Last Updated on October 22, 2022 by Pamela
In Saint-Roch, perched on a busy street (rue de la Couronne), Kundah Hôtel looks promising at first. Indian cuisine, in my opinion, is always a good idea. Kundah Hôtel is not a traditional Indian restaurant, it’s an Indian-Quebec fusion restaurant – which could be good. They could serve traditional Indian foods using locally raised beef, chicken, and lamb. The possibilities are exciting.
the vibe at kundah hôtel
The dining room at Kundah Hôtel is small, its windows facing rue Dorchester, and birch wood slats run across the ceiling. Chairs wrap around the u-shaped bar, with plants hanging from the slats, and the tables are a mixture of high tops and banquets. In the back of the restaurant, the kitchen is busy pumping out dishes laden with Indian spices.
On the walls are collections of framed photographs depicting Old India, which were likely purchased online. It’s a problem, and not the only one. You won’t find any women working at Kundah Hôtel, nor are there Indian people working here. With the exception of one Southeast Asian employee, everyone at Kundah Hôtel, including the owners, are white men.
I’m going to dig more into these problems, but first, let’s talk about the food.
When you make a reservation at Kundah Hôtel they clearly state that they do not serve authentic Indian cuisine. I was weary, but I appreciated the candor and made a reservation (they do not accept walk-ins). Next, I searched online for the menu, something that should be easy to find. Unfortunately, my search came up empty.
It’s 2022, restaurant menus should be online and easy to find so diners with diet restrictions can determine if a restaurant is safe.
I ordered Shrimp Pakora, which is served with herbed chutney – it’s Hari, an Indian chutney that’s cool, spicy, and a little tangy. The pakora was a little overcooked, but the hari was quite good, which helped.
I was curious about the special, steamed pork and cilantro dumplings. Why is an Indian-Quebec fusion restaurant serving Chinese-style dumplings special? The dumplings arrive and they’re not fully steamed. The tops are al dente, which is an Italian term, but I don’t know how else to properly describe the crunchy bits at the top. Inside, was a pork meatball. They had an idea, made the mistake of thinking it was okay to make said idea, and then completely missed the mark.
Next up is a half order of rib vindaloo (a curry originating in Goa, India). The flavour was good, and the meat was tender. It was the best of the dishes I tried at Kundah. Whatever joy I felt, however, ended when I bit into the chapati.
Chapati (sometimes called roti) is a flatbread made with whole wheat flour and water. It’s a staple food in India, often eaten with dal or curries. When I lived in Penang, Malaysia I ate roti and dal for breakfast almost every morning. Chapati is soft, thin, and light.
At Kundah Hôtel, the chapati is tough, a sign that the dough has been overworked. The dal and rice were fine, but by then I was ready to end my meal and leave.
it’s cultural appropriation
One of the biggest problems at Kundah Hôtel is that a white guy went to India for a summer and thought it was okay to come home and open an Indian-Quebec fusion restaurant. He’s not a chef who’s trained in Indian cuisine, no dues have been paid, and there is nobody of Indian descent working in the kitchen. Spending a summer in India does not equate to expertise, certainly not enough to open a restaurant that leans heavily on Indian flavours, names, and imagery.
I love the way restaurants in Quebec City utilize locally sourced ingredients and terroir in their menus, but Kundah Hôtel has taken this concept in the wrong direction. Everything about Kundah Hôtel screams cultural appropriation. While the owners may not have meant to do it, that doesn’t change the facts. They liked traditional Indian cuisine and thought it was okay to recreate Indian dishes with a Quebec twist, without doing the work.
Before Kundah Hôtel, this space was known as Buvette Laurentien, and while the name of the restaurant and the decor has changed, the owner remains the same, and the food is still lackluster. In fact, when my bill comes at the end of the night, the word “Laurentien” appears at the top, not Kundah Hôtel. That’s a pretty easy thing to fix, so I’m confused why they haven’t bothered to change it.
But hey, that’s the mentality here… why bother?
The guys working at Kundah Hôtel seem nice, but that doesn’t make up for everything else. After dining at Kundah I posted a photo dump on my personal Instagram account (which I use for my freelance travel writing), which included a photo or two of Kundah Hôtel. It wasn’t long before I received DMs from people of colour who have dined at Kundah and felt the same disappointment about the food, decor, and lack of representation.
I won’t be going back to Kundah Hôtel. The food alone is mediocre, in my opinion, and cultural appropriation is a big problem as well. I’ve also heard stories from those in the local food scene who’ve had encounters with the owners of Kundah in the past, and none of those stories are flattering.
Do you have a favourite Indian restaurant in Quebec City? Let me know! I’d love to give them my support.
quebec city hotel recommendations
The hotels listed below are my current favourites. I have stayed in each of these properties and often recommend them to out-of-town friends and family. This list will change over time as I make my rounds through the various accommodations in Quebec City.