Thursday, July 29, 2010

VGT On the Road: Weekend in Montreal (Part Deux)

At ChuChai with an AMAZING (non-alcoholic) Strawberry-Basil cocktail. So refreshing!

I was going to title this post "Weekend in Montreal 2: Electric Boogaloo" but I was worried that most of you would be too young to remember that movie. If you haven't seen it, then 1) you are young, and/or 2) you are missing out on a cinematic masterpiece.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about our other top choice for vegan eats in Montreal: the all-veg Thai restaurant ChuChai. It is almost entirely vegan, with the exception of a few dishes that include egg, which can be easily omitted. I should add that I found both Aux Vivres and ChuChai on every traveling vegan's best friend, the Happy Cow website. We were so impressed with ChuChai that we went back twice. I'm half-Thai, and a pretty tough judge of Thai food, so I'm telling you, this food was really good. Even though I enjoy and frequently eat vegan Thai food, I do think it is often missing a depth of flavor that is very hard to recreate without the use of ingredients like fish sauce or shrimp paste. The food at ChuChai was some of the most creative and authentic-tasting vegan Thai food I've ever had in a restaurant. Please forgive the really terrible quality of these photos, but it was dark in there and I only had my camera phone with me both times we went.

The first night we went we started with the "duck" salad. What set this apart was that the faux duck pieces were really nice and crispy, the way the real duck version would be. The rest of the salad was a perfectly balanced combination of sour lime juice, hot chilis, and fresh, cooling mint leaves. Heavenly.

For our entrees, we had "chicken" with peanut sauce and crispy spinach. Ok, so maybe the crispy spinach isn't really authentic (or maybe it is? I don't know!) but this peanut sauce was fantastic. Not too sweet, with just the right amount of heat. It's hard to make brownish food look interesting, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

We also shared some veggies in green curry. Like pretty much all Thai food, Thai curries are all about the balance of flavors - hot, sour, salty, and sweet. This green curry was perfection, I almost wanted to dunk my head in it. The veggies were lightly steamed so they still had a nice firmness and bite to them. And perhaps best of all, there weren't any baby corns lurking around in there.

The second time we went, we started off with an appetizer our server recommended - crispy fried mushrooms that were in a tangy, sweet chili sauce. The mushrooms were really meaty, and it almost reminded of a General Tso's-type dish. Very tasty, but strangely it came with fried basil leaves, which added nothing to the dish. In fact, frying seemed to have the effect of removing almost all flavor from the basil, what a shame.

We had to try the classic noodle dish, Pad Thai, which is pretty much the measure of any Thai restaurant. We were not disappointed by this one. It came with some fried tofu chunks, fresh bean sprouts, a wedge of lime, and a healthy sprinkle of crushed peanuts on top. Delicious!

And because the "duck" was such a hit the last time, we got the duck in red curry to share as well. With chunks of pineapple, obviously this curry is a bit sweeter than the green version, but had a really nice heat to it as well. I wanted to dunk my head in the green curry, but I wanted to take a whole bath in the red one. I'm not crazy about tomatoes in my curry, but my husband liked them, so that's that.

In addition to Aux Vivres and ChuChai, a couple other places worth mentioning (where we stopped but didn't take pictures) were Le Commensal, which has several locations and offers a vegan lunch buffet; Yuan, where we ate the night we arrived - they have a great $20, all you can eat vegan Chinese menu, although the service really sucked; and La Faim du Monde, where we had just a smoothie and some tea, although their menu looked really great. There are plenty of other veg-places in Montreal, but 3 1/2 days just wasn't nearly long enough to try them all. I'm already making plans for where to eat when we return.

4088 Saint Denis Street
Montréal, QC H2W 2M5, Canada
(514) 843-4194


  1. I'm so happy to come across your blog! My husband and I were just in Quebec while in Vermont for a long weekend and we realized we really should get back to Montreal now that we live in metro NYC. I am a new vegan and appreciate your review of these two great options for dining!

  2. @JL Goes Vegan - thank you for your comment and congrats on going vegan! We were very pleasantly surprised at how vegan-friendly it is in Montreal. I highly recommend that you go back for a visit! :)