Friday, September 16, 2016

Le Comptoir Mael

Hey guys! A little while ago I had the chance to try out a place that's opening right there right now in Montreal. Le Comptoir Mael is the perfect spot in Rosemont to grab a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), a smoothie, and much more, whether for lunch or even breakfast.

The concept of Mael is pretty straight forward : you grab and you go. You know how as young professionals we often struggle to find food that's tasty, healthy, and easy to eat? If you know me you know how much I love cooking and yet I hate packing lunch. It's a hassle. It takes space and it's time consuming. There's a whole planning involved when making lunch. Eating out often means grabbing something that's not always quite fresh or that costs an arm and a leg. And don't even mention being unhealthy 90% of the time.

But Mael isn't that kind of place. If you are familiar with banh mi you know how easy to transport and to eat it is. What these guys do is they've mastered four recipes and they provide you with fresh banh mi made right in front of you. And because they don't go all over the place with a dozen recipes, you know the ingredients they use are fresh because they don't need to order enormous amounts of meat and vegetables.

What's Mael? Actually, Mael is the story of three guys : Tony, Nam, and Tomo, who've known each other for quite many years now.
"So how did you guys meet?"
"Oh we go way back ... we met in Vietnamese school."
I knew there was Chinese and Cambodian school, now I know there is Vietnamese school.

But being good friends isn't the only thing that keeps them together : their love for food, sports, and fitness, also accounts for the strong bond between them.

After a trip back from Toronto earlier this year, the guys thought to themselves "Let's open our joint". So they put together their money and savoir-faire and they came up with the idea of a counter. Even though Nam already has a lot of experience with the bar tending and catering industries, they wanted to focus on one goal : providing healthy food at an affordable price.

But why the banh mi? Vua is doing it, certain joints in Chinatown and Côte-des-Neiges are doing it, even certain Asian grocery stores have a section of ready-made banh mi.

"We are the only place in Rosemont that does it fresh, in front of you. Also, we wanted to modernize this food staple that's part of our culture and encourage people not familiar with it to discover it."

With an unique recipe like kimchi beef (which you can see in my hand, their bestseller) some parents may think this is a perverted way to make banh mi. However this fusion makes the die-hard fans like me challenge their palate to something they didn't think of before, and also encourages new fans to try something different from pre-packaged sandwiches.

I tried all sandwiches and I thought to myself "Yep these are good". The marinated vegetables are crunchy, the cilantro is fresh, the baguette has the right crisp, and the sauces make it quite enjoyable. Man I hate biting into a dry banh mi, but that ain't one.

While they were making the sandwiches, I peeked through the open kitchen and saw the guys handling the food with gloves and cleaning the working surfaces. Now I know a lot of people don't care ... but I do. I cringe a lot when I step foot into a fast food joint and realize the ailments are not handled correctly. This not only made me feel safe, it also made me gain even more respect for the guys because they have respect for their customers.

I mentioned earlier something about smoothies ... because yes, if you're not in the mood for a banh mi, you can grab a smoothie to go, either in a cup or a mason jar (yay for eco-friendly freaks like me).

But what's so special about their smoothies? Well these guys are a lot into sports and fitness. Like competition level. So they came up with recipes that pack a bunch of good things for you. The original recipes don't use protein powders, but with ingredients such as chia seeds or peanut butter, you can get something that will fill you up.

The smoothies are made fresh, right in front of you. Because they're smoothies and not extracted juices, you still get all the fibers from the fruits without the free sugars. They do add certain spices for taste and vitamins, but no added sugar. The colors are also natural and the products do not contain any preservatives. The list of ingredients is also available so you do not have to worry about what's inside!

But really the cherry on top is ... ca phe sua da. To go. In a mason jar. If you don't know what that is, it's Vietnamese iced coffee. Only in restaurants or at friends' homes have I seen it made with the actual individual brewer. In certain places when you take it to go it's a pre-made mix they pour into a cup. The guys do it the traditional way and only mix it when you order it.

I'm actually thinking about having my iced coffee only that way from now on ... because I believe it's one of the best ways.

But hey, guess what. All this will be officially available starting this Saturday September 17th. They're waiting for you at their grand opening and I honestly think you should give this place a try. I find it truly admiring to see young people passionate about something get together to give birth to such a project, modernizing something that's been part of their lives while staying true to their roots. People of Rosemont, ditch the junk food and the pre-packaged stuffs, and let Mael be your new fast food. Your body will deeply thank you.

And so that's it for now folks. See you around!

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