Category Archives: downtown

Restaurant Asha

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, due to many circumstances, including my lack of eating out! But I’ve got an update for you today on Restaurant Asha, which I recently visited with some friends—the proper way to enjoy any dining experience.

Asha is a small Indian restaurant located on Park Avenue, just down the street from the 24-hour Second Cup of choice for McGill students. Seeing as it’s part of the “McGill ghetto” area, it’s a natural choice for McGill students who love Indian food and hate to cook. Oddly enough, I used to live in the McGill ghetto, but had never been to Asha before last week. I am obviously either oblivious, crazy, or spent far too much time in the “Concordia ghetto” to notice this place. Bad reviewer!

In any event, Asha is a great place to go if you’re feeling like sharing a ton of food or want to grab a bite to eat before a film at the Cinema du Parc (we caught “A Wink and a Smile,” as part of the Montreal Burlesque Festival). The ambiance is similar to many of the Indian restaurants in town: real napkins and tablecloths, a kind of formal-casual that doesn’t necessitate dressing up, but where you wouldn’t feel out of place if you did. Plus they’re fully licensed, so you can enjoy some old-school cocktails like the Sling or an Indian beer before your meal.

Lamb saag and chicken korma (photo by Flickr user avlxyz)

Lamb saag and chicken korma (photo by Flickr user avlxyz)

A trio, our party ordered the Chicken Korma, Butter Chicken, and a curry lamb dish whose name has escaped me (saag?). These were mildly spicy, as we weren’t in the mood for the hot stuff, and although the portions appeared quite small, once we had enjoyed our appetizers of onion baji and samosas, it was more than enough for the three of us. You also get basmati rice with your mains, and we added some garlic naan to the mix, so there were plenty of carbs to soak up the sauces. As one of my dining companions wondered aloud, “Why is it that, at some point, you just want to eat all the sauce?”

Why indeed? We don’t know, but we soaked up a helluva lotta sauce with our naan and rice, yum! The mysteries of Indian cuisine live on.

The food here was slightly more expensive than your typical Shoestring “cheap eats” meal, but if you’ve got some extra cash and feel like splurging, this is a great place to do it. If you can grab the window table, you can people-watch to your heart’s content, or if you feel like going incognito, there are tables in the back where no one would ever think to look for you and your hidden lust for curry.

Delectable samosas (photo by Flickr user food_in_mouth)

Delectable samosas (photo by Flickr user food_in_mouth)

Oh, and despite our meaty tendencies, there were plenty of veggie options for those that partake of this zany lifestyle. The samosas were decidedly veggie, as were the baji, but as for the healthiness of these options, well, they were deep-fried in plenty of oil.

All in all, I would recommend Asha to those in the neighbourhood, especially if you wanted to try their special three-course lunch deal (Mon-Fri from noon to 2:30 PM), despite its slightly higher price tags. I think, ultimately, my favourite cheap-eats Indian place has to be Breads of India, with D.A.D.S. Bagels coming in an unexpected second for its late-night satisfaction. (Reviews to come!) There are some nice cheap Indian eateries up in the Park-Ex area, too, but I tend not to venture that far north if I can avoid it. Location, location, location, y’know?

What about you? Got any faves or spots to avoid?

ADDRESS: 3490 Avenue du Parc (McGill Ghetto)
METRO: McGill and a short walk
PHONE: 514-844-3178

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Pan-Asian round-up: U & Me, Soba Sushi, Wok Café

I feel like I’ve been neglecting you guys, here at Shoestring Montreal, so today I’ve prepared a Pan-Asian round-up for all those who love cheap noodle and/or sushi joints. First up: U & Me.

U & Me is one of three Chinese joints located near the same corner of Ste-Catherine and St-Mathieu in downtown Montreal. As Midnight Poutine has succinctly pointed out, the place has rather peculiar décor and looks much more like a pizza parlour than a Chinese resto. Nevertheless, I have two words for you:

shrimp toast

Shrimp Toast, by Flickr user yunicorner

Shrimp. Toast.

Honestly, it sounds disgusting, but you’ve got to try it. It will blow your mind. Basically, they slather some minced shrimp onto a slice of bread, coat it in sesame seeds, and then deep fry it. You dunk it in plum sauce and gobble it down. Share with a friend? I don’t think so. You’ll definitely want an order unto yourself. It is totally addictive, and one of the main reasons I go back again and again. I need my fix!

My husband is a huge fan of their Pad Thai, which personally I think could use more vegetables, but is still quite tasty. I usually order the typical white person’s choice, Sweet & Sour Chicken, or sometimes mix it up with General Tao Chicken. Both are huge plates of food, so you can share or hoard as you prefer. I’m also a fan of their Chicken and Shrimp Egg Foo Young, probably because it reminds me of American-style Chinese food. It’s essentially the Chinese take on an omelette, with a nice fluffy patty full of chicken, shrimp, green onions, bean sprouts, green peppers and whatever else is lying around. Cover that in a soy sauculent gravy and lay it on a bed of rice and you’ve got deliciousness afoot.

