Saint-Laurent Boulevard's downfall over the last decade saw a wave of chefs and restaurateurs close up shop and relocate looking for more favorable conditions. Riding that wave in 2013 were the people behind Ginger, for long The Main's best kept secret and trendy pre-party spot. A few months later in early 2014, the boys resurfaced with Cho, taking over Caffe Mariani's place in burgeoning Saint-Henri.
As with Ginger, Cho is not your typical, authentic Asian eatery. The décor is more modern than exotic, while the vibe is young and hip; although things were quiet on this weekday night (our second time here). As both terraces on hand were a no-go due to the cool spring evening outside, we gravitated towards the bar area and grabbed a couple stools beneath the gorgeous, "vintage" tin ceiling.
tagged: SIT AT THE BAR
The pan-Asian menu covers several of the continent's eastern countries, with a focus on China, Korea and Japan. Everything is served tapas style, with several dishes introducing foreign elements such as maple syrup, quinoa and aioli; making this a "fusion" restaurant. Rounding off the nosh menu is a list of spirits and signature cocktails which we had to sample; we were perched on the bar after all…
"vodka, Ardberg, Cho bloody mix, garnished with cucumber, pickled veg, kimchi on a rice cracker". There's no better way to start an evening than with a bloody Caesar, especially this one! The kimchi and rice cracker gave this Canadian cocktail an Asian twist, which was spicy and neither thick nor watery.
"vodka, St-Germain & tea syrup mixed with lime & cranberry juice". This was more or less a classic cosmopolitan; the use of St-Germain (a French elderflower liqueur) and tea syrup went mostly unnoticed.
"sautéed calamari, onions, red peppers & green beans in a Gochujang sauce with roasted tomato & pepper salsa". The veggies were perfectly sautéed, retaining a little crunch which worked well against the pungent spicy sauce. Alas the calamari was too rubbery; otherwise this would've scored high.
"topped with a maple-togarashi reduction & wasabi mayo, garnished with green onions & sesame seeds". The taro was sweet and mildly nutty (a healthy alternative to greasy spuds), and the mayo was a little too subtle. We would have liked more punch from that spicy maple reduction though.
"two steamed homemade bao buns garnished with mixed greens, sautéed red peppers, coriander, pickled veg, green onions & our spicy aioli". The buns were moist, fluffy and not sticky, with the aioli lending a little kick. Everything else was on the bland side; and at $12 for two bites this was a jip!
"a blend of lobster & tempura, chives, sesame seeds & our spicy aioli, mounted on 2 lime halves & served with a soy dipping sauce". This was a total miss for us. The lobster was chopped so small it got lost, and the tempura crumbles were soggy. The whole thing just tasted oniony.
"grilled Korean beef short ribs, served with kimchi fried rice, charred savoy cabbage, pickled vegetables & a sake-soy glaze". The thinly sliced ribs were grilled to perfection, and that sweet salty glaze was finger licking good. On the other hand, the rice was mushy and could've used more kimchi.
When dining barside in a calm neighborhood setting, we normally look for some interaction from the staff. The man/woman duet on duty tonight did a good job of serving us as well as keeping things fun with conversation. We even got a round of shots on the house at the end of everyone's shift; we felt very welcome.
tagged: WE AIM TO PLEASE
To conclude, although some of the food at Cho lacks a little oomph, the fusion concept is fun and the plates are nicely-presented. Save for the recent boom in izakayas and taquerias, Montreal is still lacking in happening "ethnic" eateries. In that respect, we applaud Cho for its original proposition. If like us, you miss the aforementioned Ginger, head over to Saint-Henri and getcho fix too!
Price per person: $29.20
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.