Dinner: Dumplings Pain Farci (Montreal Chinatown)

A few weeks ago, my aunt and uncle came to Montreal to visit with some of their family and they wanted to go for some Chinese food on a Friday night.  Normally, I don’t frequent Chinatown restaurants for health reasons.  I just can’t handle too much oil or MSG in dishes.  However, when family comes by, I will go where they like and hope for the best or just eat less.  However, the new trend in Montreal Chinatown are very much in specialty restaurants.  The most apparent ones are noodle shops and dumpling shops. Most people will know about pot stickers or Shanghai soup-filled dumplings/buns, not sure what the actual English name is for the dish (its called Xiao Lung Bao).  However, this restaurant in a little upstairs store that used to be a bubble tea shop when I was in Cegep a decade ago (approximately) is now called Restaurant Dumplings or Dumplings Pain Farci or Restaurant Pain Farci.  They had a lot of names shown on Google Maps and other restaurant info sites.   Its located here if it interests you:

When we arrived on a Friday evening at around 6:30pm, it was empty.  That is rare considering that its the start of a weekend.  Normally, any restaurant would have an increase in traffic.  The menus aren’t particularly high budget either.  Its homely.  Right away, there’s a range of cold appetizers available for $1.99 (Canadian Dollars) and there are pages of two different sorts of dumpling buns.  They are called the same as the Shanghai ones but these of Northern delicacies and are made differently.  These actually look like buns and not like dumplings.  They have a special type which is steamed in a unique way.  The flavors are also quite plenty from assorted meats to vegetables and pork or preserved vegetables with pork as well (which is apparently the best way to have this). Aside from these two sorts of buns and appetizers, there was also pot stickers also made a little different from other restaurants.

We ordered two sorts of dumpling buns first and while we were waiting, we moved onto trying out almost all the appetizers.

Restaurant Pain Farci

Black Fungus Cold Appetizer

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Seaweed appetizer

Restaurant Pain Farci

Potato appetizers (spicy)

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Tofu Strips Appetizer

There was also a cucumber appetizer that I forgot to take a picture of.

I’m not an expert at Northern Chinese cuisine but these were all quite delicious. I couldn’t handle the spicy bits too well but the Black Fungus one and the Tofu Strips were really good. The potato ones were so spicy that I only ate a little bit.

As we were finishing up these appetizers, the dumplings arrived. They may look the same but they were different flavors.

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Preserved Vegetables and Pork Dumplings

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Bok Choy and Pork Dumplings

We weren’t too optimistic seeing as the restaurant didn’t have a lot of guests but my uncle is very much a food connoisseur and he had just tasted something like this before and he actually said these tasted better. I’m not sure what its supposed to taste like but these dumplings, both of them were really good.  I’m not a fan of preserved vegetables and that was probably better of the two.  The bun looks thick but actually its very thin and fluffy.  The meat was juicy and tasty.  It wasn’t overly salty either, which is a plus.

Because these two dishes tasted so good, we went ahead and ordered pot stickers also.

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci

Pot stickers

I have a soft spot for pot stickers.  Always have.  I actually just love dumplings in general but oh my gosh! These were so good.  I mean, they aren’t your normal ones.  Actually its fried all together and you need to pull them apart and even the sides are open and not closed like usual potstickers that look a bit like wonton/dumpling crossovers.  I look at this picture and I just want to go order some.  Or just figure out how they make it.  That’s also an option.

Restaurant Dumplings Pain Farci is in the heart of Chinatown.  Its not obvious because you need to go up a flight of stairs and it might be set up very simple from their decor to their menu but they make some very good dumplings, appetizers and potstickers.  When you are specialty shop,  this is what its about: putting the passion into your food. The chef (probably also the boss) came out and we started to talk to him. He really knew his specialty cuisine and although he didn’t offer the dish that we asked about which is a bone/bone marrow soup sort of thing, he actually taught us how to make it and explained why it was so hard to do.

I don’t think I’ve reviewed any restaurants in Montreal Chinatown to date but with the new ones that has popped up and this one being a good experience, I feel like I should open up my horizons and check out more. Chinatown doesn’t change much but I feel like its time to embrace that little bit of change and see what positive steps forward it has shaped. What do you think?

Plattsburgh Finds & Lunch at Applebee’s!

One of the best moments is being able to reconnect with good friends.  Its been a year or so that I haven’t spoken with one of my friends.  Sometimes, its just one of us taking the first step.  I guess thats a problem for me because I always assume everyone is busy with their own life and I don’t like to disturb them.  Long story short, one of my good friends who is also my best travel buddy is around again.

