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Swatow rec's

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Returning home on a late (no food Air Canada) flight, we found ourselves in search of a meal around 1:30am the other day and mozied on over to Chinatown. We saw that Swatow was open - half full, in fact - and ventured in. Pleased to see that Susur Lee was eating at a back table, I was tempted to say "I'll have what he's having" but instead, we tried the "special fried rice noodles" (pretty good) and the fried (egg) noodles with veggies and slices of bbq'd pork (outstanding). It was a perfect late-night snack.

So now that I have this place on my radar, what should I try next? I've heard good things about the shrimp dumpling soup. Any other rec's? Thanks.

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  1. The pan-fried dumplings are great-just order them well-done and with the sauce on a separate plate so they stay crispy. Shrimp dumpling soup is great (add a litlte of the spicy oil that's on the table), Singapore noodles are good as is the beef with chines brocoli. General Tsao Chicken is also pretty good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ROB

      May I add the clams in blackbean sauce...... Yum!

      1. re: Fredster

        And the chicken in the black bean sauce...heaven!

    2. wicked szechuan eggplant in black bean sauce with shrimp!!

      1. I would recommend trying the shrimp in lobster sauce on rice...my favourite.

        1. I dont think you could ever go wrong with a place like Swatow. I mean, why would Susur be there then, right? But its one of those Chinese joints that's there for soooo long that its mastered its menu; nothing can go wrong, except that the person ordering may not prefer the dish.

          I go there to have noodles in soups. Those really hit home. Try ordering your noodles in soups with their brisket sauce--it adds extra flavour.

          7 Replies
          1. re: jennjen

            Swaton is good for rice and noodles. Their main dishes are not up to par, generally speaking.

            1. re: TPC

              I have tried Swatow on a couple of occasions, as all of the good reviews made me think that I was ordering the wrong things.
              The second time was O.K., but we were still underwhelmed.

              1. re: erly

                I'm glad to know I'm not alone. I found it so . . . I don't know . . . "up and down". So completely inconsistent.

                The Special Fried Noodle was good. The Szechuan Shrimp were excellent. The Hot and Sour soup was worse than imaginable!! Like soupy dishwater. Ick. The Cantonese noodles with beef were made with hangar steak (or another heavy inner cut) and were just too, too beefy and heavy for me.

            2. re: jennjen

              >>why would Susur be there then, right?
              Because it's the only place open late at night in Chinatown that doesn't risk a gun/fist fight :)

              1. re: jennjen

                Actually, I went very wrong at Swatow. I must have ordered ALL the wrong dishes because I was unimpressed. This was at least a year ago. I haven't gone back. I'd rather eat at King's Noodle or New Sky. Here's another thread that includes suggestions on what to order, after my initial complaint on this board, but I haven't given it a second chance yet, when there are so many better places out there!


                1. re: Food Tourist

                  Swatow is best known for their fresh-made noodles and dumplings in soup. It is no where in the league of New Sky for other dishes. In fact some of the dishes at Swatow are IMO hard to eat because of a greasy flavour.

                  Once upon a time we used to go to Swatow for noodles and dumplings in soup and then head across to Happy Seven for Lobster and Fried Rice.

                  Now I Just go to New Sky for everything as I love their dumplings too. I also love goldstone for noodles and dumplings, as well as great BBQ items.

                  1. re: Food Tourist

                    Exactly. Swatow is riding off Joanne Kate's reviews from the 80's. Their won-ton soup is less than mediocre. The shrimps used in the soup are riddled with Brown feces digestive strings. It is nauseating. There are so many other places exceeding swatow. The service is rude and unwelcoming too.

                2. I'm sure that I'll get raspberries for this one but...

                  #111. Sweet and sour pork.

                  I know, I know, a North Americanization of the cuisine, but they really are the very absolutely best s&s pork I've ever had... I keep going back again and again and again for 'em because I just can't resist. Decadent, too, and not for the faint of heart: crunchy, fatty, blow up in your mouth pork. Yum.


                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Schmal

                    Slight tangent, but oddly enough sweet and sour pork is most likely not a North Americanization since you can find it in Hong Kong and possibly other places in Southern China as well. On a more on-tangent note, great sweet and sour pork can also be had up at Times Square at Leslie and Hwy 7 (for us uptowners) at a place called Judy Cuisine (if it still exists). Went there a couple years back, I'd describe it the same way Schmal describes it.

