What secret treasures await when a new restaurant opens? One can only imagine, until being lucky enough to be exposed to the sights, smells and tastes of Restaurant Hang. Such was the experience on a recent Thursday night when my wife and I made reservations at what has been billed as the “first haute cuisine Vietnamese restaurant” in Montreal.
Sure, our city has plenty of upscale trendy places, but nothing quite like this new concept in Asian fine dining. It tantalized all of our senses, from the moment we walked through the doors and took in the sumptuous decor. Hang arrives as the newest restaurant in the renowned hospitality group JEGantic’s portfolio. Vietnamese cuisine will be elevated from its usual humble “mom and pop” eateries to a refined haute cuisine experience that celebrates the unique flavours of the Southeast Asian country. Montrealers will be fittingly welcomed to come “hang” and indulge in a culinary journey that reflects Vietnam’s rich heritage with an innovative spin on favourite dishes.
We were greeted by Joyce Phanekham, the effervescent general manager, who was helpful and attentive to her guests throughout our two-and-a-half-hour dining experience. She promptly introduced us to one of the most personable restauranteurs we have yet to meet, Marylyn Tran. Marylyn teamed up with her husband Alain and the folks from JEGantic to create an experiential and uniquely Asian venue for traditional, authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a class of its own.
And who better to know how to achieve this pinnacle other than the Tran family who already own several restaurants under the Tran Cantine banner? After all, Marylyn was raised in her parent’s kitchen where she acquired her unique taste, over at their St. Denis Street Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Tay Ho. The family started this business back in 1986 and it is still going strong. Indeed, the name Hang is a nod of appreciation to Marylyn’s mom. Marylyn grew up cherishing the culinary and cultural intricacies that captivated their family, friends and clientele and eventually branched out, opening her own chain of traditional Vietnamese restos.
Located between Griffintown and Old Montreal, Hang will surely attract the young in-crowd, as well as tourists seeking a memorable night out on the town.
Marylyn introduced us to her right-hand man, Marco, a knowledgeable and experienced server and cook who took care of us for our date-night. He described in great detail each dish served, with ease and familiarity as though he himself was the chef.
We started out with, what else, Pho Wagyu Consommé, a classic noodle soup that Hang has enhanced with its elaborate preparation: 14 hours of cooking over at Tran Cantine. It had many delicate ingredients including Wagyu beef and fresh rice noodles. The aroma of truffle alone made this a mouth-watering winning choice.
Judy’s Franco-Viet Salmon Tartare tasted “like the ocean.” This dish of salmon was served with old-fashioned mustard, crispy rice, shallots, green onions and long red peppers. My Five-Spiced Buttered Scalloped – Ngo Vi Houng consisted of three pan-fried scallops each nestled in its own Asian soup spoon and bathed in secret fish sauce. They were garnished with crushed nuts and a hint of lemon making them simply perfect.
Judy enjoyed her main course of Vegan Red Curry, a locally sourced seasonal vegetable medley stewed in red curry paste, coconut milk, palm sugar and julienned taro. I literally licked my fingers while eating a homemade order of Banh Mi Foie Gras. Imagine pan-seared foie gras, caramelized onions, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, coriander, and homemade mayo with Hang special sauce on a soft baguette, an ode to Alain’s native city of Paris. It was served on a large banana leaf, and the garnish on all their plates was a work of art. So too was the elegantly designed cutlery.
Joyce describes Hang as a chill environment to linger, drink, talk and share delicious dishes among friends. All the staff were extremely personable, friendly and helpful. The decor features exotic nature elements that mimic the dense greenery of Da Nang’s jungle. The soaring ceilings, leafy chandeliers and striking wood columns add an impressive grandeur to the place. There was a great vibe throughout our evening with lots of smiling, happy young patrons. Indeed, owing to the immersive bar environment diners must be 18 or older at Hang.
Finally, our dessert was served. Gateau au Pandan was quite distinct and attractive but we both decided that the Creamy Coconut Flan with Banana was the clear winner.
Hang has a flair for mixology. From our opening round of shots to our cocktails, and mocktails and ending with a Vietnamese Coffee Martini, they are pros at presentation, taste and hospitality.
Marylyn and her crew may be new to the high-end market but the high-end market is also new to Vietnamese cuisine. They are truly passionate about their mission and are on a winning track. Our experience was delightful and our evening was enriched by their warm and hospitable demeanour. We felt like we were hanging out (no pun intended) with friends and family around an exquisitely prepared table of outstanding cultural cuisine. Who could ask for more?
Hang is poised to become Montreal’s new must-visit dining destination. It is located at 686 Notre Dame Ouest in Old Montreal, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 5:00 p.m. Visit hangbar.ca or call 514 910-2227.