Restaurants & Bars

New Northern joint in Chinatown 2 (long review)

porker | Aug 22, 201107:08 AM     38

Mrs. Porker and I were in the same old quandary of where to eat. Being nearby, we chose to troll Chinatown 2 and parked on St. Catherine. After idle chat, we decided on the not-too-exciting, but perhaps reliably standard-fare of Pret a Manger (PM) a few doors west of St. Mathieu.

On the walk there, I noticed Buns now offers grilled eggplant (?) (and a lone customer @ 6:00pm on a Sunday). Also very peculiar was the double doors to Bar Diana wide open, showing a makeover of melamine fast food tables and the semblance of a rotisserie chicken counter at the front. Just weird as dive-bar meets chicken place? It seemed the back of the place still has a boatload of colourful characters.

Just about to PM and we notice a newish looking Chinese place. A sign says OPEN AUGUST 12 and theres still opening-day flower bouquets in the window.
A look at the menu showed Northern Chinese (introduced to me by this board by way of Tapioca Thé, Cuisine Szechuan, etc). We dropped PM like a hot egg roll and ventured into the new place.
I apologize as I don't remember the name. Its Bon-something and is 2 doors west of PM (tucked between PM and Bar Diana)

The place is brand spanking new, decor is Ikea-Japanese, lighting is somewhat harsh, background music seems to run from blaring to non-existent (although we didn't notice this with the chile induced burn/buzz of the meal), and is family run. 3 dining areas: one in the picture window facing the street, another a few steps down, and the main dining room (where we ate), down and at the back.
2 freebie apps were set on the table after we ordered; boiled, shelled peanuts and a small bean dish. Both enjoyable.

We ordered small hot&sour soup, green beans with pork, noodles with pork dressing, beef in chile sauce (their version of beef in water), pork in casserole and steamed rice. The friendly waitress was worried that our choices were too spicy. I assured her that it wouldn't be a problem, that we ate in similar places around the hood, and we *hope* it will be spicy. She was OK with that and the food didn't seem dumbed down.
The menu is chock full of pictures, descriptions, and numbers (a kind of slicked up, expanded version of the Tapioca Thé menu), yet not very specific in English. A seemingly running theme at the other restaurants mentioned above.

The h&s soup was a standard with an eggier consistency, but with the heat factor amped up (good&satisfying).
The bean dish was very dry (as it should be) with a scant sprinkle of minced pork. There was strong hints of cumin and ground szechuan peppercorn provided tongue and lip numbness (quite good).
The noodle dish was bowl of steamed noodles topped with a sour minced pork dressing (good and a bargain @ $5).
The beef in chile sauce was a real winner. Again similar to "beef in water" I've had, a cauldron brimming with dried chiles and szechuan peppercorns, sliced beef, and plenty of maturing bean sprouts. It was different in that the bowl didn't have a layer of chile oil and the "water" was more of a thickened broth (excellent).
Pork in casserole arrived in a mini stainless wok and set atop a sterno burner. Chunks of stewed pork sauteed with two kinds of pepper (one seemed like sliced cubano, the other all-heat birds eye). The pork was fantastic, apparently being stewed for a long time before entering this dish. The mini-wok and sterno burner are gimmicky and not needed, but the dish was otherwise excellent.

Service was friendly and attentive. There were about 40 clients (maybe 70% full) ranging from young people on dates to families to hipster groups. There were 4 westerners (including the Porkers). They have wine/beer/sake, not sure about hard stuff.
Dinner with a large Kirin beer, glass of wine, and a coke, $52 after tax, before tip. 3 containers of leftover takeout (had the noodles for breakfast and am thinking of that hell-fire beef broth for lunch)

The menu has lots to choose from and I'm hoping to return with a group to try more items. They have intestine, lamb, pigs foot, whole fish, pork belly (a favourite), and more.

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