Been to Backyard Garden, thought the food was good (salty and oily but good) but not keen on the ambience eg. when clearing the tables, the waitress scraped all the food off onto the plastic tablecovering, placed plates and cutlery in a plastic trough and hauled away the balloon of wet waste that she formed by gathering up the edges of the plastic. Yum. ( Thought it would be funny to poke a few small holes in the plastic before we left but didn't dare.)
Tonight we checked out Szechuan Legend (Midland N of Finch). Years ago, it used to be Scarboro Villa Chinese Restaurant. The menu looked very similar to Backyard Garden but they had much nicer decor (a lot of rosewood) and prices were about the same as Backyard's ($8-9 per). The nice thing about both restaurants is that the menu is numbered, in English and Chinese AND has pictures of the dishes. You simply need to write down the number of each dish that you want to order. A lot of smiling, nodding and thank yous, you know what I mean. Service was prompt and friendly both times.
I'd recommend either place to semi adventurous non-Chinese speaking chowhounds.
The real sichuan food is SO insanely hot, i doubt anyone from NA will acutally enjoy the heat (well, it's mostly the peppercorn that numbs your sensations completely). When i was in china, each province/city has their own version of Sichuan cuisine, so unless the chef is straight from Sichuan province, i doubt any of the so-called Sichuan restaurants out there carry real Sichuan cuisine. I did stumble upon this Sichuan restaurant at Leslie/Finch about couple of years ago. The place is located next to a dim sum restaurant. I'm not too sure if the place still exist (maybe i should really check it out since i drive pass it ALL the time), but i have to admit the restro does pack a heavy punch with all the Sichuan peppercorns and chilli. Try to have the food on a friday nigh or saturday, give urself some time to rest the next day, cause you never know if you'll be befriending with the toilet next day~ :P
Nearly every table was full during my Saturday lunch visit to Backyard Garden, but there was not one non-Chinese patron, and it likely will never attract many.
There are a handful of metropolitan areas in North America that now have high enough levels of populations from various regions of China that restaurants located in areas where these regional populations are concentrated no longer have to make compromises in terms of authenticity.
Even after avoiding the landmines (of which the dried bean curd or shredded beef may be), real deal Sichuan fare can be numbingly salty and outright “weird” to those unfamiliar with it. The liang fen / bean noodles are neither supposed to look like beans nor be green; Sichuan is a deep inland landlocked province – don’t expect any shrimp or “deep sea” specialties; and yes, the salt levels in many of the dishes can cause your blood pressure to skyrocket. If this is not what you’re prepared for, it is certainly not worth a trip.
Flavours gal, I don't know if it is really worth the trip.
If you feel like a drive, why not?
If it is TTC or cabs, absolutely not.
And to Embee, if you ever find anything to compare with Paul's perfect Orange Chicken or Orange Shrimp, let me know.
I have tried this dish here and in the Orient, and have always been sadly disappointed.
Paul's was crispy and lightly glazed.
Only slightly sweet, and very spicy made with tangerine peel and many hot chili's.
Everything we have tasted is overly sweet, not really crunchy and very wet.
Not to make you jealous, but we always had a table at Paul's no matter when.
Perhaps you didn't stroke his ego enough.
He usually sat down for a while, and on our last visit kissed me on the cheek, which was unusual, and said good-bye in a very ominous way.
Never saw him again.
Had posted this earlier, but didn't go through.
Hope you don't have to read two nostalgic posts.
Since I am still looking for someone to open a Sichuan or Hunan restaurant in Toronto, like the oldies long gone, Pauls, Hunan, etc...we followed the suggestion and went to Backyard Garden.
It has a very interesting menu..not what I expected, but many typical Sichuan dishes, as well as Shanghai.
Just two of us, so couldn't do a comprehensive tasting.
Started with cold starch noodles with red chile sauce as recommended. They were not green and didn't taste of beans, but the cold noodles were very good with lots of garlic and coriander as well.
Next choice spicy shredded beef was dreadful.
Beef so dry that it wouldn't go down, and oversalted to the extreme.....(we like salt)
Next dried bean curd threads with veggies.
This was O.K. but don't bother.
