It’s easy for me to compare people’s Cambodian dishes to my mother’s; we’re all a little biased when it comes to mom’s cooking, right? I can be particularly picky because she really does makes the best food in the world 😉 This however didn’t stop me from checking out Montreal’s newest and hottest spot: Les Street Monkeys, located specifically in Verdun.
I first dined a few weeks ago when they were still in their soft opening with only a few items available as a teaser. The official menu lists a great amount of traditionally Cambodian dishes in tapas style, and I had the chance to go back a second time for their official launch party. My friends and I aaalmost ordered everything on the menu. Don’t know why we didn’t…
We started off with the papaya salad. The flavour was certainly there, it’s really all about the fish sauce and chili – which you can order without if you don’t like the heat. However, without the chili, it’s just not the same. The plate is accompanied by crispy Chicharrón (crispy pork skin), a very nice touch for added crunch.
The beef skewers is one I can’t help but compare to my mom’s. Traditionally marinated in Kroeung (a Cambodian paste), the skewers ooze out a sweet and savoury flavours thanks to the gazillion herbs and spices that go into making the traditional paste. Les Street Monkeys’ version is no exception. The skewers were flavourful, however I needed a bit more oomf in my bites. Next time, I’ll ask for chili paste.
Next up are the stuffed chicken wings. I was really excited for these which weren’t available during the soft launch. For anyone who’s boggled by the idea, you (or realistically, your mom) take a chicken wing, carefully debone the lower wing, take out the meat so only the skin’s left, and then stuff it with whatever you want. In Les Street Monkeys’ case, they used Thai sausage.
I could have eaten a hundred of those. The bites were satisfying. You had the sourness from the sausage and the sweetness of the marinated skin coming together in your mouth like some sort of Janet Jackson party.
The Beef Laab was a bit hit with my friends. With every bite, the tender cubes of beef exuded a flavourful mix of galanga, the lime, and chili. My girlfriend particularly loves drizzling white rice with the sauce mix.
I hate fish. The only kind of fish I like are fried, raw, or dried. Thankfully, their pan-fried trout with a Khmer salsa fits my criteria. It’s also my girlfriend’s favourite. The crispy fried skin and tender meat compliment the citrusy salsa (Salsa? Chicharrón? I see a pattern…)
Their mee siam is different from what I’m used to (usually tossed in a sweet tomato sauce with meat). Their version had a nice sweet & savoury flavour. My only complaint is how the noodles seem to be purposely crushed which makes it hard to pick up with the chopsticks. I would have loved a bigger bite of the crispy noodles instead of scraping for small bits.
The fish amok is another one I’ve been anticipating. Les Street Monkeys managed to transform this traditional dish into something completely different. Admittedly, I was a little wary of it, but one taste of the sauce and I was hooked. The slices of fish were perfectly fried, however the first time I tried this, I found it dry. So I’m glad this time around, they’ve managed to get their cook right. I loved the heat of this dish. Hats off on this one.
Oh.. Forget what I said above, this was the dish I was most excited about (yo, it’s hard. I just love Cambodian food). The Saiko Teuk Prahok which translates to beef with.. teuk prahok (I tried.) If you’ve ever had the real thing, prahok is pretty funky – the smell is strong and the taste packs some punch. There’s a reason why it’s called the Cambodian cheese. Traditionally eaten with raw vegetables, it’s a big staple in Cambodian households.
Les Street Monkeys version managed to once again make it their own. The flavours a lot less strong than the real thing, but remains just as good. The prahok is drizzled over slices of medium rare beef which to my surprise is a great pairing. I’m salivating as I’m writing this.
Look at it.
To finish it all off, the chicken curry soup. Compared to our Thai neighbours, our most common curry is a lot less rich and is slightly sweeter. I love eating my mom’s curry with slices of baguette, so I was excited when the soup was accompanied by the French loaf. To be honest, it was okay. There’s a bit of a heat & sweet flavour missing. Perhaps it was because I have eaten so much at this point, my palates was over-stimulated. Nonetheless, it’s great that Les Street Monkeys has introduced this dish on the menu.
There were other things we tried but I don’t have photos of. The mom’s imperial rolls were a’ight. Nothing exceptionally special. In my opinion, what makes them good is the fish sauce, and that part was a miss. The lamb chops were also a big hits with my friends, the meat was tender, with a honey, coconut, and mint marinade that really brings joy with every bite. And the wasabi shrimp ceviche packed some mad punch. If you like having heat go up your nose, that’s the dish for you.
The drinks menu also has a variety of funky cocktails ranging from a margarita with crushed cricket and red worm salt adorning the rim, and a boozy bubble tea for those who are 18+.
All-in-all, Les Street Monkeys have brought a lesser-known Southeast Asian cuisine to the scene and this excites me very much.
Don’t expect this to be your typical mom & pop spot. While the dishes aren’t prepared the traditional way, they have managed to transform Cambodian cuisine into something accessible to everyone at very reasonable prices. This will certainly be a spot I’ll take my friends looking to diversify their palates and discover Cambodian food.
In the near future, they’ll be serving up lunch and brunch. I can’t wait to go back and try everything out then. The service is excellent and I appreciate everyone trying to make our experience at the restaurant a great one. Big thanks to the staff.
It’s no Cambodian celebration without classical dance.