                    1. re: Curtis

                      Yep, sweet and sour pork is an "authentic" Chinese dish... but most North American restaurants turn it into a rather frightening looking red mess. The genuine sweet and sour sauce has an amber color and isn't nearly as sweet as what you find here. Only the food gods knows why restaurants decided to add red food colouring.

                      1. re: Jo

                        I prefer to refer to it as 'the orange sauce' :)

                        That's interesting: I was going to add to my post that the BEST s&s I've ever had was in (of all places) a teensy little town in Saskatchewan called Kelvington. Every prairie town has a chinese place. They have chicken balls like I've never had anywhere, and the sauce was the amber to which you refer. Presumably they're so far off the beaten track that they have to make their own? Does anyone know a spot that serves the amber sauce in TO?


                        1. re: Schmal

                          I grew up in Western Canada and never saw the red sauce until I hit Eastern Canada. Toronto is east for people born in Calagary ;-)

                          I like the eggplant with garlic and shrimp at Sawtow, I've never had anything bad there.

                        2. re: Jo

                          >>Only the food gods knows why restaurants decided to add red food colouring

                          Because the red colouring used here is a lot cheaper than the original colouring agent in powder form.

                    2. My long-time faves are:

                      #72 - Satay beef on fried noodles (mmmmmm...)
                      #30 - Can't remember the name, but it's a very tasty chicken soup - try adding some red vinegar
                      #111A - Fried rice with lobster sauce
                      #121 - Fried tofu/fish block with a tasty sauce

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Tara

                        The thing about swatow is the service is creepy at best.
                        The servers seem sort of resentful that you are there and want you in and out as quickly as possible.
                        "Eat up! there are people wanting your table!"
                        The food is good, but the service keeps me away.

                        1. re: tammy

                          i find it interesting that you would comment about their service as "creepy". i think they are all very friendly and happy. they are smiling ALL the time. i was there last week and they were happily greeting everyone coming in, referring to male customers as "boss" (in a nice way), making cconversation with the tables in the front.
                          maybe it was the time that i went at (9pm ish), but wouldn't classify their service as "Creepy" not by a long shot. i've been to many chinese restaurants with horrible service/no smiles/rude and swatow isn't one of them.

                          1. re: chalenegirl

                            I was so ignored as piles of Asian's where escorted to tables one after another. When I mentioned something politely to the owner he said I don't care and that I could leave. That was the last time I will ever set foot in this so called "Chinese food Toronto Landmark." the food is less than great anyways.

                      2. p
                        peppermint pate

                        Thanks for all the rec's. It's funny how many of you know the numbers of the dishes off by heart. I love discovering a new place that's been right under my nose for years!

                        1. Been going there for years anytime I visit Toronto. Their noodle soups are great, but here's what me and my sibs get whenever we go there:

                          Beef with black bean sauce (amongst the best beef with black bean I have ever had)

                          Sweet and Sour Chicken (crispy, with veggies and more sweet than sour it's awesome)

                          Shanghai Noodles

                          Chicken Corn Soup (the broth is awesome at Swatows)

                          I know some of these dishes scream westernized Chinese, but they make a great Sweet and Sour chicken.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bludhound

                            I'd recommend: shrimp and eggplant on rice, the hot and sour soup (it manages to be both hot and sour without too much of a gelatinous corn-starchy texture), the shrimp dumpling soup and there is a simple noodle dish with green onions and ginger which is amazing...

                            I am getting hungry just thinking about it!

                          2. Char Cheung soup. Only place in Toronto that has it and, although I have looked in other cities around the world - barring China - I have never seen it anywhere else. This stuff is not only delicious but unique.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Calam1ty

                              what is this? can u describe it? i think i was wondering what this was when i was there.

                            2. #92 - Beef in satay sauce
                              Soooooooooo good
                              The chicken isn't really that great there, but the beef is fantastic!

