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Restaurant Mon Nan, Montreal

I was in Montreal for the week, here on special assignment for work, which gave me the time to explore the city during my off time.

On day 3 we were exploring Montreal’s Chinatown when a craving for Chinese food struck. So as is the cae when you are in Rome, I did a quick search and found Mon Nam based on a handful of positive reviews. Little did I know, this would be one of the worst dining experiences I have had in my life.

But first getting a seat. We were left standing at the front entrance, making direct eye contact and waving to the staff that would walk into the back of house to avoid our gaze. We literally had to put our hands up as if to ask a question, so that at the man facing us behind the bar would tend to us. It turns out he was the manager. He did eventually seat us with menu, but it felt like he was doing us a favour.

Here, I asked if him if I could charge my phone (a commonplace ask, as of recent). The manager said “no”, then asked what phone I had. I said an “iphone”, and he looks at the iphone he is holding and says “no cable”. Whereas you can clearly see that behind the bar/counter is a multi-outlet with several different cables and he was literally using his iphone while it was plugged in. A simple “no, as per policy” would have sufficed. But I digress, I was here for dinner and not the promise of a kind gesture.

The restaurant has been around since 1981 and it newest reincarnation had the interior looking like a disco with neon lights and lively dance music. Given the attitude we would start with sake before moving on to tea.

Having no previous knowledge of the restaurant we would order our favourites starting with the always popular XLB soup dumplings. They looked expertly folded and pinched up nice and plump. They tasted as expected and were best with the side of ginger and vinegar, however they could have used more soup alongside the lump of pork filling.

Similarly, the Shanghai noodles did not deviate from the expected. Thick and chewy rounded strands alongside onion, beansprouts, shrimp, and chicken. It made for a decent filler.

I liked the texture of the Egg tofu with enoki in oysters sauce. The dish is exactly as it reads, an assembly that is chewy, creamy, and fibrous and all brought together by a sticky thick gravy indicative of Chinese cuisine.

I love the presentation of birds nest, a physical, edible nest made from shredded taro, overflowing with pieces of chicken, prawn, and stir fried vegetables. Best enjoyed while the “nest” is still crispy and breaks with a snap. It eats like over starched and hard raw instant noodles with the saucy meat and vegetable adding softness and moisture.

The food came quickly and without incident. But we were not in the mood to linger and enjoy the space, so requested that everything be packed up to go shortly after. We saw no check-in and had no interaction with the staff, minus the kitchen employees dropping off the above dishes. The only time I saw the server was when I asked the manager directly for the bill, and he had sent her over. She brought back the dishes packed to go and bagged up, and was nice with her courtesy, as she handed us the bill.

Reading it and trying to discern the tax comments, we thought the bill already included a tip… We would learn this was not the case, after we paid in full. The server was quick to review the receipt and point it out. However, at this point I didn’t want to pay again so left it as is, not being all that impressed with the service, nor staying long enough to benefit from the lack of it. With my decline to add on more sum, the server was bold enough to ask me directly for a tip, which I respect, but my response was that I already paid. She then turned around and called back to the manager, still standing firm behind the bar. He would not move or come over to the table for a chat, and simply shrugged off her protest. At this point there is nothing he can do. And I believe a tip is a courtesy, not a given so stood firm and left with my bag of leftovers.

In short, the food was decent, but not worth the trouble.

And we actually went to a nearby diner for some Chinese bbq park and roasted pork to go, which wasn’t all that great. Truly, we are lucky to have the quality of Chinese food that we do in Vancouver. It cannot compare, and in hindsight I should have stuck to more local Montreal cuisine instead.

Restaurant Mon Nan
43 Rue de la Gauchetière E, Montréal, QC H2X 1P4, Canada
+1 514-866-7123


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