In the cut-throat restaurant industry, most business owners boast that their dishes are the best in town.
Feigang Fei, who runs Aunt Dai Chinese restaurant in Montreal, has taken a different approach, with a menu offering bracingly honest descriptions of the dishes on offer.
“Comparing to our general tao chicken, this one is not THAT good,” reads the entry for orange beef. “Anyway, I am not a big fan of North American Chinese food and it’s your call.”
Another entry warns: “Don’t let the name fool you, this one is NOT authentic Chinese food.” Elswhere, Fei candidly admits that he’s “not a huge fan” of the restaurant’s version of sweet and sour pork strips.
The restaurant is now seeing a surge in customers after a tweet about the menu went viral.
“It’s been a very exciting and busy time,” Fei said. “But I love it.”
Fei explained that after opening his restaurant seven years ago, he was disappointed when customers sent food back uneaten. “Some customers who hadn’t tried certain dishes were surprised by the level of spice or texture,” he said.
So he set about writing descriptions which were a little more forthright.
“The intestines are fried, it’s kind of too dry. Compared to stir-fried pork intestine, I recommend the former one,” reads the entry for dry wok pork intestines.
Under “mouth-watering chicken”, Fei writes: “We are not 100% satisfied with the flavor now and it will get better really soon. PS: I am surprised that some customers still order this plate.”
A former IT engineer, Fei immigrated to Canada 14 years ago and remains deeply aware of the challenges newcomers face.
After a fire destroyed Aunt Dai’s first location, he found the new location had more space than needed. He converted the second floor of the restaurant into an area where new immigrants can take French and English lessons, as well as meeting to share skills.
“So many immigrants come to this country overqualified,” he said. “I’ve seen first-hand how many opportunities have been missed because someone is too shy. I wanted to change that.”
While the pandemic has forced Aunt Dai into “survival mode”, Fei is hopeful the business can soon return to its roots as a gathering place for friends and family.
“We don’t have a very great item, something that’s complex and shows the genius of the cooking. Our food will always be good, but we are simply not the best,” he said. “Well, maybe a little bit above average.”