Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hometown Memories: Chinatown

When I was visiting my family in Montreal in the fall, my brother took me for lunch one day in Chinatown; a neighbourhood located in the downtown area that contains Asian restaurants, food markets and convenience stores.

It's much busier on weekends, and during warmer weather.

The pedestrian-friendly area makes it very inviting for a stroll.

The area is also home to the biggest Chinese School of Montreal (over 1500 students), as well of to many of the city’s East Asian community centres such as the Montreal Chinese Community and Cultural Center , and the Montreal Chinese Hospital, the only one of its kind in Canada.

Isn't this such a cool front?

Dating back to the second half of the 19th century, Montreal’s Chinatown is one of the oldest Asian districts in North America. It emerged when Chinese immigrants came to Canada to work in the mines and on the railroads, and settled in the area because it was convenient for these occupations.

The Paifang on Saint Laurent Boulevard.

The Paifang, also called pailou (arch in English), is a traditional Chinese architectural gating style.

Today, the district is more commercial than residential, but it continues to maintain its Asian flavour. And although it may be modest in size compared to those in Toronto and Vancouver, Montreal’s Chinatown is a vibrant tourist area and nightspot.

One of two Chinese Guardian lions (known as Shishi) at the base of the Paifang.

Locals and tourists visit Chinatown for its specialty shops that offer products directly imported from Mainland China or Vietnam that are difficult to find elsewhere in town, as well as for the activities and festivals. And, of course, the restaurants.

Next time I visit, I'll make it a point of photographing some of the shops.

A fun time to visit is during Chinatown's sidewalk sale. There is one held every month in the summer.

My brother took me to eat at one of the most well-known restaurants in the area: La Maison VIP. From the outside, it looks a little shady; a place you’d overlook. Although a little nicer, the interior isn’t anything to brag about either with its plain d├ęcor and plastic, disposable tablecloths.

The building in which the restaurant is located in.

But the food...OHMYGOD...the food. So delicious. And so many choices. That is what keeps this place on the radar. The service is also swift and the prices are shockingly cheap. It cost $4.95 per person, and that included a pot of tea, soup, our main course, and fortune cookies. I’m not making it up!

La Maison VIP. Best. Food. Ever.

In all my 44 years of living in Montreal, I’d only gone to Chinatown once sometime in my late teens or early twenties. I didn’t realize what I’d been missing until I visited the area with my brother. Our stop there was short, but next time I’m in Montreal, I’ll make it a point of dropping by for an extended tour.

One of the many shops in the area.

Thanks for coming along today as I share more Montreal memories. Have a lovely Thursday!

32 comments:

  1. Fine photo tour of an interesting neighborhood. Thank you.

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  2. Nice photos . Thanks for sharing . Have a good day !

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  3. Lovely photos, glad you enjoyed Chinatown!

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    1. Thanks, Christine. It was very nice, and I'd like to visit again.

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  4. We obviously don't have them in little cities like mine, but Asian restaurants do fairly well here.

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    1. Asian restaurants are usually pretty popular. The food is often really good.

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  5. Oh my, another fabulous place I need to visit!

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    1. There are so many in this world. All I need is time --- and money!

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  6. I visited Montreal a long time ago with my husband, really love the city.
    Nice photos here of Chinatown, I was to Chinatown in San Francisco a few years ago, wonderful place :)

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    1. You've been to San Francisco! I am envious. I'd love to go there!

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  7. What a cool neighborhood, and the restaurant sounds like a place i'd love! :)

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    1. It really is a cool area of the city. Oh, yes, you'd love that food!

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  8. It's been years since we had a visit to Montreal/Quebec cities. That restaurant does sound good Martha! I haven't had good Chinese food in ages....not too much to choose from here.
    thanks for this tour, it was like being there. And there own hospital? Nice!!

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    1. It's a really interesting area to visit. It used to be much larger in the past. Oh well, at least it's still there. Food was great!

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  9. We love Chinese / Asian anything food!
    We met a lady in Edmonton years ago who owned a restaurant in Montreal.
    At that time we were trying to avoid MSG (1980's) so Alice (her name) said that a lot of people are like that, so they, at the restaurant use sugar as a substitute.
    All these years later we have never eaten at her place and I don't even know the rest.name but do remember this trick.
    Thanks for letting us all know about this place. If, and when we visit Mtl again, we will go!!
    Ron

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    1. That is a really cool tip. I never knew you could use sugar as a substitute. I bet a lot of her customers were happy about that.

      Well, if you ever find yourself in Montreal, you'll know of one good Asian restaurant!

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  10. We have to be a bit adventurous to enjoy something like Chinatown which has some very different things.

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    1. You got it! And I really like being adventurous about stuff like that!

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  11. This looks like a wonderful place to visit. I love how it's so pedestrian friendly. And I'd love to try the food in that restaurant!

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    1. It was a great place to visit. The fact that it's so pedestrian friendly makes it that much more appealing.

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  12. I love your Montreal photos although i left as a child I returned often for family parties or with a boyfriend, and gosh I loved walking ti, wish I had my camera then

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    1. I wish I'd spent more time photographing the area when I was growing up. But back then, I took more pictures of people, which isn't a bad thing, really.

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  13. I love Montreal - we had such a nice visit the last time we were there. Love the university area and the old French quarter ... really fun! We missed this section, but now I'll have a reason to return :) Thanks for the tour!

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    1. It's a nice city to tour. There are so many things to see and do. I don't want to live there, but I enjoy visiting.

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  14. $4.95 per person? Holy moly! Get me to Montreal STAT!

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    1. I know...crazy, right? In the year 2014.

      So now I have one more reason to visit more often!

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  15. Great post, Martha! I have been to VIP and it's awesome. We also like Ruby Rouge for authentic dim sum. I sure miss that here in RI.

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    1. The food was amazing at VIP. I'll keep in mind Ruby Rouge next time I visit. I'll ask my brother if he's been there, or heard of it. And maybe we'll pop in.

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