Azuma – so authentically Japanese – it hurts!

I love going to the theatre at the Bain St. Michel – but it’s not my favorite location. Why? Because it’s a long walk from the nearest metro stop. Not the best reason to get upset about a location – but older lady – icy streets – long walk… You get the pictures.

But despite that issue – I’m often going to the Bain St. Michel – and thus I have tried lots of the restaurants within easy striking distance of the Bain – and by that I mean the least walking possible. One of my favorites is the Azuma.

I’ve been there often enough to be greeted – if not by name – then by favorite table and the acknowledgement that I’m going to the Theatre. And the recognition is not surprising – the Azuma is very clearly ‘in the family’. The sushi chef stands proudly behind his counter – and the waitress, hostess, and assistant cook (all rolled into one smiling young lady) is clearly a relative (I’m betting wife – but I’ve never gotten up the courage to ask). As far as I can tell – that’s it for employees – Just the two of them – running the restaurant, making and serving the food, and doing the dishes. It’s so Japanese, so traditional, so ‘family’ – it hurts!

They always bring us a pot of tea (free) and a tiny appetizer of beans with peanut sauce (free). Since we’re budget dinners – my friend and I order 2 or 3 different sushi dishes to keep to our under $15 including tip budget – eat and run to the waitress’ cheery good-bye.

Cozy space - but so nicely located if you are heading to the Bain St. Michele

Cozy space – but so nicely located if you are heading to the Bain St. Michele

Particularly good is their version of the Kamikaze roll, and I’m a fan of their spicy tuna as well. But they make the short list because of their location – and the friendly demeanor. It doesn’t hurt that the seats are comfy, the room warm and cozy – and not overly noisy. The bathroom is nice and clean as well – never underestimate the importance of a clean bathroom on St. Laurent.

Bottom line – going to the Bain St. Michel for a play? Want to eat for under $15 per person. The Azuma has you covered.

Azuma on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Azuma on Foodio54

Does ‘All you can Eat’ save you money? Probably not!

On the west island is “La Perle” – a Chinese and Thai emporium of food that features – indeed even insists on – an ‘All You Can Eat’ menu. We were 6 people – and we were there for dinner – and did the math.

If the all you can eat price is – say $30 – per person – than for 6 you’d be looking at $180. But for $180 you can probably order everything on the menu – at least as much as you could possibly eat. So we opted to just choose and pay for our favorites – and the bill was only $120 for 6. Including the taxes and tip. So clearly – unless you really need to consume copious and unreasonable quantities – avoid the all you can eat experience.

About the dinner itself. Unlike some reviewers – we didn’t have an issue with service. They didn’t ignore us – they did bring us the water we asked for – and the various dishes we ordered arrived promptly.

Quality, on the other hand, greatly varied. I thought the Eggplant and Garlic dish was excellent – and I admit to loving the General Tao Chicken – in all it’s overly fried goodness. Less awesome was the Crispy Duck. While much less salty than the version served at the Tong Sing – the presentation was a uniform light brown – no crispy skin to speak of. Flavor good, Lack of skin – bad. We also had the Dumplings in Peanut Sauce. I loved them – but other’s in my group were less enthused since the sauce was clearly lacking in ‘kick’. If you label a dish spicy – it ought to be spicy, right?

Overall – not my favorite Chinese & Thai place – but if you are stuck on the West Island – it’s a nice option. The parking is good, the location not bad, and if you steer away from the ‘All You Can Eat’ menu – the price is quite reasonable.

Check out their website for their menu, opening hours, and address:

La Perle Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Trad and Cornered – 2 lousy plays in 2 Evenings. Bummer, eh?

I read with great interest Pat Donnelly’s long article in the Gazette – wondering if the fact she’d seen 4 good plays in as many night was a sign of a resurgence in the English Montreal Theatre scene. While I’m all for a resurgence – i don’t think that seeing 4 good plays in a week is a record – I’ve seen play after good play for years.

Unfortunately, while Pat saw great plays – I suffered thru 2 plays in 2 evenings that were both questionable. Both  were so slow-paced they actually had me sleeping. Not good people.

The first was ‘Cornered’ at my absolute favorite English theatre Venue – the Bain St. Michel. I’ve seen such great theatre there – and I have the greatest respect for Guy Sprung. But Cornered was directed by Paul Van Dyck – and it was a terrible let-down. For starters – the accents of the actors was so heavy – so ‘put-on’ that it left a great many of the customers the night I was there wondering what was going on. And the answer was – not much . It’s a rather pointless story, with little to recommend it, spoken by good actors putting on such heavy accents as to render the story incomprehensible to an English speaker. And if English wasn’t my first language – which was the case for most of the underwhelming small crowd of people there on Wednesday night – well – it was a complete waste of time.

My 2nd loser – the heavily advertised, and well re-reviewed ‘Trad’ at Centaur. The set was lovely, the music fun – but again – the actors put on fake Irish accents – and unfortunately – in doing so rendered huge sections of the play almost incomprehensible. I got the idea – they are both old – and thus live in a past that is more exciting than the current present. But was it absolutely necessary to tell the story in accents I didn’t understand. What is the point. It didn’t make me think better of the characters – it just made me go to sleep. Again – audience discussion tended to agree with me – This was not a great production. It wasn’t even a good one. Sorry Sidemark and Centaur. You may have delivered for Pat – but you didn’t deliver for me. Or the people sitting in front of me.

But good news – There’s more English theatre here in Montreal this week – including the Mahalia Jackson tribute at the Segal Centre that has garnered rave reviews from several of my friends. Lots to hopefully enjoy. Just please, please, please – don’t put me to sleep.