Winning Fans with a Bluntly Honest Menu

The owner of Cuisine AuntDai in Montreal, Canada just wants to be honest with you. The orange beef? Not very good, especially compared to the restaurant's General Tao Chicken, but owner Feigang Fei isn't a big fan of North American Chinese food anyway, so, "It's your call."

The sweet and spicy pork strips? Well, Fei has high expectations. It was one of his favourite dishes in China.

"Since I have so high expectation on this dish, I am not a huge fan for our version, to be honest," he states bluntly.

All this is listed on the online menu for AuntDai, which serves a variety of traditional and non-traditional Chinese dishes, with each item including a few lines of commentary from Fei. When Kim Belair, a writer, posted the menu to Twitter last week, Fei's descriptions quickly blew up, with tens of thousands of people enjoying his words.

His notes are mostly helpful, pointing out which dishes aren't really as spicy as they look, which are popular, and which are his favourites. He even points out which dishes he hasn’t had a chance to try.

For example, beneath a photo of Tofu Skin Salad, Fei gives a brief history: "QianZhang is translated to thousands of layers. It's a big sheet made of Tofu and it's magical that Chinese people can make so many different food using soybeans. We cut QianZhang sheets into thin julienne. This plate is very tasty and healthy, and it's widely accepted. Totally recommend this one."

The honest descriptions of the dishes at AuntDai aren’t a new addition, most of them he wrote years ago, explaining that he didn’t want customers to be disappointed.

"A lot of people want to be the best ... and we are simply not the best. That's a fact," he said. "We just try to be a little bit better every day. And that's how I see it."

As news of Fei's menu and brilliant commentary went viral, business went up.

"Friday and Saturday we saw a lot of new customers, and a lot of them told me they heard me on the radio or saw me on TV and they loved it," Fei wrote in a blog post on Monday, following his eventful week.

It's good news for the restaurant, which has spent months doing take-out only amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Though AuntDai has been all right, other restaurants and small businesses in Canada have been hit hard.