Aunt Dai has been serving a mix of traditional and North American Chinese food for seven years.
Owner Feigang Fei says he thinks his food is pretty good, but not perfect. And his goal is to be transparent and honest about that with his clients, through his menu.
“If I don’t like it, I tell people I don’t like it that much,” said Fei. “Some items, I brag a little bit, but for me, it’s just natural.”
Each item on Aunt Dai’s menu is accompanied by a description written by Fei himself.
About his orange beef, he writes, this one is “not that good — but it’s your call.”
When describing his satay sauce beef, he says it’s new on the menu, and “I didn’t have the chance to try it yet.”
He also tells clients that he’s not a big fan of his restaurant’s version of the sweet and spicy pork strips, saying “it’s very tasty, but not the same as ones he had in China.”
“I just feel like I was looking forward to it (the sweet and spicy pork strips), but I was disappointed at our version for sure,” said Fei. “But you cannot ask the chef for too much change. They have their own version.”
Food writer and host Heidi Small says it’s nice to see a restaurateur be so humble.
“This opens up dialogue in a very personalized way, and I think that if more chefs, restaurants heed the call of this personal approach, it will change maybe the dining experience, and make people behind the kitchen doors more accessible,” she said.
Fei says he’s been writing the blurbs on his menu for years, but it went viral a few days ago.
Montrealer Kim Belair tweeted that Aunt Dai is her favourite Chinese restaurant in the city, both for its food and extremely honest menu.
Over a few days, the tweet garnered tens of thousands of likes and retweets.
“It’s refreshing I think, to see some honesty from someone like that — from someone who makes some of my favourite food, to say — this food that you love? It could be better,” said Belair.
Since the tweet, Fei says the restaurant has seen a boost in orders.
And though he’s grateful for the support and welcomes new clients, he doesn’t want them to have high expectations.
“As I always say, we try to be better but we are not that good,” he said. “We’re kind of above average — 70, 75, something like that.”
At the end of the day, Fei says, it’s your call.