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Maison du Nord

On the very fine suggestion of sharkbait88, my friend and I went to Maison du Nord (北京人家, Bei3 jing1 ren2 jia) for lunch. It is not the easiest place to find (many maps do not seem to have it, but it is at 2130 Rue St-Mathieu (and Avenue Lincoln) and quite near the Guy-Concordia metro station.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see many Shaanxi style dishes on the menu.

We shared 葱油饼 (cong1 you2 bing3, or Green onion Chinese pancake), 羊肉泡馍
(yang2 rou4 pao4 mo2, Pita bread dipped in lamp [sic.] soup), 红烧牛肉面 (hong2 shao1 niu2 rou4 mian4, Braised Beef Noodle Soup), steamed dumplings filled with 羊肉香菜 (yang2 rou4 xiang1 cai4, Lamb and coriander) and 豆浆 (dou4 jiang1, Organic soybean milk).

The cong1 you2 bing3 was terrible --- it was the oddest scallion pancake I've ever seen, being very crispy on the outside, uncooked and soft inside, and with almost no scallions at all. The black vinegar served with it was excellent, however.

However, the restaurant more than redeemed itself with the noodles. These were terrific hand pulled Lanzhou style noodles, with a remarkable depth of flavor and perfectly textured beef. The la4 jiang4 (chili paste) served with it was both ma2 (numbing) and la4 (hot) and also flavorful.

yang2 rou4 pao4 mo2 is an unusual dish from Xi'an, and consists of a lamb stew studded with little bits of torn, stale bread. Usually you are presented with a large bowl and a piece of bread to tear into pieces yourself, which is then whisked back into the kitchen and filled with stew. In this case, everything was done in the kitchen, but the results were still good, with nice pieces of a bread and an unusually flavorful stew (if maybe a little sparing on the lamb).

The dumplings were good too, although some weren't quite cooked enough. They have a remarkable variety of dumplings.

dou4 jiang1 was very good both hot and cold.

All in all a very good choice for authentic northern style Chinese food, with very nice ownership and wait staff. Cash only though. The rest of the menu looked intriguing and I wish there were more than just the two of us so that we could have sampled more food. But make sure to get noodles!

We saw a sign around the corner of Tapioca Thé at a Sichuan restaurant, but they were closed, so we ended up having bubble tea at Magic Idea right across the street instead. They had one of the most extensive bubble tea menus I've ever seen. We both ordered winter melon with kumquat jelly, which was quite good but a bit too sweet. Although the bathrooms were terrible, the atmosphere was nice, with many flat screen TVs showing movies, and numerous couples and small groups engaged in friendly conversation all around.

Magic Idea
1675 Boul De Maisonneuve W, Montreal, QC H3H1J6, CA

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  1. Thanks for the great update lipoff! I am also a fan of the noodles here. The lamb stew you describe seems to be the same on I tried, but I am not sure. The lamb stew was very unique! enjoyed it, but I don't think i could polish off an entire bowl myself,

    1. It's now my second time at the Maison du Nord and it certainly doesn't disappoint!

      The first time I just stopped in alone at lunch to have the now-famous pork sandwich that everyone is raving about, which was very good, but when I saw the rest of menu I knew I had to come back with friends.

      We tried the lamb and coriander dumplings, which were very nice and juicy. They were pan fried but not at all greasy.

      The chilled hand pulled noodles with cucumber and beef, were extremely awesome, and such nice texture on those noodles! I would go back 10 more times to just try all the other noodles one by one...above the kitchen I thought I saw a picture that looked like "dan dan" noodles, but couldn't figure out whether it was on the menu or not.

      The jellyfish and cabbage salad seemed most suitable for this weather (although there was one person in our party who claimed that there was no weather phenomena she had ever encountered that would make her want to eat jellyfish). It was indeed tasty and most appropriate.

      The last thing we had was scallion pancakes, which a friend insisted on ordering. I don't think that they were what he expected. It certainly wasn't what I expected, although I only remembered that lipoff was disappointed with them, but I could not remember why. Well, I was worried they would be greasy or something, but they were nice, just not that exciting or scallion-y.

      The only negative comment that I would have is that we asked if they had Interac and were told that they did, but when it came time to pay, they told us to take money our of their ATM. An ATM that accepts cards from the Interac system (with a hefty service charge) isn't exactly the same thing as Interac in my opinion, but now that I know I will just bring cash next time. And I am looking forward to that next time already!

      1 Reply
      1. re: karela

        Just called them asking if they accept debit/interact and they said yes. Thanks for letting me know they were referring to an atm.

