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House of Chan: best steaks in TO

  • j

A delicious dinner tonight - filet prime as always: 3 of the 14 oz to split between two of us - plus those crispy onion straws. No frills. Just great beef. And prompt service. A winner.

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  1. f
    Frederic Tutundjian

    Can i ask how much did the bill come up to?

    9 Replies
    1. re: Frederic Tutundjian

      2 martinis, sliced pork app, 3 large filets with accompanishments including salads, 4 diet cokes - $220 + tip

      1. re: John
        Frederic Tutundjian

        Isn't this quite expensive.... and you didn't even have any wine or dessert??????

        1. re: Frederic Tutundjian

          House of Chan isn't cheap, but it is pretty good. What's best is the weird retro-Chinese decour. It looks like a stereo-typical 1970s Chinese restaurant (The kind that used to have a sign out front saying, "Serving Chinese and Canadian Food") except done with Hollywood production values.

          I went for the Porterhouse (I think it as around $40) when I went there, and it was good.

          This place has long been regarded as one of the better Steak Houses, as well as a neighbourhood secret.

          1. re: Alan
            Frederic Tutundjian

            I see what you mean. However, I have a hard time imagining that I could pay 40 dollars and up for a piece of grilled meat, no matter how fine or tender (and I love beef). I have no problems paying 35-40 dollars for a dish, if it is something that has lots of preparation and/or special ingredients in it.
            But it's only my opinion...

            1. re: Frederic Tutundjian

              All the more reason to splurge and go to Ruth Chris' or Tom Jones !

              1. re: 2Saltyknees

                Went to Ruth's Chris once, never again. Really didn't care for it at all, give me Barberians any day.

        2. re: John

          You ordered THREE 14-ounce filets for TWO people?

          That's one major reason your bill was so high.

          1. re: John

            For two people? Wow. That's a lot of beef.

          2. HOC is a special sort of Steak house. Cheap Red Vinly booths and dark atmosphere that I hope are never replaced. Not the biggest or even best steaks but a great evening everytime I go. I save it for special occasions. Sorry but a Ruth Chris or even a Morton's chain is like eating at Walmart compared to HOC.

            1 Reply
            1. re: justlogic

              Barberians isnt like walmart and its WAY better.

            2. H of C is definitely unique and may evoke strong emotions of a lost time and place. It certainly isn't a chain and it has personality in spades. You may love the dark, seedy atmosphere and fantasize about what the guy at the next table might do for a living. But great steaks?

              They have had this steak & lobster rep for a very long time, but I always found it to be outrageously expensive, mediocre food. Perhaps the steaks live up to their reputation if they know and like you. But I've had better steaks from Loblaws.

              At least nobody is singing the praises of their Chinese food.

              5 Replies
              1. re: embee

                They do have great lobsters though. Always tender and sweet. Perfectly prepared. I think they do lobster best and steaks get to tag along...oh and the fried onion "rings"!

                So true about the seedy atmosphere and the mysterious patrons!!! LOL

                1. re: deelicious

                  Wah Sing's lobsters are a lot cheaper and, I'd contend, a lot tastier.

                  1. re: embee

                    I'm sure you're talking about Wah Sang, which is the brother downstairs' restaurant. It was sliding about 5 years ago, and my family has not returned since. How is the food today?

                    1. re: dlw88

                      Wah Sing but, to be fair, I haven't been to the place in quite a while and I haven't been to House of Chan since about 1985.

                      1. re: embee

                        I get to HoC at least once a year and I have to say that the lobster is really great and they stock from small to very large.

                        The steak may not be the best in TO but it is still better than the keg. Problem is that it is all at premium prices.

              2. I still don't get House of Chan. Moving into the neighbourhood ten years ago, we gave it a try. We weren't impressed with the food (including iceberg lettuce salads with bottled dressings), and found the place dark and "triste."

                We seem to give House of Chan a try every three to four years, just to try to get a handle on what native Torontonians are still raving about.

                We still don't get it. What really annoys me, though, is the closed-up storefront. I think that a huge picture window replacing those awful green boards would do wonders to the space. Just my opinion. I'll probably get blasted by born-and-raised Forest Hillers for dissing House of Chan.

                2 Replies
                1. re: FlavoursGal

                  The closed up storefront and triste darkness are key elements of their ambiance. So are the iceberg, the unripe tomatoes, the bottled dressings, etc. So is the "Chinese" food. I assume that seeing people order it would be a source of giggles to the regulars. I'd be dumbfounded to see them change anything. I think a reno (of food or atmosphere) would be their death knell.

