Craving dim sum? One doesn’t generally think of Orleans as the place to go in order to satisfy it. But let me tell you about the high-class dim sum I had yesterday from a strip mall kitchen on St. Joseph Boulevard. It was some of the best I’ve had in this city — minus the fun of the roving carts, the Jenga of bamboo steamers, the multi-generational family tables, and the pick-and-point ordering system.
Not daily dim sum, mind you. Not even weekly. But once a month, on select Sundays, the family-run Cuisine & Passion puts on a prix fixe dim sum brunch for about 50 folks who’ve been clever enough to reserve ahead —often months ahead.
Bright and welcoming, chefs Marc Miron and Chantal Gagné run this bustling family food business. The store stocks a wide range of artisanal product, along with a burgeoning house line of sauces, spice blends, and preserves. They are part boulangerie, part bakery, cooking school, and caterer, with a brisk prepared food, take-away trade. I’ve written about a lunch I had at Cuisine & Passion a few years ago, and have been trying to snag a seat for brunch for a while now.
Trained in Ottawa, Miron spent a good chunk of his international chef career with the Four Seasons Hotels in Asia. He ran the kitchens and a well regarded cooking school in Indonesia, before the Bali bomb in 2002 drove him to Sydney — and, eventually, home to Ottawa and the start of the now eight-year-old Orleans food shop he runs with Chantal.
Brunch takes place in the cooking school at the back. Stools are set up around the L-shaped granite counter that faces the kitchen bustle, with more chairs and tables covering the floor.
The dim sum offerings change every month, and aren’t restricted to the usual suspects, though Miron admits that the pork shu mai (open topped steamed pork and mushroom dumplings) pop up often. Served with varying sides — for us, a crunchy salad of blanched green beans and raw bean sprouts — they are about the only constant, he tells me.
There were spring rolls just before the dumplings, filled in with chunks of fragrant barbecued pork (pork Char siu) and a bright medley of marinated vegetables. Other than the pedestrian dipping sauce, these were a distinct cut above the usual tubes of dubious crunch and soft. Next, a bracing Balinese chicken salad with a mild Thai chilli kick. The shredded meat was moist, poached with lime leaves and lemongrass and mixed with a julienne of daikon, carrot and bright strips of red pepper. Along with cilantro, mint, scallions, sprouts, and crunchy wisps of wonton, it was brightened with lime and the umami kick of fish sauce.
A sparkling chicken broth refreshed the palate, filled in with a few wontons, the chicken within the thin wrappers tasting of ginger, garlic, and soy; the soup’s surface greened with scallion and a chiffonade of gai choi. Steamed Chinese broccoli came with crisped onion and garlic chips.
And dessert? Bananas, caramelized, in a custard tart topped with cream and toasted coconut.
The dim sum brunch costs $47 per person, and includes a glass of wine and live jazz. To book, visit here.
Cuisine & Passion, 2297 St. Joseph Blvd., 613-845-1090