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Toronto finds

  • g

Here are some Toronto finds from last week's long
weekend trip. On the advice of friends there (and
here in NY), the "usual suspects" like Canoe, Avalon,
Jump, Scaramouche, Senses etc. were all bypassed.

We did have a very nice dinner at Jov Bistro -
1701 Bayview Ave., Ph: 416-322-0530.
They strive to be more of a neighborhood place than
going after press. It's a small space and gets very
crowded. We got there too late to try the bakery
called Rahier a few doors down (anyone who has been
there, please report).

However, the most exciting meals were had at the Asian
malls in the outskirts of Toronto (Scarborough,
Markham, and Richmond Hill).

We had terrific Vietnamese at Saigon Star -
330 Highway 7, East Richmond Hill. Ph: 905-731-7221.
The clientele is close to totally Chinese and
Vietnamese, a good sign. The waiter recommended a
wonderfully pungent hot and sour soup with shrimp,
pieces of pineapple, bean sprouts, and sprinkled with
deep fried shallots. The broth was light, unlike the
goopy stuff at Chinese restaurants.

Our favorite was the dungeness(I think) crab in a
curry sauce. It made for messy eating but it was
awesome.

Other favorites were the superbly cooked grilled black
cod over white noodles and lettuce; oysters baked in
their shell smothered with a garlicky sauce; rack of
lamb (beautifully medium rare) with a mint dipping
sauce; a hot and spicy fried noodle that reminds me of
pad Thai; and the Vietnamese coffee and jackfruit
drink.

After Saigon Star, we drove to Xian Zong Lin -
4350 Steeles Ave., Market Village Mall, Markham.
Ph: 905-944-8168
This is a Taiwanese bubble tea and snack place. It
has a young teenage crowd, with disco, rap and raggae
music all in Chinese -- quite amusing. We had bubble
tea with huge brown tapioca pearls, and also lychee
juice with tapioca and "healthy jelly". Our dessert
was a triple-thick white bread toast slathered with
condensed milk (other toppings include strawberry,
chocolate and peanut butter).

We returned to Market Village to try the Malaysian
Satay Ria (right across from Xian Zong Lin).
Unfortunately, most of the meal was a bust. The roti
canai was quite good. The satay meat itself was ok,
but the satay sauce was criminal!! (the restaurant's
name should be changed). One bright spot - they do
serve an excellent Singapore-style laksa with a
coconut milk based curry broth, instead of tamarind
based (Jen Kalb... are you following this?)

In Toronto itself, we came across Vanipha -
193 Augusta Ave. Ph: 416-340-0941 , in the Kensington
Market area. It bills itself as a Lao and Thai
restaurant. There is a fancier one called Vanipha
Lanna on Eglington Ave. We only stopped for a quick
bite for lunch, but from what we tried it certainly is
worth a return trip. All 3 dishes we ordered were
excellent - nham dip (Laotian salad roll stuffed with
vegetable or chicken with peanut sauce); khao glum
(black sticky rice and black beans steamed in banana
leaf packet); and very spicy fried noodles.

On the last morning, we had the most fantastic dim sum
in recent memory at Dragon Dynasty -
2301 Brimley Road, Scarborough. 416-321-9000
I understand the owner is one of the managers at the
fancy Lai Wah Heen. An astounding array of dim sum
comes by in the carts. Six of us spent more than 2
hours trying all sorts of dumplings and snacks (some
of which I have not seen here in NY). There are even
4 dumpling stations you can walk up to and get it
cooked to order. ** GO EARLY, plan to arrive by 10:30
AM. Although it's a huge place, it fills up fast and
the people do tend to linger. It helps to go in a big
group so you can try everything that comes. **

=========

P.S. The Malaysian (Satay Ria) used to be named Bunga
Raya, and had a terrific chef Howard. If any Toronto
chowhound knows where he is cooking now, PLEASE post
here.

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  1. thanks, Gary, what a great message!

    I hope this sort of thing inspires others to post trip
    reports. If you're too busy to write up a major
    travelogue, just jot the names/addresses of a great
    find or two...anywhere in the world. All this info
    culminates into such a terrific resource for your
    fellow hounds!

    Take tips, give back tips...that's what we're all here
    for...and we've got LOTS of space on the site's server,
    so don't be afraid to post at length, even about
    obscure stuff. We love obscure stuff!

    JIM

    4 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      Forgot about one I never had a chance to get to. It's
      a small take-out joint called Vena's Roti on Queen
      Street West (between Spadina & Bathurst, nearer to
      Bathurst). Anyone been there?

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Gary, thanks for the informative post on T.O. These
        are exactly the types of eatiries I've been looking
        for. I get up there a couple times a year and am still
        waiting to explore the Scarborough area; the Dim Sum
        place sounds incredible. I wanted to venture to
        Vanipha last visit, but was told to avoid the
        Kensington area at night-pretty dodgy; this coming
        from someone not usually put off by anything, and I
        don't remember if they were open for lunch. So I
        always eat at Thai Magic on Yonge, which is excellent.
        Did you eat at Vanipha at night, and how did your
        comfort level feel. I understand the food is wonderful
        from other sources.

