Sushi Tri Express
By David Kynan

From Refugee to Popular Sushi Chef

Tri Du came to Canada as a refugee from Vietnam at age 20. He lived comfortably on a farm in Normandin, Quebec, with the kind family who’d taken him in, until he felt it was time for a change. Lured by the big city and the potential for opportunity, he relocated to Montreal with just a few dollars in his pocket and spent his first few nights sleeping outside in the city's north end.

Soon he found a day job cleaning floors and washing dishes in a pastry shop. "The work wasn't really stimulating so I started watching the chefs to see if I could learn how to make pastries,“ he says. The chefs took well to his curiosity. They noticed what a quick study he was and began showing him the ropes. Four years after his arrival in Montreal, he'd earned the title of full-fledged pastry chef.

The pastry shop's owner soon opened a sushi restaurant. He was so impressed with Tri’s abilities he suggested Tri come to work there to learn the ins and outs of sushi-making. "I learned to be very patient working with a team of Japanese chefs," says Tri.

Tri continued to work his way up. He spent 12 years as head chef at Kaizen, a landmark sushi restaurant on Montreal’s west side. Yet he wanted more. He dreamed of opening his own place and offering high-end sushi, but at a price anyone could afford. In 2006 on a quiet stretch of Laurier Street in Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal, he opened Tri-Express.

On the first night, he expected it to be slow: “It’s a quiet area so I thought I’d be able to cook, serve and wash dishes all on my own. But it got so full I had to hire staff a few days later.”

I invented all the dishes and sauces and gave them unique names, names from Quebec. - Tri Du, owner

A Sushi Curio Shop

Tri-Express is small and cozy, and it tends to fill up. Inside it’s a bit like a curio shop. "I went to the flea market every day to find items for the decor. I collect things. People look around at all the trinkets while waiting for their food," Tri explains. Some things cost pennies while others, such as the hanging lights, cost thousands.

A Menu of Delightful Surprises

Tri did absolutely everything himself, from hanging the lights and decorations, to laying the tiles, and even installing the bar, which was made from a repurposed church altar.

Everything on the menu was invented by Tri. Once you order, it’s surprise after surprise. The green tea is a rare treat, served with grains of brown rice and popcorn bits. The salads blend exotic fruits and vegetables with high quality meat, such as filet mignon, into a beautiful bouquet topped with Tri’s house dressing recipe. When it comes to sushi, you’ll find enticing choices that practically melt in your mouth, such as the Laurier, the St. Joseph and the Cartier. "I wanted to create something different and imaginative. I invented all the dishes and sauces and gave them unique names, names from Quebec," he says.

Tri’s reputation has grown and many say Tri-Express has the best sushi in town. If you’d like to get a table or sit at the bar, be sure to reserve ahead of time. If you stop by and there’s a line-up out the door, just call and get your order to go.

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