Chinese-Indian Hakka restaurant: Lin Garden
Today's Globe and Mail carries a fascinating article on a place called Lin Garden (1806 Pharmacy Ave) that serves Indian-Chinese. The article, by a Sri Lankan, Shyam Selvaudrai, is a great read -- but I'm wondering if anyone has been to Lin Garden and can offer a report.
I've read generally good things about Lin Garden here.
My particular experience a couple years ago wasn't so good. I found the food to be not at all fresh and our rice was just plain stale. I've had better experiences at a restaurant on Eglinton East (just east of Kennedy in the same plaza with the Blockbuster).
I know nothing about Hakka cuisine, but we have really enjoyed the Danforth Dragon. Note that this place has changed hands several times and a visit some years ago (6 or 7) was awful.
However the current owners, who immigrated to Canada from India, and who are of Chinese descent have created a nice menu with fresh ingredients, interesting sauces, and not too greasy stirfrys. Not sure how it stacks up as a Hakka place, or if it merits a special trip as such, but definitely on my "so happy this is in my backyard" list. In addition my very hard to please in-laws dsicovered this on their own on a recent visit, and were very very impressed. This is a ringing endorsement has they have travelled extensively and know good food from bad.
Chung Moi is another great restaurant in the same area (Eglington and Kennedy, on the North side, after the gas station)
We always get the dinner for 2 and ask them to substitute the sweet and sour chicken to chili chicken. Its a huge amount of food and can easily feed 3 with leftovers.
Enjoy if u decide to try it!
I love a lot of food at both Lin Garden and Frederick's but have to agree, their Steamed rice is likely the worst anywhere. If you take home leftovers, we usually toss the rice and make our own. Sometimes if I get take out I tell them not to give me the free rice that comes with most dishes as I would rather go home and make my own.
My favourites, garlic chicken, or ginger chicken, I have found they have also been flexible to make special requests by mixing/matching different ingreidients on the menu. Be careful, you will develop cravings!
Been there many times, actually just had lunch there on Thursday. I think the food is great, you can
t go wrong with the basics (Chili Chicken, House Shrimp, Green Beans).
Hi Rani, I've copied and pasted the review for you. Sorry if the formatting goes wonky!
The Globe and Mail
April 30, 2005
Section: Globe Toronto Column
Byline: SHYAM SELVADURAI
Every discerning eater knows the golden rule for telling a good
Chinese restaurant from a bad: If it is full of white people,
avoid it like sweet and sour chicken balls at a buffet table.
What, then, is a discerning eater to think when he arrives at
Lin Garden Restaurant in Scarborough and finds himself in a
restaurant packed not with white or even Chinese people, but
with South Asians?
Well, that would depend on who the diner is. For myself, I can
only say that when I arrive at Lin Garden one rainy Saturday
morning and see the sign that proclaims "Indian Style Chinese
Food," I feel a sense of hope.
In Sri Lanka, when I was growing up, going out to a restaurant
meant only one thing: going for Chinese food. In our case, it
was the Modern Chinese Restaurant. Since my siblings and I grew
up in a generation where eating out was still a rare thing,
going to the Modern Chinese was always a special occasion. As
children, we would dress up for it, my sisters in their frilly
frocks and us boys in formal pants and long-sleeved shirts.
I would insist on wearing a bow tie as well.
We each had our favourite dish. Mine was crab claws in ginger
sauce. The fleshy part of the claw was shelled, deep-fried in
batter and cooked in a spicy sauce. I would hold the claws and
suck and lick and gnaw on the meat as if it was a Popsicle.
One of my earliest memories of childhood is sitting cross-legged
under a table at The Modern Chinese with my sister, chanting
some nonsense rhyme as we knocked our chopsticks against each
other's to the rhythm.
Chinese food in Canada proved a bitter disappointment. In the
first years here, my family, under the impression that we had
just not found a good restaurant, tried various establishments.
Finally, we resigned ourselves to the fact that the thing we
had called "Chinese food" was not really authentic. This blander
version in Canada, without a plethora of chilis in it, was the
real thing. Just as I taught myself to appreciate the subtle
beauty of a snow-covered landscape, I taught myself to appreciate
the subtleties of real Chinese cuisine.
Now, my family and Sri Lankan friends have informed me of Lin
Garden. "The Chinese food," they rave, "tastes just like back
home." They have also warned me about the incredible lineups.
A Chinese-Indian restaurant is already a rarity in this city,
but one that serves halal meat (and no pork) has a captive customer
base in the growing and affluent South Asian Muslim community.