      2. My wife loves noodles like the ones you described. I cannot wait to go and sample them?

        How do the dumplings compare to Qing Hua dumplings, which is just around the corner on Lincoln?

        3 Replies
        1. re: whiskeytits

          They're more rustic and sit in "juice" (as opposed to having the "juice" inside) but are delectable in their own right. Plus there are stuffings you don't find at Qing Hua (e.g. lamb and carrot). For more info, see the earlier Maison du Nord thread: http://www.chow.com/topics/611961

          Also, check out the review in today's Hour: www.hour.ca/food/food.aspx?iIDArticle...

          1. re: carswell

            Now that I think about it, didn't this place just burn down? I remember waking up one morning and smelling smoke really badly, going out on the street and seeing the place I think it is in flames. It's the restaurant between Kummo Cafe and a coiffure?

            Edit: (Actually, I think the place beside it burnt down, and the coiffure turned into Maison du Nord).

            Kummo Cafe &
            2160 Rue Saint-Mathieu, Montreal, QC H3H2J4, CA

            1. re: whiskeytits

              Maison du Nord definitely didn't burn down - I ate there last night!

              We had

              cucumber salad - delicious, as always, but this one was possibly the best yet, maybe more chilli, and a "smokier" vinegar?

              full serve of pork, chive and shrimp dumplings, steamed

              half serve of pork and fennel, pan friend - my first time trying the fried dumplings here, and I really liked them, although I prefer it when the dumplings are fried a little longer and are a little crunchier.

              Double cooked pork with black beans - the sauce was delicious, salty, spicy, tangy, yum! The pork was very fatty but I know that is normal.

              One strange thing on the menu - there used to be three cooking options for the dumplings - boiled, steamed and pan fried, but for some reason the boiled option is crossed out now.

              $35.50 before tip.

        2. Finally stopped by Maison du Nord yesterday after thinking about it for several weeks.
          I've had handmade noodles before, but Yunnan-style, so I was eager to see what MdN had to offer in terms of Shaanxi noodles.

          When I arrived at noon the kitchen was just getting started. Within a few minutes at least 10 other diners had arrived and the place went from silent to humming just as quickly.
          I skipped the pork sandwich and went for the noodles instead: I ordered spicy noodles with cucumber and pork, and my dining partner tried the sautéed beef noodle (thinking it might be a dryer dish so we could compare textures).

          Unfortunately, a mixed review.

          The quality of the noodles themselves was outstanding. Toothy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked. I can see why they are so adored. But the way they were prepared left a little to be desired.

          My dish - spicy pork/cucumbers over noodles - was a good balance: enough meat for flavor, cucumbers cooked but still firm, and a pleasing sauce/broth made even better by the Chinkiang vinegar. But it certainly wasn't spicy - I wasn't expecting any Sichuan fireworks but there was barely a hint of heat. I also thought such a soup would be better made with lamb - the pork was a bit too delicate. Overall a good combination but I had been hoping for something with a little more punch - saltier, spicier, more herbal - something.

          The other noodle dish - sautéed beef noodle - was a complete failure. Yes, the texture of the noodles was just as good, but that's really all the dish had going for it. There wasn't much evidence of high-heat sauteeing: the vegetables (carrots and head cabbage) had the texture of steamed, and the beef looked like it had been cooked by some other method and simply warmed in the wok with the noodles. Besides being bland and watery, the dish suffered from the quality of the beef itself: a tough cut, with many chunks still containing tendon and/or bone. I don't expect tenderloin but this was a bit much. I've had similar chunks-on-the-bone experiences at restaurants before but there simply wasn't enough flavor in this dish to justify it.

          I certainly don't want this review to sound overly negative - it's great to have regional cuisine available and the staff were wonderful, the portions huge, and the price excellent.
          It just doesn't seem like every dish on the menu is executed equally well.

          I'll come again and try some new dishes, making sure to try some of the lamb.
          Anyone tried to order the pork sandwich with lamb instead?

          1 Reply
          1. re: michaelmas

            Finally checked out this place on a Friday evening. Place was pretty full of a few families and several little kids but good atmosphere.

            We ordered three dishes - green onion pancake as appetizer, shrimp, chive and pork dumplings (boiled), and noodle with vegetables cooked in scallion oil dish (which also came with your choice of beef or pork - picked the latter). Everything was very tasty. I really liked the green onion cake as it wasn't too salty. Are there any other good places to get this? As everyone has said previously, the noodles are made fresh and by hand and are very delicious - hard to pull apart though but not complaining. It was slightly spicy but nothing too hot to handle. Vegetables included some thin carrot slices, cabbage, and green onions. Dumplings were tasty. I was pretty suprised by the quantity that they gave - I think we had around 22-24 boiled dumplings so a good deal. By the end of the meal, we were both very full and satisfied.

