Last week, I gave a brief introduction to the neighborhood in Montreal where I live: Verdun. Since I deliberately kept this article short and focused on some of the odd elements of my ‘hood, this week I’m going to give you some suggestions on where to eat in Verdun—one of my favorite pastimes!
4701 Wellington (corner of 2nd Avenue in Verdun)
Open Tues-Fri 11AM-10PM, Sat/Sun noon-10PM, closed Mondays
If you’re visiting Verdun, the number one restaurant you MUST visit is Villa Wellington (except on a Monday, when they’re closed). Otherwise, you’re clearly the type of person who doesn’t know how to have fun or enjoy himself at all.
For starters, Villa Wellington is a Peruvian restaurant, which is something of a rarity in Montreal. The owners speak mostly French and Spanish, so if your main language is English (like me), you will undoubtedly find yourself communicating in a series of inventive gestures, broken Franglais, whatever Spanish you might know from Sesame Street, and lots of pointing at tables around you where delicious mountains of food are being devoured by ecstatic diners.
The menu consists of quite a number of seafood dishes, including a classic ceviche as well as some delectable calamari and shrimp options, but for the seafood haters, there’s also plenty of meat. Vegetarian options are limited, but if you like meat, this place is heaven. You can smell the grill from blocks away, and even if you’re just passing by on the street, your mouth will be watering. Seriously, it’s that good.
My husband and I love this place, and we usually end up ordering either the Coriander Chicken or Beef. Both are excellent, and are basically a Peruvian stew featuring chicken, potatoes, peas and carrots in an amazing cilantro-y sauce. I can’t remember the name of the other dish we order, but it’s a variation on the theme, but with a heaping helping of white beans on the side. Yum!
The portions here are huge, and the prices are very reasonable. If you have room after their homemade bread and enormous entrees, you should definitely try the crème caramel or flan for dessert. Perfection.
Pho Bac No. 1
Lunch served from 11 AM to 3 PM, dinner from 5 PM to 10 PM, free delivery available
Right next door to Villa Wellington you’ll find Pho Bac No. 1, serving up Vietnamese cuisine in a BYOB casual restaurant. This place is equally affordable, with more emphasis on grilled meats (vegetarians are apparently still viewed with suspicion here in Verdun), and a nice simple menu.
Typically, my husband and I like to order the Combo F, which consists of a small house soup (a lovely fragrent cilantro broth with vermicelli, pork and green onions), fried Imperial roll, small salad and an arrangement of three different grilled meats (chicken, beef and shrimp) spread across a bed of vermicelli noodles (or rice, if you prefer). If you dine in, you’ll also get a cup of coffee or tea included at the end of your meal.
As they mention pho in the name of the restaurant, it’s funny that I’ve never tried any pho dishes here, but I’ve heard that their Tonkinese soups are quite delicious. I’ve also tried their Chicken and Crispy Spinach with Peanut Sauce, which it was quite tasty, with some surprising cauliflower mixed in with the chicken here and there. The Shrimp & Chicken Sauté With Vegetables is also quite good, with plenty of different kinds of veggies, if you’re looking for a more pan-Asian type of dish.
Pho Bac is definitely #1 in my book, especially on nights when we don’t feel like cooking, as they offer free fast delivery. Super sweet!
Closed Mondays, open Tues-Wed & Sat-Sun 4-9PM, Thurs-Fri noon-9PM
Another delicious restaurant conveniently located on Wellington (much further east of Villa Wellington and Pho Bac No. 1) is the amazing sushi restaurant Aka-Fuji, which is officially my favorite sushi place in all of Montreal.
My husband and I first decided to visit Aka-Fuji after reading my fellow Hour writer Joshua Karpati’s positive review of the place. As he put it, “downtown’s loss is Verdun’s gain,” and since we’re always on the look-out for good restos in the ‘hood, we had to check it out, and were totally impressed with the meal, presentation and service. The pricetag wasn’t bad, either!
To start, we were brought a dish of wasabi peas as an appetizer. We also ordered saké, so they let us choose our cups, and we began drinking as they prepared our tempura. There’s a medium and a large tempura plate, and we opted for the smaller one, which came with four shrimp and a variety of deep-fried veggies. As Karpati says in his review, it’s a very light batter and not the super greasy/salty concoction typically associated with tempura. The shrimp were perfect, and although I burned myself on the veggies, I would give them a thumbs up as well.
Next up we went straight to the sushi. Unfortunately, they were out of the ingredients for the Spider variety (soft shell crab, avocado, bonito flakes, sea smelt roe, mayo), so we ended up going for the Spicy California instead. We also opted for some of the Spicy Hotate (scallop) and the Kara-Age (fried chicken, crab stick, omelette, cucumber, sea smelt roe, mayo), all of which were tasty, but I would definitely go for a few without mayo next time (oops!). The Aka-Fuji sounded delicious to me, but my husband isn’t a big fan of either salmon or eel (the ingredients are listed as shrimp, omelette, crab stick, grilled eel, salmon roe, squid, scallop, cucumber, Japanese squash, and lettuce, and I wonder how they can cram it all in!), so next time I may have to order them for myself and let him pick something else.
There’s plenty of sushi selection at this intimate restaurant, without being overwhelming as some places are, plus there are several combo suggestions for those who aren’t sure what to choose. The sushi was very fresh, and you can watch the chef in action at the counter if you’re interested. Dinner and a show!
Gastronomie le Naked Lunch
Open for lunch Tues-Sunday 11 AM-9 PM, closed Mondays
For those looking for a gourmet experience, and who are willing to pay a bit more for their meal, I would definitely recommend Naked Lunch. Named after the William S. Burroughs novel, Naked Lunch is a casual, upscale French bistro and wine bar with a rotating menu. If you’re in the mood to grab your food to go, they also offer a wide variety of delicious canned and take-out items, like a duck “smoked meat” sandwich and Thai coconut soup. Sample menu items usually include a modern take on standard French classics, such as coq-au-vin, and Asian influences like the aforementioned Thai coconut soup.
You can also find Naked Lunch’s canned goods in grocery stores throughout Montreal, so you don’t necessarily have to come to Verdun to get a taste of their delicious menu items. Check their website for more info on where to get the goods.
Les Délice de l’Ile Maurice
Closed Sunday and Monday, open Tues-Sat 5-10 PM
For the truly adventurous, I will end this list with what has to be one of the quirkiest BYOB restaurants in Verdun: Les Délice de l’Ile Maurice. Montreal Chowhounders have posted endless raves (and a few rants) about the colorful chef/owner, Sylvester, who will surprise and delight you both with his food and his unusual attitudes. Apparently he’s been known to kick people out of the restaurant for insulting him (by inquiring about the size of his shrimp, or asking to change tables), as well as for other minor offenses, so it’s best to stay on his good side if you intend to actually eat here.
Word on the street is that this is the place to go if you really want to eat, and Friday and Saturdays are the best nights to check it out. The menu varies, and Sylvester will ask what you’re interested in, basing your meal on what he has in the kitchen and a few words from you. If you’ve got an open mind, an interest in Mauritian cuisine, and an adventurous spirit, this is definitely the place to be.
For more info on great places to eat in Verdun, be sure to check out my cheap-eats resto reviews at Shoestring Montreal!