Mon­treal-style deli wins over Chi­nese fans in Shang­hai

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICAS - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Brian and Richard Tock have taken a page out of the Mon­treal clas­sic del­i­catessen play­book and shipped it half way around the world to a most un­usual yet wel­com­ing place — Shang­hai.

Since 2013, Tock’s, a Mon­treal-style deli in the Huangpu district near Shang­hai’s fa­mous Bund area, has been serv­ing sand­wiches swollen with Mon­treal-style smoked meats along with matzo ball soup and other iconic sym­bols of Eastern Euro­pean com­fort food. And the ma­jor­ity of their cus­tomers have been na­tive Chi­nese.

“About 65 per­cent of our cus­tomers are Chi­nese and the other 35 per­cent are ex­pats or tourists,” Brian Tock said in an in­ter­view with China Daily. “I think the Chi­nese are nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous about other cuisines and they do like meat, so I think there is a nat­u­ral con­nec­tion for them.”

Brian is the nephew of Richard Tock, a Mon­treal area res­i­dent who by day runs a com­pany with his fam­ily sell­ing head­gear like ski hats and ear bands to re­tail out­lets in Canada and the United States. In the 1980s, Tock be­friended a Tai­wanese busi­ness as­so­ciate. When his friend would come to Mon­treal, Tock would take him out for a din­ner that fea­tured the city’s famed smoked deli meats.

Since he does busi­ness in China, Richard and his Tai­wanese friend would talk about how great it would be to ex­pe­ri­ence the del­i­cacy in Shang­hai. In 2012, a for­tu­itous se­ries of events led to the open­ing a year later of the Mon­treal-style del­i­catessen in Shang­hai.

Richard’s friend helped him learn the in­tri­ca­cies of Chi­nese bu­reau­cracy to get the res­tau­rant go­ing. “It’s very hard to set up a busi­ness in China,” Richard said. “Aside from the lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties, I didn’t know a con­trac­tor to re­model the res­tau­rant or who would sup­ply my salt shak­ers and knives and forks. My friend re­ally helped to get this off the ground.”

Mean­while, his nephew Brian was work­ing in the fam­ily head­wear busi­ness but be­ing a de­voted foodie, longed for the day he could run a res­tau­rant. Brian served an ap­pren­tice­ship with a fam­ily friend in Mon­treal who owned a del­i­catessen to learn busi­ness ba­sics, food prepa­ra­tion and even­tu­ally de­velop the recipes that would de­fine Tock’s menu.

One of the most pop­u­lar items on the menu is the brisket. “I get the beef from a sup­plier in Aus­tralia,” Brian said. Us­ing his own rub, Tock smokes the meat un­til it has the de­sired mix­ture of taste and ten­der­ness. A reg­u­lar pas­trami sand­wich costs 75 yuan (C$12.98). A larger sand­wich or mon­ster ver­sion costs 95 yuan. The res­tau­rant also fea­tures pou­tine, a clas­sic Cana­dian serv­ing of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. For the die-hard ex­pats, you also can order a bot­tle of Moose­head beer to wash down your meal.

Brian was de­ter­mined to pro­vide a food ex­pe­ri­ence as close to the Mon­treal scene as pos­si­ble. A good ex­am­ple is the rye bread used for sand­wiches.

th‘ I ink the Chi­nese are nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous about other cuisines and they do like meat, so I think there is a nat­u­ral con­nec­tion for them.” BRIAN TOCK MON­TREAL BUSI­NESS­MAN

“When we opened it was hard to find a pur­veyor who could pro­vide us with rye bread. Now I am work­ing with a bak­ery that I think gives us a rye as close to a Mon­treal-New York deli style as you will be able to find in China,” he said.

Tock’s has suc­ceeded with very lit­tle ad­ver­tis­ing. “We have re­lied on word of mouth and in China that is very im­por­tant,” said Brian. “When the prod­uct matches ex­pec­ta­tions it be­comes a strong lure for the Chi­nese.”

“A lot of the growth is due to Brian,” said Richard. “He makes sure he talks to every­one who comes into the res­tau­rant. Another rea­son is we got a very good so­cial me­dia re­sponse and that can be crit­i­cal in China.” On Tripadvisor. com, Tock’s is ranked No 12 out of more than 12,000 restau­rants in Shang­hai.

Richard is both pleased and yet some­what puz­zled by the suc­cess of Tock’s with the Chi­nese. “I wish I knew,” he said. “I think part of it is that the Chi­nese like pork which is a salty meat. I think eat­ing smoked meats was a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion for the Chi­nese.”

Brian said ex­pan­sion is in the works. “We are in the process of lock­ing down another space in Shang­hai for our sec­ond res­tau­rant.”

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