I was talking to the lady who gave me the tip about Cuisine Szechuan, when she said "there's an even better restaurant - it used to suck, but now there is a new chef, and everything is good!" She wrote the name in Chinese on a piece of paper, gave me some instructions on how to get there, and after several fruitless attempts to find the place, I finally did. Here is the report.
Restaurant Oui&Oui is a small space with room for about 30 customers. You can look right into the kitchen and watch the chefs work. They advertise offering the following cuisines: Fuzhou, Vietnamien, Cantonais, Hunan and Szechuan. Eclectic mix perhaps, but I was very excited to see that Fuzhou cuisine was being offered. I've only read a little about this particular cuisine on the Web, but did not know much about it.
Sadly, they have removed some of the Fuzhou dishes from their repertoire. It seem that Fuzhou style noodles, Fuzhou rice cakes and Amoy noodles did not sell very well, and now they no longer offer these dishes. Perhaps if we continue to bug them....
The English menu has a mix of dishes ranging from the ubiquitous General Tao chicken to boiled pork feet in soya sauce. There are a bunch of Thai dishes offered as well (Pad Thai, tom yum soup, coconut milk curry dishes, etc). When we were there, there was an interesting mix of clientele. There were several tables of "North American/Caucasian" customers, ordering things like the General Tao chicken and Pad Thai, very generic dishes that you might see anywhere. I would comment that every dish that passed by us to those tables looked and smelled delicious, and I would have happily eaten all of them. This was a very promising sign. There was a table of 2 young Chinese customers who ordered some amazing dishes from a Chinese menu - more on this later. As well, the kitchen were eating their lunch, and of course, these dishes looked fabulous as well. We asked them to give us the tofu dish the kitchen was eating, it turned out it was Ma Po Tofu.
Ma Po Tofu: This is a classic dish that features the wonderful qualities of soft tofu, and if you don't like tofu after eating Ma Po tofu, then there is no hope for you (well.... I'd still like you, but you would not get to come and eat Soon Dubu with me, that's all). This version had the freshest, softest tofu I have had in a long time, and as my friend said, "if only we could get tofu this fresh". Beautifully seasoned with small shreds of pork, Chinese pickled vegetable, chile oil and wonderful fragrant salty Chinese black beans, this Ma Po Tofu is a sophisticated and delightful exploration of tofu. I would comment that it is not quite as accessible to a broad range of palates as some versions I have had. There are versions of ma po tofu that are a bit more homestyle, and I could eat rice and this dish alone. But this version is for connaisseurs, some of the flavours might be a bit too strong for the average non-Chinese person. They might enjoy some bites, but it would be hard for them to eat a whole bowlful. I found it very balanced and elegant, but powerful, and I too find the flavours a bit too strong to only eat this as a main course. Oh, but the tofu was so perfect....
Chicken in Fuhzou style sauce: This is bone in chicken pieces that have been marinated in a red, salty-sweet sauce. The chicken really stars in this dish, the sauce accentuates the chicken flavour and makes me think, "oh yeah, chicken does have a flavour!" Too often when I order chicken, I can't discern any chicken taste at all, the dish is all about the sauce. This dish makes you appreciate how tasty chicken can be. This is not spicy at all, even though the menu says it is mildly spicy. Perhaps dumber down for us? Don't care. It was delicious. So tender, so savoury, delicious. I could eat a plateful of this chicken. But if you don't like bones, this dish will drive you crazy. I personally love bone-in chicken and meat, I think it tastes much better.
Beef in Gan-Ma sauce: I loved this dish. Chucks of tender flavourful beef stewed with potato and fresh peanuts, garnished with coriander and green onion. Occasionally, a swift stab of heat from hidden chilis. The potato was perfect in its texture, and the taste of potatoes is accentuated by the beef. This dish is wonderful.
Geantes Green cabbage (Chou Chinois avec braisees a l"ail): this is how the dish is listed in the menu. They could use a proofreader! This turned out to be bok choi stirfried in garlic. Perfect! Wok Hai in full force, the bok choi is well-cooked and coated in a savoury white sauce redolent with garlic. A sign of how seriously this kitchen takes its food.
Overall, a delicious meal. These guys know how to cook! As we left, the server suggested we order from the Chinese menu next time. I am currently working on getting a translation of this menu, and my plan is to go and order whatever they will give me frmo the menu without knowing what it is. I trust this kitchen implicitly. I'd even try the General Tao!
1862 de Maisonneuve near St Marc
open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.