Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
While we can safely assume that the restaurant industry has recovered since the near-death it experienced over the last three years, a couple of trends seem to loom over this rebirth. At the upper end of the scale, much of the newcomers consist of established names adding to their portfolios.
A5 Hospitality launched NOMI while both of Pamika and India Rosa unveiled new locations, to name a few. The opposite end is marked by a plethora of new fast-casual concepts such as halal burger joints by B12, Yumi and Allons; "French Tacos" – shudder – by Mont Tacos and Snatch; and an unending supply of fried chicken by Olivia's, Freakin' and Calě.
Far from the formulaic fast-food operations of yore, these babies are raising the bar for this category while remaining franchise ready. Just last week, a new contender entered this space with a very modern take on Pan-Asian cuisine; and lucky for me, I was invited to try it out for lunch on this frigid Saturday.
tagged: WEEKEND LUNCH
With barely a few days under its belt, Shifu is already active with delivery apps. While my family walked into an empty-ish space, there was no shortage of delivery drivers dropping in to pick up orders throughout our visit. Sharing its ownership with Laval hotspot Gon Bui, Shifu is equally captivating on the eyes.
The interior design is simple in of itself, but the towering ceiling and branding are noteworthy. Orange and green dominate throughout the interior and brand identity as well as the containers in which food is served. Each dish comes in its own customized receptacle boasting a unique design.
Finally, the counter is surrounded by shelves carrying essential Asian snacks such as Pocky sticks, gummies, chips and flavoured nuts. I am normally a sucker for this stuff, but I was impressed with my willpower when I declined the owner's offer to pick up a few items to take home.
tagged: BRING THE KIDS
While waiting for our food to come out, we got to sip on some of the exotic sodas and juices on offer. I particularly enjoyed the Genki Forest flavoured sparkling water and Lotte Milkis milk/yogurt soda. They may contain no sugar or calories, but they pack a ton of refreshing, fizzy deliciousness.
The menu lists two dozen trios consisting of a drink, uber-crispy spring rolls and a main dish of choice. Starters/sides comprise a couple of soups and a handful of dumplings, some not listed on the overhead menu. Mains are clustered around stir-fries, noodles and vegetarian dishes mostly of Chinese inspiration with a couple of Pan-Asian outliers.
The first slurp of hot and sour soup reveals you are not dealing with "food court" caliber dining. The one here is thick, extra flavorful and quite generous considering the $5 price tag. The uplevelling does not stop here: the trios of dumplings are pure fun – coconut curry fish balls anyone? – and the main dishes are on par with what you can expect at a higher-end restaurant.
My udon noodles were exquisitely chewy and served with tender slices of beef, while my son's chow mein was packed with crunchy veggies and loaded with supple shrimp. Add to that mammoth portions – we had enough for dinner that night – at a fair price – $18-$20 for the trio – and you have a winning formula!
tagged: GREAT VALUE LOOSEN YOUR BELT
When asked about the new venture's name, the owner explained that shifu means "master" in Mandarin. I can get on board with this claim: the food here screams more "chef driven" than "mass made". But Shifu's reinterpretation of what fast casual can be does not stop there; the folks here are also pursuing sustainability.
Literally everything put forth is compostable, from the containers and napkins to the utensils and chopsticks. This rare combination of deliciousness and value along with the branding and mission statement make of Shifu not just a great Chinese concept, but a great concept period.
Price per person: $18.75
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.