Our new plan from hanging out again was setting up our trip in advance.  We decided to do a short Plattsburgh food run.  The perks of living relatively near to the US border is that we can go and do food runs and explore all those options Americans get that we don’t in Canada. We were joking as we were looking at the different flavours that Canada gets on who  makes these decisions on what Canadians like rather all those other ones that’s there.  Seeing as it is across the border and one day, it all dials down to getting a whole lot of food…or when they asked our reason, Pop Tarts, Iced Tea, Oreos and Chips… What more can we say, right?

Our first stop was Champlain Centre for a Target run. Then across the street to Hannaford, lunch break at Applebee’s and finally, ending it off at Walmart.

Lunch at Applebee’s

This is the second time I’ve been here.  My stomach was a little wonky that morning so I tried to not eat too much.  We ended up sharing these samplers where you can choose 3 choices. Our choices were: Pork and Shrimp Dumplings, Honey BBQ Riblets and Sweet Potato Fries.

Applebee's

Applebee's

Applebee's

Let me tell you: these samplers are really good! I loved the riblets the best but they were all tasty and just enough to share for something light.  Its a pretty good idea to have this on the menu 🙂

Now that we have food out of the way, lets check out what I got.  Keep in mind that other than the movies and book, most of this stuff, I can’t get in Canada.

1. Sobe Life Water

Its like a vitamin water, I guess.  I’ve never seen it in Montreal but then I never try to seek it out either.  I figured it’d be something new to try when I don’t feel like drinking water or tea 😉 But I have tasted some of Sobe’s juices and they are pretty delish!

2. Movies: You’re Next (Blu-ray), Snitch (Blu-ray), Takers (DVD) & Land Before Time 8 & 9.

I’ve been collecting the Land Before Time series since I was a kid and they are still incredibly fun to watch.  Don’t judge…

3. Book: Paper Towns by John Green.

I saw the trailer for this movie and it reminded me a little of Eleven Reasons Why minus the manipulated feelings while I was reading that book so while I want to catch it in the theatres when its released, I also wanted to read it before.  Here’s where Target is fantastic because it has 20% off the regular price and that’s awesome.

4. Chips: Cape Cod Chipotle Barbecue, Lay’s Wasabi Ginger, Lay’s Mango Salsa, Lay’s Garlic Cheesy Bread, Frito’s Twisters.

Junk food galore right here and its just the start as you can see.  As of now, I’ve only tried the Wasabi Ginger and that tastes pretty good.  Usually these ones are pretty hit and miss but something about it tastes a little like ramen powder with gingery and mild wasabi hotness 😉 Garlic Cheesy Bread is my boyfriend’s since thats his favorite appetizer choice.

5. Cereal: Froot Loops with Marshmallows!

Excuse me, I love marshmallows and I love froot loops.  It was this one or the Fruity Pebbles with marshmallows, I think.  The cereal aisles in the US are just incredible!

6. Pop Tarts: Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Wild Berry Bloom (Limited Edition), Frosted Cinnamon Roll

I love these unfrosted Pop Tarts.  Mostly because its just the perfect sweetness.  When its fully frosted, it gets a little too much for me.

7. Slow Cooker Sauces: I don’t get why we don’t have these in Canada.  While I’m all about homemade food, this is really great backup dinner solutions.  All I need to do is buy meat the night before.

8. Iced Tea: So I’ve never seen this and it had some nice flavors.  I love hibiscus flavored stuff and I’m trying to find the one I had tasted on my travels a few years back, till today, still no luck.  I haven’t tried this one yet so who knows, right?

9. Lactose-free Ice Cream: The choices for gluten-free and lactose-free or anything allergen free in Montreal is miserable.  I mean, its limited choices and outrageous prices that I kind of want to forego eating these things so I got a nice little cooler bag and bought three tiny tubs of ice cream.  You see two up there, yeah, that’s because there’s also a raspberry sorbet in the freezer 😉

10. Fruit Roll-up (not shown here): Look, we only have Fruit by the Foot here.  While I enjoy that, there’s always 1 out of 3 trips to Plattsburgh that I pick up some Fruit Roll-Up.  I’d definitely think about getting Fruit Gushers eventually.  Its pretty tasty and for the most part, nostalgia wins over me 😉

I guess that’s all there is! Crossing the border, I could see the customs not really caring when they asked us what we went to buy.  Its probably one of the smoothest border crossings I’ve had, as in not a lot of questions and not even a lot of cars.  It was a quick food run but it was tons of fun just catching up and buying random stuff.  At least, I’m stocked up for snacks for a few months (or I hope I will).

Do you have travel buddies? Are you a fan of doing day trips? What are your favorite snacks?