Best part? Leftovers!

Next up: U & Me’s neighbour down the street, Wok Café.

Wok Cafés friendly staff (photo courtesy Wok Café)

Wok Café's friendly staff (photo courtesy Wok Café)

Wok Café is a similarly inexpensive Chinese food joint, specializing in enormous plates of food, combo style. Their General Tao Chicken is some of the best I’ve tasted, as is the Pad Thai, which comes with lots of vegetables (my personal preference) as well as crushed peanuts, and your choice of chicken, tofu or shrimp. Check out their Salt & Pepper Tofu for a tasty appetizer. It’s deep-fried to perfection. I’m also a fan of their “dim sum” selections, and the vegetarian one (Combo F) is a heaping helping of bean-sprout chow mein, veggie dumplings, vegetable bean-curd rolls, and sticky rice with vegetables. Get it to share with a friend or you’ll have leftovers for later.

Wok Café is great whether you’re a vegetarian or love meat, as they have quite an extensive menu for the veggie-lovers. They even do a General Tao Tofu, if you’re into that kind of thing.

All of their combo options come with a soup (hot & sour or wonton), rice and a side of veggies, so it’s quite a bit of food for under $10. Highly recommended!

Finally, if you live in NDG you should definitely check out Soba Sushi.

Delicious sushi (photo via Flickr user avlxyz)

Delicious sushi (photo via Flickr user avlxyz)

Located on Sherbrooke West just past the end of Westmount, you can easily grab a 24 bus from downtown for quick access to this little sushi shop. I used to live around the corner from them, so I was here all the time ordering one of their $10 combos for lunch and/or dinner. There’s plenty of sushi to choose from, so you can mix and match or order combos from the menu as you see fit. Take it to go or sit down and enjoy some saké with your meal!

The main draw of the place is the fact that it’s quite inexpensive, and sushi tends to be filling even though you’re only eating a few pieces. You can definitely get your money’s worth for $10-$15 here, and if you’re not into fish, they’ve also got some teriyaki types of options available.

And that’s your cheap-eats Pan-Asian round-up for the week. Enjoy!

U & Me Noodles
ADDRESS: 1900 Ste-Catherine West
METRO: Guy-Concordia
PHONE: (514) 931-0081

Wok Café
ADDRESS: 1845 Ste-Catherine West
METRO: Guy-Concordia
PHONE: (514) 938-1882

Soba Sushi
ADDRESS:
5227 Sherbrooke West
METRO:
Vendôme
PHONE:
(514) 482-6883

Boustan

Me, Mr. Boustan, and my former roommate pose on the terrace

Me, Mr. Boustan, and a friend pose on the terrace

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a huge fan of Boustan. This late-night Lebanese spot is a Concordia student’s staple, whether you’re vegetarian or a die-hard meat-eater, due to its proximity to the Sir George Williams campus downtown. Tragically, it’s on tourist-infested Crescent Street, but don’t let this scare you away from the place. (Even at 3 AM.)

A family-run restaurant, Boustan is primarily run by “Mr. Boustan” and his sons. They’re always gregarious, and if you come regularly, they’ll know your face and name your order before you can say anything. As I always order the veggie pita, and used to stop in at least once a week, I often got the “HEY! Veggie pita! Spicy?” greeting when I came in. Now I get “HEY! Long time no see!” Either way, I like feeling like the owners remember me, even if we aren’t on a first-name basis, and they’re always chatty and upbeat.

As I said, I always order the veggie pita, because I was convinced to try one by a vegetarian friend of mine when I first visited. I was hesitant at first, and argued that I was no longer a vegetarian, but she told me, “Trust me, it’s really good.” So I got one, and she was right; it’s really good! It’s definitely not your typical Lebanese “veggie” pita, either, as it doesn’t rely on falafel for its tastiness. Instead you get an herbed omelette, garlic potatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, hummus, some vinegary coleslaw-like cabbage, a couple of hot pink beets, and a spoonful of what appears to be tzatziki all wrapped up in a pita (last time I hit them up they even had a choice between whole wheat or white), with or without a spoonful of spicy sauce, all of which they then toast on the grill.

It’s absolutely unlike any other sandwich I’ve ever tasted, and it’s totally addictive. Particularly if you get a side of their garlic potatoes. Yum!

Aside from this tasty pita, you can also get the typical chicken or beef shwarmas, or a plate of meat and potatoes and/or rice. They’ve also got stuffed vine leaves and various other sides, but most people tend to get the pitas. Especially if Mr. Boustan and I are there goading them to get the veggie pita, as he will often say, “You don’t like, you don’t pay!” to convince people to give it a try.

They always pay.

