But when it comes to Southeast Asian food, I often find it hard to justify the expense because, let’s be honest, mother does it better. Rather than trekking to the restaurant, I’d rather drag myself to her kitchen.
Unless she thinks it’s a good idea to eat somewhere.
In which case, the restaurant gets the matriarch’s approval.
La Petite Mangue is one of few that do. A traditional Khmer kitchen tucked in the heart of le Plateau’s hustling bustling eating scene, this place is quiet and comforting. The décor is kept to a few artifacts (and bright green curtains), reminiscent of what was a BYOW now serving a few beers and wines. Dylida, the owner, explained their new menu to us, split between Asian fusion dishes and pure Khmer wonders. We eventually picked our courses for the night, starting with some soup.
I ordered the Siem Reap, a rich curry soup with creamy coconut milk and lemon drops, while Mother opted for the lemongrass fish concoction ($4/each). Seemingly unassuming, the latter was by far a favorite. Clear, light but packed with flavors, it mixed tiny pieces of pasted fish with delicate shreds of zucchinis and Asian spinach.
When time came for the mains… we realized how optimistic we were about our eating abilities.
Be aware, my friend, that each dish at La Petite Mangue offers a full-fledged adult size portion even the healthiest among us would struggle to finish.
First came the kroeung ($13), a stir-fry of onion, peppers and protein of your choice. “Kroeung” is actually the word to describe the paste used to flavor many Cambodian dishes, similar to what curry is to Thais. Various spices are pounded into a thick base, which can either be red, green or yellow, depending on its primary ingredient. In this case, we had a turmeric-dominant seasoning. Yellow.
Finally, we shared homemade spicy pork sausages ($12). This is not your typical German wurst. The flavor is very peculiar, and particularly high on lemongrass. It came with a fish sauce dipping, but could easily have gone without as the meat itself was already extremely well seasoned. Cabbage pickles on the side to balance the sausage’s intensity: a definite must-try on your next visit.
We only managed to get through half our plates, and without us having to ask, the waiter offered to wrap all our goodies to take home. To tell you the truth, we purposefully kept some space for dessert, having noticed earlier their fried ice cream: a decadent vanilla frozen delight wrapped in a thick peanut batter ($5). What really got my tummy rejoicing, however, were the fried bananas ($3). MY oh my! The hot melty bananas in a delicate, perfectly gold crisp cover were simply divine.
All in all, the mother greatly enjoyed her meal. And so did I. If you’re looking for a place to get out of your culinary comfort zone, I’d definitely recommend la Petite Mangue. Flavors are intense and prices are more than friendly on the wallet. Their table d’hôte is a mere $18 and lunch specials run at $9.95.
300 Avenue du Mont Royal Est, Montréal, Québec H2T 1P7
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