Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Remedy For Montreal Weather

I suppose there are worse times to visit Montreal than just at this moment, but I'd be hard-pressed to name them. The transition to spring involves lots of cold rain, which, on the ground, turns to ambiguous ice: is it frozen, or just slush? Your feet start taking on a mind of their own and your center of gravity lurches. Okay, it's ice: find the safety of a snowbank.

We slogged to a historical monument-cum-museum, the Maison St.-Gabriel, a mansion that a fur-trader sold to a nun who was one of the first women in the Quebec colony. She turned it into a school/chapel/house for the  young women the French crown recruited to marry the men who'd settled the colony, known as the filles du roy, daughters of the king. My friends Terry and Patricia have just bought a house in the Point St. Charles area, the first landfall of the Europeans in the Montreal area, and this is, as it were, in their back yard.

There are tours on the hour, the only way to see the place. We had 37 minutes to wait, so we slogged back to the apartment, then slogged back. When we returned (after a really informative tour) the power was out. There was only one thing to do: Chinese food.

Terry had arranged for some local media types to join us at Cuisine Szechuan, 2350 Rue Guy. I'd been there last year, but my sense of taste was gone, as it had been for a year, and I only got the sense that the food was spectacular. This time, since I started recovering this summer and am almost back, I got more than that. My new camera even has a setting for shooting food, and I hope I didn't act too obnoxiously as plate after plate arrived at our table and I stood up and tried to shoot it before it all disappeared. Look at this, for instance, which I think is called "Beef and Vegetables in Chili Sauce."

Not as obscenely hot as it looks, but rich, deep flavors. Another total winner, cumin lamb:

Aromatic, subtle (maybe a little too subtle, considering the other dishes), perfect.

One problem with this place is they bring stuff in almost random order, so that the appetizer of sliced green chiles with preserved vegetables showed up in the middle of everything else and almost got ignored.

Then there was a simple dish of bok choi in garlic sauce:

And the Szechuan classic, dry-fried green beans, which I've never had better than here:

And (slightly out of focus), twice-cooked pork, another Szechuan classic. The pork was, authentically, pork belly, which squicked out some of the folks at the table. By the time it came, I was quite full from all of this (there were several other dishes whose photographs just didn't turn out, including soft tofu and eggplant casserole which was astounding, and pressed tofu and celery, a masterpiece of texture and taste), but it seemed pretty good if you picked pieces of pork which weren't 100% fat.

The meal concluded with a tureen of simple soup: chicken broth, fluffy pork meatballs, and some glass noodles, light, strong enough to stand up to the residual tastes from the rest of the banquet, but cooling and refreshing. After a meal like this, you're ready for whatever the Montreal night can throw at you. And for bed.


  1. The meal sounds wonderful (especially the pork belly, the tofu and the soup) and the top photo of the Beef and Vegetables in Chili Sauce is extremely beautiful. The weather certainly sounds like typical Montreal March, i.e., awful. Curtis Roberts

  2. No smoked meat? Not even takeout to nibble on while walking, messing with the greasy butcher's paper to get at the slices?

    That Chinese meal looked good though.


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