Come spring, the lunch options around Verdun are set to expand with the arrival of Ketiw (“noodle” in Khmer), a new Cambodian project from the team behind Les Street Monkeys.
The new spot will act as a daytime counterpart to the restaurant’s high-volume nighttime operation, and will be equipped with both a street food counter and a Southeast Asian grocer component with the sauces and prêt-à-manger goods that helped Les Street Monkeys keep the lights on during the early months of the pandemic. It’s located a stone’s throw away from Les Street Monkeys, also on Wellington Street.
Les Street Monkeys chef Tota Oung says he aims to source as much as he can locally, from the Verdun community. “We’re now understaffed and we can’t make everything ourselves, so I’ll get it from the people around me,” he says.
Oung’s business partner, Hillary Romero, says the pandemic has helped strengthen their relationship to the neighbourhood where they’ve now decided to expand their business. “There’s been a greater sense of community and connection,” she says.
One half of Ketiw’s offerings will be Cambodian num pang sandwiches, a fixture from Les Street Monkeys’ pandemic-adapted menu of summer of 2020. Made with bread baked from a mixture of rice and wheat flour for a lighter, chewier consistency than banh mi’s baguette, the sandwiches are filled with toppings like lemongrass and galangal beef; kroeung-marinated chicken; char siu pork; or a vegan option made with a mix of blue and elm oyster mushrooms from Montreal fungi supplier Full Pin.
Oung also plans to offer a noodle dish — kuyteav, a popular daytime meal in Cambodia — that some may remember from the restaurant’s now-discontinued brunch service. It will be done Phnom Penh style, a “dry” version that will consist of noodles topped with ground meat, shrimp cakes, sauces, preserved cabbage, fried garlic, and fistfuls of herbs — all with a bowl of pork broth to sip on the side.
There will also be a sweet side to the menu with Khmer shaved ice, a colourful dessert with toppings like basil seed, red bean, and seasonal fruit syrups.
When the pandemic arrived, Les Street Monkeys was on the cusp of celebrating its third year of operation, a make-or-break milestone for new restaurants. Now, thinking back on those pre-pandemic years, Romero says they had never done takeout before. “We were against it, but since then? We had no choice.”
Ketiw will have 12 seats inside, but Oung wants to be sure people can turn to it as a grab-and-go option, something they can eat while sitting on a curb.
Ketiw is slated to open on 3866 Wellington Street in spring 2022.