KanBai- Szechuanese resto with Japanese name
When I lived in the downtown core, which is now Koreatown/Chinatown II, my idea of chinese food were the Wok Cafe and Le roi des nouilles (now replaced by an All you can eat Korean bbq place). While these places still hold a special place in my heart since I discovered salt and pepper shrimp and kung pao chicken there, I am always in search of more.
Enter Kanbai. Surrounded by flashy lights and neon signs everywhere, this is a clean and more sober-looking Szechuanese restaurant, except for the big red sign at the entrance. At first you think Japanese influences with the decor, and you’re not off. Kanbai took over a ramen joint that inhabited the locale previously, this also explains the name.
What makes it FO REALZ lies in the menu. Chicken feet and pig intestines as staples of a menu can be pretty indicative of the authenticity. Also, when I asked the owner’s wife, who was quite charming (even when trying to communicate with us in pseudo-English), why the much talked about Ma Po tofu was not on the menu anymore, she said that the regulars never ordered it, but now that there were more foreigners, they might reintroduce it. I love the idea of my dining companion and I being foreigners in a land we had lived in practically all our lives!
Since my foreigner friend and I didn’t feel as adventurous as usual, we decided to order the more popular items of the menu. The beef tripe would have to wait until my next visit.
This is the fish in chili oil soup. Don’t be put off by all that chili, on a spice-o-meter scale, it was a 5 for us, so maybe a 7 for those who aren’t used to it. Tender turbot? Tilapia? Well whatever, it was yummy, and it could feed 3 people easily. The broth was perfect to add piquant to the steamed rice we ordered for it. And at only 12$, we coudn’t complain.
We also ordered a plate of sizzing eggplant which was wonderfully textured and seasoned. And it tastes even better in leftover chinese the next day!
Eve though we were only 2, and we should have stopped there, our eyes got hungry for the pork belly in pickled cabbage. Now this is not a dish for all. My companion was not a fan, and it could be because of the extremety of flavors. The fatty caramelized pork belly and sour mustard leaves are not items everyone identifies with. I found it irresistible.
I do hope the fate of KanBai does not follow most of the other chinese buibuis of Montreal. This one has some real backbone! That’s probably on their menu too!