What says “Montreal” is the abundance of ethnic dining choices available around town. You’re able to bike to any borough from St. Laurent to Anjou, and find some sort of ethnic eatery representative of that neighborhood. Cote-des-Neiges I feel is the epicenter of ethnic dining. From Italian, Lebanese and even home of only two and much regarded Unicornic Filipino restaurants, (I say Unicornic not because Filipinos eat Unicorns, but Filipino joints don’t exist anywhere else) Cote-des-Neiges is truly the mixing bowl of ethnic dining.
When you think Vietnamese food, one renders thoughts of pungent bowls of noodle soup called Pho and freshly rolled spring rolls nestling warm vermicelli and shredded pork. On one of the busier strips of Victoria in Cote-des-Neiges, Hoai Huong exemplifies Vietnamese food.
They have to dining rooms and food is expedited through the middle. Left features a 42 inch flat screen tv, which as Asian as this restaurant is, it’s the side you’ll find the Asian people eating in. If you’re Asian, you know that your food tastes better when you’re watching the latest headlines or a match in a sport that you don’t play. The right, a faux bar that is used a prep station. We sat down and I took a look around me to see what other people were eating.
I soon found out that I landed myself in crazyville because people weren’t eating Pho in a Vietnamese restaurant which is as strange as not hearing Arabic being spoken at a pizza place downtown. But I was prepared for this because I had my heart set on Bo Ba Muon.
This plate is of three courses of beef prepared three different ways, served up with a variety of different herbs (mint, fish mint Thai basil), and vegetables and a side of cooked oil drizzled vermicelli.
Beef rolled up in beef. Vietnamese super-ball textured meatballs wrapped in beef and grilled. It’s like when beef couldn’t be more beef, beef out beefed itself with beef. Kind of like eating tomatoes with ketchup, but so much better.
Beef wrapped in Wild Betel leaves and grilled.
Onions wrapped in beef and grilled.
This dish is eaten as spring rolls of sorts, where you are also given 10 sheets of rice paper wraps. It’s pretty self explanatory. You gingerly take a wrap off the steamer while trying not to rip it or have it stick to itself, place a beef roll-up, noodles and veggies and roll ‘er up.
Half the experience is trying not to be too greedy and over stuff your roll to the point where rollage is impossible and spillage occurs. It’ll result in eating off the palm of your hand, and wearing fish sauce.
Comes with a choice of a peanut-garlic sauce or fish sauce. Do yourself a favor and ask for both, nothing says Monday like smelling like Chinatown street-juice for the rest of the work day.
What else was on the table was a dish called Banh Xeo. Which was basically a crepe filled with a stir-fry mixture of bean sprouts, pork and shrimp fragrant in spices. A pretty unique dish, as with the Bo Ba Muon, this one requires eating with your hands as well, not to say that one normally eats with their feet, but you know what I mean.
Made with rice flour, turmeric and coconut milk, the crepe is a bit sweet and is a contrast to its filling; definitely unique in texture and flavor. I wasn’t a big fan of this dish, because I feel that although breakfast foods are great at any time of day and a bowl of cereal cures the midnight munchies, I draw the line at incorporating chow mein toppings with pancakes. However, my dining companion on the other hand, put it away like it was being chased by the cops and she was paid off by the mob.
Like mentioned before, Banh Xeo is eaten with your hands. It’s eaten as a wrap of sorts with the foliage presented on the plate. You can wrap the crepe and filling in some lettuce and herbs, or the other way around with the crepe on the outside, either or. There’s no wrong way when it comes to wrapping the Banh Xeo, unlike with toilet paper where OVER is the RIGHT way and UNDER is COMPLETELY AND CATASTROPHICALLY WRONG, I’ve read dissertations about this proper toilet paper distribution technique, so don’t even start.
Not to be overlooked, a Vietnamese iced coffee. If you’ve never had one, it’s basically a single serving of freshly drip filtered coffee into a cup of condensed milk which is then later poured into a glass of ice. It’s usually finished dripping as you finish you meal. Don’t rush the drip, I’ve learned the hard way, your coffee will come out grainy full of sediment from messing around with the filter, egging it to drip. Just let it work.
So if you’re adventurous to try something new other than Pho at a Vietnamese place, these two options are definitely ones to consider. Use this as a guide or make sure you go with someone who knows the method of eating these two unique dishes. I know the last thing you want when you’re hungry is a formula of proper procedural eating, but if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right otherwise it’d be like farting with no one around… there’s just no point in doing it.