By Glenn J. Nashen.
When it comes to a Vietnamese dining-out experience in Montreal look no further than the Tran Family. Following up on our recent sensational night out at the newly launched Hang Bar in Old Montreal, Judy and I, along with our friends Dana and Jeff accepted an invitation to Marilyn Tran’s diner in St. Henri, aptly named Tran Cantine. With a constant flow of diners taking out or grabbing a seat we had a completely new experience in traditional Vietnamese food.
Marilyn started the Cantine with her husband, Alain, some six years ago. They currently have two locations, in addition to Hang. You could say that cooking and serving delicious food is a big part of Marilyn and her family’s experiences. Marilyn tells us that she pretty much grew up in her parent’s kitchen with an endless line of regular customers, friends and family. Basically, it’s part of her DNA. What’s more, “Alain loved watching my parents cook,” Marilyn confessed. “He jumped in to help and he never left.”
The menu is up on the wall and is relatively simple. We started off on Spring Rolls with shrimp and chicken, topped with cilantro. Judy enjoyed the vegetarian option, her rolls being fried. Next, we all licked our lips (not each other’s!) on soy and bean curd wrapped in banana leaf with homemade mayonnaise and peanut sauce. So savoury! As a side dish, Jeff and I snacked on shrimp chips, delicately crispy, and made with three herbs.
My main dish consisted of rare beef salad and we all gave a thumbs up to the Bahn Mi, incredibly silky baguettes with pickled carrot and daikon radish, cucumber, scallion, cilantro, soya sauce and Vietnamese homemade mayonnaise. I ordered the grilled pork Bahn Mi. Jeff had the chicken.
Next up, Jeff and I could not resist the offer of grilled pork with vermicelli in the fish sauce while Judy and Dana sank into giant bowls of Pho, Vietnamese soup made out of chicken or vegetable broth served with fresh rice noodles, onion, cilantro and scallion with a side of beans sprouts, basil leaves and lime. Marilyn explained that her team makes 150 litres of broth at one of their other locations and they transfer the huge container daily to all locations. The girls also dug into the homemade soybean curd in vermicelli salad.
Marilyn let us in on one secret,” It’s all about the herbs.” As to the details of the sauces and recipes her lips were sealed tight. You’ll just have to try it for yourself.
Marilyn and Alain wanted to offer a healthy, simple, quick, quality meal. They came up with a short menu and described Cantine as, “a different way of serving Vietnamese cuisine.” They’ve been going strong here ever since they opened.
The Tran Family of restaurants is welcoming and focused on quality. They clearly prioritize customer service and do a fantastic job at that, too is evident. Our visit will only be the first of many.
While they are mainly a take-out location with diners walking in or calling ahead, they also offer Uber Eats and SkipThe Dishes options. Tran Cantine also caters to nearby offices and film sets, feeding dozens of people at a time. Of course, there are a few tables and several stools for those choosing to eat in. Be sure to pick up a bag of crispy Asian coconut rolls for a dessert snack!
Tran Cantine is located at 4690 Notre Dame-West in St. Henri, at the corner of Courcelle Street. They open at 9:30 AM and close nightly at 8:00 PM and on Sundays. There is also a location at 7061 Alexandra Street. Call 514-379-4690 or look them up online, Facebook or Instagram.