Vegetarian Thai dinner, for a vegetarian friend’s birthday. Where else in Montreal, but Chu Chai?
Located at 4088 Saint Denis (between Duluth and Rachel), the restaurant was packed, naturally, on a Friday night. The restaurant is victim to the Chinese floor plan syndrome (I overheard the waitstaff in Cantonese): business mentality of cramming more people than allowed by fire regulation policies. Not only did I worry about knocking people (and their dinners) over while squeezing my way to the restroom, we were made to wait 90 minutes before our orders were taken. But I should backtrack slightly: the birthday girl made reservations for 7:30, for 11 of us – and half of our party was standing at the door for 40 minutes because they only had a 6-person table available. Do ‘reservations’ not mean anything? Half an hour of waiting later, the waitstaff mumbled something about compensating our inconvenience with free drinks. That offer, they quickly retracted. And we ended up having to barter for a discount: at first, they agreed to 10% off all drinks (what does that work to, 50 cents per person?), and finally 10% of the final tab. Role reversal indeed: aren’t restaurant owners supposed to alleviate the situation and win-over their frustrated patrons? I’ve never heard of customers having to bargain for a discount when clearly they have been wronged.
Poor service aside, their pad thai was quite delicious, as was another noodle-ly concoction ordered by the boy: it sported generous amounts of thai basil, and imitation duck. I started with their tom yum nam khon- hot & sour soup with coconut milk, which was good, but I had slight doubts: I suspect that their broth sits in a giant vat, and the remaining ingredients of desired soup-type (soup with mock seafood/meat/tofu/etc) are tossed into the bowl of pre-ladled soup. Not impressed with the undercooked mushrooms, and wished the soup came piping hot. Washing the meal down with Tsing Tao, however, was definitely a good call.
Highlight of the evening, of course, was good company. And the backgammon and key lime pie: mmm.