Hong Kong Restaurant: Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao

Last time I went to Hong Kong, I had praised this restaurant called C-Jade for its Teochew style food located in New Town Plaza. You can read about it HERE.

Unfortunately, it had closed some time during the 1.5 years I was away.  Luckily, in the vicinity there was another one in the same chain but this time specializing in noodles and Soup-filled dumplings. Its called Crystal Jade and located right across from The Spaghetti House.  This was the one where the previous evening we had been waiting on at the same time but didn’t get a seat quick enough. This time, we managed to get a seat relatively quickly.

Here’s what we had to share with each other:

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Vegetable & Meat Buns

Crystal Jade Restaurant

5 Grains Fried Rice with Shrimp and Scrambled Eggs

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Chicken Pot

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Shanghai Ramen

 

Crystal Jade is pretty good at what it does.  Everything tasted really good.  My favorite in this meal has to go to the 5 grain fried rice.  I’m a huge fan of fried rice but not 5 grains however this one was spot-on tasty.  Healthy and delicious? Count me in any time 😉 I’m definitely going to try to replicate this one in my spare time one of these days!

A few days later, I met up with my soon-to-be-wed cousin and her mom (another aunt), along with my mom for lunch also at Crystal Jade.  The menu doesn’t vary very much between lunch and dinner but with another group, we also got to try something new.  My cousin chose for us.  My aunt was on her vegetarian day of the month so we had to adjust a few dishes to suit her diet that day.

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Noodles

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Dumplings with Chili Oil on the side

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Taro Pastry

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Soup-filled Dumplings

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Beancurd rolls

Vegetarian Dumplings

Vegetarian Dumplings

Crystal Jade Restaurant

Fried Pumpkin Pastries

For this lunch, the noodles which I can’t remember exactly what was in it was really good.  The soup-filled dumplings were splendid and the best of all was the beancurd rolls.  They were so delicious.  The fried pumpkin and taro had a very good taste but I’ve never been a huge fan of these sort of dishes.

From what I know, Crystal Jade is a chain that specializes on different types of Chinese cuisine.  I enjoyed this one more than the Teochew style or maybe its just my memory fading from the previous experience.  Plus, I love Shanghai cuisine a lot.  This place is really awesome.  The service is decent and its very accessible in New Town Plaza in Shatin.

I had some great foodie memories here 🙂

Have you ever tasted Shanghai cuisine? Are you a fan of dumplings and/or vegetarian food?

Hong Kong Restaurant: Din Tai Fung at New Town Plaza

As you will soon see, I spent a lot of time in New Town Plaza and the Shatin area of Hong Kong as I lived really close by plus my grandmother’s nursing home was nearby as well.  It made for a lot of lunches and dinners there.  Its not a bad thing because most of the food was pretty great.

For lunch one day, my cousin, aunt, my mom and me all went to have lunch at Din Tai Fung located in New Town Plaza tucked away in the corner.  Din Tai Fung is a popular food chain originated from Taiwan (I believe) and its known for its Soup-filled steamed dumplings.  I’m a huge fan of those dumplings specifically and since this is the best of the best, lets just say I was really excited to try this place out.

For starters, we ordered some small platters, well, everything actually is pretty small since its somewhat gourmet food.

Din Tai Fung Shatin

Marinated Pork, Spicy meat dish, Bitter melons and Green Beans dishes

You would be surprised but the bitter melon was marinated really well.  And the pork on the top was pretty delicious as well.  I’ve actually tasted better green beans done that way in Toronto.  As for the dish at the far left, it was spicy so I had to pass 😉

Moving right along, we have the main attraction: Soup-filled steamed dumplings.

Din Tai Fung Shatin

Soup-filled steamed pork dumplings

Keeping it simple: I loved them so much! 🙂 Very much to my liking!

This next one is actually very similar in concept to the top. Its a bit like the dim sum shrimp dumplings (“har gow”) but I remember it having a bit of soup in it too.  Here’s how they look like:

Din Tai Fung Shatin

Shrimp dumplings

These actually had a really nice spin to the normal shrimp dumplings.  I’d say that I still prefer the real deal. Maybe I’m traditional like that.

Next up was a dish I could not eat because it was drenched in chili oil.  I don’t know if thats actually the name but apparently its simply called Dumplings in Chili Oil.

Din Tai Fung Shatin

Dumplings in Chili Oil

This meal was fantastic.  I loved the restaurant and if I had the chance, I’d definitely go back when I head to Hong Kong again.

I know that Din Tai Fung is located in many places.

Have you heard of it or tasted the food? Do you like Chinese cuisine?

Had enough of dim sum and restaurants in Hong Kong yet? We’re going to take a little break tomorrow and do some sightseeing 😉