Having heard a lot of good things about this nearby Vietnamese restaurant, Danny and I decided to check it out last Friday. I was cautious because ever since I spent 6 weeks backpacking through South East Asia, dining in these types of restaurants usually ends up being a disappointment and dishes that are recreated over here are merely distant relatives to the mother dish.
I didn’t set my hopes too high for Zen Asia, for fear of having them dashed, but I did manage to enjoy myself more than I expected. This is an excellent, 'happening' place that I am proud to have here on Montreal's South Shore. Believe me, while downtown is a cornucopia of fine dining, the pickings are very slim around here!
However there was one flaw in our dining experience: and the restaurant was not responsible...
I should have clued in when I saw the address on the business card, but I didn’t, and as we pulled up in from of Zen Asia, I realized that I had once worked there long ago when it was called ‘Bistro 21”. Those were not good times for me, to put it mildly, as I had often found myself in situations comparable to Tony’s in Kitchen Confidential. As we entered, I had a feeling of déjà vu and memories of my mental, tyrannical, crazed chef-boss yelling at me and throwing pans and cuss words at me.
When I quit, I had vowed never to darken the door again, and now here I was, seven years later, with my hubby and plans for a romantic evening away from the baby. Oh, life is cruel sometimes! If I could only go back, be my 20 year-old self again, and face Gary (O how I loath the name) with the strength and confidence that I have now, as a chef and as an individual, things would be VERY different! Ah well, what doesn't kill you will make you stronger, so they say.
Goi du du, Green Papaya Salad with Grilled Beef and Thai Basil
The place was packed, which is always a good sign. The service was friendly and professional in this family run establishment. The food was excellent, and familiar flavours such as the unforgettable Thai basil, brought back a few memories from South East Asia. I would have liked the food to have a bit more heat, but I understand that they have to tone it down to please us picky North Americans!
We chatted with the owner’s son, Duy, who works the floor on Friday’s, and he invited us back some night after 10 pm when they hang the ‘Closed’ sign and his mama heats up the kitchen and feeds the family. It sounded like a lot of fun and that’s probably my chance to taste some really authentic Vietnamese food. Can’t wait! Now that will be something to report.
Eat your heart out Gary and Bistro 21, I’ve moved on.(and remember, you can never have too much Dijon)
Zen Asia (450)672-6805
21 Prince Arthur, St Lambert, Quebec, J4P 1X1