I was feeling a bit of cabin fever and a desire for waffles, so I suggested a last-minute overnighter to Montreal to my husband. He never says no to that.
As my friends know, I am a bit of a creature of habit. In terms of the big picture stuff, I am quite comfortable making quick and far-reaching decisions, but for the day-to-day things, I don’t stray far outside of my norm. The staff at most of my local haunts know what I am going to order, I go to bed at roughly the same time every night, I like the laundry done a certain way. That sort of thing.
So I was thrown for a loop when I learned that Chu Chai, where I stop for dinner every time I go to Montreal is temporarily closed. I was alarmed. Where would I eat? That’s where I always go! Deciding what company to hire to replace my home’s roof? No problem. Finding a replacement restaurant for dinner? Panic-inciting.
I took to happycow.net to see what was new in Montreal, and I came across Su Shian Yuang, a relatively new Taiwanese veg restaurant. It was just down the street from Chu Chai, which offered some comfort. We would give it a try.
But first, a stop at Viva Vegan, the all-vegan store a few blocks over on St-Laurent Blvd. I wanted to buy some pastries for the morning. Sadly, I learned that their woman who was supplying their almondine and chocolate croissants is no longer doing so, but on the plus side, they had cinnamon rolls. Sold! I also grabbed an assortment of vegan candy bars, two gluten-free cupcakes (which were actually phenomenal) and several types of buillion, since I have been on a soup making craze.
Then it was on to Su Shian Yuang. It wasn’t much to look at from the outside, or the inside, although there were cute wall decals and the lights were dimmed just enough. The service was gracious, and the server seemed to genuinely be thrilled to receive thanks and appreciation.
We ordered two appetizers– crispy Imperial rolls and avocado sushi. Appetizers were inexpensive, in the $4-5 range. The Imperial rolls were good, although not quite at the level that they were at Sacred Garden (RIP). But the sushi was excellent. Considering I make avocado sushi at home regularly, I was not expecting to be amazed and impressed, but I was. Yves complained for the rest of dinner that he wanted more, and I have to admit, so did I.
Next came the main courses. I couldn’t decide between two, so I ordered both (I should note that I had one of the four Imperial rolls and one of the six sushi pieces). I selected the General Tao Tofu, and a mixed veg stir-fry, not because it sounded particularly interesting, but because I wanted to make sure I ate enough vegetables for the day. Yves chose the bibimbop.
The mixed vegetables were fine; they were cooked exactly the right amount, and the sauce was non-descript. Pieces of what I believe was wheat gluten were interspersed. Nothing spectacular, but a good vegetable conduit, and the type of dish you could safely recommend to a frightened omni with no sense of taste adventure.
The General Tao Tofu was, on the other hand, excellent. The tofu was fried to a perfect consistency, and the sauce was tangy, and had just the right amount of spicyness. It came tossed with peppers and bok choy, helping it pretend to be healthy I suppose. As for Yves’ bibimbop, he liked it perfectly fine, but has been spoiled by two years of Cafe My House’s signature bibimbop. He said this one was good, but less interesting than Cafe My House’s rendition, and that he would have preferred more sushi.
The next morning we headed to Aux Vivres for brunch, another Montreal ritual for us. But I was conflicted. I had been craving waffles for about a week, thanks to Julia Cropley and Dee Campbell-Giura’s brunch musings on the NCVA Facebook page. On the other hand, I adore their polenta dish, which happens to come with more vegetables. My solution: I had Yves order one extra waffle for me (for $4), and ordered the polenta for myself.
And of course, both were utterly delicious. The waffles were delightfully chewy, and sopped up their sides wonderfully. The polenta was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and made an excellent utensil for the black beans, guac, and pico de gallo. I enjoyed every bite. Both brunch items come with your choice of coffee or chai tea. I chose coffee, noting the cute little frothed soy milk side that they bring with it.
Before we hit the road, we decided to stop at Crudessence for some take out. It had been a while since we had been there, but I had spent much of my car ride to Montreal talking to Natasha Kyssa of Simply Raw so I could practically feel her frowning at me for the fried tofu and cinnamon buns. I know that she knows that I know better. This would be my way of making it up to her.
At Crudessence, I ordered what I had eaten the past two times I went there, their raw lasagne. Super thin layers of zucchini, enrobed in tangy sun-dried tomato sauce and accented with nut-based raw cheezes. It was, as I had recalled, delicious. It came with a side “caesar” salad, including carrots and sprouts. I ate it all, out of respect for Natasha.
Yves chose the Om Burger, which is mushroom based. He often chooses mushroom-y things when we eat out, because I loathe them and never use them at home. Its bun was a mash of dehydrated seeds and vegetables, which he was not keen on, but other than that, he was pretty pleased.
Before heading out, we stopped at Paradis Vegetarien, where you can find almost any type of faux meat imagineable. Erin and Neil had some requirements, and I was happy to oblige. I chatted with Jimmy, the owner, about Veg Fest. He will be coming, by the way.
Montreal is a great place for vegans to visit for even just for a day or two, because it packs a lot of punch. The area bordered by Sherbrooke, Saint Joseph, St-Laurent and St-Denis is practically a vegan paradise, with lots of little independent shops to boot. Go there.