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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: http://concordiaccsa.com/default.aspx

          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!

                  1. Hi..I jst came across the post accidentally. I do speak and read Chinese, and I speak English as well, French?(a bit rusty:). I don't think you really need a translator, cuz if you'd ask your waiting staff, I'm sure some of them will be able to translate the menu for you. (not all of them, but there should be someone who speaks proper English) Good luck!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kaiyu

                      We tried that. The waiters are very nice, but the place is so busy that they don't have time to sit down and read the Chinese menu line by line, which of course would be the ideal situation. What I may do is just walk over with a notebook at a less busy time, like after lunch hour and sweet-talk them into a quick translation.

                      1. re: bomobob

                        I have a willing Chinese speaker for you. He'd have to travel from the other side of the city so I told him maybe you'd buy him dinner.

                        There's no clever way to share email addresses here at Chowhound, is there? You can email me at rantjazz(at)yahoo.com for more info.

                    2. The news is very good.

                      Four of us went back last night, and put ourselves at the mercy of the owner. We got there at 6 when they opened, and there were a few people waiting to be seated. We started of by explaining right up front that we didn't want the "non-Chinese" all-u-can-eat taster menu that was sitting on the table. He understood immediately, and said that he'd had lots of similar requests from local diners, and that his next project is to translate the Chinese-only menu into English and French.

                      We went for the duck, as that's what every single Chinese person in the joint orders, and he suggested a few more things to make it into a very typical banquet style meal.

                      We started with what was basically a modern version of a pu-pu platter, but much better. Plump, meaty jumbo shrimps rolled into a smooth wrapper, tail sticking out, deep fried. Very, very good, and this was from a table of people who generally steer clear of deep fried stuff. There were also little veg spring rolls, which while nice, were not really memorable. The other hit though, were little flaky triangles stuffed with curry beef. These were absolutely delicious.

                      Next came salmon tartare on big krupuks, a potentially interesting snack that was basically torpedoed by too much mayo in the salmon.

                      Then the first duck, and oh, can they do duck. First the waiter trotted out the whole duck for our approval, then disappeared again to prepare it.
                      The first duck course, of course, was lovely slices on a plate, along with moo shu wrappers, julienned spring onions and cuke, and hoisin. If this were the last thing I ever ate, I'd die very happy. The duck slices had the perfect combination of meat, fat, and the most incredibly crispy/sweet skin. This was sheer duck nirvana.

                      Duck #2 was equally stunning. A stir fry of diced duck, fat, skin, onion, peppers, and a wonderful, smoky thin soy, served with a plate of iceberg to make more roll-ups. Between the complex and powerful flavour of the duck, and the wet, cool crunch of the iceberg, all one could hear were yummy noises. Amazingly delicious.

                      "Ribs" with Chinese broccoli. Meat from the ribs actually, without the bones. Another hit. The meat was lean but very tender, with just the right amount of very flavourful gravy, piled high on a platter of perfectly steamed brocs. This alone would have been a winner meal. But there was more.

                      House lobster of soft noodles. This was Cantonese style lobster, prepared in much the same way as Hong Kong's masterpiece, but the only minor quibble was the relative mildness of the spice paste/sauce, compared to HK's. The garlic and ginger flavours were there, but they needed to be turned up a couple of notches. Still, the lobster itself amazing for January, with huge, succulent, meaty chunks waiting to be dug out from the shell. And while normally fairly pedestrian, the egg noodles, once the sauce had seeped into them, were out of this world.

                      When we had finished, they were lined up at the door waiting for tables, and again, almost all Chinese. We did a quick recon on the way to the door, and sure enough, nearly every table had the duck. I know why.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: bomobob

                        How much did it cost for you 4 in total? It must have been expensive?

                        1. re: BLM

                          100 bucks, even. Not too bad at all, considering.

                          1. re: bomobob

                            Yum! Sounds like I'll have to go for duck soon! What do you feel is the optimal number of people you would need to enjoy the two duck dishes? I mean, I'd be happy to go myself and try them, but I suspect that I'd have to pack up a whole lot of food to go. I think it would be a shame not to appreciate the duck when it is fresh.

                            Also, do you know approximately how much the two duck dishes would go for alone?

                            1. re: moh

                              The duck itself is....hmmm, I believe $28, and maybe $38 for a huge one. We had a 28 buck duck, and seriously, if we were only 2, I dunno, that's a whole lotta duck. If we'd stuffed our faces, 2 of us could have finished off the duck with nothing else, but it was the size of a small turkey. It is possible that we had a 38 buck duck, but we didn't even look at the bill, and just paid it.

                        2. re: bomobob

                          Oh. Yum. Thanks, bomobob. Will try to head there soon. Nice to hear they're listening to their customers re: translating the "good" menu.

                        3. So a bunch of us headed out on Chinese New Year Eve (Sunday). I took a look at the English menu, and blew it off. So after discussion with the very kind waitress, who helped us navigate the chinese menu, we had the following dishes:

                          Duck: As marvelous as Bomobob says. Glorious crispy skin, luscious fat, tasty meat. So perfect when wrapped in the crepes with hoisin sauce and cucumbers. Bomobob felt the second dish, the diced duck and vegetables in iceberg lettuce wrap, was not as good as the first time, he felt something was missing this time. But I still really enjoyed it, and I really liked the iceberg lettuce wrap, it was very refreshing after the crispy duck skin dish. Oh the duck! I loved it.

                          Beef with straw mushrooms and Chinese broccoli: Very tasty tender beef, perfectly cooked broccoli, the mushrooms are a very nice touch. The sauce is very rich. Excellent execution! I enjoyed this dish very much.

                          Chinese greens (I have no idea what kind) and what looked like King oyster mushrooms, a very well executed vegetable dish. I also loved this dish, although the mushrooms were hard to bite through and had to be eaten in one go.

                          Gigantic prawn battered and fried in a sweet red sauce. I have never seen such big prawns! We ordered these because everyone else was ordering them. They were huge! I am not as big a fan of the sauce, but the fry job on the prawns was very skillful, and the prawns were very meaty.

                          Cantonese chow mein: Very good, not one of the best I've had, but still very easy to eat. I wish it had a few slivers of BBQ pork in it.

                          Ma Po Tofu: good, but not the best I've had. Nice soft tofu, pork and pickled vegetables. But the sauce was a little unbalanced, a bit too salty, and not spicy enough for my taste.

                          Hot and sour soup: very good, very vinegary.

                          Chinese chicken poached in soy sauce. This dish may have suffered from being the last dish to come out, we were all pretty full. This dish was good, but not great. The chicken texture could have been softer, and the soy sauce was good, but lacked a little depth.

                          Overall, I really enjoyed Pavillion MIng, and I will definitely go back! I recommend you avoid the English menu, and try pointing at dishes on other people's tables. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, ask for "Chef's Choice". And definitely get the duck.... Thanks to the others who were kind enough to indulge my need for duck! It was a great night!