By Mike Cohen
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, Restaurant Sho-dan on Metcalfe Street closed its doors like others in the industry. Now this place is traditionally packed for lunch and dinner during regular operating hours, so for charismatic owner Chinh Pham (best known as Romeo), it was a bitter pill to swallow.
Because restaurants like Sho-dan have such a loyal following, clients made it clear to Romeo that his superb cuisine was dearly missed. So, in mid-May, he reopened for take-out and delivery via Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats. On June 25 the dining room will reopen, with the new conditions set forth by the Quebec government. For starters, they will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 pm to 10 pm. (4 pm for take-out and delivery).
“We have a big place,” said Romeo, “so we will be able to set up the restaurant in a completely safe way.”
All surfaces will be disinfected before and after every customer. Employees will wear masks, social distancing measures respected and single-use paper menus used. “Make this your first official post-confinement outing and book a table now!” says Romeo.
Spread over two floors, with capacity for 180 to dine, Sho-dan does not have a terrace but Romeo will take advantage of the loosening of regulations this summer and add some tables with umbrellas in the front. “We hope to welcome many people downtown this summer,” Romeo said.
The take-out and delivery service has always been popular. Romeo recognizes that many clients will want to stick with that option. My family and I first experienced Sho-dan last summer. We actually loved the ambiance. We tried to go no nights when Romeo was there for he typically goes from table to table and makes timely suggestions from the menu.
So we were delighted to opt for the take-out route, for which Sho-dan is uniquely situated and has a special menu on its website. You merely need to pull up in front, where there are many available spots, call and someone will place the entire order in your trunk or back seat. Inside all staff was wearing full protective gear, including Chef Romeo.
The trip from downtown back to my house in Côte Saint-Luc was a mere 20 minutes. Everything was packaged so beautifully. We placed all of the plastic containers on the dining room table and prepared ourselves for a delicious meal. It could not have been fresher had we eaten it at the restaurant.
As usual, we started off and began by sharing a few appetizers: the Haru Maki (spring rolls); and the gyoza (Japanese dumplings filled with a mix of seasoned chicken and cabbage, served with soy-vinegar sauce) and simply sensational sushi pizza.
Next, we turned to some of the specialties, designed mainly Romeo. The different combinations of flavours are unique to this restaurant and will be sure to make you live the “Sho-dan” experience.
Next, it was on to the main course. First on our list remains the house specialty, the Besame Mucho (spicy tuna, shrimps, avocado and tempura flakes rolled in soya paper). Next was the Explosion (fresh yellowtail served with fresh ginger, green onions and ponzu sauce) followed by the Phoenix (crabsticks, avocado, mango and fried onions rolled in soya paper topped with red tuna), the Fuji (Red spicy tuna, jalapeno, shrimp tempura, rice, rolled in soya paper) and the Sunflower (lightly fried salmon with avocado and tobiko rolled in soya paper).
We had 12 pieces left to enjoy for lunch the following day.
When you dine at the restaurant make sure to try their dessert special: a plate consisting of two sorbets, a large piece of chocolate cake and a mouthwatering taste of cheesecake. The restaurant offers Nao teas. A Canadian company, based in Quebec City, Nao consists of a variety of organic infusions. A box is delivered to the table. Open it up and you will be able to choose from a nice variety of selections. They are described in writing and by the amount of caffeine included. You can smell the different small containers to clinch your choice.
Sho-Dan’s menu offers a perfect balance between intense and subtle flavours, artfully blending Japanese classics with original house specialties. Dishes such as lightly flambéed fresh yellowtail served with ponzu sauce and sesame seeds, or the Romeo and Juliette sushi roll featuring shrimp, blueberries, pineapple and strawberries will surely leave you wanting for more. There is a wide selection of à la carte dishes, many tending towards fusion cuisine, and the wine list offers excellent vintages to pair with Asian flavours.
The word “Sho-dan” has a double meaning in Japanese. The first meaning is “welcome home” and it also refers to the first degree black belt in martial arts. This perfectly captures Sho-dan’s philosophy: true excellence combined with the feeling of being welcomed home.