The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 01.14.02


Le Palais Imperial: no limits here

Szechuan and Thai dishes are increasingly popular and diners with a penchant for tasting a large variety of dishes will be pleased to know that there is a place to indulge on the West Island.

Le Palais Imperial offers a wide selection of Asian delights served up in an atmosphere of warmth and contentment. Waiters in black ties cater to eaters in an elegant setting. White linen adorns each table and soft paintings of Japanese Koi and goldfish bring good luck and promise good things to come. While the setting seems formal at first, a casual atmosphere prevails. Potential visitors should not be scared off by this attention to service, as this place is definitely a good arena for a family meal or casual night among friends. Here's why.

This restaurant has an extensive sampling menu from which patrons can taste a lot of dishes for one fixed price. In fact, a full fifty-three items are on the tasting menu. My partner and I chose this route as it is obviously good value at twenty dollars a person. Kids between the ages of four and twelve are half price.

The idea is simple. Chose as many items as you like from the array of appetizers, soups and main dishes. Eat as much as you want and order again if you like. Small portions of delightful specialties abound and if you didn't get to try something on the first round, order it the next round.

We did just that. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my hot and sour soup was just the right marriage of heat and spice. Often this soup is tamed for North American palates. Thankfully, it lived up to its name. The wonton soup proved worthy and substantial.

We started our little tasting tour of the orient with five simple classics. Hunan dumplings, shrimp toast, spicy spareribs, Beijing-style lamb, and a Thai salad. All were good and we particularly liked the Beijing lamb. Small nuggets of succulent five-spiced and crispy-sweet tenderness were consumed quickly. The shrimp toast was crispy and non-greasy while the dumplings were laden with pork and a good peanut sauce.

The Thai salad consists of crunchy bean sprouts and slivered veggies and a good dressing of fish sauce and lime. Slightly sweet, this salad was described by our waiter as "something you will either love or hate." We loved it and found it helped cleanse our palates between bites of spicy meat.

Main selections were next and we had chosen a variety of dishes from all food groups. Chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, and seafood all found their way to our table. Shrimps in lobster sauce as well as shrimps Sambal provided us with plump and juicy satisfaction. Four healthy large ones per plate, I deemed the Sambal shrimps as my favorite dish of the evening. A spicy coconut sauce made this dish memorable.

Large thin slices of beef made their way into a black bean sauce, as did slices of pork in a Thai sauce. Crunchy bamboo shoots accented cashews with our chicken. All were good and different enough that I knew the cook was adept at both Thai and Chinese styles of cooking.

When I asked our waiter how many people were in the kitchen, he replied, "Four. Each chef is responsible for different items in order to accommodate the demand for variety and delivery of a large volume of small-portions to each table. The prawns are cooked by one chef as they are delicate and require individual attention."

I found this comforting and his comments confirmed my suspicions of serious talent in the kitchen. The veggies here are cooked just right. Flashed and tossed, they are crunchy and necessary to the experience.

The Mee Goreng noodles are at once chewy and spicy and provide comfort for a cold winter. A simple order of steamed white rice rounded out our meal. I enjoyed a Chinese beer (Tsing Tao), and followed up with a good Chinese tea. Dessert of fresh fruit salad was offered but not sampled and looked very fresh.

There is an a la carte menu to choose from, but I recommend that you sample as we did. This will allow you to taste some things that perhaps you've not tried and gain a little insight into Asian specialties. As my fortune cookie revealed, "Many receive advice, only the wise profit by it."

Le Palais Imperial is located in Kirkland, QC at 120 Du Barry. (Corner St. Charles). RSVP 514.426.3888.