Category Archives: vegetarian

L’autre Choix Mini Marché

lautrechoixRecently a friend of mine opened a cool new grocery store in Westmount. It’s called L’autre Choix Mini Marché, and it’s got lots of great items to draw in business. You should check it out!

Located in Westmount at 330A Victoria Avenue, proprietor Clara Kwan’s mini-market is on a hip, happening street packed with plenty of specialty stores, including an awesome cookbook shop called Appetite for Books just up the street, where you can find a repository of books that will help you whip up your gourmet goods into tasty meals!

If you’re looking for organic, locally-grown vegetables, L’autre Choix is the place to be. Clara is selling a wide variety of farm-fresh veggies that vary seasonally, including staples like organic shallots, garlic, herbs like coriander, sweet potatoes, mini pumpkins (great for pies!), avocados, apples, baby eggplants, red and yellow peppers, Romaine lettuce, and lots more. In addition to these vegetables, she also offers some unusual items like salicorne sea beans and pied blue mushrooms from France, which will catch the eyes of foodies.

Along with her unbelievably fresh produce, Clara also offers an assortment of bulk nuts and dried fruits, plus organic pastas, dried mushrooms (shiitake, pèpes and porcini among others), organic spices, loose teas, espresso, various ramen and Korean-style packaged noodles, and various gourmet balsamic vinegars (including Rossini, Carandini and Pelloni Dispensa) and extra virgin olive oils (Toscano and Redoro Veneto Napoli Cella).

A photo from the grand opening (photo by Flickr user Cedric Sam)

A photo from the grand opening (photo by Flickr user Cedric Sam)

Vegetarians are sure to love the Worthington faux meat products, ranging from veggie burgers to Swiss “stake” with gravy to multigrain “chicken” cutlets and even “little links.”

For the meat eaters, Clara can order organic turkeys for your holiday meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) at a great price. Who needs frozen Butterballs when you can get a locally raised bird that’s easier on your stomach and the environment?

Oh, and did I mention that the prices here are AMAZING?! Organic avocados for $1.80 a piece, $1.99/lb for organic garlic, $1.99 for a bunch of organic coriander… the list of bargains goes on and on.

If you’re looking for fresh produce, great gourmet items, meat alternatives or even organic versions of the staples you use to stock your cupboards, be sure to check out L’autre Choix Mini Marché!

ADDRESS: 330A Victoria Avenue (Westmount)
METRO: Vendôme
PHONE: 514-369-1888

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

Sunday Snack Attack – Ryvita and cream cheese

Since everybody’s getting on the recession bandwagon lately, I thought I’d add a new feature to Shoestring Montreal. Sundays will now bring you the Sunday Snack Attack, offering various ideas for cheap and healthy snacks that you can either make at home or buy at the closest grocery store, depanneur or pharmacy (since we tend to have tons of these sprinkled around Montreal) when you’re out and about.

The first thing I’d like to recommend is something I’ve concocted as part of a new low-carb diet. I know, I know: carbs are awesome! They taste great and fill you up! True, but eating too many carbs can quickly add on the pounds, make you feel super sleepy in the afternoons (ever have that 2 or 3 PM crash?), and may actually lead to nasty things like type 2 diabetes (because starches quickly become sugars in your bloodstream, and perpetually processing too much glucose may cause the body to malfunction) and celiac disease (a problem with the body’s ability to process wheat proteins).

ryvitaSince I like carbs and enjoy snacking, I asked my husband what would be a good wheat-alternative to eat during the day. He recommended Ryvita, a rye-based cracker, which you can top with lots of different things. They also come in a variety of types, from the Dark Rye crispbread to the new Sunflower Seeds & Oats, Multi-Grain, Pumpkin Seeds & Oats, and Muesli Crunch. My personal preference is to dip my Rye & Oat Bran crackers in cream cheese, as I’m a fan of Philadelphia’s Herb & Garlic flavoured cream cheese.

If you choose the Dark Rye Ryvita, they offer a serving size of 3 pieces with the following nutritional information:

  • 120 calories
  • no trans fat, 0.5 g. total fat
  • no cholesterol
  • 100 mg. of sodium
  • 25 g. of carbohydrates
  • 5 g. of fibre
  • 1 g. of sugar
  • 3 g. protein

They’re also vegan/vegetarian as well as kosher, and are great for anyone avoiding MSG, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, yeast, and genetically modified foods. Pretty great, right?

As for the cream cheese, here’s the nutritional info per one tablespoon:

  • 40 calories
  • 0.1 g. trans fat (not so awesome, but according to Health Canada, your daily intake of trans fats should be less than 1%, so this could be considered acceptable), 4 g. total fat
  • 10 mg. cholesterol
  • 80 mg. sodium
  • 10 mg. carbohydrates
  • no fibre
  • 1 g. sugar
  • 1 g. protein

Granted, I’m definitely using more than one tablespoon per serving (I suspect I use about one tablespoon per crispbread, for a total of 3 tablespoons), but if you aren’t eating the whole tub in one sitting, then I would say this makes for a pretty healthy snack.

What about you? Do you have any favourites for healthy snacking? Let me know in the comments below!

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