4088 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC
Cost: approx $90 for two (incl. glasses of wine)
Mock duck, you say?
I never thought I'd actively scope out a vegetarian Thai restaurant...but that's what we did when we were in Montreal. Coming highly recommended from more than a few friends, Chu Chai is a trendy zen-like Thai resto boasting authentic thai dishes made from completely veg/vegan friendlyproducts (ie. soya, tofu, seitan).
In Toronto I've only tried a handful of veg restaurants, such as Fresh, Cafe 668 and Le Commensal, that too mostly under the persuasion of my mock-meat eating friends, so I'm no expert on the best veg restaurants in Toronto. I've heard Vegetarian Haven, Urban Herbivore and Hibiscus are good but haven't gotten around to trying those out, yet. [By the way, a great site for you veg eaters is the Toronto Vegetarian Association: www.veg.ca]
Now back to Chuchai! With no reservations, we took a cab out to St. Denis around 9pm on Saturday night, and found the place to be pretty packed. We were assured that we'd be seated as soon as they could get us a table leaving us to wonder about the one vacant table to our left. We were then told that the table had been reserved but the patrons were now more than 1/2 an hour late. I guess that table had our name on it, afterall.
Eyeing the dishes on the tables made us realize how famished we really were but a quick glance at the menu proved we'd be taking a while longer to decide what to eat!
Finally, after much deliberation and chats with our friendly and helpful server, we decided on won ton soup and dumplings in peanut sauce to start.
The dumplings in peanut sauce was not only lip-smacking good, it was
plate-scraped-with-fork-many-times-over-because-you-can't-literally-lick-the-plate good. Damn. Just remembering it now makes my mouth water.
And the won ton soup was a perfect complement to the sauciness of the dumplings. Yum!
Next we got a mock beef and duck dish.
The mock duck curry was amazing with pineapples, green peppers and tomatoes. The beef dish suggested to us came with bamboo shoots and was also a curry (I was expecting more of a dry/fried dish - should have gone with the beef with chili and basil afterall!) Still, they were both really good.
Both had amazingly accurate meaty textures from the seitan (wheat-gluten) in highly flavourful curries; however, the mock duck beat out the beef dish that was recommended to us.
My only gripe is the miniature portion of the serving of rice...argh! Seriously? The sticky rice we ordered (not included with the dishes) arrived in a fancy basket which I thought was at least the depth of the basket...only to discover that the rice was sitting in an even shallower basket within!
There was barely enough rice for one person in there! We had to order a second, plain rice, which came in a white ceramic bowl; still a small size but more of the standard side-of-rice bowl. Combined it was barely enough to finish the curries (which didn't stop us from finishing the curries, mind you - they were so tasty). Besides the ridiculousness of the rice portions, Chuchai is a winner in taste, presentation, and service....a delicious place for both veg and non-veg eaters.
We're already planning to bring my sister and family of vegetarians out to Chuchai; and I have to admit, I can hardly wait to go back (even though we both felt slightly ill afterwards...perhaps from all the soy/gluten or peanut sauce? Not sure).
Also, Chuch the restaurant next door, under the same ownership, is more of a casual (and cheaper), take-out place which allows you to BYOB but perhaps instead, I can Bring My Own Rice?