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O-Mei chinese restaurant on Hwy 7: a review

Just came back from a quick dinner at O-Mei on Hwy 7 just east of Leslie. Had read some good reviews from Chowhounders and wanted to give it a try. It was just 2 of us and a baby, so we didn't get to try too many dishes. 2 menu's offered, one is chinese only, and you can order as a combo or dishes alone. If you order items alone, you only get about 22 or so dishes to choose from (a bit limited for a Chinese restaurant). Because I can't read Chinese (my wife usually does the ordering), I asked for an English menu. Oddly enough, the manager told us that the English menu is for "western people only". I'm assuming the dishes are quite different? I didn't ask any more about it.

Service was very attentive esp. to those who seemed like returning customers, the managers would hang around and chat for awhile (but not with us though). About 1/3 of the crowd was non-chinese, and almost everyone was dressed nicely. Decor was decent but nothing overly elegant. Place was packed by 7:30pm (sat night before Father's day).

We had the following:

1) Deep fried pork in "secret sauce" - turn out to be sweet and sour sauce, hilarious. No clue why they would choose that name? I guess we should've just asked first what that sauce was instead taking a guess choice. Meat was quite tender and not too fatty, and breading was quite thin and crunchy. Sauce was the typical bright red Cantonese style and a bit on the overly sweet side. Comes w/ some pineapples and peppers (not too fresh). Plenty of pieces of meat for $11.

2) Scallops and eggplant in XO sauce - big fresh pieces of scallops in a spicy sauce with nicely cooked eggplant fingers. Again, lots of scallopes for $14.

3) veggie/mushroom/ white fungus dish - again everything was very fresh, sauce was just light enough to not overwhelm the key ingredients.

Our single bowl of rice was very dry, probably near the bottom of the rice cooker. Dessert was excellent, this soft doughy mango ball with coconut shavings crust, and a sweet red rice soup. Final cost was $47 (incl taxes) no booze.

Overall a pleasant meal with very fresh ingredients and well prepared dishes. Nothing too outstanding for mains, but then again we didn't try the "Buddha jumping over wall" soup like others had suggested (a bit pricey @ $10 per person for the small little flask that it comes in) or any of the big priced seafood courses like Lobster. Prices were a bit higher than most other chinese places, but I'd rather eat here than say Ambassador for dinner.

I'll defintely bring my parents the next time they're in town and see if it gets their approval.

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  1. Over 1/3 are non-chinese, wow, OMei has gradually pick up more non-chinese customers.

    OMei is the kind of restaurant that can do more than just wok hai "stir fly" like some of more economical restaurant, well of course it also charge more. The elements and ingradients combination it uses can usually bring out more taste from a typical dish. May be next time you want to order more seafood item (like steam fish with soy sauce on sizzling oil ... which is good to share among a table of like 5-8 ppl) from the menu because I think that's what they are good at.

    Do you mean the "Buddha jumping over wall" soup is only $10 ? Is it like a different size? hmm..

    24 Replies
    1. re: skylineR33

      That soup comes in this indiviual sized chinese ceramic urn.. it's like the size of a small thermos mug (probably get enough for 2-3 regular soup bowls full). They actually mistakeningly put one on down on our table before we even ordered (I didn't have a chance to see the actual ingredients in it). I'll have to clarify the price of that soup, but I believe it might have been the combo special at $20 for that one urn (i.e. $10 per person), which seems rather steep.

      1. re: Royaljelly

        Umm, if I remember correctly, I believe it is $29 per urn when I have it like 2 months ago there, we have one urn per person. But maybe they change it now.

        Anyway, it is fair price there as I remember some other places (like Grand Yatt at Bayview & 16, and they have changed name recently) charge a higher price per urn.
        Again, it really depends on the ingredient they use in the soup.

        PeakTop fine Chinese Cuisine (the new one near Vaughan Mills shopping mall) charge $29 per person too.

        But I guess it can also be shared between two people as it got enough to be shareable.

        1. re: skylineR33

          It was something like $32 for the soup, but also included one additional main course, rice, and dessert. Since most dishes were around $10 and up, we approx. to be around $20 for the small urn of soup.

