Thursday 22 December 2011

My first dining experience at the new Yangtze Restaurant

Since I first reported about the December 3 fire which destroyed the legendary Yangtze Chinese Restaurant on Van Horne Avenue in Montreal, there have been a record number of hits on my blog. Thousands of people from around the world responded with shock and sadness.

Brian Yau, with daughter Bobo and son Marco admire the painting.

Business Consultant Mel Leitman, whom I first met just a few years ago, was engaged by the new owners of the restaurant to help them rebuild. Things started to move a lot quicker than he or anyone else expected when owner Marco Yau, his sister Bobo and their dad Brian purchased the Tchang Kiang Chinese Restaurant at  6066 Sherbrooke Street West in NDG only a week after the blaze.  It closed last July after 35 years in business.  They already have a beautiful painting by noted artist Carole Spandau of the original Yangtze up on the wall.

The Yaus renamed the place Tchang Kiang by Yangtze and in record time opened their doors to the public on December 17. Like a magician, Leitman helped make new menus – all of the Yangtze favorites, plus the Szechuan dishes Tchang Kiang was known for. Today,  he invited me to meet the Yaus and sample some of the cuisine myself.  Yangtze first opened in 1956. I came into the world six years later and I can safely say my parents starting bringing me there as a toddler.

There was a fairly good crowd there for lunch. The 70 seat dining establishment has a very pretty interior, much nicer in fact than the old Yangtze. Marco is a charismatic young man in his 20s who is on a temporary leave from Concordia's urban planning program in order to focus on the business. The fire, he said, was a total shock. “I was at home on the South Shore and somebody called to tell me,” Marco explained. “I raced over and I could not believe my eyes. We only bought the place a month earlier.”

Brian Yau was actually a previous owner, from 2000 to 2007.  He had partners in the venture and when they decided to sell he agreed reluctantly. When it came back on the market just recently, he urged his son Marco to step up to the plate. Everything was going smoothly until the fire. “We do not know the exact cause yet,” said Marco. “The Fire Department continues to investigate. We are waiting to find out how extensive the damage is and whether we can in fact rebuild.”

The Yaus realized that if they did not act fast, they ran the risk of losing their experienced staff of waiters, cooks and deliverymen. Just coincidentally, Brian’s friend was a real estate who was looking for someone to take over the Tchang Kiang location. In this case, Bobo agreed to become the principal owner. What followed was a raise to get all of the necessary equipment in place and to agree upon a blended menu. Word spread quickly and already they have the best of both worlds, with a clientele who missed Tchang Kiang and of course the Yangtze diehards.

“When I took over the Yangtze many people asked why we did not have Szechuan on our menu,” said Marco. “Well, with this new restaurant we now have it all.”

The delicious egg rolls.
I dined on a hot bowl of won ton soup with dry noodles on the side, a delicious egg roll, some Cantonese lobster, beef with snow peas and broccoli, spare ribs, Tchang Kiang’s kouptien dumplings (steamed and lightly fried), pineapple chicken and steamed rice. It was all very delicious. Indeed, the Yangtze is already back better than ever!

By the way, the most frequent question I have received from readers is whether legendary waiter “Tiger” is still there. “No,” said Marco, “he retired some time ago. But we will invite him back to visit. The same for the former owner of Tchang Kiang, Siao Wong.

Won ton soup.

Go to as of January 11 and check out our Suburban Mall for Yangtze deals.