                  1. re: embee

                    You're probably right. Re the Chinese food, I remember that, a few years ago, while working with a neighbourhood architect, he told me had to get to House of Chan for his fix of egg rolls, "the best in the city." Naturally, I had to go to check them out. I still don't get it.

                2. If you want a steak that's truly great, go directly to the Tulip. If you want a steak that's got a reputation, go to House Of Chan.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: sweetspotlee

                    Funny. I would say the EXACT opposite!

                    1. re: deelicious

                      Hey, it's all one's own opinion!... I should clarify one thing - in particular, it's Tulip's beef tenderloin steak that's outstanding. I can't comment on any other cuts. And I've been a vegetarian for five years, so I can't double check anymore. lol.

                      1. re: sweetspotlee

                        The porterhouse at Tulip is still pretty darn good. And the steak & eggs breakie is one of the best deals in the city.

                    2. House of Chan is a joke. try some serious steakhouse where it does not need the decor to be the gimmick.

                      1. Don't know how/why this 2004 review came back up, but here's a cross post from me regarding the HOC from "best steaks in TO" thread:

                        Walked in to HOC, sat down & walked out for the following reasons.

                        Extremely dark. As in, I couldn't see across the table. And we even came in from the dark evening outside.
                        Very crowed-elbow room seating.
                        No windows.
                        First thing that was placed before us was a puce-colored sauce & some darker (dare I say evil) sauce. As opposed to say, water.
                        Lots of loud people. Not good if you are looking for a romantic time.

                        Sad wine list for a place that's supposed to carry good steak.

                        Overall it may just be because we were looking for a relaxed, well lit dining affair, or our own childhood nightmares of 70's chines-canadian dining, but we just couldn't stay, and went to Sky Ranch instead. Much better!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: EPIcureanTO

                          Yes, it probably is for those reasons. HOC pretends to be nothing other than what it has been for decades.

                          Don't get me wrong - I have no reason to go there either...except when dragged along.

                        2. To understand the Tulip and House of Chan one must understand their history.

                          The Tulip was started long before the gentrification of Queen St E. This part of Toronto was the only white Anglo-saxon slum in North America before the hillbillies came north to work in the American auto plants. Many local residents could trace their roots to Nova Scotia. Curiously, the hillbillies also come either from Nova Scotia or from the same stock. Don't be gastronimically romantic. French peasants turn cheap ingredients into wonderful dishes. Their Anglo Canadian equivalent, both urban and rural, firstly spurns much in the way of food, and then turns the rest into crap. Steak is perceived as high class food and is at the top of a ladder of preferences which is missing a lot of rungs. Steak is expensive, it is special occaision,big night out food. However steak is subjected to traditional cooking values, and turned into crap. The Tulip is true to its roots.

                          Why anyone whose tastes were not formed as a child in the Maritimes would like the Tulip I do not know. But it has a wide following, even though gastro-slumming in France is another world from gastro-slumming in Ontario. Basically, with respect to the Tulip, if you like the food, you deserve it and are entitled to it.

                          House of Chan, as I understand it was started by eleven Jewish accountants in the 60's. It was the first syndicated restaurant. No restaurant at the time served Kansas City Prime steak, and they felt that this is what Toronto needed and wanted. Or a least their crowd. As for the Chinese food, this was a time that the Chinese restauarants were bouyed by their Jewish clientele (Sai Woo, Lichee Garden. According to the Jewish calendar, we are now in year 5767. According to the Chinese calendar , we are in year 4644. Soooo, the question is..... how did Jews survive without Chinese food for over a thousand years?)Some sort of get up was needed for the restaurant, and why not Chinese.? After all, Les Halles in NYC is a steak house dressed up as a Fench restuarant, and in a much more sophisticated time and place, so why shouldn't a bunch of Jewish accountants in Toronto in the 60's go Chinese?

                          House of Chan is a favourite with the polished nail and gold jewellery set (the men); successful real estate agents and so on. Given the Jewish affinity to Chinese food, the Chinese food is surprisingly bad, but that is the way it is. As`for the poor wine list, Jews eat, they don't drink. (As a general rule.) An extensive and expensive wine list is out of keeping with the clientele. And you know what, my very Anglo, establishment, wine friend refuses to order wine in a restaurant in Toronto because he thinks that it is a rip off; maybe the HOC customers are right.

                          So House of Chan is well on the way to being assimilated Toronto Jewish cooking. (See earlier thread "Jewish restaurants -anyone?)It is an ethnic phenomenon of a small segment of Toronto Jewish society. Just as with junk food, it needs to be assessed by its own standards. Neither HOC nor junk food pretend to be anything other than what they are.

