Where: 5332 Chemin Queen Mary (Cote-des-Neiges) – (514) 482-0645
Kind of food: Japanese
Usual Suspects: The wise and adventurous
Why I love it: I felt like I was at a restaurant in Japan… some of that nostalgic awesomeness!
Why you’ll love it: The food and service were both seriously outstanding. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.
Who to take: Anyone and everyone
I ordered: Zaruten – Cold soba noodles with vegetable tempura and Japanese steamed rice
Waiter says to order: The waitress recommended any of the donburi dishes (rice bowl with toppings) or the zaruten.
After half a dozen years of living in the area, I finally decided to give it a try. I must have walked by it hundreds of times, reminding myself each time that it should be on my list of places to go. Not that it had been written about in any magazines, and not that there’s anything particularly captivating about the exterior of the restaurant, but I decided that I simply couldn’t know it was there and never find out what it was like. Long story short, on another blistering hot summer day, along with my mom and brother, I wandered over to sample some fine Japanese cuisine at Hyang Jin.
A middle-aged woman greeted us at the front door and encouraged us to sit anywhere we desired. We sat down in plastic chairs on the front patio and were served water almost instantly. Soon after, a waitress from Yokohama welcomed us to the restaurant and excused herself (an obligatory custom in Japan) before everything she did, including everything from placing the menus and plates down to giving us the check at the end of the meal. It was one of those little things that I’d been missing about the impeccable service in Japan, and it was nice to see that they brought those traditions with them when they opened the restaurant several years ago.
Already impressed by staff’s friendliness, I took my first real good look at the menu, only to be extremely pleased by the selection. This wasn’t your typical North American-style Japanese restaurant that serves only sushi and teriyaki chicken. Rather, it was quite the opposite. They had everything from yakiudon and cold soba noodles served on a bamboo box (great for summer!) and vegetable tempura to deep fried pork cutlet and yakiniku. Not only that, but they serve chu-hai, a flavoured (yuzu, orange, lemon or grapefruit) alcoholic soft drink that is perfect for any occasion. Needless to say, I was very pleased!
The food was served quickly and was really good. Unfortunately we didn’t leave enough room for dessert, but we rounded off the night with some tea and some more conversation. The only downside to sitting outside is that it’s quite noisy, being at the corner of Queen Mary and Decarie, but it didn’t really bother us that much. I went inside to pay the bill and was equally delighted by the interior décor of the restaurant – simple, elegant, and very well maintained. There are little booths closed off by walls of Japanese paper, which makes dining very private and intimate.
All in all, everything was excellent. I would highly recommend this place to anyone, and I’ll definitely be going back… oh wait, I already did – twice!