Good news for Montreal restaurants: An opening, a change, a pop-up event

As restaurants prepare for imminent reopening news, three local spots are making moves forward.

A round-up of good news for Montreal restaurants, specifically an opening, a change of name and focus and an upcoming pop-up event.

Touk’s one-year anniversary

Montreal restaurants Touk
Noodles at Touk (Good news for Montreal restaurants)

Touk, last summer’s curbside-Cambodian hit by Chef Chanthy Yen, is celebrating its one-year anniversary at the end of the month. The project, which began as a pandemic pivot for Old Montreal’s Parliament Pub, made waves in the industry, leading Yen to be featured in Bon Appétit magazine, earn a voting spot for Canada’s Top 100 restaurants and garner a book deal. Touk is one of the few genuinely uplifting stories that has come out of the restaurant industry since the pandemic began. 

On May 22 and 23, in celebration of their anniversary, Touk will be serving two Cambodian food stall classics out of Parliament’s side door on St-Pierre. For $10 a pop, you’ll have the choice of Nom Banh Chok, a cool, fish-based noodle soup, or Mee Prahok Ktiss noodles, which Yen describes as being similar to Sichuan Dan Dan noodles but spiked with bold Mekong flavours. If you’re after something sweet, Yen will also be making a limited number of fresh doughnuts served with coconut ice cream and condensed milk. As per usual, Yen’s food is vibrant and served in generous portions — “bring your appetite” he warns. Doors open at 11 a.m. and they’ll be serving until they’re sold out — but get there early, Yen only plans to make about 100 bowls a day so you can expect Touk to be sold out well before the sun goes down. 

Darna Bistroquet becomes Darna Cantine

Montreal restaurants Darna Cantine
Boîte Kémia from Cantine Darna (Good news for Montreal restaurants)

Morrocan bistroquet Darna is taking on a new identity as the summer approaches, leaving behind the bistro format and adopting a more take-out friendly concept. Generosity, conviviality and shareability are at the core of the new format, which aims to offer uncomplicated, traditional Moroccan dishes perfectly adapted for a picnic in the park. Following last year’s success, Darna Cantine will continue offering delivery directly to Montreal’s 10 biggest parks, including Parc Jarry, Parc Laurier, Parc Beaubien and Parc Jeanne-Mance, among others. This change also marks the return of Darna’s well-loved Kémias boxes, which include 3, 5, or 8 (depending on your appetite) salads and dips served with the sensationally delicious cumin-spiced Rghaif flat-bread. 

Aside from Darna’s excellent salads, the menu features a selection of sandwiches like a Boucherie Dans la Côte merguez wrap or a chakchouka sandwich complete with a soft boiled egg. For something a bit easier to share, you might opt for the Tajine Combo, which is served with your choice of crispy-skinned saffron and ginger chicken, or braised lamb collar with cinnamon and turmeric. Add a ready-to-drink cocktail or a bottle of natural wine from the short and sweet list and you’ve got yourself one hell of a day in the park. 

Pichai is officially open

Montreal restaurants Pichai
Jesse Mulder / Pichai (Good news for Montreal restaurants)

The long, like really long-awaited opening of Pumpui sister restaurant Pichai has finally arrived. After over a year of delay, the three Jesses (Mulder, Massumi and Grasso), along with longtime partner Xavier Cloutier, new co-owners Chita Phonmavongxay (of Thammada) and Kong Han (of Épicerie Hong Hour) are ready to welcome guests to their beautifully designed space in Plaza St-Hubert. 

Dine-in, for now, is still off-limits but through their take-out format guests will be able to get a sense of how Pichai differs from their Beaubien-based curry shop. Focusing on more refined, more elaborate Thai cooking, Pichai’s menu is full of composed salads and dishes reflective of regional Thai cooking and the vast diversity of styles and flavours that exist within the cuisine. Take for example the Sup Normai, a dish of braised bamboo with mint, or the Satay Hoi, a satay of Quebec whelk served with a classic peanut sauce and ajaad, a cucumber relish traditionally served with satay but rarely seen outside of Thailand.  

The menu offers only one classic standby, Som Tam, the iconic green papaya salad, but what it lacks in familiarity it more than makes up for in curiosity and promises of wonderful new discoveries. Pichai is also opening with a well-stocked list of natural wines, managed by the charming and endlessly knowledgeable sommlière Elisabeth Racine. Think vibrant, complex and exciting dishes paired with wines of the same description — a match made in heaven. ■

For more on the Montreal restaurant scene, please visit the Food & Drink section.