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Val?s Bites

by admin December 8, 2009

Let’s face it: when it gets dark out at 4 p.m., our stomachs naturally begin to crave comfort food. The more fried and bad for us it is &- the more we want it. It’s a simple fact of life. Plus, with the holiday break so close we can feel our class notes going into the shredder, we will all have some extra time on our hands to indulge our guilty cravings. Here are some of my suggestions to ensure you have an unhealthy, but superbly delicious vacation. Happy holidays!

Qing Hua Dumpling

1676 Lincoln, 438-288-5366. Cash Only, ATM on site.

After Qing Hua Dumpling closed unexpectedly a few months ago and its fate became unknown, the Chowhound board looked like it was going to explode with angry posts from the restaurant’s devoted fans. What could be so amazing about a Chinese dumpling place? It’s not like there’s a deficit of them around town. But, a little investigative journalism led me to uncover that Qing Hua is not your run of the mill dumpling place &- far from it. This joint is renowned for their “soup” dumplings. To translate: there is actual soup inside their handmade creations. I was intrigued. Then, as luck would have it, Qing Hua relocated just a few blocks from Concordia University’s downtown campus. If you don’t like dumplings, don’t go there, but if you do &- bring a sleeping bag because you might as well move in. It’s that good.

The dumplings are categorized as: vegetarian, seafood, seafood with pork, pork, beef, lamb or chicken. You then decide if you want them boiled, steamed or fried, and a portion comes with 15 or 18 dumplings depending on the preparation mode (you can get half of one kind, and half of another). In my few visits, I tried the lamb and coriander, beef and onion, chicken and mushroom, shrimp with zucchini and egg and cabbage with mushroom. I tried the boiled and steamed versions, and although they taste pretty similar, I prefer the latter. Every time I bit into one of these balls of pure heaven, I couldn’t get over the fact there was soup inside. How do they do it? Honestly, all the dumplings are amazing, but my favourites include the steamed shrimp with zucchini and egg, and the lamb and coriander. You would think a specialty dumpling place wouldn’t have exciting appetizers but I’m completely obsessed with their egg and carrot coleslaw. Skip the hot and sour soup though. I also wish they’d improve the service a notch since our waiter could barely answer our questions, forgot to bring our spicy tofu, and needed constant reminding to fill our water glasses. Can’t have it all.

Mains: $7.99-12.99 (plus tax).

Maison India

5868 Sherbrooke St. West, 514-485-2122, Major cards accepted.

An Indian restaurant with Christmas decorations and flat screen TV’s might seem a bit suspicious and inauthentic, but I had heard great things about Maison India from a fellow foodie and decided to give it a chance. Besides, I was craving some extra heavy and super spicy food. To start, I ordered a dal soup, which is a mildly spicy lentil soup. I absolutely adore lentil soup, and while theirs was a touch watery, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Next came the vegetable thali plate. Thali refers to the steel plate the food is served on, and a plate usually consists of rice with a couple different types of vegetable dishes arranged in steel bowls. One bowl had chickpeas in a tasty curry sauce, while in the other there was a vegetable stew complete with potatoes and cheese and made memorable by a smooth coconut sauce. The third bowl had some other vegetable concoction, but unfortunately it wasn’t anything special. I also didn’t like that my thali plate included a green salad with way too much Italian dressing. “I don’t think they eat iceberg lettuce in India,” was my sister’s response to the out-of-place greens. She got the dhansak with chicken; best described as chicken prepared in a hot lentil puree mixed with sweet and sour curry. It also came with rice and the oh-so-random green salad. The dhansak was crazy spicy (in a good way), and ridiculously mouth-watering. The mix of flavours was incredible and the chicken itself was tender and juicy. We also sampled their signature Indian naan bread (round flatbread made with white flour), and it didn’t disappoint. Maison India, is not unbelievable, but it’s pretty great, and the reasonable prices and friendly service are sure to make it worth your while.

Mains: $6.95-21.95 (plus tax). Lunch special: $5.95-10.95 (plus tax), (all plates include: soup, salad, mixed vegetables and rice).

Chez Benny

5071 Queen Mary Road, 514-735-1836, Major cards accepted.

When I was in grade eight I had to do a presentation on Israel. To seal the deal, I decided to treat everyone in the class (including the professor) to one of the country’s signature dishes &- falafel. A friend of a friend suggested I go to Chez Benny if I wanted the real deal. Back then it was a dirty hole in the wall, but damn, their falafel was delicious. My presentation wasn’t any good (I slacked off and watched Friends instead), but somehow I wound up with an A. Since that fateful day I’ve been going back to Chez Benny every so often (I wish I could go more, but my pants wouldn’t fit), and I’ve watched the place triple in size and get a spiffy makeover. I guess I wasn’t the only one with a slight addiction to fried balls of chickpeas. Whenever I go, I usually opt for the falafel pita, which is filled to the brim with falafel balls (obviously) as well as hummus, tahini, iceberg lettuce, Israeli salad (diced tomato and cucumber), purple cabbage and spicy sauce if you desire (watch out it’s spicy). The pita bread is ultra fluffy and toasted ever so slightly, while the mixture of yummy sauces oozes in your mouth. Of course the piece de resistance is the falafel balls, which are warm and perfectly crispy. However, I’m sad to say that after overdosing on falafel this summer in Manhattan, Chez Benny’s stuff didn’t quite measure up. But hey, you’ve got to work with what you have, and it’s the best in Montreal. If you’re looking for something a bit healthier, you can order the falafel platter served with hummus and different salads, or a Mediterranean salad plate consisting of assorted salads. There’s plenty for meat lovers as well, including a shawarma pita or platter. It’s self-service, great if you’re in a rush, and it’s Kosher too.

Mains: $4.99-23.99 (steak) (plus tax)

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