Last week I posted a review of Daniel Levy’s bio of Morris Cohen, the one-time bodyguard of Sun Yat-sen. While I read this mesmerizing story, I paid close attention to Cohen’s years in Montreal during and after WWII. So when I was in the Quebecois city last week, I looked out for places that Cohen may have patronized.
Montreal has a large Jewish community, numbering around 100,000. I learned this from a furrier in Old Montreal. I also heard from another shopkeeper about kosher-style dining establishments that have been institutions in Montreal for decades, even before Morris Cohen arrived there in the early- to mid-1940s.
Schwartz’s is the place to go for smoked meat, which in the US we call corned beef. On our first full day in the city, my sisters-in-law and I trekked uphill from Old Montreal, through Chinatown, to reach Schwartz’s.
It was worth the hike. Here’s a photo (pardon the glare; we were psyched it was so sunny that day) of Schwartz’s window showcasing slabs of smoked meat. I remember reading that Morris enjoyed kosher-style dishes in Hong Kong, so he must have dined at Schwartz’s.
Moishe’s is another restaurant that’s been around since before Morris Cohen’s years in Montreal. It’s one of the poshest steakhouses in the city; entrees run CAD50-70. Morris’s nickname was Moishe, although the restaurant was founded years before Cohen arrived in Montreal. Still, he enjoyed taking friends and family out for lavish meals. So I can probably safely assume that he dined at Moishe’s at some point. We decided to skip it in favor of less expensive French bistros.
These restaurants are close to some streets named after Jewish women. One is Rachel Street. I took this photo because my daughter’s name is Rachel. If Morris Cohen ate at Schwartz’s and Moishe’s, he must have walked along Rachel Street.
I imagine that Morris Cohen enjoyed a good bagel in Montreal. They’re world-renowned and much thinner than their American counterparts. I quite enjoyed my lox and bagel, and ordered it a couple times over five days.
Morris wasn’t Hasidic, but he came from an orthodox family and always maintained his Jewish identity. So I’m sure he came into contact with religious Jews in Montreal. One morning we ate at a French cafe in a Hasidic neighborhood. Here’s a man keeping his black hat dry in the rain.
Finally, since Morris Cohen always kept close ties to the Chinese community, I imagine he would have visited Chinatown.
I couldn’t find the Windsor Hotel, where Morris lived for a while. But I did walk up and down Peel Street, the location of his wife’s boutique. That street is now packed with restaurants, so I’m not sure where Judith Clark’s store stood. According to Daniel Levy, the author of the bio, Morris spent quite a bit of time on that street hanging out at Judith’s shop.
While Montreal is very stylish and contemporary, I enjoyed finding these traces of yesteryear and imaging that I was following in a few footsteps of Chinese Nationalist General Morris Cohen.