Monday, 15 April 2013

Geeking out and a ramen surprise

This weekend there was a small convention of all things geek called Geekfest. It's basically like a comicon but on a much smaller scale, no celebrities, and more about socializing with other geeks. The event was located in a shoddy looking little hotel at the corner of René Levesque and Guy called Hôtel Espresso. The hotel is not that bad a place after all. It's no Mariott or Sheraton, but it looks pretty clean and well kept inside.

The even was spread across a bunch of rooms. There was one in the basement where people gathered and played board games. I went to take a look to see if there was anyone I'd recognize. I hung out with a bunch of people last month, playing board games. It's a group of friends that gather every month and hang out like this. I was invited through an acquaintance and decided to go to meet new people since most of my friends are all married with kids and living an hour away in the burbs now. So, I went to see if any of these people were down there. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize anyone.

On the second floor is where all the action was. To much of my surprise, there were a LOT of people that decided to dress up as all sorts of characters. (Also called cosplay, for costume play.) They were all hanging out in the hall and chatting away about anime, cartoons, video games and such. You know, geek stuff. Some of them had great costumes.

When I decided to take a picture of the cosplayers, they had all scattered. Boo!

I was passing by them to go to a room in the back where everyone seemed to be heading and I accidentally passed by the booth where you're supposed to pay for your entry fee. (oops!) I did go back, however, and paid for my entrance, but only about an hour and a half later after I was told I should get a bracelet before checking in my coat. Oh well.

In that room  there were kiosks set up to promote various local comic book artists, geek apparel shops, the local Ghostbusters club and Quebec city's 501st Imperial Legion of Star Wars costumers.

The Ghostbusters club are fans of the franchise and they like to talk about everything Ghostbusters. Their website even has steps to reproduce the props from the movie. So if you want to build yourself a proton pack, they'll tell you what you need to get and how to put it together. Their kiosks were selling Hostess Twinkies! I thought those things were discontinued! Apparently, Saputo owns Hostess' Canadian branch and they have decided to keep producing the Twinkie! So this marvellous little cream filled cake will live on, thanks to Canada!

As for the Star Wars 501st Imperial Legion, they're basically people who like to dress up as various storm troopers and participate in parades and show up in events. Their mission apparently is "To promote interest in Star Wars. Facilitate the use of costumes. To contribute [...] through fundraising, charity work and volunteerism." (

Walking around the kiosks I noticed a steampunk studio that makes anything look steampunk. What is steampunk? Imagine a parallel universe where steam still powers our technology with retro-futuristic inventions and everyone still dresses in Victorian fashion with a kind of a wild west influence. Heck, think of the movie Wild Wild West with Will Smith. It's a sub-genre that people got into somehow. And basically, anything that has copper, lots of gears and steam pipes and top hats  is now considered steampunk. By the way, if you want to read a really good science-fiction steampunk thriller, you should definitely read The Difference Engine, by none other than the famous author William Gibson, famous for his futuristic cyber-punk hacker novel Neuromancer. Anyway, here's what steampunk stuff looks like.

This may look like a mirror...

... but it's actually a computer monitor!

Top hats and gloves and glasses and such.

Some other kioks had local comic book artists promoting their work. One notable artist was Olivier Carpentier who participated in the comic book Le Front by publishers Front Froid. There are multiple volumes of that comic book, which is basically an aggregation of comics of different stories by several artists. His work was amazing. I had a chat with him and told him how much his art reminded me of one of my favourites, Ben Templesmith, creator of the detective story Fell. (A great graphic novel by the way!) He told me he was actually a big fan and that his work had a big influence. It totally showed. His story seemed to be about some bad ass Santa Claus and a psycho Tooth Fairy who protect children from something. Not sure though since I haven't read it yet, but it looks promising. So do the other stories in the volume. I can't wait to read it. I had it dedicated and Olivier drew an amazing picture of a monstrous evil-looking elf with sharp teeth, ink and all. Amazing!

Later, I learned there was a masquerade. Basically, a costume competition. People were introduced by a host and people would walk on stage and either just show off their costume or act out some elaborate scenario with their costumed friends. It was pretty neat, the hosts were terrible. It was their first time though, so I'll let it go. As long as everyone had a good time, that's what matters. There were many costumes, but one that got a lot of applause was this guy:

Admiral "It's a trap!" Ackbar!

Admiral Ackbar and I are actually good friends and we've known each other for a while. We're like total BFFs. Though I tease him a lot and play a lot of tricks on him. During the convention, he was looking for the men's room and I showed him the way to the ladies room instead as a joke. He walked in and got yelled at and kicked out. I was standing outside laughing my ass off and yelled "IT'S A TRAP!" and he was all like "FUCK YOU Steph!" Good times man, good times...