          Do you recall what's exactly in the soup that makes it so pricey? I was trying to get my wife to try it, but she wasn't "in the mood for soup", ugh.

          1. re: Royaljelly

            Why would you consider O-Mei, a mediocre to middling restaurant, when the excellent Ambassador - great food, meticulous service to everyone, regular or not, and gracious surroundings - is just a block away? We live in Richmond Hill and after trying O-Mei twice and Ambassador once, have never gone back to O-Mei, while we have visited Ambassador dozens of times. They serve a very good 2-course Peking Duck, and their selection of seafood is
            both varied and immaculately fresh. As long as you stay away from the shark's fin and the abalone, prices are not at all unreasonable.

            1. re: KevinB

              Interesting?! I too live in Richmond Hill and yet my experiences with the afore mentioned restaurants are exactly the opposite!! I totally abhored the over-priced, mediocre tasting food and very inattentive service of Ambassador. Almost every highend Chinese restaurant can make a decent Peking duck ( Jade Dynasty, Dragon Dynasty, King's Garden, Regal16...), therefore, citing that as an example does not neccessarily reflect the true calibre of the kitchen. Conversely, the few times that I ate at O Mei, quite a number of dishes left lasting impression. In fact the last time I dined there with my client ( who happened to be a true foodie and has dined in stalwart establishments in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Macau, Canton...), he commented that a number of O Mei's dishes including their Jumbo lobster 4 ways, the geoduck clams 2 ways, the BC live spotted prawns etc were some of the best tasting seafood dishes he had ever savoured. Pricey seafood aside, I would just like to point out that they can also do simple home-cook dishes like steam minced pork with Chinese mushroom, dried cuttle fish and water chestnut or stirred fried beef with Chinese broccoli to the point of perfection. For shark's fin and abalone, I would stay away from both Ambassador AND O Mei and head over to Regal 16 instead. Price and taste are much more superior!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                I honestly don't understand what you are talking about. It was my wife's birthday today (Monday), and we went to Ambassador. We ordered some spring rolls for the kids, and my elder daughter wanted to try the shrimp balls. The plate held a dozen, and we were only able to finish ten (mostly by being so filled up with everything else we ate). Of course we ordered Peking Duck, and the waiter, after carving the duck, offered to create a piece for each of us; we waved him off, as we all knew what we were doing. We polished the whole thing off. The Rainbow Chop that followed was equally tasty, and the only thing that prevented us from finishing it was the belly hang-over from the banquet we'd been treated to the night before. We had seasonal vegetables with crab meat, which was light and tasty, and loaded with crab, and e-fu noodles with mushrooms, which the waiter insisted on serving into individual bowls. At no time did we feel neglected, and watching the wait staff literally sprint to satisfy demands - sorry, that's not the type of service I see anywhere else. The tab came to $116 for five (no booze, some soft drinks), and we brought home enough left-overs to supplement dinner tomorrow.

                And let's not start comparing "off-menu" items; five years ago, I arranged for a writer from Gourmet magazine to visit Ambassador with us. I met with the maitre 'd a few days before, and he arranged a spectacular array of seafood dishes. The dinner came to $1200 for three people (again, no booze). The Gourmet review still hangs on their wall; I doubt the Gourmet people would even deign to sit down at O' Mei.

                1. re: KevinB

                  That's five years ago dude, thing changes.

                  1. re: KevinB

                    I concur with the remark made by skylineR33. To instill accolade on a restaurant based on a 5 year old review is absurd. Take for example, Paris' La Tour D'Argent. 5 years ago, they were riding high on the Parisian culinary scene, cradling their coveted Michelin 3 stars. Now, after a couple of new chefs and quick demotion, they are just an ordinary one star amongst dozens in Paris. The same can be said about our own powerhouse 'Centro'.

                    I am also perplexed to hear that, Ambassador, who claimed in their advertisement in the local Chinese newspaper, that they are a high class establishment serving authentic Cantonese fare, would actually put dishes such as spring roll, shrimp balls and rainbow chops on their dinner menu. I believe most chowhound with a palate for authentic Cantonese cuisine would attest to the fact that these dishes are nothing more than mutation and upgrades of some pseudo 'Chop Shui' dishes specifically design for the western palate.

