Hip, Hip, Hurray for Street Food!

If you ever go to Toronto – one of the pleasures in that city is its street food. Those trucks with open sides that park here there and everywhere – open up and start serving delicious food. I’ll never forget having a sausage in a bun with the works (peppers, onions, mustard, ketchup, and even relish) at 2:30 in the morning just after dancing my little feet off at this fab salsa club my daughter and her friends had dragged me to.

It was yummy.

But here in Montreal – we are much less fortunate. During festival season – roughly June 1 to August 1 – the area around Quartier des Spectacle will suddenly blossom with very upscale street food vendors – not carts mind you, but full-blown restaurants with table cloths – carefully vetted by the authorities of course. And during street fairs – the St. Laurent street fair during Gran Prix weekend is a good example – there are tents up and down the road selling all kinds of things – some of it edible. Even restaurants get in on the fun – putting up tables outside their doors to sell ‘street’ ready food. Some go over-the-top and have lounging and seating areas. So – well – Montreal.

But in general, in Montreal – street food is a no-no.

Why I hear you wonder? I mean what is a city without street food?

Well – in 1967, just prior to the opening of Expo ’67 – Mayor Jean Drapeau decreed that street food was unsafe, unsanitary and unsightly. And banned it. Popular Montreal Rumor has also held that he decreed that garbage bags be only the new green type so they looked nicer when sitting on the curb. This was a Mayor with a mission. But our street food was gone.

Since then various groups have tried hard to convince the city government to change that rule – citing examples of cities like Toronto, Shanghai, even Brussels that manages to hang onto to not only their street food – but their citizens and their restaurants. It’s been a no go. Until this week. Finally – the city councilor have decreed that this summer there will be a street food pilot test – and by the summer of 2015 – if nothing goes wrong – Montreal will have street food.

Oh joy – oh pounding heart.

Wonder what Jean Drapeau is thinking of this turn of events?
Wonder what I’ll have first – Fries or a Souvlaki? Knowing it’s Montreal – probably a Prosciutto and Brie Burger.

Crispy Duck at Tong Sing – Salty but so good

If you are looking for cheap eats – China Town in Montreal has been my go to location for years. I generally get recommendations as to which restaurant to try from the parking lot attendants – and have rarely been guided wrong.

One of my favorite places – which has undergone the traditional many name changes – is currently called the Tong Sing. I kinda preferred the original name – Great Wall of China – but I think it failed the ‘french’ test. In any case – the Tong Sing offers Dim Sum every day during the day – which I have enjoyed often in the past and will review here the next time I go. But this time – I went for dinner.

First – finding the Tong Sing. It’s not located in the main drag of China Town – it’s at the far end of Gauchetiere really near the Chinese Hospital. The physical address is 43 Le Gauchetiere. And it’s up the stairs – there’s another restaurant on the lower level – called the Mon-Nan. They share not only the physical space, but also the credit card machines. According to our waiter – the kitchens are separate, but what do I know for sure. In any case – at dinner – the Tong Sing caters more to Orientals than to Occidentals – something I always look for in picking a Chinese Restaurant. And it’s often a lot less crowded, another benefit of walking up the flight of stairs.

My friend and I are budget eaters – and our max is $30 for 2, and of course the Tong Sing fit the bill. We had 2 entries – the extremely delicious if a bit salty Crispy Duck and a less yummy hot-pot with beef and eggplant. That dish definitely needed more texture (it was soft, soft, and more soft), plus a bit more seasoning. But the Duck was why we were there – and it was completely delicious. Crispy Skin, tender meat, and a nice portion size. What more can you ask.

We mistakenly ordered 2 servings of steamed rice – one would have more than enough for the two of us. Tea and Dessert are free – unlimited refills of tea, and 2 fortune cookies and some orange slices when they present the bill. Perfect.

So – Dinner for 2 for under $30 including taxes and tip – nice service, enough left overs to make a decent size take-home for tomorrow’s lunch – and finished in time to enjoy Nuit Blanche. Such a good deal.

Tong Sing on Urbanspoon