Culture  Coming up roses

Chez Rose brings Haitian food to the Plateau in delicious abundance

Hidden in a crevice on Pine, just across the street from the world-famous $2 chow mein, a neon sign invites in those who decide to leave the clamorous sidewalks of St. Laurent for a generous portion of steaming, scrumptious, Haitian food. For those looking for alternatives to take-out poutine and cardboard-flavoured pizza after a night out on the streets, look no further. Since last summer, Chez Rose has offered the lower Plateau community a taste of Caribbean casse-croûte.
The Rose of Chez Rose, Rose Bien Aimée, came to Montreal at an early age. After a colossal plate of food, I sat down with Rose and she told me her story. “I grew up in the quartier since I was ten years old. When I was young, I asked God for a restaurant, and God gave me a restaurant.” The hysterics from a Just for Laughs episode on the TV completed the experience of our metropole’s multicultural cuisine as Rose told me about her business. Her daughter Sandra, a helping hand behind the counter, joined the conversation, helping me out with my broken French. “In this ’hood, they don’t have Haitian food a lot. That’s why she want to open a Haitian restaurant here.” The Plateau’s culinary range is rather limited in comparison to neighbourhoods such as Parc-Extension or St. Michel, where Haitian restaurants are well-established.
From close family friends to students looking for an affordable but filling meal, a diverse clientele sits down to eat in Chez Rose’s clean and inviting diningroom. With white curtains partially blocking the view of the Jean Coutu pharmacy across the street, Chez Rose feels more like a living room than a small food joint. Sandra felt that the predominantly white residents of the Plateau, “don’t ever eat Haitian food. So they come here to taste, and after, they come back.” However, Rose assured that “all nationalities come here,” most of whom come to grab take-out after a long day at work. The doors seem to be constantly open, from the early afternoon until late into the night.
One of the intriguing aspects of my visit to Chez Rose was discovering what exactly constitutes Haitian food. Chicken, turkey, veal, beef, and lamb are some of the meat dishes offered, each served with a mound of rice and beans, fresh lettuce, and two pieces of fried plantain. When asked about the distinguishing characteristics of Haitian cuisine, Rose described the cooking procedure, which she has evidently perfected over the years. The meats are thoroughly rinsed in water, disinfected using lemon juice –  which gives the meats a nice citrus taste – and then marinated in spices. “We use shallots, garlic, onions. You add it to a blender, and then you add a bit of oil, vinegar, and that makes the spice,” she explained. The meat is then carefully cooked to the point where it melts in your mouth.  Combined with the prominent tastes of the accompanying sauce and plaintains, this makes for a dish that’s sure to please.
The meal as a whole may be presented in an intimidatingly large quantity, but this in no way detracts from the finesse involved in its preparation. Starting this summer, Rose plans to diversify her already comprehensive set of dishes. Some new additions will include Lambi, a typical Haitian dish that is made up of conch (think Lord of the Flies) served in a vegetable sauce.
Chez Rose offers a unique taste of Haitian food in Montreal in a very welcoming and genuine setting. “We feed to fill,” Rose promises me on my way out in French. At ten dollars, you are guaranteed to leave satisfied without spending a fortune. With such an array of meat and vegetable dishes, Chez Rose’s stews offer an authentic Caribbean meal right on Montreal’s Main.

Chez Rose is located at 24 Pins E.