                    As for Peking duck in a Cantonese restaurant. There must be at least 5 to 10 restaurants in the Thornhill, Richmond Hill, Markham triangle that offer this dish. As I previously eluded to, this dish is not difficult to prepare at all. One just dip a par-boiled inflated bird in a boiling solution of cooking wine, molasses and rice vinigar, let it hang dry before roasting and less than an hour the skin will turn red and ultra crispy. For a kitchen to show its true calibre, its not just the first ( skin only ) course of the duck that counts but how they would prepare the second or even third courses using the meat and bones of the carcass.

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Well I admit that a five year old review is not the best recomendation, when that's opposed to ZERO reviews for the opposition, what should I think?

                      The truth is the people from Gourmet would never set foot in O-Mei; it is, and never will be nothing more than a middling middle class place to eat. If you like it, fine. Just don't pretend it's anything more than it is.

                      And Charles Yu, WTF do you think the second course of Peking Duck is other than "Rainbow Chop"? As for spring rolls, and shrimp balls, are you going to tell me they are NOT on the menu at O-Mei? Any time you want to arrange a head-to-head dinner, you let me know.

                      1. re: KevinB

                        Hello Kevin,
                        That is a great idea!! Would love to participate in a chowhound ' Chinese Eat-off'!!. May be skylineR33 and Royaljelly would like to join in as well?!
                        Cheers

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          It is hard to judge because I think we are talking about different taste and preference here.

                          Looking at KevinB's food items (spring roll, shrimp ball, peking duck, e-fu noodle, crab meat vegetable, rainbow chop-lettice wrap?), these are very basic stuffs. I am not surprised if Ambassador can do a good job on these. I agree with Charles that Peking Duck is just so popular nowaday that just like Ha Gow (shrimp dumpling) and Siu Mine. The two courses are so popular that I think may be Hi-Shanghai can do a good job on it (BTW, they have a three courses on it). There are many variations on Peking Duck nowaday in almost every mid to upper class shanghai, cantonese, chuan restaurants including restaurants in Toronto. It really takes some creativity to come up with other duck courses other than the duck itself and the lettuce wrap like duck soup or pan fried duck liver, etc. To judge a restaurant based on these items are pretty shallow.

                          On the other hand, when looking at Charles's seafood items in Omei (Jumbo lobster 4 way, etc), there is no way that Ambassador can come up with equal quality and taste. I had a 10 course meal in Ambassador last year sometime which suppose to "SHOWCASE" their food - not mushroom e-fu noodle, spring roll, but I left with extreme disappointment (I actually wrote something about the meal in some of my previous post).

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            don't forget about me. prease. I would like to participate in this comparison.

                  2. re: KevinB

                    Well, maybe you order food from the second menu which mentioned in Royaljelly's OP ???

                    Well, I have been to Ambassador at least 10 times, I see it gradually going downhill, during my last visit there the food was so horrible that I stop going there. There is a thread we discussed it a few days ago, I think it is called "Authentic chinese cuisine..." something, you can take a look at it ...

                  3. re: Royaljelly

                    The soup base of "Buddha jumps over wall" is actually made from a long list of ingredients boiled together with chicken, pork, Shaoxing wine and Jinhua ham, (exclusive exotic dry ham from china Zhejiang) for two days in ceramic pot, that makes the soup very tasty and strong.

                    The exotic ingradients in it varies, but usually when it is ready to be served, each person will get one abalone, shark fin, ginseng, sea cucumber, fish maw, scallop, chinese dried mushroom, etc. Some use even more expensive ingradient like "winter worm summer grass" ! All these items used for cooking are dried stock (dried Abablone, scallop) which shrink in size during the drying process, so it is actually a much bigger abalone or scallop.

                    It is the most expensive soup as of Guinness record 2007 which it is selling at $200 per person in a restaurant in London !!!

