Fuzhou cuisine in Montreal - Restaurant Oui&Oui
I was talking to the lady who gave me the tip about Cuisine Szechuan, when she said "there's an even better restaurant - it used to suck, but now there is a new chef, and everything is good!" She wrote the name in Chinese on a piece of paper, gave me some instructions on how to get there, and after several fruitless attempts to find the place, I finally did. Here is the report.
Restaurant Oui&Oui is a small space with room for about 30 customers. You can look right into the kitchen and watch the chefs work. They advertise offering the following cuisines: Fuzhou, Vietnamien, Cantonais, Hunan and Szechuan. Eclectic mix perhaps, but I was very excited to see that Fuzhou cuisine was being offered. I've only read a little about this particular cuisine on the Web, but did not know much about it.
Sadly, they have removed some of the Fuzhou dishes from their repertoire. It seem that Fuzhou style noodles, Fuzhou rice cakes and Amoy noodles did not sell very well, and now they no longer offer these dishes. Perhaps if we continue to bug them....
The English menu has a mix of dishes ranging from the ubiquitous General Tao chicken to boiled pork feet in soya sauce. There are a bunch of Thai dishes offered as well (Pad Thai, tom yum soup, coconut milk curry dishes, etc). When we were there, there was an interesting mix of clientele. There were several tables of "North American/Caucasian" customers, ordering things like the General Tao chicken and Pad Thai, very generic dishes that you might see anywhere. I would comment that every dish that passed by us to those tables looked and smelled delicious, and I would have happily eaten all of them. This was a very promising sign. There was a table of 2 young Chinese customers who ordered some amazing dishes from a Chinese menu - more on this later. As well, the kitchen were eating their lunch, and of course, these dishes looked fabulous as well. We asked them to give us the tofu dish the kitchen was eating, it turned out it was Ma Po Tofu.
Ma Po Tofu: This is a classic dish that features the wonderful qualities of soft tofu, and if you don't like tofu after eating Ma Po tofu, then there is no hope for you (well.... I'd still like you, but you would not get to come and eat Soon Dubu with me, that's all). This version had the freshest, softest tofu I have had in a long time, and as my friend said, "if only we could get tofu this fresh". Beautifully seasoned with small shreds of pork, Chinese pickled vegetable, chile oil and wonderful fragrant salty Chinese black beans, this Ma Po Tofu is a sophisticated and delightful exploration of tofu. I would comment that it is not quite as accessible to a broad range of palates as some versions I have had. There are versions of ma po tofu that are a bit more homestyle, and I could eat rice and this dish alone. But this version is for connaisseurs, some of the flavours might be a bit too strong for the average non-Chinese person. They might enjoy some bites, but it would be hard for them to eat a whole bowlful. I found it very balanced and elegant, but powerful, and I too find the flavours a bit too strong to only eat this as a main course. Oh, but the tofu was so perfect....
Chicken in Fuhzou style sauce: This is bone in chicken pieces that have been marinated in a red, salty-sweet sauce. The chicken really stars in this dish, the sauce accentuates the chicken flavour and makes me think, "oh yeah, chicken does have a flavour!" Too often when I order chicken, I can't discern any chicken taste at all, the dish is all about the sauce. This dish makes you appreciate how tasty chicken can be. This is not spicy at all, even though the menu says it is mildly spicy. Perhaps dumber down for us? Don't care. It was delicious. So tender, so savoury, delicious. I could eat a plateful of this chicken. But if you don't like bones, this dish will drive you crazy. I personally love bone-in chicken and meat, I think it tastes much better.
Beef in Gan-Ma sauce: I loved this dish. Chucks of tender flavourful beef stewed with potato and fresh peanuts, garnished with coriander and green onion. Occasionally, a swift stab of heat from hidden chilis. The potato was perfect in its texture, and the taste of potatoes is accentuated by the beef. This dish is wonderful.
Geantes Green cabbage (Chou Chinois avec braisees a l"ail): this is how the dish is listed in the menu. They could use a proofreader! This turned out to be bok choi stirfried in garlic. Perfect! Wok Hai in full force, the bok choi is well-cooked and coated in a savoury white sauce redolent with garlic. A sign of how seriously this kitchen takes its food.
Overall, a delicious meal. These guys know how to cook! As we left, the server suggested we order from the Chinese menu next time. I am currently working on getting a translation of this menu, and my plan is to go and order whatever they will give me frmo the menu without knowing what it is. I trust this kitchen implicitly. I'd even try the General Tao!
1862 de Maisonneuve near St Marc
open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.
I tried desperately to order the Fuzhou noodles. I even asked if we could order them in advance. No go. Perhaps if we establish ourselves as regulars, maybe they'll consider it. But so far, they have no intention of making this dish available. Apparently they really didn't sell. They do not have the noodles on hand anymore.
The "white" sauce on the bok choi was really more of a clear sauce -- the water exuded by the cabbage maybe amped up with a little chicken stock and slightly thickened with arrowroot or cornstartch. The garlic was both pungent and sweet. Simply perfect.
