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!
This afternoon the hot and sour Chinese cabbage was perfection itself: tender-crisp napa in a wilting embrace with just-this-side-of-burnt chile pods, showered with Szechuan peppercorns and bathed in a light but pungent sour sauce with a hint of sweetness.
A Chinese menu dish of wheat noodles with pickled vegetable, bok choy, ground pork, Szechuan peppercorns and chile oil was excellent if messy to eat. The noodles were the al dente-est I've ever encountered in a non-Italian restaurant.
A dish just added to the Chinese menu was a standout among standouts: impossibly flavourful bone-in chicken chunks stir-fried and then braised with chestnuts, brown mushrooms and a few chiles in a rich, savoury, brown sauce, garnished with cilantro and green onion. Umamissimo. Comfort-food central.
All dishes were remarkable for their balance of flavours and textures. Everything was cooked just enough. Seasoning only complemented, never hid the main ingredients. The chef here is seriously good, an absolute master of the art that hides art. Am beginning to think that Oui&Oui is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city.
That chicken dish was a perfect dish. I couldn't get over how delicious the chicken was, so tender and chicken-y. And the mushrooms were perfect, so full of braising liquid, juicy, meaty. I adore chestnuts in stews.
I have a friend who brought a colleague there for lunch. This person had just returned from China 6 months ago, and when she tasted the food, she mentioned that the food was very authentic in style, very much like the dishes she had tried in that region in China. She really enjoyed the food there.
I really love this place. I recently tried some noodle dish, I think it was noodles with vegetables. I thought it was the Amoy noodles with vegetables, but since then the regular waitress told me they still don't have them. Still, these noodles were delicious. They were think straight flour-based noodles, similar to chow mein style noodles, but not deep fried. The were cooked with a selection of vegetables, and everything was perfectly stir-fried. The veg had an excellent texture, and the noodles were delicately flavoured. So simple, yet so satisfying.
So three of us 'hounds went to lunch there yesterday, based on this thread.
Chinese cabbage with garlic
Ma Po Tofu
Chicken in Fuhzou Sauce
We liked the first 3 dishes, but the chicken left us flat. So, first, the cabbage turned out to be baby bok chois with lots of garlic and a bit of savoury broth and oil. Very tasty and cooked just right.
The Cumin beef was tasty; overall OK, but after Ming's own version at Cuisine Szechuan, the Oui2 dish lost in comparison. Not as spicy, hardly any peppercorns... still, it got eaten without problem LOL
The Tofu was really nice... soft tofu with some ground pork, chili oil, black beans, green peas... I think it was my favourite of the lot.
Finally, the chicken arrived last, and well, we didn't really care for it. It wasn't the bones and skin (they warned us)... it was just... red and goopy and bland. Just not interesting at all. We picked at and tried to like it, but in the end, we left most of it.
The rice was also somewhat of a disappointment: it was kinda mushy and bland. Service was a bit awkward as well. As soon as the dishes cooled they became uninteresting. Wok hai effect?
So, for me, it's still Cuisine Szechuan and the amazing chili buzz and taste sensations it provides. Still, I suppose Oui2 will do in a pinch.
EDIT: in few of CookEatSleep's question: yeah, it was fairly fast, but the chicken dish arrived a lot later, probably because it's more of braised dish than a sauté.
Early dinner yesterday was good if not quite up to the level of earlier meals.
- Hot and sour cabbage was more heavily sauced and sweeter, its wok hai more Cole's Notes than textbook.
- Ma po tofu was rustic this time around, both oilier and saltier, the pungent sauce somewhat masking the flavour of the custardy bean curd.
- Gan ma beef was saucier, saltier and very star-anisey. The potatoes were slightly more cooked than before, which I liked. The beef was more cartilaginous -- fine by me, not so much for my companions.
- The chicken braised with mushrooms and chestnuts was a little sweeter than last time but no less enjoyable. A real winner of a dish.
- Rice was OK.
That sounds worse than it was: the cabbage was polished off within minutes of hitting the table and the only dish left unfinished was the beef. If our earlier meals were in the A to A+ category, this was more B+ to A-. I suspect that timing may be part of the reason. Our other visits have been in the early afternoon, when the resto was half full and only the chef was cooking. At 6:30 on a Saturday evening, the place was hopping -- people were waiting for tables and the take-out business was brisk -- and the chef had an assistant.
Dinner for three with taxes and tip came to about $18 a head.
I did a quick takeout of their Dan Dan noodles yesterday, and was a little bit underwhelmed. I am not getting their al dante noodle thing. For me Chinese noodles need to be silky, not extremely chewy. The sauce was good, but didn't have enough Sichuan peppers (maybe one or two peppercorns), despite asking it for "spicy" when I phoned in. It didn't have the balance and spark of their Ma Po at all. I think I've had better luck with other dishes here (Ma Po Tofu, green cabbage and chicken with chestnuts).
Finally! My second trip to Oui &Oui. When I ordered the Szechuan Fish with red pepper and bean sprout, the waitress tried to dissuade me by telling "No, this is very spicy... for Chinese people" I explained that I have had it and loved it. I tried the Mo Po Tofu, and despite not being a fan of tofu, I really loved this one. Unfortunately, the dry fired green beans were not available, so we ordered the Yu Hsiang eggplant. Still the best Yu Hsiang eggplant I have tried because it is not too sweet. I was in a low mood before lunch but the resulting endorphin rush from chilies has carried me happily through the afternoon.