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      What about the decor there? I have alway enjoyed the food, but brought a group there a couple of years ago. It was disgusting looking inside with all kinds of crap piled up everywhere...also many people playing that tiled game so loud you could barely hear each other talk. Haven't been back since.

                      1. re: JesseJensen

                        O Mei underwent a major renovation about a year and a half ago. Much more fancy looking now!

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          Thanks Charles, I will definitely check it out again then!

                          1. re: JesseJensen

                            Hi JesseJensen,

                            Just a note that decor at Omei is much better than before, but don't expect too much as mentioned in RoyalJelly's OP, it is decent, just like a typical chinese restaurant up north. You may still hear people playing mah-jong if there is a big party inside one of those "standalone" dining room.

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              Although, I hadn't been impressed with the lobster at O-Mei, we decided to return, as I respect Charles Yu's opinion .
                              First time the 2 lobster special $35. They were supposed to be 1 1/2 lbs. each.
                              They were more like 1 lb., and dry.
                              So, on our return visit last week, we ordered the 3 1/2 lb. lobster, at a pricey $18. per pound.
                              The lobster we received, was at least this size, possibly slightly heavier.
                              We requested a female if possible, with roe intact.
                              (Many Chinese restaurants remove the roe, and I am not sure why. Possibly a roe-fest when the restaurant closes?)
                              Their method of frying the lobster, is dry, indeed.
                              However, with the large lobster this method works, as the lobster has a slightly charred taste, yet, the meat remains sweet.
                              Could have used a little more ginger and onion, but a most gratifying meal.
                              On another note, we ordered the Orange chicken, and I am sure that most oldtimers here are familiar with my kvetching about the Orange Chicken disappointments since the demise of Paul's.
                              O-Mei came close, and the chicken texture, slightly crunchy, was there.
                              If they would eliminate the carrots, ,and substitute the dried orange peel, add more onion, and not as much sauce, it might be perfect.
                              Still the best we have found so far.
                              Expensive meal by Chinese standards, but a treat, indeed.

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  Charles which chinese restaurant in the northyork area has the best lobster in your opinion? (highway 7 is a little too far)

                                  1. re: s0memale

                                    Hello s0memale,
                                    Honestly, there's not a lot of good Chinese restaurnats in the 'North York' area except for may be ' Jade Dynasty - Finch/Leslie '. However, I've tried their lobsters as well as their dungeness crabs a few times but found them all fairly mediocre. For an alternate to O Mei, I would head over to Scarborough and try out the 'Lobster in Maggi sauce' of ' Maple Yip aka 'Luk Yue' ' - SE corner of Sheppard/Midland. Depending on where you live, hope its not too far for you.

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      Hey Charles, Thanks for your prompt reply! I will definitely keep your recs. in mind. Im really just looking for a some cheap fresh stir fried lobster like the places in Chinatown, perhaps I should just head down there one day...

                                      Next time you head back to HK make sure you visit Chuk Yuen Seafood Restaurant in Happy Valley, and get the Cheese Lobster, its really one of a kind!

                                      1. re: s0memale

                                        we had dinner at Maple Yip this week.
                                        The lobsters are approx. 1 1/4 lbs.
                                        $18. per lobster.
                                        The sauces are lighter than most seafood restaurants which is a plus.
                                        I was not impressed, but surprisingly my hubbie was.
                                        He thought that the clams in black bean sauce were excellent, and very much liked the steamed fish.

            2. I finally checked O Mei out a few weeks ago after years of neglect. The Buddha Jumps The Wall soup is $31.95 if I recall, it is a combo that comes w/ a dish (your choice from list of 20) and a bowl of white rice. The combo menu w/ the dish choices are in Chinese only, not so friendly for you gwailos.

              I also had the XO sauce scallop dish and it was prefectly cooked. The scallops themselves were quite plump and juicy, a thumbs up from me. The wok hei is quite nice here as you can tell it was cooked very briefly, perfect for something delicate like scallops.

              Unforunately I was only a party of 2 so I didn't get to check out many other dishes. Other dishes I had were peashoot w/ garlic and fish balls stir fried w/ green onions.