People come from as far away as Brampton and Mississauga to
The genial owners, Maria and Michael Lin, hail from the Chinese
community in Calcutta, a community that is well over 200 years
old, having arrived in the city about the same time as the
Michael is the chef and has worked in restaurants since he was
14. He has a gentle smile and a soft voice. Maria, in contrast,
is bustling and extroverted and has the air of an Indian matron
-- that way of carrying herself, with her shoulders back, her
head held high, in a way common to older women in cultures where
their social stature actually increases with age.
She has an Indian accent and that charming Indian way of starting
a sentence with "basically" and repeating a word for
"Basically," Maria says in her low, throaty voice when I ask
about the items on the menu, "Indian-Chinese food is Hakka food,
but with lots-lots of spices."
And what is Hakka?
"Basically, Hakka are a people who come from Southern China.
Hakka people are travelling-travelling everywhere in the world.
Every country has Hakka. In Jamaica, Hakka; in Trinidad, Hakka;
in East Africa, also Hakka."
"Hakka cuisine is different from other Chinese cuisine," Michael
interjects. "It is richer, more complex, lots of dried and preserved
ingredients and bean curd and salted meat. We use more soya
than in Cantonese cooking."
At the word "Cantonese," they both make a face.
"Cantonese cooking is very-very bland," Maria says with a dismissive
wave of her hand. "Almost all restaurants in Toronto are serving
"Our noodles," Michael says, pointing to the Hakka chow mein
on the menu (a staple of Indian-Chinese cuisine) are soft, not
crisp like Cantonese noodles and we fry it up with some green
onion and vegetables or meat. But it is dry."
"And lots of spices," Maria interjects.
Chili-chicken, one of the Indian-Chinese dishes featured in
the Special Dishes (All Spicy) section of the menu, is a mostly
dry dish of a brownish-red colour, the chicken practically lying
in a bed of chilis. Ginger fish (or shrimp, chicken or beef)
has a greater quantity of ginger and garlic than normal Chinese
cooking, as well as chilis. Still more chilis can be found in
the other big staple of Chinese-Indian cuisine: Manchurian sauce,
a soya- and tomato-based sauce that is a startling red not because
of its tomato base, but because of the chilis in it.
Maria says they use typical Indian spices in all their cooking
-- cumin, coriander, chili powder and garam masala. What is
unique is that they combine these with what they call "Chinese
powders," a term they do not explain further, except to say
that, just as Indian cooking uses powdered spices, Chinese cooking
uses other powdered spices.
Their Special Dishes section also includes vegetable pakoras
, a very Indian item, which the Lins make with a combination
of spices from both cultures. The discussion of pakoras leads
to the subject of Indian food. "We always go for Indian, when
we have a day off," Maria says. "But here, dosa is lousy. I
don't find it good. In Bombay, the dosas . . ." her eyes open
wide as she recalls the crepe-like treats. "Ooooh, very-very
thin and crispy-crispy." The look of nostalgic longing in her
eyes is one I know all too well.
By now, the first customers are arriving and soon the restaurant
fills up. A large multigenerational Indian family sits at the
table across from me, the grandmother in widow's white, the
end of her sari over her head, the middle-aged parents in slacks
and shirts, their children in more trendy clothes. Two grandchildren,
about 4 or 5, fidget in their chairs. Finally, when the adults
are not looking, one of them slips under the table.
My food arrives -- Manchurian fried rice, chili chicken, the
house shrimps in a bed of green chilis, pakoras and ginger
fish. I take my first mouthful and I am back in my childhood,
seated under that table at the Modern Chinese clacking my chopsticks
against my sister's.
What is a Chinese restaurant full of South Asians? It is a room
full of people tasting a remembrance of things past.
Lin Garden Restaurant is at 1806 Pharmacy Ave., 416-491-8484
Lin Garden is average. For example, the fried rice was average. Never tried their noodles so maybe the noodles are better.
However, the satay shrimp was pretty good.
I've heard people recommend the house shrimp.
The prices are pretty low so that's a plus.
Negative: decor is lousy.
There is a new Hakka resto on Middlefield & Steeles. Zero decor. The food is average. The noodle peanut soup was pretty good. I did like the pakora better than at Tangerine Hakka (Markham Rd/Denison/near Food Basics) or Lin Garden.
The owner/chef at Lin Garden used to cook at Federick's, the original scarborough Chindian restaurant (Bellamy & Ellesmere). The chicken pakoras at Federick's are transcendently good (if you enjoy spice), and the chili chicken is pretty tasty as well.
I drop by Federicks every few weeks to pick up chicken pakoras for take-out ..
better to eat at burger king (and that is not a 'good' thing)
over hipped, under whelmed,
an example of the 'king wears cloths' legend. enough people says its good, people would start believing it.
in terms of Hakka, it does not come close to places like Ming's room Bombay chixsticks etc.