Restaurant Foo Lam, a dim sum joint away from Chinatown
For those who live north of the Metropolitan, Chinatown’s awfully far to go for a dim sum fix. Especially if afterwards you plan to poke around Marché Central or catch a flick at Cinema Guzzo.
No doubt the owners of Foo Lam considered that when they set up shop in Ahuntsic. The second-floor restaurant is filled with daylight and notably clean ("This is like Chinatown without the 50-year-old carpets," one pal said). Windows offer a view of St-Joseph’s Oratory and big box stores. The holy Sunday mix of sacrosanct communion and secular consumption is also on show inside, thanks to TV screens scattered about the room. A Catholic mass was on one, while a home shopping channel offered goods in Vietnamese on another.
The usual trolleys were being pushed about. Most of the servers spoke good English, which helped with some explanations. The clientele was mostly Asian, and yes, as a Northern Euro type, I notice that when I enter a dim sum joint, hoping it heralds a certain quality (though my Italian friend reminded me of the mediocre red-sauce restaurants her fellow nationals go to).
The first dishes did not augur well. Fried taro root with ferocious crispy wisps impressed us with its starchiness rather than flavour. Clams in black bean sauce tasted overmuch of iodine, the texture of some fried shrimp wasn’t quite right. Shrimp in wide rice wrappers (called cheong fun) were fresh, but the wrappers too thick and not so fun after all.
Some items were competent enough. Crispy fried squid legs were oily but fresh (ignore the out-of-place sweet sauce they give with it, use hot sauce instead). Baby squids were tender but one-dimensional.
The dumplings perked us all up. A seafood and leafy green one had me wishing we’d ordered more, a shrimp and scallop combination was also quite fine. A plain shrimp dumpling had snap and fresh taste, needing just a bit of soy to elevate it. A peanut and pork dumpling had a spicy kick at the end.
There were other dim sum familiars going by, such as congee, Chinese broccoli, some appealing looking shrimp and fried peppers and eggplant, but we were full by then.
But not too full for the perfect meal finisher. A bowl of slips of soft tofu with sweet ginger syrup spooned on top was bright on the palate and not at all cloying. A good end. As we left, the lineup for tables stretched down the stairs, probably mostly Sunday shoppers drawn by the convenience and decent, though not stellar, food.
Restaurant Foo Lam
9394 L’Acadie, 514-383-7878
Dim sum: $10-$15 a head