Modestly priced chic Vietnamese restaurant in Montreal: Ha [classic article]

(As first seen on

Restaurant Ha is a laid-back but chic Southeast Asian restaurant at the foot of Montreal’s Mount Royal. It beautifully bridges the gap between the astronomically expensive famous-name restaurants and ethnic take-out that satisfies nobody. Outdoor seating looks out onto a park.

Mr. Ha, Vietnamese owner, teamed up with a Laotian chef to highlight the flavors of Southeast Asia. Though casual, the restaurant has a sommelier who can recommend local beers, wines, etc. There are also interesting non-alcoholic drinks, such as coffee drinks and kombucha.

A lunch special prix fixe includes a small Bia Hoi beer, your choice of coconut soup, spicy papaya salad and imperial rolls. Then you pick from several entrees and there’s a dessert served.

Everything was made with fresh, quality ingredients, prepared in a more luxurious restaurant style: textures were crisp, fried items not greasy, presentation was attractive. The coconut soup had some heat and herb flavors of Southeast Asia (cilantro, lemongrass). It was rich and not overly spicy.

The papaya salad had salt, to give it a more savory flavor, along with fresh herbs and spicy radishes. It was topped with crunchy rice crackers.

Salmon in coconut milk was beautifully plated on a black plate — an elegant, light but satisfying lunch entree. The fish was perfectly cooked, garnished with crispy sliced radishes, chopped scallions, edamame, watercress. The accompanying rice was seasoned — tempting even for those who typically ditch their rice!

Sea salt and 5 spice shrimp wok was equally interesting, garnished with bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro and plenty of flavor.

Chai tea creme brulee’ would have been moderately okay anywhere else . . . but at Ha, it’s a masterpiece! It’s served in a little fishbowl, full of chai seasoning, topped with lots of candied diced fresh pineapple, caramelized peanuts and a sugar cane stalk!

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