        1. re: Heidi

          Heidi, glad you found the Toronto post useful. I was
          at Vanipha at lunchtime (a little late at 2 pm so I
          was the only customer). I was unaware that the
          Kensington Market area is iffy at night, but can see
          why with all the stores around closed. If you can
          only go to Vanipha during the evening, maybe you
          should try the sister restaurant Vanipha Lanna on
          Eglington Ave.

          Dragon Dynasty for dim sum is truly wonderful, so go
          while the place is not yet patronized by too many
          westerners. The great thing about these places is
          that they are not really looking for western business
          (although they are very nice, and try to explain the
          menu as best they can), so no compromises are made to
          suit western palates.

          So when are you going there next?

          1. re: Gary Cheong

            I never really know when I'm going back, my trips
            occur spontaneously when we can find a little lull in
            what seems to be an outrageously hectic life lately.
            We generally get there sometime in Fall, and I would
            like to be there during the Film Festival if possible.
            Though, we may just bypass T.O. altogether and go for
            a weekend of Asian feasting and just hit Scarborough.
            I had mentioned a while back on another T.O. post, I
            heard of the Mall and other restaurants there from a
            Chinese friend, (a restaurant owner here), who goes
            quarterly with a bunch of family just to eat. Never
            goes to the city for dining. My husband and I were
            fellow judges with her in one of Cleveland's (too)
            many rib burn-offs this summer, and in between rounds,
            she would regale us with descriptions of all the
            incredible meals they have there. Listening to that
            kept my sanity,(and stomach), during thost long, hot
            hours sapmling obscene amounts of ribs. We've been
            hoping to go since then, and will find out her
            families favorites. Until then, it's off to Cape Cod
            this weekend for a break in the insanity, yay!

      2. hey
        it's great to see that ppl appreciate all that TO has to offer...i have been to a lot of the restaurants and cafes listed and agree with most of the comments. I was wondering if u have tried the taiwanese bubble tea shop on younge just past sheppard called "Koto". If not then it is really worth visiting on ur next trip to toronto. They serve excellent bubble tea there. Their bubbles are sweet and chewy (never too soft of hard and flavourless like the ones at St.Alps on Mott in NY) Another bubble tea shop that's very good is Ten Ren's inside market. (There is a Ten Ren's in Flushing also good) I think u will find these bubble tea shops much better than Xian Zhong Lin.

        passion fruit bb tealover

        2 Replies
        1. re: pebbles

          Hi pebbles - you know, I think I did go to Koto also. But I didn't try the bubble tea there. I had one of the lychee ice instead because it was really hot that evening.

          Agree with you about the tapioca pearls at St. Alps on Mott St. here. Have not tried Ten Ren's yet.

          1. re: Gary Cheong

            Ten Rens is excellent! The servings are huge!

        2. Gary, the Vanipha Lanna suggestion is truly inspired. My friend and I arrived at noon on a weekday just as the resto was opening up. Good luck for us since every dish seems to be prepared from scratch. The funny thing about this place is that the menu looks enough like any other Thai resto to fool you into thinking that the food is going to be just that. What a wonderful surprise: superb and pungent papaya salad, phenomenal smoky and delicate coconut rice in banana leaf, a curried chicken in banana leaf which had nothing whatsoever to do with the last and was equally magnificent (the sauces here deserve special mention), and excellent chicken laab (larb). Usually good laab is basically good sauce and uninspiring meat. Here the chicken was fresh and succulent and the sauce as good as ever. The waiter (son in law of the owner) told us that he had had it at his wedding. Lovely people, excellent food. Hurray for Toronto.

          Also, for simple and thoughtful nouveau-type food, Ellipsis is excellent. Avoid the Indian resto across from the University of Toronto. Takes terrible to a new level. Intrigued by the snack bar at the Ward's Island ferry exit. Anyplace that says "Since 2000" at least has a sense of humor.

          Hurray for Toronto.

          1. Gary or other, how far is the drive to Scarborough from downtown Toronto? I'll be there end of June and would like to try and hit the Asian mall.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Heidi

              Was driven around by friends there so I'm not really sure. I think between 20 minutes to 1/2 hour.

              1. re: Gary Cheong
                a
                Alan Gardner

                About 20 mins highway driving off peak plus 5-10 mins local street driving.
                BUT rush 'hour' is from about 4:00 until 7:00 on this route. Allow double that time at least (or take Highway 2 aka Kingston Road as the primary route).

                1. re: Alan Gardner

                  Thank you both we'll see if we make it or not. This will be just a quick weekender and there's lots I like to do just in town.

                  1. re: Heidi
                    m
                    michael chung

                    Scarborough is about half an hour from downtown, but a better bet is simply to go up to Markham and/or Richmond Hill which is about the same distance. There is a very high concentration of good restuarants along Highway 7, between Bayview Ave and Kennedy Road. These were all built recently due to the influx of new Hong Kong money (and pallates) moving into the area. The food here is comparable to HK but considerably cheaper. You also have the $US advantange working in your favour. Bayview Garden and Ambassador are two of the more notable restaurants. Good dining!