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New Scichuanese Restaurant in Town-very authentic and delicious [KanBai restaurant]

Our Chinese friend recommended this place after going there with her Chinese friends. SHe is from Nanghing, so she doesn't love very spicy food. My wife (Chinese) said "okay" which for her is pretty good.

I had the traditional "shui zhu yu" which is a very very spicy Szichuanese dish with lots of peppers and mounds of fish in a very delicious and spicy broth. It has the tingly and spicy pepper of Szichuanese food called "mala" which comes from combining the tingly Szichuan peppers with the hot spicy red peppers. I loved it.

I had pork stomach which was not very spicy and wasn't "mala", so I wondered if perhaps it was a different regional style, and I think it was.

I had the pork belly in chinese pickles which is braised in a very salty and sweet sauce until it is very tender. Very good.

I had the spicy fried chicken Szichuan style; good.

Nice and very interesting menu; many Chinese eaters there. Beers and wines okay. Good firendly service. Servers are mostly not from Szichuan, so their opinion might be quite different from the delicious "mala' food of Szichuan. NIce place for people who like Szichuanese.

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  1. What is the name of the restaurant? Sounds a bit like Cuisine Szechuan?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Plateaumaman

      Sorry; it's called hong fan tian in Chinese, and I think the name in English or French is something like Kambei. It's on Ste. Catherine between St. Marc and St. Mathieu on the north side of the street, and is fairly non descript. Its towards the eastern part of the block and difficult to see. I couldn't find it on google. Next time I will get a name and post it with the address. Does any one know this place who can help?

      1. re: foodlovergeneral

        It's KanBai (1813 St Catherine W). The Gazette reviewed it last month: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/f...

        1. re: foodlovergeneral

          Hehe,

          I didn't get the name first time out either...

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/803141

          Kanbai, opened in August. They have a sign now.

          I looooove this place - been eating here at least 3 times/month since summer.

          pickled chicken feet - awesome when they have it

          szechuan cabbage - a must try

          best ma po tofu in city (the menu name is different)

          they had a steamed turbot on the wall special menu this week - off the hook!

          Some waitresses snooty.

          Some waitresses super friendly and helpful.

          Place is completely full 5:00-7:00pm with line-up to get in

          1. re: porker

            Porker, what do they call the Ma Po Tofu at KanBai?

                1. re: EaterBob

                  Him not Porker! Him not Porker!

                  Hehe.

                  I think the menu lists it as "Tofu in Spicy Sauce", but the staff call it ma po.
                  Awhile back, Mrs Porker ordered the "Tofu in Spicy Sauce" for the first time. The waitress said "Ma Po Tufu" when setting the dish down. We were worried; we didn't want ma po (having visions of cloying, pedestrian ma po usually found at run-of-the-mill joints), so we asked the waitress about it, pointing to the menu "Tofu in Spicy Sauce". She said yes, its the same dish.
                  We ordered that plate on each subsequent visit.

                  1. re: EaterBob

                    No, I am not porker last time I checked. Sorry to upset you.

                    1. re: foodlovergeneral

                      Thank you for both clarifications. And I look forward to trying the "Tofu in Spicy Sauce" when I get my act in gear and can make it down there.

                      1. re: EaterBob

                        Just ask them for mapo tofu if that's what you want. Don't worry about the wording on the menu.

        2. sounds good....but you didn't mention name or location!
          Is the "shui zhu yu" also perhaps known as "fish in water", and with a sister dish made with beef (called "beef in water")?

          2 Replies
          1. re: porker

            Yes, that's the name of the dish in English, as it's often translated.

            1. re: foodlovergeneral

              By the way, I think it's a little more precise to say "Fish cooked in water", or "beef cooked in water", but I am not CHinese expert.

          2. foodlovergeneral,

            It would be great if you included the names of the places you're posting about in your titles. Right now, and until the restaurant you're reporting on is added to the database, I have no idea what the heck you're talking about.

            It would save people a bit of grief if they could know what the subject of the post is beforehand so they could decide whether they wish to read it or not. It's also the way things are usually done around here.

            3 Replies
              1. re: foodlovergeneral

                Also, thanks for all the recent posts, foodlovergeneral - lots of helpful info & discussion. It's nice to have you around here.

                1. re: anachemia

                  Thanks for your appreciative words. I seem to get lectured a few times in most of my various posts, or receive some harsh criticisms and it's nice to hear kind words.

            1. Love Kan Bai! The fish in spicy sauce (boiled fish) is fantastic, the heat is not dumbed down and there is lots of buzz from the peppercorns. Their ma po tofu rivals Cuisine Szechuan's which is saying something. I am looking forward to go back this weekend and try the dan dan noodles, cumin lamb and dry-fried lotus root with chilies.

              The address is 1813 St Catherine West by the way, exactly the spot where Ichiban Ramen used to be. The look inside is more japanese - I am guessing heritage from the old tenants - but the food is definitely Szechuan and very, very good! I am very happy I will have another Szechuan place on rotation living as I do downtown. What with Qing Hua, Kazu, Cuisine Szechuan, the veterans Phayathai, Star of India and now the new Kan Bai in the area things are getting better every day.

