One of my favourite spots in Montreal besides the Chateau at Mont Royal Park is the Botanical Gardens. Since climbing up a mountain and having trouble walking don’t mix very well, we opted for the slightly less strenuous activity, and planned to visit the Gardens. But first it was time to find Lunch! We decided to go to Le Pickup, it was enthusiastically recommended by friends, and it was so out of the way that it seemed to fit with going to the Botanic Gardens. (Which is also out of the way, but easy enough to get to.)
Deppaneur Le Pickup (7032 Rue Waverly, Montreal, QC – Near De Castelnau Metro) is in the middle of a residential area (and in Le Petite Italie/Little Italy), and as one Montreal friend put it “at the outskirts of town.” I’m not really sure if it’s truly at the outskirts of town or what that means to a Montrealer, but I do know that the metro ride out there (to De Castelnau station) took a lot longer than any of my other trips around the city have.
It’s half convenience store (and hey, that’s what “deppaneur” means), half diner-style sandwich stop (I guess that’s the Le Pickup part). They serve as an occasional event venue and the convenience store part has a lot of organic options in addition to the usual deppaneur fare. There is one lovely vegetarian item on their sandwich board menu that I could see, but it’s not vegan as is.
The Vege Faux Pulled Porc sandwich is made with the magic of tofu skin, vinegar coleslaw, and garlic mayo (hey that’s the not-vegan part.) I asked all these questions after ordering and was informed the proper way to order “next time” was to mention all of these modifications while ordering. I love helpful advice like that (p.s. that’s sarcasm), but now you know, order the sandwich without mayo. Other than stating the obvious, the service was fine.
We took our number and found seats outside. The picnic tables and diner tables and tables for two were nearly all filled with happy munching people, or people waiting for food. They would eventually bring out a pair of impressive sandwiches, layered spicy saucy tofu skin, and coleslaw on a crunchy kaiser roll. This was a fantastic sandwich, and if I hadn’t been feeling so petulant about being told how to order, I probably would have picked up another two for the road. Oh well.
Since we didn’t grab extra snacks from Le Pickup, we head over to le Petite Italie to see what snacky foods we could find to eat later. So after collecting a stockpile of Fontaine Santé seven pepper hummus (delicious, and likely familiar to those in Toronto), house made spicy as heck arrabiata sauce, soleil pesto (made with sun-dried tomatos), and a giant bag of Afghan bread. Then it was off to Jardin Botanique. (4101, rue Sherbrooke Est, Montreal, QC – Nearest Metro(s): Viau or Pie-IX – Getting There Info)
It’s easy to spend hours and hours at the gardens, looking through the different pavilions, taking advantage of the events, displays and general relaxed ambiance was a lovely activity for a Sunday afternoon. Depending on your budget (adult entrance to the gardens in the high season is 16.50 per person), even the entrance way (the free one) is full of places to sit, and you’d still be surrounded by flowers, plant-life, and water fountains. We went in, and walked around for a few hours.
After the gardens we made dinner plans for ChuChai. There are two options right next to one another, Chuchai, a sit down, fine-dining experience or Chuch, the BYOB, cheaper, sometimes microwaved version of Chuchai. Well, we opted for the ChuChai experience and I’m glad we did. It was a rainy day, but the patio was well covered and it was nice to get the fresh air.
ChuChai (4088 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, QC – Nearest Metro: Mont-Royal) is an award winning Thai style restaurant with a relaxed but upscale atmosphere. Service was quick and friendly, some of the waitstaff seemed to refuse to speak English (and I was simultaneously refusing to speak French on this trip), but when in Montreal, c’est la vie. I had taken a peek at the menu on the website (tip: go to the French side, because the English side is “Online Soon”, the menu is in both languages. Direct Link)
The menu is extensive, and you have the option of as many mock meats as you can handle, as well as different curries, soups, and salads. We had to (really) order the award winning Miam Kram, a five flavour finger food bite of magic. I would go to ChuChai again, solely to eat this appetizer again. The fusion of flavours was incredible. A mix of grated coconut, ginger, and spices on top of a betel leaf. Fold it, then eat it and let the flavours play around on your tongue.
Next we ordered the breaded crispy mushroom in a sweet and spicy sauce. Not really what I was expecting, but not bad. It could have been expectations not meeting reality, but I found my dish a bit too sweet, and not crispy enough.
By the time we received our entrees it had gotten a bit dark outside (unsurprising since it was definitely a late dinner), so the pictures are not quite what I’d like them to be.
We ordered the massuman curry which was sweet, nutty and spicy with a hint of lemongrass. The last time I had this type of curry it was at Keo’s Kitchen in Saskatoon, so drawing on nostalgia, I ordered it. I liked that it didn’t center around tofu or a mock meat, but instead was a vegetable heavy dish. The sauce was quite light, but filled with vegetables that are perfect as a flavour conveyance (like broccoli)!
We also ordered the veggie duck (since someone on foursquare was really jazzed about it.) The texture was really interesting. Every time I try mock veggie duck, I’m always impressed in the different directions restaurants go, but yet the premise is usually the same. In this case, the duck was saucy, with loops of wrapped tofu skin. The outside was slightly crispy and the inside was tender, with a salty lightly sweet texture and a pleasant fatty quality to it. It came with a colourful side salad.
Skipping dessert at ChuChai was hard, but feeling so comfortably full after our meal, I didn’t even want to see the dessert menu, but it was necessary since we planned on going to Cremiere MeuMeu for one final soy ice cream snack.
Then it was time to go back to our hotel and get ready for the afternoon train ride home.
Au Revoir Montreal! À la prochaine!