After the show, one of my friends showed me a room where some acquaintances were working on some artwork and presenting their paintings and mostly trying to sell them. I was impressed. I met these people before, but didn't think they were artists. Their work was pretty good. The one in the middle is C-3PO looking at the Emerald City of the Wizard of Oz through some kind of portal.

Afterwards, there was a video games room where some people had set up an arcade emulator with arcade controllers a couple of retro Nintendo consoles and the new Nintendo Wii U. I spent the rest of the afternoon in that room with some friends playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4 on the arcade, Super Mario Bros. on the classic NES with a giant controller, but mostly playing Nintendo Land on the Wii U. It was tons of fun.

This thing is not easy to work with.

Finally, I had to leave a little early. A friend of mine, who just bought a house, was hosting a party to celebrate his new suburban home. Before I went there, I decided to get myself some dinner. What better way to end this than to go get myself... ramen. Delicious, filling ramen. I remembered there was a Japanese restaurant that had opened up on Sainte-Catherine close by called Kazu. But, it's nearly impossible to get a table without waiting for hours outside. I thought, you know, since it was raining, maybe there wouldn't bee that many people. WRONG! There were still a huge lineup outside the damn place. I said fuck it. But, I really was craving a hot bowl of tasty noodles. Especially in this cold wet weather. I remembered people telling me about another place around the Concordia area. I whipped out my phone and searched for ramen in Montreal. One urban food website mentioned a place on Bishop just north of Boul. De Maisonneuve. That was probably it. It was called Miso Ya. So I decided to check it out.

The restaurant is located in a basement and it was really hard to notice. I took a look at their menu and it looked like a pretty basic ramen place. Though the dishes looked well garnished with lots of food. Then again, it was the same thing at Sumo Ramen in Chinatown and I was kind of expecting the same kind of portion and quality than Sumo Ramen, which was quite mediocre. But, you know, never judge a book by it's cover and all that, right?

The place was pretty quiet, but it was nice, very clean. The smell of the place was mouth watering. I could smell the smoke of the grilled pork coming from the kitchen and it was promising. I realized that this might not be such a bad place after all. I told the waiter I was by myself, so he seated me at the bar. Another good hint for guessing if a ramen restaurant is good is if they have a bar next to the kitchen at which to sit.

Getting a closer look at their menu, I noticed they only had one kind of broth. True authentic ramen joints in Japan usually specialize in one broth. It's their secret recipe and it's what distinguishes them from other places. Miso Ya offered a pork bone based miso broth that looked thick and milky. Pork bone broth is my very favourite kind of broth! I was getting excited now. Their #1 on their menu was the porc miso cha-shu with 3 pieces of pork. I was hungry and that was their biggest portion. So, I ordered that with some pork gyoza dumplings.

The service was super fast and I got my food very quickly. The dumplings were over stuffed with meat and green onions and came with a little cup of dipping sauce. They were super tasty.

But. The ramen... Oh LAWD! The RAMEN! Just look at this...

THIS is what your typical ramen-shop meal is supposed to look like. Look at that broth. Look how milky it is. Look at the pork, it's been grilled to perfection. Corn and green onions are absolutely typical. And that thing in the middle is actually fried potatoes. I took a whiff of my soup and the smell was amazing. I filled my spoon with broth and took a sip. Oh sweet Jesus, I'm in heaven! I picked up a piece of pork and took a bite and it was absolutely perfect! There was a little bit of fat in there, but it was so soft and tender it just all melted in my mouth. Then I checked out the noodles and they were thicker than anything I've ever seen in ramen noodles. They were chewy and tasty and just perfect. I ate everything down to the last crumb and drank that broth to the last drop. This has been one of my best ramen experiences in a long time and I'm definitely going to recommend this place to my friends.

Dear God! Did I just find a place that serves ramen that's actually better than my usual spot, Ramen-Ya? I don't know. Ramen-Ya's ramen is very flavourful and delicious. It's very hard to beat. But, Miso Ya has some of the most authentic Japanese ramen I've ever had in Montreal so far. And it was absolutely dee-lish! I think this place might become my spot from now on. The prices were better too. I'll have to think about this.

Anyway, that was my day on Saturday. I should probably write something about the area that I call the Concordia area. There are a lot of very cheap restaurants in that sector. Mostly student dives, but some are still very good nonetheless, especially Asian restaurants. Keep an eye on my blog  for a post about that area soon!

1 comment:

  1. you are still very cute.

    I had tried that Sumo Ramen place at the end of last year and wasn't too impressed; it was just OK. The only thing I liked was that they offered small bowls. I didn't have the VOLCANO RAMEN which is I guess their thing? That new place you tried sounds really good though!