            Best part about the dinner - total of the bill was $20.50 for the three dishes. Very reasonably priced and great food. Highly recommend it. Don't know why I didn't go before as I used to live around the corner but never went.

          2. I can't get enough of their pulled noodle dishes. The egg and tomato one is excellent (and alot of food at that!) and their lamb and coriander dumplings as well-- although a couple of times when I've been they've 'run out' of lamb dumplings :( be sure you're ready with a back-up dumpling order just in case

            1 Reply
            1. re: grobi

              The noodle dish I had there was absolutely first-rate and top-notch.

            2. I am looking for some ingredients to the one dish of theirs that is my favorite, namely the "Noodles in Scallion Oil with Vegetables": all of the obvious ingredients are easy to nail down, julienne carrots, cabbage, scallions.

              However, what I am after are all the little subtleties of the dish.

              1. First, they sprinkle what are seemingly salted chilis over top of the dish, but I'm not sure salted chilis are native to the type of cuisine they serve, so what is it? I know that they are not schezuan peppers because they do not have the proper numbing properties. My best guess is chili broad bean paste (dou ban jiang), but I'm not entirely sure it's that, as there are noticeable salt flakes mixed in with the chilis.

              2. The broth they pour over top is equally as intriguing. First, they make their own scallion oil and dump it over the dish right before it goes over to the customer. I get that part.

              But beyond the scallion oil, there is a broth that is light brown to golden in colour. The broth itself is spicy and vinegary, but there's background flavors that I cannot put my finger on.

              What spices would they employ?

              3. The noodles are evenly coated and are slightly vinegary. I cannot figure out what type of vinegar they use on them. First, it's not black glutinous rice vinegar like they have on the tables. I thought that it might by mature aged Shanxi vinegar, because they offer a Shanxi pork sandwich from that reason, but it is not that either. So what kind of vinegar is it?

              So I have three questions: what type of chilis do they put on top, what flavors are in their broth, and what vinegar do they use?

              (And yes, I have asked them repeated times, and even came in very late at night with no other customers around--and they are not forthcoming with their secrets).

              1. Went there tonight and had their signature pork sandwich, braised beef hand-pulled noodles, and pork and green onion dumplings. The noodles were excellent of course, the beef braised well and very tender. This was brought out first. About 15 minutes after the noodles, they brought the dumpings, also very good. Equally good to their dumplings was their homemade chili oil. Roasted sesame seeds, crushed chilis, mixed into a tangy, savoury concotion. So good.

                Then we waited and waited... in the end we asked for the bill and whether the sandwich was made. If not, we wouldn`t take it. We were told that it was already made. No bill ever came. About ten minutes after we just put what we estimated to be the meal + tip, and were about to leave. Waitress comes over and hands us the sandwich.

                We leave, and the sandwich is lukewarm. I understand that the fatty pork is traditional to this part of chinese cuisine, but when lukewarm, it really isn't appetizing. It seemed like they made it last minute and didn't have time to warm up everything properly. The bread was cold.

                I grew up in a chinese family and know that you don't eat at a chinese restaurant for the service, but seriously, waiting over an hour, only to get one item at a time when they are all main dishes? I want to like this place. Am I missing something here?

                Verdict: service, worse than bad (tonight). Food, very, very good.

                11 Replies
                1. re: torontrealais

                  The last time I went my lunchmate has almost finished his noodles before I ever got my dumplings, so I'm not surprised at all that they had an issue with timing when you went. However, the waitresses are very friendly.

                  1. re: mainsqueeze

                    Ah, good to know this is something to expect. Note to all: have lots of time when you check out this place!

                    1. re: torontrealais

                      I agree with this, unfortunately. When I go for pork sandwiches they are usually quick, but I once waited for 30 mins for a takeout order consisting of just the sandwich and some beef+tofu dish. The place was empty during that particular visit, so it didn't make a lot of sense to me..

                      They still have great food, though I have consciously decided to go for dumplings around the corner or to Pret-a-Manger on St. Cath when I am in a hurry.

                  2. re: torontrealais

                    It is true that they seem to have a specific time that it takes to make each dish and no particular feeling that they should bring them all out at the same time. Noodles always come out first, dumplings later. Or, on a bad day, while you are eating your noodles, they come to say that they are out of the dumplings you ordered. This usually hasn't bothered me since we usually eat "family style" (everyone sharing every dish) but the one time we were with a friend who wanted something else and wasn't interested in what we were, we kind of felt bad because after she insisted several times we ended up starting before she was served (by a good 15 minutes).

