How Jean Beliveau's family inspired a Filipino-Hawaiian fusion restaurant
MONTREAL -- Winter is hanging on in Montreal but a new restaurant in Cote-des-Neiges is hoping the city will warm up to its Pacific flavours.
Le Petit Vibe combines Filipino and Hawaiian influences. You won’t find any poke bowls on the menu, but you will find snack foods containing fried spam and seafood served on banana leaves.
“It's how soldiers used to eat back in the day in the Philippines when they were at war,” said Head Chef Ryan Oabel. “They didn't have plates, they used banana leaves and their hands.”
Oabel’s family is from the Philippines and he says a lot of Filipino flavours can be found in Hawaiian cuisine today. Immigrants from the Philippines came to Hawaii in the early 1900s to work in sugar cane fields. People of Filipino descent now represent close to 25 per cent of the Hawaiian population.
Oabel says he always loved to cook and learned a lot from helping his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. He went on to study nursing as an adult and eventually ended up working for Montreal Canadiens hockey legend Jean Beliveau as a personal care attendant.
“Every Sunday would be a family day for them and I would cook for them,” he said. “Any dishes that I would come up with - Filipino, Italian, poutine - they just enjoyed what I cooked.”
He says the Beliveau family pushed him to attend culinary school and pursue cooking as his career.
Today he runs Le Petit Vibe with three friends who all shared a desire to bring Hawaiian culture to Montreal.
“We love the vibe from Hawaii and we found there was nothing in Montreal that had that and we wanted to bring that back here,” said co-owner Willson Luu.
Dishes at Le Petit Vibe include fried pork belly served with macaroni salad and rice, and furikake chicken, their take on General Tao.
“It makes you feel like home, it makes you feel like you're with your family it's makes you feel like you're at parties with your old friends,” said Sous-Chef Ryan Lazaro. “It's comfort food.”