Montreal’s Cambodian food scene is slim, but is about to get a big boost, when Les Street Monkeys opens in the coming weeks on Wellington in Verdun.
It comes from co-owner and chef Tota Oung, William Kit, and Sihour Kong, alongside one silent partner. Oung says the offerings are grounded in street food, but the restaurant is set to be a casual neighbourhood spot-slash-bar (although it will have a restaurant license).
“We’re trying to bring [street food] a notch higher.”
Oung says to expect a range of takes on traditional Cambodian dishes: on the menu will be deboned chicken wings stuffed with a house-made Cambodian sausage, thin-sliced medium rare steak with fermented fish paste, herbs, and lime, and amok, fried whitefish with coconut milk, red curry, a kaffir lime sauce, coconut foam, and crispy tarot.
The food is familiar to Oung — born in Bangkok, but of Cambodian descent, he’s well-versed it it.
“I’ve grown up with my mom being in a kitchen, I’ve eaten mostly Cambodian food all the time.”
For Oung, Cambodian cuisine shares some traits with its geographic neighbours.
“It’s not far from Thai or Lao food...[there’s] fermented fish paste, a lot of spices, curry, it’s pungent, when you mix that with fresh herbs and lime juice and all that it becomes very delicious.”
By putting the focus on being a bit more of a bar and hang-out spot (many of the plates will be smaller, even snackable) Oung says it’ll be something new compared to the other options on the small Cambodian scene.
“[Some other restaurants] are really authentic but they’re more a faster food style...it’s a regular family style restaurant where you eat food and get out. Some other restaurants completely mess with the authenticity and add General Tao.”
Street Monkeys will do Thai and Singaporean beer (Cambodian brews are difficult and expensive to import), like Singha and Tiger, and a cocktail program infused with Cambodian flavours — just one item includes a Bloody Caesar with black squid ink and grasshopper salt (Oung says insects are prominent in Cambodian street food), served with grilled octopus tentacles.
The Verdun space is to have an elaborate 400 square foot wall painted by a local artist, and should walk a line between a restaurant and bar in vibe — Oung says while he first hesitated about Verdun, the neighbourhood vibe will fit what he wants to do.
“I gave it a second chance I visited the neighbourhood and I fell in love with the neighbourhood, people are so friendly and welcoming and it’s a community.”
Plus — it’s another opportunity to get a less prominent cuisine into the public’s mouths.
“People are craving more and more authentic food everywhere and it’s the perfect timing for Cambodian food to come out and really show everyone what we’re all about.”
The exact opening date is TBA, but expect it around the final week and a half of June.
- Les Street Monkeys [Facebook]