RESTAURANT CONGEE, 1200 Rome Blvd., Brossard
Open until midnight
For island-dwellers, there isn't much in Brossard that is worth a trip across the Champlain Bridge, but Restaurant Congee is an exception. As far as I know, this is the only place in Montreal that specializes exclusively in congee and tong shui (sweet Chinese dessert soup).
I've been here on two occasions and haven't been disappointed. Located in a nondescript strip mall at the end of Rome Blvd., just a few blocks from the river, the restaurant occupies a small but cozy space. On both my visits, all of the customers seemed to be Chinese, but the menu is completely trilingual, with detailed descriptions of each dish in Chinese, English and French.
Congee is a rice porridge popular both as breakfast and a late-night snack. Here it costs between $5-6 per bowl and the selection is vast. On my last visit, I had congee with pork kidneys. Unlike most restaurant congee, it was mellow and not too salty; in fact, it was almost as good as my mother-in-law's homemade congee. I had the same reaction to the other congees I sampled, including the ground beef and egg and the preserved duck eggs and minced pork.
Other snacks on the menu include Chinese doughnuts, which are used for dipping into your congee. On my first visit, which was around 9pm, they were very disappointing, tasting like they had been sitting around all day before being re-fried. On my second visit, early in the afternoon, they were very fresh, crispy and tasty.
Also worth trying is the ho faan, or folded rice noodles served with hoisin and peanut sauce. It's sweet and savoury and almost as good as what I had in Hong Kong.
Now, the dessert: yum. Tong shui is easy to find in Toronto and Vancouver but, until this restaurant opened, virtually impossible to get in Montreal. Upon request, Prêt à Manger serves red bean soup instead of fortune cookies; Sai Gwan in Chinatown has a small selection of desserts on their Chinese menu. But no restaurant has ever specialized in tong shui.
As with the congee, the selection of tong shui is large and varied. On my first visit, I tried the seasonal special, a hot pumpkin soup that was very good. On my second visit, I had cold coconut milk with tapioca, which was light, very subtly sweet and extremely refreshing. I also sampled the sago, a cassava root-based soup with pieces of grapefruit and mango, which was less impressive.
The menu also includes "ginger cooked milk" (geung jup dun nai), a custard-like dessert that I've had elsewhere and very much enjoyed. Here, it requires at least 15 minutes of preparation because it's actually made fresh from scratch. This will definitely be something to try on my next visit.
For reference, here are some Wikipedia entries you might want to check out:
My friend Cedric wrote a review of our first visit to Restaurant Congee on his blog: