pork-mushroom stuffing is exquisite. This same store also used to sell frozen veggie-sticky rice in the weekends.
                                        If you like to Korean variety, I like the kimchi flavour ones sold in the Korean grocery store on 6151 Sherbrooke West. There are definitely more vegetarian varieties there.