On an entirely different register, we went to Chinese restaurant Mr Ma, an expensive joint for business types, on street level of Montreal's business quarter landmark Place Ville-Marie. I've been seeing Mr Ma since forever, but only very recently knew that 1- Mr Ma indeed existed (and he is not an elderly cook, but rather the owner), and that 2- my uncle Bernard worked with him when both were of student age and had part-time jobs at Montreal's only Mr Sub in the late 70s.
I often discarded Mr Ma as being in the same category of Piment Rouge, as Chinese food for White People (namely a fest of General Tao-ish cuisine, and an orgy of sweet and sour flavours, over the more diverse, complex sets of flavours and aromas of Chinese cuisine. Both places happen to serve so-called "Szechuan" cuisine. I am not an expert, but my usual suspiciousness tells me that it is nothing like what's eaten in China's Sichuan province, where food is indeed really spicy, but characterized by the unabashed addition of dried chili pepper, and the use of the numbing type of Sichuan pepper (a flavour called "ma la"), a definitely acquired taste.
It was not wrong to associate Mr Ma with Piment Rouge, since both were formerly acquainted (and I cannot remember whether what I was told was told around the family table, or read in a newspaper). Last week, at Julie and Colin's wedding reception, Piment Rouge did the catering, and I was hugely surprised that they could do good authentic-ish (anything not Soup and Noodles - even if it's ideologically wrong / trashfoodingly good) Chinese food which included a lotus leaf-wrapped chicken with medicinal herbs.
Now for Mr Ma, same biases from a food snob, and cultural imperialist such as myself. But again, I discounted the fact that the chefs, being Chinese, presumably could make Chinese food for Chinese palates. He told us that it was Chinese food with Western influences (therefore, a CBC like myself n'y voit que du feu).
We started off with a Japanese/Korean-style entree, which is a bento in glass compartments, with a seaweed, a squid, a veggie, and a crab claw (wasabi mayo served in a improvised contained carved out of a cucumber trunk) case.
Then, it was the "dan daan". According to my aunt (and I think that it makes sense), "dan daan", which can be described as a entree flan, may not suit Western palates, because of the slimy taste. To Chinese people, it totally fits the idea that slimy is just one of the few textures that you can/should experience in a meal (along with crispy, and many other that I can't enumerate):
The boss, Mister Ma (Johnson, being his first name - a HK Chinese) came to our table to describe the dish, and said that the dish is originally Japanese, which they tried to European-ify, with the addition of truffle oil!
Then, tiny oysters (or perhaps actually mussels!) served in a oyster shell, topped with what was assuredly grated Parmesan cheese.
Following this, there was Alaska snow crab, simply brushed to remove excess salt and boiled in salt water. A very "qing" (light) level, and a welcomed slow dish. Four legs each, and it took forever, but that is the forever that I'd be taking every day that I am in the mood for crab! Chinkiang vinegar with garlic dip.
Then, it was the obligatory shark's fin soup:
This is the first time that I encounter ingredients of a shark's fin soup served unmixed. Usually, the shark fin and ham are mixed into the broth. This time, they are as a flotsam in a sea of probably-seafood-based broth (I found pieces of what looked like crab meat). I liked the presentation so much, that I decided to eat it like this, sans mixing (as my grandfather promptly did to his).
Seafood was the theme, so I think that we had crayfish, unless it's a saltwater cousin. Cut in halves, and served with crushed salty garlic.
Then, when my cousins, brother, girlfriend-in-law and I naturally started to eye the dessert table, we were served a fine cuisine twist on the Chinese fast food fixture of orange peel beef:
It looks like a fried oyster, right? But no, it's a filet mignon beef, with a crust coated with a caramelized sauce and real orange peel for maximum taste. Served with a typical vegetable fried rice to maintain the illusion (and some garlic sautéed mini asparagus tips).
Special tropical fruits (including a crunchier type of cantaloupe, a blander/icier type of honeydew) for dessert, obviously.
All this: it's on the degustation menu. Name your price, and the chef supposedly makes you what's available!
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