              3 Replies
              1. re: vjosa

                Great. I am not so in love with Kazu. It's a little sloppy for Japanese food compared with so many Japanese restaurants i have been to in NYC, LA and japan. Please tell us more about the other places you mentioned.

                1. re: foodlovergeneral

                  Agree about Kazu. The food is good, but not out of this world, I find the okonomiyaki way too sweet and the last time I was there I found the tofu bowl too greasy. But the tuna and salmon bowl is great.To me the problem is the cramped space. is so tiny that I don't think I can stand eating another meal there again. The slightest movement and you are bound to whack someone two tables over or spill someone's food at the very least. Also you feel you have to hurry and get out. Not great either.
                  I went back to KanBai by the way, still very good, the mushroom and cilantro salad was great and fresh, the chilli chicken was very good and the sour cabbage is out of this world. Have yet to try the green beans and am intrigued by the sizzling lamb, the one served on a hot plate at the table, as well as a pork dish I spotted on one of the tables on my way out, will make sure to get the name as well as the dish next time to see what and how it is.

                  The other restos I was mentioning...Qing Hua dumplings are as good as ever, the lamb and coriander filling is my favourite, but I must say I am addicted to the hot sauce that the dumplings are eaten with. Need to visit Phayathai soon for my fix of their Tom Yum soup and bbq duck salad, yum! Sometimes when you pay cash they do not charge taxes. I find the Guy (original) location to be better than the one in Laurier, but someone told me the original chef rotates between the two locations, don't know if it is true though. Star of India was my reliable indian fix in downtown, but last time I was there I got the Madras lamb and the okra bhaji and the okra was great but the lamb below so-so. Bummed by the salty lassi, too watery. The nan was great.

                2. re: vjosa

                  Two cold apps that I love:
                  a chicken in chili sauce (or " chili oil" or "hot sauce"). Cooked chicken on the bone, cut into small pieces, and marinated in a spicy/sour sauce. Fantastic.
                  And a fungus in a sweet and sour sauce. Looks like this
                  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_yxVGQKt6Tf4... and is great. The description "sweet&sour" may sound cloying, but it is not.

                  1. re: sophie.brunet

                    Seems like it was her first time eating Sichuan food. I wonder why now and not when we were all raving about Nui Kee, Tapioca Thé or Cuisine Szechuan.

                    Seems I'll have to give this place another shot. The one time I went, I was left a bit meh. Maybe we ordered the wrong dishes. FWIW, I would skip the jellyfish salad and the home-style tofu. Next time, I'll only order Sichuan dishes.

                    1. re: SnackHappy

                      I liked the braised pork belly with pickled cabbage, though a tad salty. The "water fish" and "water beef" was excellent. The stomach with spicy sauce was great. Mapo tofu is the sort of bellweather for Scichuanese food, but I haven't tried that. I've had a few other very good dishes there.

                      1. re: foodlovergeneral

                        Thanks for the tips. I have no doubt that KanBai is worth another go.

                        1. re: foodlovergeneral

                          Their mapo tofu is excellent, however, it was slightly different last time we were there. Not dissapointingly different, but a-notch-below-their-usual-stellar different. Different cook?
                          BTW, the owners read Chowhound.

                          1. re: foodlovergeneral

                            The stomach in spicy sauce was my favourite, despite the fact that the waitress tried to convince me not to order it- but then I often find that those are the best dishes! It was different than I had expected, very chewy and meaty and satisfying.

                            ETA: Is there any way that the name of the thread could be changed to include the name of the restaurant?

                        2. re: sophie.brunet

                          From the article:
                          "avec mes amis, probablement les seules personnes de plus de 30 ans, les seules non asiatiques et les seules à n'avoir pratiquement aucune idée de ce que proposait le menu"

                          Well....Mrs Porker was looking at the story's photo and realized we're in it, so...
                          They were not the only over 30s,
                          They were not the only non-Asians.
                          However, I won't argue the point about them not having an idea on the menu...hehe.

                          1. re: porker

                            I was there last night and I swear we were the only non-asian couple there, or at least in the back, main part.

                            The food was very good we had the duck in a spicy sauce in a sizzling casserole. The sauce was amazingly tasty and the peppers so fragrant and spicy, yum! my only complaint was that the pieces of duck in the sauce felt like they were 'left overs' from better pieces... lots of bone and cartilage and neck and not a lot of meat per se. We also had some kind of beef tendon, served cold and those were also very tasty.

                            We also had the fish boiled in the chili sauce and it was delicious! a bit oily but very tasty.

                            We found the service to be a bit lacking however. The place is so packed that the waiters continusly bumped into tables, or even pushes arms and limbs to serve you, and it takes quite a bit of skill to get their attention for more water (I guess with all those peppers water is a hot commodity)... The fish also took a long time to come ,but the waitress explained that it took a long time to cook, and it was so delicious that in the end we were happy to have waited for it.

