I grew up in San Diego and I’ve been to China, Singapore, and Hong Kong — so my standards for Chinese food are really high. Montreal has never been a great Chinese restaurant city (in my opinion, its Chinatown can best be described as “quaint”), which is why I make things like dim sum right in my own apartment.
All of this is changing with the somewhat recent addition of Kanbai to the Montreal restaurant scene. I was first alerted to it by my friend Yung Chang, who loves Kanbai and considers it as good as the Sichuanese restaurants he frequented when he lived in the province to shoot his latest film, China Heavyweight. I heard about it again by my friend Bartek, the food critic at the Montreal Mirror, who gave it a glowing review.
So I finally went. Twice in three days, in fact! Both visits were terrific, and included essential orders of the spicy green beans with ground pork, Sichuan-style fried cabbage, and fish in hot chili soup — all favorites of mine, flawlessly executed. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get tired of the exhilarating, narcotic headrush of those Sichuan peppercorns. There’s nothing quite like it.