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Jan 11, 2009 07:55 AM

Chinese speaker needed

While walking along Queen Mary near Decarie last week, we peeked into the window of Ming, yet another Chinese restaurant in the original House of Wong location. There've probably been close to a dozen in that spot since the Wong days, all of them doing standard, boring Cantonese take-out. Well, the place was full, and I mean FULL of Chinese diners. It wasn't for a birthday or a wedding either. Couldn't be a bad sign.

So we went there last night. Once again, we were the only Caucasians in the joint. We sat down, and the owner brought us one of those buffet-taster-all-u-can-eat menus. We refrained from taking off our coats. Insisting we didn't want 6 helpings of pineapple chicken, we asked for the a la carte menu. What he brought us was the little delivery leaflet, just like the one we got in our Publi-sac. We still kept our coats on. We both looked over at the next table where a Chinese family was sitting, and asked if we could have the same menu as them, a big, full-sized, real menu. "Oh, that one's only in Chinese", he said.

We took off our coats. "Tell us what's on it". Fish, lots of fish. We had had dore just a few nights earlier, so fish wasn't in our sights. The Peking duck was the order of the day, and many table were chomping though huge plates of lettuce and chopped up duck. Seeing as how we were only two, and the ducks were almost the size of geese, we passed on the duck, but may well go back this week with some other hungry people.
We ended up having a seafood marmite, which had a fragrant, gingery broth, and didn't nee any help at all. It was loaded with humungonormous. plump shrimps, which were absolutely perfect, buttery squid, tender baby scallops, exploding pillows of tofu, and not a sign of simili crab. We also had Szechuan shrimp, which once agiain had the most perfectly cooked critters, and a sauce that was at first on the sweet side, as it tends to be, but which with a bit of sri racha really elevated it.

So....I need someone to decipher the Chinese menu. By the time we left, the place was once again jammed with Chinese patrons, so clearly, they know something's up.

The restos in this location have been mostly empty, mostly ignored for years. This place is hopping, and I want to get to the bottom of it.

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  1. Sounds like you pretty much held your own on this visit...!

    Did you somehow snag a copy of the secret menu?

    4 Replies
    1. re: anachemia

      We thought about it, but it's a big 11x17 laminated thing.

      1. re: bomobob

        Oh, I do hope someone who reads Chinese characters can help you decipher the menu. I have friends who live very close to there and would be interested, but they don't speak Chinese. (Several other languages, including Russian and Hebrew, but not any Chinese language, alas). Sounds wonderful, awaiting a review!

        1. re: bomobob

          In your shoes, I'd try to find a Chinese student at McGill or Concordia who wants to improve their English - it could be fun for them to explain / share a piece of their culture. Concordia even has a Chinese student union:

          1. re: anachemia

            Ooh, maybe this guy (I assume) would be up to the task? Probably not the type of gig he's anticipating, but FWIW:


      2. My friend's wife is Chinese from Shanghai and could read the menu and lives in the Snowdon area but she and her husband are frequently out-of-town. I could ask her next time she's in town for awhile to look at the menu and ask her to write down a translation for me. Unfortunately, I'm illiterate since my parents didn't have access to a Chinese writing school when I was growing up.

        1. I forwarded your request to a Chinese-Malaysian pal who likes good food, will let you know what he says.

          1. Reading the title of this thread. You mean a person who can speak "&" read Chinese? Lots of people who can speak Chinese, but can't read Chinese.

            7 Replies
            1. re: BLM

              No, you're right...the reading part is more important. Although being able to express yourself fully to the waiter wouldn't hurt either.

              1. re: bomobob

                Just curious. What about when you're dining in Southeast Asia(would the waiters at Asian restaurants there, translate the menu for you, if you ask)?

                1. re: BLM

                  In my experience in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, most restaurants (usually mid to high end) offered us english menus and the more casual places usually had pictures of their dishes so that helped a lot.

                  1. re: BLM

                    Throughout Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, etc, most eateries even remotely on the popular routes will have a rudimentary English translation of their menu. For all the zillions of out-of-the-way places that don't, you would normally point to something someone else is eating, or do a game of charades, mimicking chickens, pigs, or cows. In so many cases, especially in Indonesian rumah makan Padangs, the food is already prepared, and piled up in bowls. All you have to do is point to what you want.
                    But a phrasebook is by far the best way to understand and be understood.

                    Of course, sometimes the translations are half the fun....

                      1. re: bomobob

                        Hehehe...those are priceless, thanks bomobob!

                2. re: BLM

                  At 40+ I am just starting to learn how to read. It isn't easy but learning something that complements one's interest makes it easier.

                  Obviously, having a friend or someone who knows helping you is invaluable.

                  I am starting with bilingual menus and learning the characters and character pairs one or two at a time. Wish me luck.

                  Not suggesting this is the way to go but I noticed similar thread on the Toronto board and there were no easy solutions there either.

                  In the end, it's like any other language. We all start with zero knowledge and take it from there. At least you'll be motivated. The rewards of success can be extremely tasty!

                  Good luck!

                3. Do they speak Vietnamese?

                  I'm interested in going if you find a translator!