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Apr 30, 2005 05:20 PM

Chinese-Indian Hakka restaurant: Lin Garden

  • r

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.

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    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).

    7 Replies
    1. re: Goober

      Me too! Go to the one in the Blockbuster plaza.

      1. re: estufarian

        Danforth Dragon also serves Hakka cuisine (and is a lot closer to me than Scarborough!) Has anyone eaten there? If so, how was it?

        1. re: Jane

          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.

          1. re: bluedog

            Good to know, 'cause it's practically in my backyard too! I'll have to give it a shot -- thanks for the recommendation.

            1. re: Jane

              Be sure to check out their VEGETABLE BALLS WITH GARLIC SAUCE as well as the CRISPY GINGER BEEF or CHICKEN. these were staples for me while i lived nearby.

      2. re: Goober

        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!

        1. re: Goober

          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!

        2. 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).

          1. I'd love to read this article. The Globe website will only allow subscribers to read it however...does anyone have a copy of it that can be read anywhere else?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Rani

              Hi Rani, I've copied and pasted the review for you. Sorry if the formatting goes wonky!

              The Globe and Mail
              April 30, 2005
              Page: M5
              Section: Globe Toronto Column
              Edition: Metro
              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
              eat here.
              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
              only Cantonese."
              "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

              1. re: Jane

                That's fabulous...many thanks Jane!!:)

                1. re: Rani
                  Sanchita Banerjee

                  Loved the article and have to admit Indian Chinese is Delicious!!!

            2. 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.

              1. 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 ..

                4 Replies
                  1. re: wordsworth

                    Must agree with Wordsworth. Federick's is junk. Lin Garden is much better.

                    1. re: wordsworth


                      Is this a review of Fredricks 2 years ago, today, or are they always swill? And if so, why do you keep going back? Or are you just hoping they get better?


                      1. re: HarryLloyd


                        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.