Le cristal chinois (BBQ) 水天一色/燒臘

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Le cristal chinois 燒臘/水天一色

A new shop for siu mei, or siu lap, opened in the past couple of weeks. It’s called Le cristal chinois (水天一色 or literally “water sky one color”, aka the horizon), which is also the same name as the restaurant in the same building (presumably the same management).

This sort of Cantonese-style BBQ (the only sort, really) is popular in Chinatowns across the world, with its BBQ pork (char siu/叉燒), roasted duck (siu aap/燒鴨), white cut chicken (bak chit gaai/白切雞) and, my favourite, roasted pork (siu yok/燒肉, literally roasted meat, as if it were pig equaled default meat).

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The counter at cristal chinois

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Full on pork. Ask for the ribs part, if you can!

Despite raving regularly about Chinese food in Montreal and elsewhere over the years, Comme les Chinois has never written about siu mei. Siu mei is probably something just so default, so easy to pass over: my family has always ordered it for takeout when we were young and I would buy it on my way home when I didn’t have time to cook.

When I moved to Hong Kong four years ago, I would be constantly enthused to find it anywhere I go, including at the university cafeteria (at ridiculously low prices too — CA$3 for a rice and meat lunch). It’s simple, cheap and nourishing. And tasty. What more can you ask?

In Montreal, there aren’t so many takeout places anymore. In Chinatown, you got the one up on St-Laurent on the east side of the street, north of de la Gauchetière, and in the mall with the Kam Fung, across Dobe & Andy. Restaurant Hong Kong used to be the classic place for siu mei, but their counter shrank to the point that I wonder whether they still make their own. There may be some other places on de la Gauchetière on the pedestrian stretch, and I think Le rubis rouge restaurant has a stand attached.

However, the most prized item, the rice and meat (and double kinds/雙拼) lunch box, is a rarity and not frequently offered for takeout.

It’s hearty chunks of meat for $6 a box, with a side of Chinese cabbage, and $7 if you take a double kinds of meat of your choice. Too bad there isn’t enough volume to do suckling pig “on-demand” (as far as I know, in Montreal it’s only available as pre-order for takeout or in restaurants).

You can get the rice and meat combo at Restaurant Hong Kong for about the same price across the street, but it just isn’t the same in terms of your experience (no counter to check them meats out). Probably also at other siu mei places across town if they have warm rice on hand.

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The menu and market prices

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My double kinds of meat: roasted duck and roasted pork

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