Written by Vanessa Perri on 11.06.18

The prominent party promoter and part owner of the nightclub École Privée, Tongue Bui, expects to have a busy summer with the opening of his new dim sum bar Jiao. Jiao, short for jiaozi—meaning dumpling—is located at 399 Notre-Dame Street West, in the heart of Old Montreal. Looking to bridge the gap between the high-end restaurants and nightclubs in Old Montreal, Tongue’s 50-seater tapas bar will be anything but ordinary.

Each dish on Jiao’s dim sum menu will range between $10 to $20, making it the perfect place for a quick work lunch, group dinner, or pre-clubbing supper and drinks. Tongue also plans to have a late night takeout window, which will make it the only spot in Old Montreal to do that. The nightlife legend feels that he owes a part of his success to Old Montreal’s clubbing scene, so it was only a matter of time before Tongue would open his own space in the always-trendy area. We had the chance to talk with Tongue about the soon-to-be newest addition to Old Montreal’s nightlife scene as well as the evolution of his career.

Is Tongue your real name or is it a nickname?

It actually is my real name; I just changed the way I spelled it. The real way it’s spelled is Tung. When I first started out as a promoter, I just though it would be easier for people and they also notice it more too. It became part of my brand.

Jiao Montreal (3)

You’ve been working as a promoter in Montreal’s nightlife for about 15 years now; can you explain what your job involves?

There are a lot of different types of promoters. Nowadays, it doesn’t carry much weight with all of the social media. Anybody with a Facebook account or cell phone at this point can call themselves a promoter and put their phone number out there and say, “Call me for guest list.” The more experienced ones can be considered event planners or consultants; they’ll be able to create a party from scratch and be able to build a brand for a club. Whereas, there are other club promoters that are expected to bring in an extra 10-15 people and be contacted for guest list. Like with any job, I started at the bottom and I kinda soaked in everything I could from the guys that were at the top. I was always motivated to do better. It’s also all about adapting. You can’t be stuck in your ways if you want to make it.

How did you get into the nightlife industry?

I had friends in Cegep and university who were throwing parties and some of them were DJs. So we would hang out and go to parties. Because they threw so many parties, I got to meet a lot of people and then eventually, a few years later one of the owners or one of the promoters was like, “Hey you know a lot of people, would you want to give me a hand?” And I had said yes. While I was going to school, I figured I’d make some extra money on the side and the thing about me is that anything I start doing, I start wanting to be the best at it. I can’t do anything halfway. It can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that it got me to where I am now. So it started off as something I was doing on the side and then eventually I became obsessed with it. When I first started, if you asked me if I saw myself making a career out of it, I didn’t think so. But here I am now.

Tongue Bui

Many know Montreal as the party destination in Canada; why do you think we’re known for our nightlife?   

I find over the years, other places took what Montreal did and put it into their program. For instance Toronto, a few years ago, was way behind. Montreal’s nightlife crushed Toronto’s nightlife. But for people in Toronto now, their nightlife is booming. They took a lot of things that we did. The economy and the population is also bigger there so they have more to play with whereas, we’re smaller. It’s a smaller party community here. But what I can say is that we’re warmer. I find we’re warmer people; we’re more about the party and having fun. Whereas if you go to Toronto, the vibe is different; they’re a bit cold. In Montreal, depending where you go, it’s more of a party vibe. I just find that Montreal was always a party city and people from other cities came, took what we did, and made it their own.

Jiao Montreal

You’re described as a nightlife legend by many, so what made you want to dive into the food industry?

I’ve always wanted every project I start to complement one another. Myself, I actually prefer a bar vibe maybe because being in the nightlife scene, I was always in clubs. I like the more personal approach where if you do come to my nights, I’m going to have a conversation with you. I find you get that vibe more at a bar than at a club.

I also noticed that my friends would often wonder where to eat before going clubbing. If you go to a restaurant at say, 9 or 10pm, and you don’t get your table right away or you order a big meal, you’re committing to 2-3 hours of dinner. There’s no place that will accommodate a group of 3-4 people, where 3 people want to eat and the fourth person isn’t so hungry. I wanted to offer something where if there’s a person that’s hungry, they can eat and the person that’s not hungry can just grab a drink. I found that in that area of Old Montreal, there’s no restaurant or place that offers bar food. There’s no pre-drink place.

I found that was the perfect location for that. There are a lot of restaurants out there, but everyone loves dim sum. So I thought, why not do a dim sum bar? I wasn’t thinking of opening a restaurant; just a cool concept that we don’t have yet in Montreal.

What kind of vibe do you hope to have for your bar?

Just a fun place where you can pre-drink before you go to La Voûte or Flyjin or wherever you plan on going. It can be a pre-drink place where you can grab a meal and drinks before you move on to the club, or when you’re not down for a club where you can have a couple of drinks, a couple of shots—a laidback, fun place. It’s a place where you don’t have to worry about getting in or if you’re dressed ok. It’s more of a hang out.

Jiao Montreal (2)

What made you want to open up a dim sum bar?

The reason why I did that is because a lot of people like dim sum but the only time you really get to have it is on weekends for brunch and you have to go to Chinatown. Believe it or not, I’m not in Chinatown a lot; I don’t have that many Asian friends, so I’m not really connected to the Asian community. But most of my friends are Caucasian or not Asian; some don’t even know what dim sum is. They’ve probably had it already but they didn’t know what it was called. But for those who’ve tried it, they love it. And now you’ll be able to have it whenever you want and not just on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch.

Why did you pick Old Montreal as your location?

For me, nightlife wise, it’s where everything is situated now. If you’re going to grab drinks, most places are in that area. And for the concept I was doing, if you want to pre-drink somewhere, you’re going to try and find a place that’s close to where you’ll go after. I thought that location was perfect to do something like that. I also like Old Montreal. That’s the area where I started building my name. It’s also an area that has a lot of people and tourists too.

Jiao Montreal (1)

What type of food items and drinks can we look forward to seeing on your menus?

There’s going to be dim sum items, but even our dim sum items are going to be presented with a little twist. The traditional Chinese dishes will also be different from those that you’d see in Chinatown. It’s going to be different and what you’d expect to see in Old Montreal. Cocktail wise, we’re actually working with a mixologist. He’s a pretty well known bartender by the name of Hugo Dallaire. He’s creating our cocktail menu; I left that up to him. We’ll also be carrying premium liquor as well as sake and wine.

Tongue, alongside partner Olivier Berkani—owner of Phoenix1, Queen B, and King Bao food trucks—will be opening the doors to their dim sum bar Jiao in early June. Make sure to stop by for a bao bun, some dim sum, and a taste of their signature cocktail menu before hitting up Montreal’s nightlife.

Photos courtesy of Tongue and Jiao.

Post a Comment