                          I find HOC less objectionable than Barberians. Barberians holds itself out a world class restaurant and a Canadian institution. It has good meat, if you think that a bland and soft piece of meat simply cooked is fine dining, pretty well everything else crummy, everything expensive, and has a big and expensive wine list, and a lot of self esteem. Why the palate that likes Barberians' food would require such a varied and expensive wine list to be satiated beats me. Other than the whole thing is just big bullshit, Emperor's New Clothes variety.

                          Oh yeah, parking is a lot easier at House of Chan. You can park at Pharmaplus across the street, buy some Bromo Selzer, and they will give you a token to get out of the lot.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                            I'll add a bit more to your post:

                            The Tulip served another very important function for many years. When a working stiff hit it big at the track, it was usually off to the Tulip to celebrate with a big steak. (For those who don't know Toronto, there used to be a race track about a block from the Tulip's front door.) There were actually a few such such post race celebration or drown your sorrows places, but the Tulip alone survives. Thus the juxtaposition of the extremely cheap diner fare and the very expensive (for what they are) steaks.

                            The Tulip's steaks are supermarket quality meat, not noticeably aged, and cooked neither over an open flame nor under a salamander. There's nothing special about them and much of the food served alongside is pretty bad. But a Tulip steak represented the pinnacle of deluxe dining to a certain population group, served in an ambiance with which those people felt at home.

                            It isn't fair to compare the Tulip with places serving aged USDA prime beef. It isn't in the same league and it doesn't pretend to be. It is what it is, sans any airs - which is a good thing :-)

                            I don't personally bother with the Tulip's steaks, and I don't understand why someone would travel across town to eat one. I do understand the popularity of the rest of their menu - all day breakfast standards and diner classics at very good prices. (Though they ruin many dishes for my palate by overloading them with an acrid garlic powder or some such thing.)

                            Re HOC, I've heard a different story about its origins and I have no idea whether or not this story is true. Supposedly it was originally a Jewish-Chinese restaurant (Chinese owned). I don't know how the steak/lobster thing evolved, but when the owner retired or died, the place was bought by a Jewish guy who feared its demise (I can't remember whether it was a pharmacist or dentist) and syndicated then. Whatever the story may be, your description of the socio-anthropology sounds pretty apt.

                            1. Vinny, you have an interesting and unique take on some of the ethnoresotocultural history of Toronto. Gotta disagree on the east end near the Tulip being the only Anglo-saxon slum in NA. It wasn't even the only one in Toronto--Cabbagetown has much more historic claim to being the original Toronto slum.

                              Interesting to note that the Purple Onion which was opened up by ex-Tulip people should serve similar fare in the old stockyards. That being so close to many more of the historic originally Anglo-Saxon poorer neighbourhoods--the Junction, Earlscourt etc...

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: mikeb

                                "ex-Tulip people"??? how's that possible? aren't they all family?

                                IS the Purple Onion similiar? gosh, I lub me Tulip, so the more discouraging reviews it gets, the better . . . anything that cuts down the dinner line is good with me

                                1. re: orangewasabi

                                  Being nowhere near the area, I don't eat at the Tulip, so don't worry about me blocking your line. I can't say whether the menus taste the same, but there is a link between the two restaurants. Here's a dated link to an Now article on the Onion and how they learned their trade at the Tulip.


                                  Don't get me wrong, I really like inexpensive steak and eggs done properly. They do it right at the Purple Onion. That said I would never compare it mano a mano to a high end steakhouse (Barberians etc). They are not the same animal, nor do they they use the same grade of animal.

                                  1. re: mikeb

                                    Nor do they pretend to be. But I have to say that they do have a loyal following of people who enjoy their steak over all other choices...costs aside. I know some of them. SO there are people that do say it compares and exceeds...I think it is what you were raised on cuz I cant see any other reason personally.

                                    1. re: mikeb

                                      cool, thank you. Can't wait to try Purple Onion though, I loved the Tulip's nasty old location

                                      yeah, I love Tulip, and I love Carmen's. They aren't the same thing though, totally get that.

                                      1. re: orangewasabi

                                        FYI the Onion is "moving" on the 20th of February. Lots of redevelopment in the area so it doesn't surprise me. They don't have a new location yet so who knows where they will end up--if they end up anywhere.

                                  2. re: mikeb

                                    I lived as a child in the bad old days at Carlton and Bleeker Sts. The Tulip is a block away from Queen St East and Craven Rd. (Craven was my nominee for the worst street in Toronto, even worse than Degrassi. Bleeker at least had a couple decrepit mansions turned into rooming houses.) Eskimos are reputed to have 57 different words to differentiate snows.To me it is all the same but I do agree that to those differently attuned there are major differences.