                    I also have to say that I am usually far less subtle about the bill. When we have finished, we usually all head to the back of the restaurants with our wallets at the ready. It works well.

                    That said, the pork sandwich issue that torotrealais brought up is inexcusable. It begs the question at which point can an item be considered "un-ordered"?

                    1. re: karela

                      Finally went to check it out last night. The first thing to arrive was the cucumber salad, a big huge plate with lots of vinegar and soya sauce all over it. I prefer the more refined version of this salad at Qing Hua dumplings. Then we got our Chinese spaghetti, hand-pulled noodles with pork sauce and cucumber ... kind of prefer the noodles at the Roi du Wonton. The sauce was rather mild compared to the large quantity of noodle.

                      And after much rummaging around in a large freezer near the kitchen (which may or may not have been related to our dumpling order - are they usually made fresh?), we got 8 pork and green onion dumplings. And our waitress returned a bit later with the last four. They were okay, not juicy and although fried, not especially crunchy. We just had to dip them in all that cucumber vinegarette.

                      So all in all, rather slapdash service, nice starchy comfort food, maybe a bit too much msg in the cucumber salad, not exactly what I was expecting. I hesitated to try the pork sandwich after reading torontrealais' post but perhaps that would have helped me understand the charm of this restaurant more.

                      1. re: Plateaumaman

                        I am afraid that the rummaging in the freezer is very directly related to the dumpling orders...and probably why they come out so long after the noodles! It took me a few visits to understand how the kitchen could have be out of lamb and coriander dumplings, but still have lamb and chive and chicken and coriander dumplings.

                        1. re: karela

                          i went for the first time today. it was amusing how they know exactly what a chowhound would want and suggested the most mentioned items here. I wasn't that hungry so it was to be a 'light' meal. I had the pork sandwich and my friend order chicken mushroom dumplings. I personally liked the dumplings here over qing hua. i was worried when i saw them rummaging in the freezer, however, i was relieved when some random man came out of the kitchen with a big bowl of raw meat and left followed by a woman entering with hands full of freshly made raw uncooked dumplings. i really enjoyed the skins here however the filling (especially being chicken) was better seasoned - qing hua filling is not very flavourful!!! I was told by the waitress that the pork sandwich is too small for a meal (obviously not the case). I really liked the bread but I though the meat was mostly flavourless fat. When i caught a morsel of onion in the mixed, it elevated the dish. I wouldnt order the sandwich to myself again - a little taste as an appetizer would suffice. I can't help but imagine how tasty that pork sandwich would be if it had some vietnamese condiments like pickled carrots and daikon---something to cut through the fat!!!

                          1. re: celfie

                            I went to Maison Du Nord today for lunch and i was nto very impressed. I ordered the Chinese Pork Sandwich, which was pretty good (first sandwich I tried of the sort, i need to try more in order to compare flavour and quality) but more than enough for 4$. I then ordered half a serving of dumplings stuffed with shrimp, pork and chinese chives, which were not bad (i ordered them pan fried but we got them steamed). We then recieved the braised beef and hand pulled noodle soup, which was very good, meat was very fatty and tender, noodles were full of flavour and very fun to eat, but i found the dish to be extremely oily. I then recieved another order of lamb and coriander dumplings, this time fried as requested, and they were not bad. I found the use of coriander in every dish a little overpowering, but mostly enjoyed it in the pork sandwich. If i were to come back here, i would only order the sandwich and the noodles, but i need to explore more restaurants of this sort.

                            1. re: mtlfoodguy

                              Wanted to stop by for lunch today (Sep. 1st) but at 11:50AM, door still locked and interior was dark. Any news??

                                1. re: mtlfoodguy

                                  Cool.... so glad nothing happened. Would be a great loss. Hope the crew enjoyed sleeping in!

                  3. i want to go there tomorrow and try a noodle soup..... which one should i get--which is the good one!! :p

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: socialhvn

                      Tried Le Maison du Nord's pork sandwich on tuesday. The waitress understood my coriander request. The bread was hot, and everything tasted freshly prepared. I give it top marks. Unlike others, I love the taste of fatty meat, so I found it delicious. Very simple, understated spice and great bread texture. Copious enough for a modestly-sized meal.

                      I vote it up there with my favorite simply-made sandwiches in the city, Ramados chicken, Schwartz fatty, Serrano roast pork.

                      1. re: tocino.

                        For the record, I asked for hand-pulled noodles yesterday and the waiter told me they weren't making them, that they only served machine-made noodles... but they were still very tasty!