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wattacetti

Sticky in Montreal - time for noodles

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The return of the elevated heat and humidity and the need to clean the oven essentially meant I wasn't in the mood to make dinner. On top of this, cheryl's PM regarding Bofinger’s pulled pork had me thinking take-out sandwich. No prep, no mess, just eat.

So, I had noodles.

I blame the New Dotch Cooking Show. I specifically blame the ramen episodes on the New Dotch Cooking Show. Unfortunately Montreal doesn’t have any ramen-yas that I’m aware of so no chance of getting a nice char-siu ramen or wonton ramen.

What to do, what to do…

Pho Lien

5703-B Chemin de la Côte des Neiges

(514) 735-6949

Go have pho. Pho Lien’s a standby for me (except on Tuesdays) when I want something quick and don’t feel like competing for Chinatown parking or driving to Jean Talon. It’s not exactly a place to go for the ambiance: as with most pho spots, it’s all about minimalist efficiency. Most people were eating on their terrace; I took the table nearest the AC.

My standard order: spring rolls and a pho with rare beef, soft tendon and honeycomb tripe.

Spring rolls

Shrimp, rice noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts that were freshly rolled into the rice sheet. They were okay and did what I needed them to do, which was to cut the immediate hunger. I actually like the rolls at Pho Zen (in Brossard next to the Panama bus station in Brossard) better but there’s something annoying about having to drive to the South Shore (yah, those bridges, see).

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Grilled chicken

Pho Lien apparently does offer things other than pho. I’ve never ordered them but the grilled chicken looked and smelled pretty good. Accompanied with steamed rice, salad and nước mắm.

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Requisite plate of pho garnish but no fresh chiles - you have to ask for them now (probably a good thing which minimizes waste; most people can’t handle them). Hoisin and sriracha squeeze bottles available at the table.

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The pho itself

Broth was slightly cloudier than previous times but I thought it was also more aromatic and flavorful than previous times. There was also a lot of tripe and tendon this time around but it’s not like I mind. I though it was pretty good.

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The pho was good. But I had been watching the episode where wonton ramen competed against char-siu ramen. I wanted some wontons and the only place I could think of is a place my mom had brought me to earlier this year.

Les Nouilles Maxi-Pho

1803 Poirier

Ville Saint-Laurent

(514) 331-8666

The restaurant is located in the same strip mall as the Marché Hawaii though it’s located on the end next to the adult video shop (those into that sort of thing can have dinner and then leisurely shop next door). It is an eatery that’s essentially split in half with the left half doing predominantly Chinese (some Japanese) while the right half does nothing but Vietnamese.

Since Musgrave had recently talked about restaurant ambiance and décor in the Gazoo, I’ll comment: it has a high big-box ceiling but the decor’s understated: bamboo poles, some small ornaments, modern tables. Very clean minimalist design.

I was there for wonton noodles, I got a bowl of wonton noodle soup.

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This was one big bowl: about 20 cm in diameter, maybe 8-9 cm in height. Nice fragrant chicken broth, eleven (!) wontons and egg noodles garnished with bok choy, a little coriander and a little green onion. The wontons were about the size of the bowl of a noodle spoon and were filled with minced pork and chunks of shrimp. I thought that the mince was texturally a little rough and could have use a bit more fat, but they were pretty tasty nonetheless. I don’t really like the egg noodles used in Chinese restaurants; never felt that they were quite right.

What’s the kicker? $6.50!

There is another noodle option here as well:

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This is the same-size bowl and the same egg noodles, but topped with bok choy, beef balls, stewed beef, stewed pork and wontons in a more robust broth. Obviously more varied protein-wise but tasty in its own right. Also $6.50.

And after all of this? I’m sloshing around because I’m essentially full of broth. I like both places because they do a good no-nonsense noodle experience and I obviously go back regularly.

However, I still want some char-siu ramen.