                                  3. I heard that the owners of House of Chan are now involved in a business deal with the owners of Joe's Stone Crab in Fla. and that stone crabs are now available at HOC. Does anyone have any information on this, or price?

                                    1. Oh great! Can you just imagine what they'll charge for stone crabs? Which, in my opinion, are not all that they're cracked up to be.

                                      1. I had dinner at the Tulip last night, it was my first visit and really for the price I was impressed. I had a 12oz sirloin cooked exactly as I asked, with mashed side for under $16. True it is not fine dinning gourmet Vinnie but sometimes you do not want to cook and not want to pay way to much for good white trash comfort food. Service was efficient the way an old school "dinner" should be..

                                        I would not hesitate to go back.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: OnDaGo

                                          Harveys is even cheaper you know and you can pick from a ton of toppings! They also let you add an extra patty if you are especially hungry.

                                          1. re: deelicious

                                            Really? I have never seen a 12oz Sirloin steak at Harveys... is it on their new menu?

                                        2. Though I only go there a couple of times a year, I've always liked the steak at House of Chan. Yes, it's a bit on the spendy side (but most good restaurant steak are). And I like the ambiance - if I'm craving a steak midweek and I don't feel like a big night out, I'd way rather hang out in a dimly lit vinyl booth in my jeans than sit through the presentation platters at Morton's or even Harbour 60. And I love all of the things that come with the steak - the noodles with hot mustard and sweet plum sauces, the sliced veggies and the crispy onion bits. As for the steak itself, it's always been perfectly cooked, juicy and flavourful. I grew up in a house where we NEVER went out for steak, the belief being that nothing tops a fresh, great steak on the bbq - and for the most part, I still agree with that - but when I have a craving (as I'm starting to do right now as I type), I've never been disappointed with House of Chan.

                                          1. To my palate, the best steaks served at a Toronto restaurant were the rib steaks at the long defunct Noshery Corner Room, which was at Yorkdale mall in the seventies. When compared directly with HOC in that era, I don't think that HOC came close.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: embee

                                              Oh The Noshery, how I remember that place. Except we went to the one on Eglinton. EVERY SUNDAY night....we lived there. Loved the place. Remember the pie turntable? We would stare at that thing go round and round while waiting what seemed like hours for a table. I'd order the same thing week after week, chicken tidbits with honey. What fond memories this has brought back embee.

                                            2. If you want good meat and lots of it without the fancy trimmings (i.e vegetables)...get your boney backside to the Tulip on Queen. What they may lack in decor (Kitschy 70's dinner) they more than make up for with the best steaks at the absolute best prices in Toronto. End of story. This thread can now be closed.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Finnegan

                                                Good enough steaks for the price, Finnegan - but chewier than the "best steaks" in Toronto, and fried rather than grilled or rapid-broiled, and not seasoned to speak of. I think the Tulip's daily specials, chicken parm, hamburger steak, cream pies, onion soup etc - are all estimable, good diner food. But a great steak house it is not - nor claims to be.

                                              2. Granted I could probaly cook a better steak on my BBQ at home, but i have neither the time or the inclination. This place has been around since before noah picked up a hammer...and it will be here long after the Outback Steakhouse et al are dead and buried. This a meat and potatoes place for people who don't even know the meaning of coulis or au jus. Read meat, a cold beer and if you must a side of veggies. The Tulip is a Toronto tradition, nay, institution for good reason.

                                                1. I can't believe how old this thread is...

                                                  1610 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L1G2, CA

                                                  House of Chan
                                                  876 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M6C2B6, CA

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: JamieK

                                                    I can't believe no one pointed out the incongruousness of lobster in a Jewish restaurant.

                                                    1. re: Googs

                                                      Very good point googs!! But what about The Noshery....see my post a few up!!!!

                                                      1. re: millygirl

                                                        What are chicken tidbits with honey!!!??? Sounds like something my kids would like.

                                                        1. re: bluedog

                                                          Exactly bluedog, as a kid I loved them. They were basically your mcdonald's nuggets but much better and at triple the price.

                                                          1. re: millygirl

                                                            Am I the only one who finds the term "Chicken tidbits" to be at least slightly disconcerting?

                                                  2. Barbarian's is very tasty. The Tulip is great for quantity and price. But the way Chan hangs the meat to get the flavour and tenderness is something else. It's the leg up they have on the previously mentioned.