Thank you for all of your reviews and pictures! I'll add it to my soon-to-be-very-long list of restaurants to go to for good cheap ethnic food.
Oh, this sounds like a great spot for my DD and DW who will be visiting next week. One question: my daughter is a vegetarian who eats fish. It sounds like there will be plenty of good choices on the menu. But the fact that the Ma Po tofu is seasoned with pork makes me wonder if that might be a 'problem' for other fish and noodle dishes?
Restaurant Oui Oui
1862 Boulevard De Maisonneuve Ouest, Montreal, QC H3H, CA
Sad to say that a friend and I had a perfectly unobjectionable and perfectly unmemorable meal at Oui&Oui yesterday evening. It was like an Elvis song sung by an impersonator: recognizable but totally lacking the spark that made the original special. Zero wok hai in the stir-fried bok choy. One-note Szechuan fish with bean sprouts. Somewhat muddled chicken with chestnuts and mushrooms. Impatient, distracted, bordering-on-rude service from a new (to me) waitress. The much-esteemed young chef wasn't in the kitchen; I really, really hope it's because he had the day off.
I went last night, and I was pretty dissapointed, especially with the service. We ordered tom yum and hot and sour soups, pretty good and rich, the gan ma beef, also quite flavourful, and the cumin chicken that was very good. The stir fried hot and sour cabbage was the real miss because it tasted burnt, like if the peppers were sitting there for too long.
The waitress couldn't have cared less for the patrons, forgetting chop sticks, napkins, forks and water. It wasn't extremely busy, but her attitude wasn't something you enjoy when you eat out. In fact, it added stress to the evening. In a funny way, perhaps.
I started reading the thread and got increasingly excited about this restaurant. Despite the last few reviews, I decided to try it anyway. Actually, we had decided to check out oui&oui and Cuisine Szechuan, and to visit the busiest one. It was a tie, so we settled on oui&oui.
First, the place is not very clean. Really. The first thing you notice is a giant TV showing Chinese State TV. It adds to the atmosphere, I guess.
We ordered cumin beef, Fuzhou chicken, hot and sour cabbage, and steamed rice. I knew that the chicken would be a little boney, and a recent review found it a little gloppy, so we asked for a recommendation. Answer without a smile: "everything good in my restaurant". Okay. Then the waitress pointed with her pen at the chicken with cashews and vegetables - "not spicy" she said. Right, you think that the guys who just ordered cumin chicken and the hot cabbage don't like spice? Anyway, we ordered the Fuzhou chicken. I asked "how is it?". Answer: "it's different, don't know what's in it". I ordered tea but instead got an IKEA plastic cup of tepid water.
The food was delicious. The cabbage especially was incredible. Lots of chilies and big chunks of garlic, and an amazing sauce (but not gloppy or overwhelming) - with a cooking wine base? and well-cooked green onions.
The Fuzhou chicken was indeed boney and a bit gloppy, but the red sauce with cilantro and green onions was fragrant and complementary to the chicken.
The cumin beef was not as spicy as I expected and came with lots of chilies, green peppers and onions. It's stir-fried, probably again with some cooking wine, and had just the balance of grease, crispy, soft, cooked and fresh. The cumin is very present but not overwhelming. This dish reminded me a bit of the Mandchurian beef in Hakka cuisine (not sure if available in MTL. In Toronto it hides well in the suburbs e.g. China Garden on Airport Rd in Mississauga).
Overall a very pleasant experience, but can we do something about the service? When I came to the counter to pay, the child-waitress looked at me and mumbled: "what do you want?"
About the service quality, while we appreciate a degree of authenticity in the food, if the service were truly authentic, it would for many Canadians be just as much a shock as if the food were truly authentic. Being realistic I think the service is okay all factors taken into account.
I am encouraged by Agence's good experience with the food at Oui &Oui. But I do have some bad news, I have confirmed the fact that the really good chef has left, and since that time the food has gone a bit downhill. So this likely explains some of the recent poor reports.
I haven't had a chance to go back since the chef left. I hope to do so some time soon. But It is too bad, that man really knew how to cook.
We had dinner there last night, and it's still pretty good. Their Yu Hsiang eggplant remains, in hubby's opinion, the best eggplant dish he's ever had anywhere, and the Szechuan chicken, while not quite as good as Cuisine Szechuan's Chili Chicken (it's slightly different in style) was still mighty yummy.
I ate here last night, my first visit, on a bit of a whim, not realising it was Oui&Oui (as the sign says Sorgho Rouge, as someone mentioned upthread) I only realised because it looks like they are using the same menus (with the old name on the back)
We ordered the Yu Hsiang eggplant, Szechuan cabbage and, after asking for a recommendation for a fish dish, the fish with pepper and bean sprouts (again mentioned upthread. We're Caucasian but they seemed happy to suggest this to us and make it spicy) All three were absolutely delicious - I think the cabbage was my favourite just because it was so simple yet had a quality and a taste I just couldn't put my finger on (is that the elusive wok hei?)
I have no idea if the food used to be better than this, but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it!
Service was good, friendly, and they were attentive with water and napkins (especially since my nose started running due to the chilies!)
Total cost $30, before tip.
This restaurant has become a staple lately - we just wish they had Maison du Nord's cucumber salad on the menu! However, they have just recently updated their menus - clear layout, new Chinese, English and French descriptions and some photos. And.... I have found out, after spying it on another table, that they make la pi! And it is very, very good - much better than the version I had at Fu Yuan Xiang in Verdun (my only prior experience with this dish, I must admit)