Montreal’s Chinatown has been booming these days with an influx of killer bars and refined dining that is leaving the old plastic tablecloth noodle joints in their dust. Even though it’s only the third largest Chinatown in Canada, it’s been expanding rapidly both from the original location and in the new Chinatown West area emerging beside Concordia.
There’s so much awesome stuff on the radar, that you can fill your whole summer with just Chinatown outings. And so we decided to put together a list of the best places you absolutely need to check out in Montreal's Chinatowns.
1. Le Mal Nécessaire
I’m not sure I need to spend much more time exalting Le Mal Nécessaire, considering that everybody already knows they are the spot to get four ounces of alcohol poured into a gutted pineapple and still look classy while drinking it. Still, any list about Chinatown that doesn’t include it will always be incomplete, and only a few bars can compete with their level of creativity.
2. Bar Luwan
Bar Luwan is one of the newer offerings among the Chinatown bar scene and sits in the most prime real estate, at the heart of Clark and De La Gauchetière, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and a fresh, fruity cocktail selection. Try their lychee sangria or a mojito and make sure to stay for the DJ du jour, because that’s when the party really starts.
Photo Credit - Restaurant Dobe & Andy
3. Dobe & Andy
No trip to Chinatown is complete without eating some kind of roasted poultry or pork hanging from a hook, and there is no better example of Cantonese BBQ than Dobe & Andy. They have tables inside that you can eat at, but I usually take mine to go and eat right in the square.
4. Orange Rouge
This restaurant is such a cut above the usual fare you’ll find in Chinatown, it could herald a totally new standard for the area. They offer a modern twist on traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes, paired with a playful cocktail list and impressive assortment of craft and imported beer, all in a sleekly designed space that feels more like the Vieux-Montreal than Chinatown.
5. Kagayaki Shabu Shabu
If you have friends like mine, who aren’t always so good at sharing, then Kagayaki Shabu Shabu is the place for you. Placed around the U-shaped bar are individual burners so everyone can have their own private Japanese-style hot pot with their own personalized broth. There is no fear of having to eat fast and eat first, or go hungry.
Photo Credit - Stéphanie Richer
6. Dessert de Taiwan
These guys do all the Taiwanese standards, like bubble tea, milk tea, and dessert egg rolls, but come summertime it’s all about their Baobing, or Taiwanese shaved-ice desserts loaded up with sweet red bean and other fresh fruits. Plus they close late, making them a great place for an after-dinner or pre-bar snack.
When we asked the bartender at Le Mal Nécessaire about Macao, all he did was laugh to himself and admit that, yes, it is a bar. It’s not the Plateau BYOB you find online and no one seems to be talking about it, and you kinda understand why if you visit. The blood red interior and disintegrating carpet give the place all the cosiness of a David Lynch movie set, and there is definitely an odd smell like stale cigarettes and old wontons. The wall-to-wall Lotto Quebec slot machines certainly give it a je ne sais quoi. Macao is a dive bar if I ever saw one, but it’s also got the cheapest beer in Chinatown, so you win some, you lose some I guess?
8. Restaurant Mon Nan
At first I thought that Mon Nan should be on the list simply because it’s one of the few restaurants in Chinatown still open until 4am. Convenience for drunken munchies aside, Mon Nan actually turns out some high-quality Cantonese and Shangainese dishes that contribute white plastic tablecloth aesthetic. The orange beef is crispy and punched-up in flavours. Their “medium” size wonton soup is big enough to feed a family of four. And did I mention they’re open until 4am?
9. Taverne Midway
This one’s a stretch, considering that Taverne Midway is juuuuust outside the bounds of Chinatown, if you want to be technical about it. But it’d be unfair to exclude Taverne Midway from our list because it sits 100 metres too far north. Also, just because you’re in Chinatown it doesn’t mean you have to eat or drink Chinese-style. In the early 20th century, Chinatown was a landing point for all immigrants, not only the Chinese. Taverne Midway conjures that pre-Chinatown vibe in a modern pub aesthetic featuring a lengthy list of classic but refined cocktails.
Photo Credit - Magic Idea KTV
10. Magic Idea KTV
I’d love to tell you more about Magic Idea KTV, but honestly I’ve never left there sober enough to remember much about it. You should bring a lot of friends, reserve the back room, and order pitchers of Chivas and green tea. After that, you’re on your own. Good luck.
11. Qing Hua Dumpling
Soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, are the pinnacle of Chinese dumplings, and everyone is in agreement that there is no better place to find them in Montreal than Qing Hua Dumpling. Qing Hua is usually packed during lunch and dinner, so you’d be best served to grab a table during the off-hours.
If you’re going to eat Korean food in Chinatown, then you have to go to GaNaDaRa. They closed briefly at the beginning of 2015, but they reopened and are still serving up delicious tongue-in-cheek Korean fusion that stands out from other similar restaurants in the area. The space is compact, the chalkboard menu is mostly written in Korean, and their ramyun is served in a metal pot, broke-student style.
Photo Credit- The Daily Eater
Kazu doesn’t need our endorsement. There’s a line-up outside from open to close every day of the year, and there’s a good reason for that. The place is tiny, but it’s been one of the highest ranked restaurants in all categories for years now because its food is world-class and its vibe is pure Tokyo izakaya.
Just like Kazu, it’s not news that Imadake is one of the best izakayas in Montreal. Despite the recent surge of izakayas popping up all over the city, Imadake remains the original and best expression of a contemporary Japanese pub without any doubt.