Spicy Szechuan Dishes in Verdun – Restaurant Hong Mere

by Jason

I don’t have to tell you how much I love Montréal. As much as I bitch about traffic, douchebag drivers, construction, the weather and slow-walkers at Walmart, I love it all. One of the things I love most about Montréal is the food scene; the variety of restaurants, the multitude of boroughs that foster, in my opinion, some of the greatest culinary talent in Canada if not the world. I love exploring different neighbourhoods to find local restaurant gems especially in areas of the city where I don’t frequent or know well enough. I was recently told about this szechuan spot in Verdun. I’m not from the area nor am I around often enough to know what’s popping’ in the V dot – Is that a thing? It should be, I just made it up and it sounds badass. I’ve made some awesome discoveries along Wellington in Verdun over the years and when I was told about this Chinese restaurant “Hong Mere” that I should try, I didn’t hesitate to check out.

Hong Mere is located between a deppaneur and a massage parlour and you would definitely miss it if you weren’t looking out for it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve driven past it not even knowing it was a restaurant. Maybe it was because it’s situated in what was once a retail store whose display windows are now being used as storage, thus concealing any reasonable glimpse inside to know it’s an actual restaurant, or the fact that I’ve just never noticed it amongst the other flashy vinyl coated windows along the strip.

The menu is vast, over 80 authentic szechuan dishes and specialties on their dine-in menu. We ordered the beef and cumin which is served with sautéed celery and onions. Really tender and juicy pieces of beef tossed with celery and onions. I’ve had a version of this dish that was dry in the past, this version was a bit saucy and was delicious when eaten with steaming hot jasmine rice. It’s a bit spicy, so be warned. The mix of chilies, cumin and szechuan peppercorn will definitely give your tongue a tingle (if you could still feel it after a few bites.) If you like a heat with your food, this is a must. There’s a significant kick to this dish, but it isn’t enough that you’ll regret it in the morning praying for a tub of yogurt to sit in.

The stir fried green beans with chili and pork. When we ordered this dish, the waitress asked if we wanted spicy or “not spicy.” We answered spicy. We were then asked how “spicy“. We looked at each other and nodded in agreement and told the waitress, “you know… “spicy”. This dish was a clinic in the restaurant’s fortitude in “wok hei”, the “breath of the wok”. “wok Hei is the umami and smokey savouriness the wok imparts into the food that’s cooked in it after being seasoned over and over again over intensely high heat and oil – similar to a cast-iron pan. Simple ingredients take on a world of flavour thanks to the combination of high-heat sautéing wok hei and awesome chili oil.

One of my most favourite szechuan dishes – dong bei style la pi. A cold noodle salad of mung bean starch noodles, tossed with julienned, cucumbers, carrots, pork with a black vinegar and sesame oil dressing. Spiked with massive amounts of garlic and cilantro, this dish makes for a great summer meal – light, fragrant and exploding with flavour. The noodles are long and have a chewy, rubbery texture, so be careful when you try to pick them up, they’ll snap and bounce sauce all over you, that’s almost a guarantee.

Any “szechuan” restaurant isn’t worth their weight in MSG if they don’t serve onion pancakes. This classic Chinese street food is one of my favourite dishes to order. Scallion pancakes can be served differently depending on where you go. Some places serve it thick and chewy, Hong Mere serves it as multiple layers of thin and crispy crêpes, stacked and pressed together. The dough does have some elasticity and chew to it, but compared to the other style, this would still be considered crispy. The scallions made the dough fragrant and the harshness of the onion is mellowed out and comes off as mildly sweet. This order of scallion pancake is incredibly generous.

Hong Mere is definitely a discovery to me. Their authentic homestyle dishes had a great spicy szechuan kick. This modest restaurant isn’t trying to be fancy or elevate a seemingly humble cuisine. The night we went, there were four other tables of Chinese families tucking in to platefuls of food and countless bowls of rice. Thanks for suggestion on this place that may or may not, but most likely may become my new go-to szechuan restaurant.

Hong Mere
3795 Rue Wellington
(514) 508-6418

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