Who Killed Kenny?


: : Sad but true: they closed down the old Kenny Wong’s Restaurant on Taschereau Boulevard in Greenfield Park (how ‘bout that for an exotic South Shore location?). Built in the splendiferous Technicolor motifs of 1962, this suburban Montreal temple of exotica was recently demolished after over 40 years of dishing out classic Chinese buffet food. : :

: : The Montreal Tiki Appreciation Society made its official visit to “Chez Wong” over a year ago and members were generally pleased with their experience. In fact, some regarded it as one of our better experiences food-wise, since most Polynesian buffets are usually close to terrible. Not so at Kenny Wong’s: the low mein was high gastronomy, the egg rolls delicately deep-fried and glistening, the bobo balls sublime, and the sweet and sour ribs were Edenic! [Fred, you really loved this place! – Ed.] Even the tea tasted nice, not bitter (like some MTAS members often complain about – one member in particular claims it’s like “sucking on wet straw”). : :

: : Although not an official Tiki location, this classic Chinese restaurant was bigger than life compared to the run of the mill buffets we usually encounter. The designers really seemed to have gone overboard. What made it special for us was the authentic early 60’s feel, with no mid-80’s renovation having taken place to spoil things! All the decorative elements were originals, right down to the business cards and complimentary postcards still featuring old street names like “Dorchester Street” and a plug for Montreal’s “Expo’67” world exhibition! It really felt like stepping into the past. : :

: : A pagoda style archway with gigantic hanging red Chinese lamps would greet you as you drove into Kenny Wong’s parking lot. The front entrance had a terrific aquarium filled with exotic fish. Immediately following was the coat check, then the bar area with its red leather stools where you could get a head start on the evening’s drinking while waiting for your table to free up. Built into the floor in this area was a glass-covered stream that ran through the restaurant! Located near the bathrooms was a Wall of Fame featuring the likes of ex-mayor Drapeau and a young ex-Prime Minister Trudeau. : :

: : The dining room was decked out in classic red-leather booths, dark wood panelling, space-age carpet designs, and industrial-grade Chinese decorative items made of steel, wood and brass on the walls. But most impressive was the very large and diverse buffet area that catered to any caprice (On the evening we were there, I was so excited I asked to visit the kitchen to commune with the chefs! But they turned me down on that one). And my favourite part of all: old Chinese waiters dressed in formal black-tie and vests, complete with heavy accents and bad attitudes! : :

: : So with all these great elements, what went wrong? I guess a dozen enthusiastic MTAS members was not enough to keep the place going… : :

: : I had some investigative work to do. However, the Chinese community is reputedly quite tightly knit. I figured I’d start in Chinatown, the community’s official headquarters. : :

: : It was during one of my regular visits to a favourite dumpling hangout (name withheld to protect the innocent) that my wife and I finally uncovered the reasons for Kenny Wong’s demise. It was a slow Saturday afternoon and the owner of the dumpling house came to sit with us and chat a bit as she usually does. After some small talk and finger food, I finally fired off the question: “What happened to Kenny Wong’s on the South Shore?” : :

: : “Well…” she began embarrassingly, as if the place had belonged to her, “I’m not sure but I think there were messy legal matters with the local government… and… well, they preferred shutting down the whole place instead.” She went on to explain how ruthless and unfair (and unjustifiably so) certain city inspectors can be towards Chinese restaurants. I didn’t push further because her embarrassment was apparent. I didn’t have the official story nor did I have the details but I didn’t want to hear anymore at this point. I was sad enough to see the place go… adding further insult to injury was unnecessary. This probably explains why they didn’t let me visit their kitchen that night… probably thought I was another of those city inspectors in plain-Hawaiian clothes! : :

: : Well, we’ll miss you Kenny Wong. You may have not been an “official” Tiki palace but you did give us another opportunity to experience the heady atmosphere of exotica’s heyday… Is that so Wong? : :

Chez Wong (Kenny Wong’s)

4065 Taschereau Boulevard

Greenfield Park, QC


Fred “Dag-Tiki” Sarli © 2003

Demolition photo by Mario Giulione © 2003


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Montreal Tiki
Kenny Wong postcard
Kenny Wong postcard
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Kenny Wong sign
Kenny Wong demolition
Kenny Wong demolition