Article mis en ligne le jeudi 12 mai 2011
“Those are so cool!” “That is so cool!” These exclamations were made by really cool young people. About me! And all in just the past few months. The ‘those’ were a distinctive pair of aviator-style sunglasses that I had worn years ago when doing a lot of sailboat racing. I had lost the originals and just recently discovered an optometrist who carried them. To me they were just ordinary, very practical sunglasses for racing. Who knew they were the very latest in cool, made by a very cool sunglasses company?
The ‘that’ came en route to taking a friend to lunch. When we were still a block away (I hadn’t yet mentioned the restaurant’s name) she wondered aloud, “Is this the place I’ve been going to for years? The place I’ve introduced many people to? The place I’ve been wanting to take you to? And you found this place on your own? That is so cool!” See? The old guy is cool. Who knew?
The place is Pho Lien restaurant, on the north-east corner of Côte-des-Neiges and Côte-Sainte-Catherine, across from the Jewish General Hospital. Go during off-hours or you’ll stand in line for one of the not-very-many crowded-together tables.
The place is packed with the most interesting mix of customers I’ve ever seen. Nurses in whites are side-by-side with students who are next to suits-and-ties who are backed up to people from most of the ethnic groups in the city. And for good reason. Their soups are the star attraction.
We went for two extremes: rare beef and brisket and, for the less adventurous, chicken noodle. The beef and brisket broth tasted like velvet - both of us said it at the same time.
The chicken broth, by contrast, was light and mild. Not quite like my old Russian grandma’s but then… Of course, in addition to the meat, both soups were loaded with noodles and vegetables. By the way, taste the soup first. Then add the “sides” of lime, Thai basil and bean sprouts. And a dash of Sriracha hot chili sauce. You know the one: the big red bottle with the rooster. And if you’re planning on ordering other courses stick to the ‘small’ bowls.
For main courses we chose sautéed shrimp and chicken with crispy noodles and vegetables and stir-fry chicken with ginger served with steamed rice and vegetables. The shrimp and chicken were delicious and the crispy noodles are a nice contrast to the softer pieces of food. Eat them together. The vegetables were wonderfully crunchy. Hallelujah! I hate soggy cooked veggies. These were terrific. Sad to say the stir-fry was less successful. It needed more oomph!
We started with a couple of spring rolls. They were outstanding. Tightly rolled with lettuce, Thai basil, shrimp, tiny rice noodles and beef. With a light peanut sauce. Delish. And ended with hot filtered coffee and condensed milk for dessert. Don’t laugh. This may be coffee but this coffee is dessert!
[ Paul Shubin ]