The beef was delicious. Subtly perfumed with star anise, firm yet tender and unstringy. Potatoes oranged from the sauce. Hardly a trace of oil. Great winter fare.
I loved the ma po tofu and could easily have made a meal of it. So complex and flavourful -- less rustic than some but in no way overrefined.
The young chef -- a 30-something guy with a friendly face and no French or English -- obviously has a fine palate and knows his way around the kitchen (as you can see through the opening). The style of cooking is less lusty and heavy than at Cuisine Szechuan (goes with the territory) but every bit as enjoyable. Am really looking forward to trying some of the dishes from the Chinese menu.
Oui&Oui and Cuisine Szechuan have me wondering whether the centre of gravity of local Chinese cooking isn't shifting from Chinatown to Guy-Concordia.
Porker, yes she said it used to suck, her words exactly!
Carswell's link is what I have found about Fuhzou style food. The strength is apparently in the soup broths, and the seafood. A Chinese friend of mine did not have a lot of experience with this cuisine, but mentioned that they also did a lot of sweet and sour sauces, and that the Amoy noodles were a known specialty.
I hope to return soon, and try more dishes. Of course there will be a report.
I was invited out to lunch today and was taken to Oui&Oui. I was so completely blown away by the flavors of the food that I can't stop thinking and talking about my experience.
We started with the dry fried green beans. When I first saw this dish, I was worried about the spiciness, for as many green beans were on the plate, there were an equal number of dried red chili peppers and szechuan peppercorns. Fried in with the beans and peppers was a little pork and some sort of pickled radish. Even my mother, who never orders vegetables in restaurants, loved this one. I picked up a copy of the menu, but cannot find this item listed... it seems to similar to the dish served at Cuisine Szechuan from what I have read.
Next we had the cumin lamb ribs (also not listed on the menu) which, although I found it to be tasty, ended up being my least favorite dish because it was served with celery. We ordered the Yu-Siang eggplant, a dish that I normally find to be overly sweet. Oui&Oui's version was excellent, with just enough vinegar and pleant of spice to off-set the sweetness. Most places I have eaten this dish serve it in a gloopy mess. Today's presentation had long silky strips of vibrantly purple eggplant laid out in a rich sauce dotted with peas and carrots.
My favorite dish of the meal (although I wouldn't give up the others) was the Szechuan fish with pepper and bean sprout. Served in a large bowl, the white fish was floating on top of bean sprouts in an extremely flavorful broth/oil. Like the green beans, this dish was loaded with dried red chillies and szechuan peppercorns.
The flavors have me hooked... I may have to go back tomorrow.
Like Andria, I really enjoyed the Yu-hsiang eggplant and the Szechuan fish with red pepper and bean sprout. The spicing of the eggplant dish is masterful, so complex and so interesting. And the texture of the eggplant is soft and luscious. The frozen peas and carrots were alarming to me at first, but they add a lovely visual component to the dish, and they taste good as well. Don't let them throw you off. As for the fish, this dish is similar in spicing to the Chicken and tofu flower dish I love at Cuisine Szechuan. The fish was tender, yet didn't completely disintegrate when you try to pick it up. And I loved the fact they use soy bean sprouts, I prefer their taste and texture to the ubiquitous mung bean sprouts we see elsewhere.
We also had the cumin beef, which I think I like better than the Cuisine Szechuan version! It is even more balanced that the CS version. The beef is expertly cooked as well, much stronger beefy taste. Really delicious. I still find the cumin in this dish a little bit too strong for me to be able to eat a large amount of it, that is a personal preference thing. I don't like too much cumin. If you love cumin, this is a great dish. And I happily eat small amounts of this dish, and love it.
I think we had the Szechuan style dan dan noodles, I am not entirely sure, as we just went with what the waitress recommended. The noodles were thick, great chewy texture, in a salty, spicy sauce (no peanut butter in this version). There is minced pork, Chinese pickled vegetables, chilis in this sauce, and there were some chunks of bok choy in it as well. Very good noodle dish.
We got a nice fried tofu dish, again, not sure of it is on the English menu, this was another suggestion. Deep-fried chunks of soft tofu in a thin batter, tossed with wood ear mushrooms and celery in a brown sauce. Excellent wok hai. They do tofu well.
Last dish: definitely off the Chinese menu. I have no idea how we will get it again. Thin slices of pork and red bell pepper in a mild brown sauce, on a bed of coriander and green onion. There are 8 small crepes folded into squares on the side. When we picked up a crepe, I thought, wow, this looks and feels like plasticized linen. I wasn't even sure if it was meant to be eaten. But you roll the pork and herbs into the crepe, and I cannot tell you how unusual and delicious that crepe was! It transforms into this chewy, savoury crepe that perfectly complements the pork. I was blown away by this dish, as I have never had crepes like this before. I want to say there might be some kind of tofu or seitan component to these crepes. They kind of reminded my of deep-fried tofu skins like you get when you buy inari-sushi, but they were much thinner. I wish I could read Chinese. I really want to eat these again.
This place is great! Get there soon!