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My favorite Mainland Chinese restaurant gems in north Toronto

I promised a few people that I'd share some of my favorite places to have authentic chinese food in north Toronto. Being chinese myself, I've sampled a lot of different places in search of good, reasonably priced, authentic chinese food... particularly cuisines from Mainland China. My wife is from Beijing, so she tells me whether the food seems authentic or not.

Ok, here's the list, and if anyone can add comments that would be great. Sorry I can't list the menu details, since I usually don't order because I can't actually read chinese. A few of these places seem to only have chinese-only menu's and speak very little english, so be warned when venturing upon these places (it'll be just like you're going to China!). :)

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Dumpling King
Address : 3290 Midland, Scarborough, ON M1V 3Z9 (north of finch)
Telephone : 416-321-0888

There's usually 1-2 girls working frantically at the back table making their own fresh dumpling skin and dumplings. Definitely try their dill filled dumplings, quite nice. Also tried their massive sized "lion's head" meatballs, which are bigger than my fist!
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Szechuan Legend
Can't even find the address on yellowpages.ca (unless I've got their english name wrong), but located at the same strip mall as Dumpling King 3290 Midland, directly next to the large water fountain facing midland.

It's been our favorite lately, and it hasn't opened too long ago. They have this amazing pancake this has a soft turnip inner core, and pastry outer layer, lightly fried with a sesame coating... it's to die for! Other favorites include their stinky tofu, and fatty pork. Very nicely decorated place and friendly service.
Reasonable prices too.

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The Old House

8 Glen Watford DRive, Unit 3 (midland and sheppard)
416-298-8986

We actually know the owners of this tiny little place that often gets packed quickly with young mainland food lovers. It's Sichuan/north china/Beijing style cuisine. We always order their fish fillets soaked in oil and red peppers. They also have a somewhat different style of "savoury pancake" that also has fillings similar to the dumpling (sorry, can't recall the name of it). Again, all chinese menu.

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Hot Spicy Spicy Chinese Restaurant

Address : 173 Ravel Road, North York, ON M2H 1T1 (finch & leslie)
It's on the back side of the main strip mall, facing the school)
Telephone : 416-491-8988

I think this place has been reviewed by Toronto Life. Also very good spicy sichuan food, prices recently started to jump (probably after the TL review?).

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Backyard Garden Restaurant

3636 Steeles Avenue East
Markham, ON L3R 1K9
(905) 415-8988

Also has excellent stinky tofu, and this thin clear noodle dish in a delicious dark brown soup broth.

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  1. As far as I know, they all speak Mandarin for sure, but depending on which server you get, some may understand/speak a little bit of Cantonese. English... I have no idea. :)

    I'll try to scan and post up some of their menus if I get a chance.

    Also have to agree with the previous poster about some places being overly oily. I have a few friends who's chinese mothers and grandmothers (from mainland china) cooked for us, and they all use a ton of oil!

    1. I went to Backyard Garden some time ago, and I thought the food was hit and miss. The duck hot pot with beer wasn't to my family's liking and it just seemed to contain mostly bones.

      Although I also think the Sichuan place at Old Kennedy and Steeles is also hit and miss, I love their spicy noodles when I feel like punishing myself... truely "ma la".

      I also like Chung King Garden in Market Village, though they served Cantonese style dessert soup, which sort of confused me.

      I also don't think this place is owned by Mainland people, but I also like Chiu Chow Boy on Kennedy just south of Steeles.

      1. Are there any Hunan restaurants up around there? I've been trying to find a real Hunan place ever since I got back from China but with no luck.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ender

          Yes, someone please let us know. Does anyone remember Hunan Palace in Montreal's Chinatown? It was our first exposure to spicy Chinese food (probably going back about 30 years), and it closed up years ago.

          1. re: Ender

            I feel your pain. I've been looking for many years and have yet to find one.

          2. Thanks for posting these. This should be a good thread.
            Of course, those of us used to 'downtown' Chinese food (that seems to be downgraded by most 'up north'), would seem to have different tastebuds.
            On your list, I've only tried Backyard Garden, and I also won't bother returning. Not that it's "bad" but not worth an extended trip (I guess the same applies the other way round for Mothers Dumplings). I found all the food at Backyard Garden to be oily (of course, that's where the taste is) and the cheap price to be due to the use of lesser quality ingredients (e.g. the beef had been tenderized giving it an almost glutinous exterior, with a chewy interior). I also found the spicing to be just "hot" without any layering of flavours. But to be fair, this is not intended to be haute cuisine - more of a competitive neighbourhood place that delivers fair value for money.

            1 Reply
            1. re: estufarian

              I think the oiliness of the food is dependent on the sort of regional cuisine you are used to. In Shanghai most of the native foods there are nearly universally oily (IMO), and my Shanghainese grandmother was very generous with the oil (back when I was younger, at least). I also found this with the cold spicy noodles I had at some of the Sichuan places around... it's basically chili and sichuan peppercorn-infused oil that makes the dish, which makes it oily by default. I personally think that it's just the way they like it.

            2. I'm getting excited here. I've been searching for good Szechuan restaurants since moving to Toronto from Montreal 10 years ago.

              Thanks for providing this list, royaljelly. I'm looking forward to trying some of them.