                            All in all I would recommend it but warn that its very busy, packed, and the service seemed kind of overwhelmed. But its good, and delicously spicy.

                            1. re: sophie.brunet

                              I posted tongue in cheek, flushed by the novelty that we were in the picture. I understand that she was saying its mostly a young, hip, oriental crowd. Its changing though, as more gui lao are discovering the place.
                              The "left overs" pieces, yeah, thats the result of cleavering on the premises. I don't mind it so much, but I think many westerners have a hard time with this, as the waitresses continually warn "lotsa bones, OK?" for more than a couple of dishes on the menu.
                              Service: yeah it can be spotty (and management is aware), but again its likely due to many factors, being busy and packed paramount. If you look at the faces of the regulars, it seems to be business as usual. Once you realize and accept this, relax, sip some sake, and enjoy the ride! I actually like the, at times, hectic atmosphere.

                              1. re: porker

                                i did have a hard time! very humbling experience with my weak chopstick skills, had to resort to eating with my hands...

                                i think your right, sake might have been the key to enjoy it more ! and now i know what to expect in terms of atmosphere

                            2. re: porker

                              Is that you by the mirror? And her statement can still be true, as it is unlikely that the photo was taken when she ate there.

                              1. re: EaterBob

                                I'm behind the guy by the mirror, my back is to the camera, Mrs Porker is facing the camera. Yeah, her statement could be true, as i said above, I posted tongue-in-cheek.
                                They soon moved us to a 4-top as our plates and wine never fit on a deuce.

                                BTW, the guy in the mirror (caucasian) was not happy being there at all. His oriental companion was chowing down, but he was having none of it, drinking only water. Mrs Porker and I joked together, maybe he was holding out for pizza, or poutine, or maybe a St. Hubert chicken leg...hehe

                                1. re: porker

                                  I wonder if they can serve poutine in spicy sauce to make the food more palatable for certain people. Some sort of fusion cuisine like that would be great, don't you think? Or pizza with mapo tofu?

                                  1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                    Szechuan poutine: fries with mapo tofu on top!

                              2. re: porker

                                My French is not too good; but did she say that this was a Japanese restaurant or that Kanbei was a Japanese word? The term is used extensively by the Chinese as a toast as well as by the Japanese. Some of the Chinese who use this term translate it as "bottoms up".

                                Was she insulting "moi" in her article? Oh well.

                                It's nice that at such a ripe old age, she has finally had a chance to taste some Chinese food that is not General Tso's chicken or dim sum. Many of these dishes ARE on Cantonese menus, even in Montreal (or similar variants). I think it might be good for restaurant writers to get more experience as a PRE-requisite for their job of writing about restaurants, though.

                                I think many of the people in the picture looked over 30. I am not sure what the author was referring to.

                                And Mr. and Mrs. Porker were in the picture? Wow.

                                1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                  From the bottom of the article:
                                  "Style :Restaurant chinois proposant une cuisine du Séchouan, mais qui se donne des airs japonais, avec son décor minimaliste allumé, son nom évoquant le «kampai» nippon et des détails comme des edamame en grignotine.
                                  Plus : L'originalité et la qualité du menu rempli de découvertes savoureuses et épicées.
                                  Moins : Certains plats sont vraiment très piquants."

                                  My (rough) translation:

                                  Style: Chinese restaurant, Sichuan cuisine. Hints of Japan with its minimalist decor, edamame snack, and name sounding like the Japanese "Kampai" .
                                  Pros: The originality and quality of a menu filled with tasty and spicy discoveries.
                                  Cons: Some dishes are really spicy.

                                  It seems she is saying it has Japanese influences. I haven't been to this location before Kanbai, but it *was* a Japanese restaurant (Ichiban). The decor might be a throwback from the old restaurant, so she might be correct on this point (decor).
                                  I think she's perhaps incorrect in associating the name with Japanese influences.

                                  I don't like her notion that some of the dishes are really spicy as a "con". Would it be better to dumb down the dishes to suit western tastes? At least put in a caveat "although authentic, *to me*, some dishes are really spicy."

                                  I agree, restaurant reviewers should have some knowledge of the cuisine they're eating. How else can you subjectively review a subject? She was out of her element, but at least gave it a shot and ended up enjoying it, she deserves credit for that, at least. I'm guessing The Gazette article and recent buzz on Kanbai was likely deciding factors in her going there.

                                  1. re: porker

                                    Good points. Thanks. She should be credited with expanding her own horizons. She should not list spicy as a "con"-it's how Szichuanese enjoy their food. It's like saying "poutine should be made with mashed potatoes for the German eaters".

                                2. re: porker

                                  This is not necessarily a contradiction as the photo might have been taken at a different time then the actual meal (and by someone else then the reviewer)

                                  1. re: AlexCV

                                    Yeah, EaterBob pointed that out.