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wattacetti--

great, great photos and reportage! do you ever go to pho places in Chinatown? there's at least 2 on St-Laurent between Viger and de la gauchetiere that are ok...

also, off topic: was it you (I can't remember which eG member did this) who posted a great, great tutorial somewhere on this site about the "glove method" of deboning a chicken a little while ago? i've been looking and I can't find it... It's the way of deboming a chicken from the inside and without making many--if any--cuts...

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gus_tatory,

I have indeed been to pho places in Chinatown (Pho Bang NY and Pho Bac to name two) but don't go often because parking is such a PITA. Like both but for different things on the menu.

I'm also the one who posted the glove method for deboning a chicken (almost a year a go to boot). You may find the posting here.

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...

I'm also the one who posted the glove method for deboning a chicken (almost a year a go to boot). You may find the posting here.

Did I tell you at the time how appreciative I was? :biggrin:

I hope so! :smile:

And now back to the noodle topic:

Do you foresee Montreal having the kind of noodles/ramen 'war' that they are having in NYC? I would love for more and better noodle-soup shops to open here!

--Time Out NY article on 'Ramen Wars'... click

--Eater.com article on Ny 'Ramen Wars'... click

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How did you do on deboning those chickens by the way?

Anyway, I can't see the same NY-style noodle war happening here. Part of it is what we have as "competitors" and part of it is just Montreal's general population.

We have multiple outlets of Zyng, Just Noodles, Soupe et Nouilles, Thai Express (in the food courts) and a variety of standalone places. None of them (to me) are particularly good and they try and do pretty much the same thing: multiple noodle offerings of the lowest common denominator for the lowest price possible. Inexpensive yes, good no.

The pho shops didn't change a thing when any of these new competitors and for a while the only place you could order a bowl of ramen was the Sakura Gardens (soon to be in the Katsura spot).

I also have the impression that Montreal generally sees noodles as a low-end item to gulp and go, and the majority of the population does not see (or care about) the nuances of a good bowl of the stuff. Our short attention span also means that we have a very nasty tendency to move on to the next big thing about 4-5 months after the current big thing is open.

The last "competition" if you could call it that was the explosion of chef-owned establishments 2-3 years ago after the success of Brunoise and Le Bouchon de Liège. In terms of an ethnic style, I'd say that the last competition were the Latin-inspired openings of Jolifou (French and Mexican), Raza (Nuevo Latino), Pinxto (tapas) and currently Madre (casual Nuevo Latino). That wasn't much of a competition - all of them coexist and all do pretty well, but we don't exactly talk about them, do we?

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confession: the reason i asked about the chicken deboning post was because i haven't gotten around to it yet, and wanted to give it a shot this weekend. your guide is really helpful, and it'd be nice if we could get it 'pinned' somewhere (eG administrators?)--but this time i CTRL-D'd (bookmarked it) so now i can find it again. :smile:

this isn't ramen or pho, but the 'Chinese wonton soup' (#182 on their menu) at Beijing on de la gauchetiere is one of my favourite cheap soup lunches, and hangover cures too! it's a big bowl (enough for 2, but i always finish it...) and there's a few leaves/stems of gai lan, about 10-12 cute little dumplings with chopped coarse (not pureed, pasty) shrimp-y goodness in the dumplings, and their broth is really, really good, with a few drops of sesame oil on top. i keep on going back for the broth, because it is clear yet has body, it tastes of good, fresh hot chicken (not salty, or msg, or Magic Chicken Powder...), and it is one of the best clear soups of any nationality i have tried. i have worked extensively at making good chicken broths at home, and i have come close, but i never got one as good as theirs. i do now, however, drop 1-2 star anise in my chicken broth now for that delicate evocative taste.

interesting point you make on the waves of restos that start out brave and seem to end up resembling each other after a while...

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I somewhat doubt that my demo would be pinned even if it had been posted as a pictorial: can't see everyone rushing to make boneless chicken bags.

I will definitely find some time to try the Beijing offering, since it'll be another alternative.

I find that our waves manage to co-exist because each establishment (if it's strong enough) will carve a niche, often with very little overlap with any of its competitors. However, we do forget about them, which is really too bad.

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