Next Shrimp fried in egg yolk. Slightly overcooked, but acceptable, and very tasty. Cooked in shells and a nice size.
I would go back and give it another try, as the menu is weird, and some dishes that passed by looked downright interesting.
I would say that the food is sort of "homestyle".
Staff very attentive, and friendly. They asked if we wanted to take home our almost untouched beef and we declined they looked surprised, so maybe this is their way of cooking this dish.
Paul wherever you are we sorely miss your wonderful cooking!!!
This past weekend we came up from New York to visit someone who lives in Toronto now but spent more than a decade living in Sichuan.
She took us to this Sichuan restaurant:
Backyard Garden Restaurant
3636 Steeles Avenue. E, Units 113A-116
located in Metro Square plaza.
It was on a corner; a pet or aquarium store and feng shui (geomancy) store could be seen out the window across the way on the right side as you are facing the front of the restaurant.
I don't know if she has been to other Sichuan places in Toronto, but Backyard Garden was great. It is better than anything we have found here in any of the five boroughs of New York City.
Basically it can be summed up by a member of our party who lived in Sichuan for about 30 years and remarked, "how do they make the food this well?"
The dishes we had included: pao cai, dou miao, liang fen, beef slices in hot sauce, fish fillet and szechuan pickled vegetables (in the soup section of the menu) and diced chicken with chili.
The only weak links in the dishes were the first two: pao cai (pickled vegetables), dou miao (stir fry snow pea shoot). These were the two of the vegetable dishes (the third vegetarian dish being liang fen which was superb (called on their menu "starch noodle with red chili sauce" although the noodle is actually made from green beans), so you may want to venture elsewhere on the menu to get a good selection of veggies.
It's really on my list because it is in the same spot as the old Peking House restaurant that I grew up going to since I was a very yound kid. When the owners retired and closed some 15 years ago I was really heart-broken. I still haven't found some of my old favorites anywhere else. Anyways, the restaurant doesn't seem to have changed the decor much and I kinda wondered if it was worth going to just for nostalgia.
The couple things I have asked here (namely Orange Chicken with Chiles and Hosin) about have all ended up with the suggestion of Peter's Chung King on College west of Spadina. I haven't been yet and it isn't quite Sichuan. But, it should be close on a few things.
Lui Lui Hot Pot on Baldwin does a decent Sichuan-style hot pot. You order the raw stuff and you cook it on a hot plate with either a flavourless broth or a fiery-spice broth. It's all you can eat and under $15. It ain't great and the decor is, uh-hum, 'lacking'. But, if you're missing Shuizhu, or "water-boiled" cuisine, maybe this would work.
Nothing much has changed at Peter's Chung King in decades, and the clientele is primarily Caucasian. The menu is not really sichuan, though there are some dishes. The sichuan shredded beef, chicken with peanuts, and garlic eggplant have been consistently good. I'm sure others can steer you to other good dishes, but I've been disappointed with most of the other things I've tried.
I was at a very good sichuan place in the plaza just north of Pacific Mall. Food was very good and service warm and professional, but I'll be damned if I can remember the name. I'll post it when I do. Does this register with anyone?
Good point Atahualpa. I didn't even think about the health notice because I usually park out back and enter from the back.
The ambience is standard Chinatown-esque, but the staff are very friendly and tend to recognize you if you go more than twice.
My fave dishes were stir-fried potatoes, in which the potatoes are julienned and stir-fried with garlic and green onions - different, and delish! Also LOVE cold noodles sichuan style, green beans, eggplant - those were my standard dishes.
I no longer go to Sichuan Garden tho, because I found PALS WT, which is a LOT cheaper for the same quality. So when I feel like Sichuan right after work, I go to PALS WT. And when I feel like really GOOD Sichuan I trek out to Markham to Spicy Mama.
I LOVE Sichuan myself and go to this restaurant weekly (it's worth the trip up from downtown - and I was just there a couple of hours ago!):
Spicy Mama Restaurant
8360 Kennedy Road
If you don't want to travel that far, you can go to Sichuan Garden on Spadina south of College on the east side, or PALS WT on College west of Spadina on the North side. They don't really compare to Spicy Mama tho....