Happy Fourth of July! Freedom from mediocre dim sum at Chez Chine (Montreal Chinatown)
On the Fourth of July, 2011, I had one of my most pleasant dim sum experiences to date in Montreal at the Chez Chine restaurant, located in the 2nd floor Reception Level of the Holiday Inn Centre-Ville (Chinatown), located at the intersection of Viger Avenue and St. Urbain Street. (The address of the hotel is 99 Viger.)
I dined alone, but that didn't stop me from indulging. This being my last act in Montreal prior to my return to New York City, I set out with the intention of splurging and having an emperor's type meal, sampling from just about everything offered.
My first stop, after ordering my dim sum (see below), was at the cooking table. You can choose from a variety of different vegetables, then from different pastas or rice, and then your meat(s): chicken, pork, beef or shrimp. The pasta is first blanched, and then tossed in a wok to be stir fried with your choice of ingredients. (There is also a number of different condiments and seasoning oils.) [I was on a diet, seriously, I was, so this was mainly a utilitarian dish for me. I chose a bunch of healthy veggies and tossed it with some shrimp and Mai Fun (vermicelli). Quality of this dish was good. Hot off the wok - what's not to like?]
I selected the following dim sum (no carts here; just a check sheet):
Ha Gow (Shrimp Dumplings)
[Good. Fresh shrimp. However, I made the mistake of leaving the cover on the bamboo container, thus trapping the moisture. It is better to remove the cover and let the dumplings cool so that the skin can become firmer.]
Shui Mai (Pork Dumplings)
[This was my least liked dim sum item. I thought the meat stuffing was a bit neither here nor there.]
Chicken Roll with Bamboo Shoots Wrapped in a Beancurd/Tofu Skin
[Nicely sized. Not one of my favorites usually, but a nice surprise. Cooked to the right firmness.]
Sticky Rice with Minced Chicken Wrapped in Lotus Leaf
[Decent. I did not eat an entire one of these, so I did not discover all of the stuffing ingredients.]
Tripe (the white kind)
Chicken with Mushrooms (steamed)
[Fresh. This was a pleasant surprise and was my favorite dim sum item that day.]
Spring Rolls - traditional (with meat)
[Crispy, good. Best to eat with the accompanying Worcestershire sauce.]
Spring Rolls - vegetarian
[Crispy, good. Eat plain or with Worcestershire sauce.]
Fried Shrimp Balls
[Crispy, good. Can be eaten with Worcestershire sauce. Good enough to eat plain.]
Chinese Broccoli (optional oyster flavored dipping sauce)
Coconut Milk Gelatinous Cake
[The kitchen honored my request to have this served last as dessert. I thought it did not have enough flavor. I’d have to rate this one just average.]
I’m going off my memory so I may have omitted an item or two (sorry, no photos either).
There were a number of other dim sum items that I did not try that day (surprise surprise), among which were the meatballs (beef), a usual staple for me.
In addition, I did not see Cheung Fun on the menu (rice skin wrapped around beef, roast pork or shrimp, accompanied by sweet soy sauce).
I ordered Chicken Feet with Black Bean Sauce, but was told they were out of it.
I liked that all of the dim sum were of modest size and portions. I dislike large dim sum.
Average price: about $5 per dim sum item. (I don't know how this compares to other dim sum restos in Montreal, but it was my last day of vacation, and I was splurging. My bill came to about $90.)
- Beef Chow Fun (made with Ho Fun, a/k/a broad rice noodle)
[Decent. This dish should be eaten fresh and hot.]
Last, but certainly not least, was the pleasant atmosphere and professional service. The resto sits adjacent to a faux ancient Chinese-style koi pond, with a gazebo, and a walkway that snakes over the pond. So the scenery is pleasant. Service is prompt and professional. (The waiters are almost all Cantonese-speaking, in addition to being conversant in both French and English.) There is no rancor here, so if you seek a boisterous atmosphere in a dim sum resto, you will be disappointed.
I would say that Chez Chine stacks up very well against any dim sum resto in any part of New York City.
Having been freed from the tyranny of the other mediocre dim sum restos in Montreal's Chinatown, it was a happy Fourth of July for me indeed!