Last Updated on September 1, 2023 by Pamela
Update 1 Sep 2023: The below article is a review/opinion piece on my visit to Kundah Hôtel in 2022. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my own, and similar thoughts have been shared with me privately by people who have dined here. Recently, chef Raphaël Théberge has messaged me privately to share his thoughts. I appreciate him taking the time to do so, extra context is always welcome. Review articles can be tough to write, and tougher to read. I have added some thoughts and context below, which are identified with (*).
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 (*I’m told the black and white photos were taken by a friend, and the others are from the 1960s during the partnership between Quebec and India, which inspired the restaurant’s name). 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 (*I’m told this is untrue and there are female employees, so I will concede that my above remark is unfair and incorrect), 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 candour 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. (*They say the menus are not online because they change regularly, however, many restaurants in the city with changing menus still post them on Facebook, etc. If you have food restrictions, it is best to contact the restaurant directly to ensure the current menu 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 are Momos, which are a Tibetan dish. It is my error for mislabelling them) 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. (*This is probably a tad harsh, so I will strike it out. It was, at the time, my personal opinion).
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. (*chef Raphaël Théberge has extensive training as a chef, and while none of it has been in Indian cuisine, he has shared his research process and why he was inspired by the flavours of India.)
I love how restaurants in Quebec City utilize locally sourced ingredients and terroir in their menus, but Kundah Hôtel misses the mark.
has taken this concept in the wrong direction. Everything about Kundah Hôtel has a cultural appropriation issue. While the owners may not have meant to do it, that doesn’t change the optics (but they could!) 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 have changed, the owner remains the same, and the food is still lacklustre. 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?
(*My words above are quite direct, which is not my usual style. As I have shared with the chef privately, the imagery used in the restaurant looks like Indian culture is being used to give the restaurant ambiance. The imagery of Indian landscapes and architecture could be used well here and add to the experience. I’ve struck out a couple of things above because it reads like I was piling on to one singular issue, which is unfair of me.)
The guys working at Kundah Hôtel
seem is 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. (*The words that I striked-out in this paragraph are a pile on, and do not add to my article. I should not have used them, I know better. I am open to returning to try the food, every restaurant has off nights.)