                              1. I second the shrimp with lobster sauce on rice

                                1. definitely the deep fried squid - best i've ever had, and i've had a LOT... although i went to swatow frequently a decade ago in my clubbing days, i avoided it until about two weeks ago - but am i ever happy i returned because i was impressed by the quality of the food! every dish was great except for the lemon chicken (i warned my friends about about ordering a westernized dish, but they did it anyway) - it was undercooked. but everything else was great!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: n10sity

                                    Try the salt and pepper deep fried squid at Goldstone. Always tender, crispy, non-oily and a bit spicy...addictive

                                      1. re: n10sity

                                        Goldstone is best for VERY authentic chinese mixed with americanized.

                                        I find all of their BBQ window items to be top notch.

                                        The salt and pepper squid really can't be better.

                                        They make a very tasty Shrimp Dumpling Noodle in Soup. I happen to prefer their noodles to Swatow, but noodles being Swatow's specialty, that is certainly open to much debate. I prefer Swatow's broth to Goldstone because Goldstone can be a bit weak at times. And I love the dumplings at both places. All in all, I don't bother with Swatow anymore - personal preference.

                                        Goldstone has great fried rice too.

                                        Honestly that is the extent of my menu items from Goldstone because when I want a more well rounded chinese meal I run to New Sky.

                                        I haven't tried most of Goldstone's offerings.

                                        They are on Spadina just south of Dundas on the West side.

                                        PS: It is always bright and very clean inside.

                                        1. re: bestandworst

                                          I find much of Goldstone's food too greasy. Swatow makes much better dumpling noodle soups and fried noodle and rice dishes.

                                          Recommendations at Swatow: General Tso Chicken, fried rice noodle with beef and shrimp dumpling noodle soup.

                                  2. Does anyone know whether Swatow have a vegetarian section on their menu? If so, what have you tried?

                                    1. Finally tried this place tonight after hearing so much about it. We had the S&S Pork (for my son), mixed seafood on rice, cantonese fried noodles and hot and sour soup. The H&S soup was absolutely the worst I have ever had. Watery, too sour, very little ingredients. All in all a regrettable experience. It's a good thing everything else made up for it. The S&S pork was crunchy and had the right balance of sweet and sour (as it should from the name). The cantonese noodles were VERY good. The seafood wasn't overcooked, the broccoli was still crunchy and the noodles kept their crispness til the end. Better than most places definitely. The mixed seafood on rice was very good as well. I little chili oil and it was perfect.

                                      Will be going back for sure.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: ctl98

                                        Next time try the "special fried noodles" and the shrimp dumpling soup. I think you'll be more impressed.

                                        1. re: ctl98

                                          I stopped going a few years back because the S&S tasted of cheap or old oil. I hate to infer that you would like the taste of old oil, but did you find it greasy at all?


                                          1. re: deelicious

                                            i was at Swatow for lunch today with a friend . we ordered 2 different noodle dishes and enjoyed them both (malaysian noodles and beef with crispy noodles , maybe #85 and 54 but don't order based on my memory!!!) . i must try the s&s pork next time since it gets so many positive reviews here . service was typical of many restaurants in that neighborhood , not friendly or rude , but polite and fast . our waiter impressed us when he looked at the 2 numbers we had written down on our order and told us what the dishes were . not bad in a place with over 140 items on the menu !

                                            1. re: e.reimer

                                              shrimp with lobster sauce on rice!

                                              1. re: e.reimer

                                                I visited Swatow with my wife and daughter. Although the service was quick, we didn't feel welcome at all. The servers including the owner made us feel that they were doing us a favour by serving us. By the end of the meal, the taste of the food was irrelevant since we were absolutely angry at the way we were treated. It use to be good when we started going there more than 20 years ago. The cordial "Hello" when you come in the door and the "Thank you see you again." when you leave are gone. The owner has become very arrogant. We will never go there again. Anybody else feel that way?

                                                1. re: ac0265

                                                  AC0265, I got the exact same treatment there. That place has mediocre food, a dirty restaurant and disgusting service. Check out my other comments above for details.

                                                  1. re: food face

                                                    I was there for the first time last night, was about half full, service was ok, our waiter was quite nice actually, had a beef with ginger dish, was fine but nothing noteable, and a cashew chicken dish - chicken was of low quality and basically rubberized, the sauce and veggie bits were the only OK parts, their hot and sour soup is gross, no meat to speak of, tofu chunks only and a flourescent orange broth...left with a feeling of no need to go back...thought the menu was kinda limited too, no crispy beef?