Tag Archives: vegetarian

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!

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

Best of Montreal 2009

bom09Yep, it’s that time of year again! The people have spoken, and the results of the Mirror’s annual Best of Montreal survey are in. Let’s examine some of the results, shall we?

Okay, first of all, every year I am shocked by the strong showing by chains in this town. I mean, if you’re going to ask people what their favourite fast-food joint is, sure, I would expect lots of people to respond with McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Harvey’s, etc. But asking Montrealers to name specific types of food (Chinese, Japanese, African, Jamaican, noodles, soups, etc.) and then getting chain responses? It boggles my mind every time.

Especially in the “Best Coffee” category. People! Tim Hortons is NOT the best coffee in Montreal! I am thankful that the peeps at the Mirror finally added a “Best Non-Chain Coffee” section for those of us who get that and care enough to vote, but it still drives me nuts that they had to do this in the first place. Café Olimpico (the winner in the non-chain category) should therefore be considered the Best Coffee in Montreal. At least by Mirror readers. Personally, I prefer Café Myriade, but I’m glad to see they took fifth place. I’m sure they’ll be movin’ on up that ladder in no time.

Secondly, I must admit that as a huge Boustan fan (seriously, why haven’t I reviewed them yet?), I always check the categories for Best Cheap Eats (#5), Best Late-Night Eats (#2!), Best Delivery (#3), Best Middle-Eastern (#1, congrats!) and Best Falafel (#3) to see where they’ve placed. I would also add them on the list for Best Vegetarian (their veggie pita is the only thing I order, and it has even converted hardcore meat-atarians) and Best Sandwich. Yum.

Finally, the Best Mexican category in this town is an absolute joke. I mean, look at this list:

1. 3 Amigos
2. Carlos & Pepes
3. Casa de Matéo
4. Mesa 14
5. Los Clasicos

Seriously? 3 Amigos? The place recycles its food on 25-cent taco night, people, are you really telling me this is our NUMBER ONE Mexican restaurant?! Seriously? Seriously, you’re killing me here. My advice is: Don’t eat at 3 Amigos, not on 25-cent taco night, not ever. Aside from the fact that the food they serve isn’t even authentically Mexican, they really ought to be closed down by a health inspector. I’m not even kidding. I used to date someone who tended bar there, and the things he told me would make your skin crawl. Plus, as someone who regularly ate there for free, he got quite a few cases of food poisoning from the kitchen staff’s lack of attention to little things like hand-washing, proper food temperatures, and possible contamination from items designed to exterminate rats. Awesome!

I must admit I’ve never been to either Casa de Matéo or Los Clasicos, but I hope to holy hell they’re nothing like 3 Amigos.

Best of Montreal my bum.