At 3 AM when the bars close up, Boustan is often hopping with late-night diners looking to refuel. There are longer line-ups, and Mr. Boustan’s patience seems to wear a bit thin with all the drunken hooligans, but he’s still serving up the best cheap-eats in town, and does well in the Best of Montreal survey every year. This year he even took #1 in the Best Middle-Eastern division!

Overall, I think Boustan is one of my favourite places in Montreal, not only for its food and quick service, but also for its genuinely friendly atmosphere and commitment to staying small. It’s not a chain, you’ll have to drag your ass down to the one-and-only Crescent Street location to get your fix, but it’s totally worth it. Besides, where else will you see a photo of the owner posing with former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and yours truly? Only at Boustan, baby!

ADDRESS: 2020A Crescent
METRO: Guy-Concordia
HOURS: Daily 11AM-4AM
PHONE: 514-843-3576

Café Myriade

Café Myriade artistic latté (photo: John Kenney, The Gazette)

Café Myriade artistic latté (photo: John Kenney, The Gazette)

OMG, you guys, I’m in love!!

After reading about the new Café Myriade on Chowhound, I realized this was the café I had passed on my way home from lunch with a friend near Concordia a few weeks ago. Instead of the depanneur that had previously occupied the space, there was now a café that looked pretty hoppin’, and I was intrigued. I decided to check it out.

I was downtown to have lunch with the same friend again today when I got a call saying he was going to be late, would I mind waiting about an hour for him? No problem, I said, and made a beeline for Café Myriade to check out my fellow Chowhounds’ claims.

They’re totally right: the coffee here is amazing. And I just realized I totally forgot to buy some espresso from them for my stovetop espresso maker, doh! On the plus side, this means I will get to go back, w00t!

The café itself is pretty small and could maybe use a wee bit more space for tables, but the coffee itself is really tasty. When I came in, one of the guys behind the counter was involved in a deep discussion concerning coffee with the postman, which went on almost as long as I stayed in the café to drink my latté, scribble some notes, read a few chapters of Anna Karenina and go, so I take it they were both extremely interested in the topic. Which is awesome, because I would much prefer to go to a place like that and risk asking stupid questions of someone who is genuinely helpful and knowledgeable than frequent someplace like Starbucks, where you are just another sale that has to be tended to in three minutes or less, lest you ruin their profit margin. I mean, duh.

I managed to snag the last table in the back (thankfully I didn’t have to take the one right next to the door, as it was a bit cold for that), and received a nicely sized latté brought to my table by the guy manning the machine. There was a good amount of foam and the artistic pattern you’ll see at the top of the Café Myriade blog, and after I tasted it, I knew I’d be back for more. Super creamy and delicious, not too big, not too small. Excellent!

This is definitely my new favourite café, even though they don’t have free wifi (a must for a freelancer at work) their free wifi wasn’t showing up on my iPod. Apparently they hold coffee tastings every Sunday for $10, so if you can get a spot, it’d totally be worth it.

More on Myriade? Check out their review in the Gazette, or read up on their comings and goings and coffee-related musings at their blog.

ADDRESS: 1432 Mackay
METRO: Guy-Concordia
PHONE: 514-939-1717

Angela Pizzeria & Restaurant

angelasI must admit: I’ve never eaten pizza at Angela Pizzeria & Restaurant. This should not reflect badly on their pizza, as it looks pretty tasty from the photos I’ve seen. Instead, think of it as reflecting positively on the rest of their menu, which I’ve always found far more intriguing and tempting than the average pizza pie—no matter how delicious that pizza may, in fact, be.

Angela’s has a great menu, particularly when it comes to their specials. The daily specials change, along with their homemade soups, but there’s also an excellent value menu that remains constant. You can get an awesome chicken breast “burger,” with coleslaw, fries, soup and dessert for only $10! This is definitely my favourite thing on their menu, as they are probably the only place in town that offers such delicious chicken burgers. The fact that they serve up a juicy chicken breast on a bun (along with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle and mustard, ketchup and mayo on the side) makes it well worth the price. No freeze-dried “chicken” patties here! My mouth is watering just thinking about eating one later on today.

In addition to their fabulous chicken bugers, Angela’s also serves up amazing pastas, everything from spaghetti with meatballs to tortellini in a rosé sauce, meat and cheese stuffed cannelloni, and a tasty lasagna. The portions here are also huge, so you’ll have plenty leftover for lunch the next day, or you can share something with a friend for the truly budget conscious!

Angela’s soups are also a draw, and a friend of mine likes to hit the place at least once a week for the barley soup and other favourites.

So, even though I’ve never tried the pizza for which Angela Pizzerie & Restaurant is named, I have no doubt that it kicks ass. Heck, maybe I’ll even try some tonight, just to be different!

ADDRESS: 1662 de Maisonneuve West
METRO: Guy-Concordia
PHONE: 514-933-2000, delivery available ’til 5 AM (or so says the Yellow Pages)