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Oct 4, 2007 10:51 AM

Cheap and Cheerful Kensington/Chinatown tour

I missed it unfortunately, but just wondering if any of the participants from the most recent Chowhound meet can give us a report on what you tried on the tour?

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  1. Sure! I've got some notes, but I haven't found time to write them up until now.

    Here's what I've got:

    It was a *perfect* day for this. Not hot enough to create that particular chinatown summer smell, but still plenty sunny and warm for wandering around without jackets.

    Our first stop was Kim Moon Bakery. Egg tarts were the popular choice to try -- and they were rich and sweet and eggy and come in various sizes depending on just how much egg tarty godness you require. We also tried a savory moon cake (ham and raisins) some sweet buns (good, but nothing outstandingly special, dirt cheap, though) and some BBQ pork pastries the name of which I forget.

    Then we moved off to Kensington for pupusas at Emporium Latino. You order at the cash register, get a sticky note and a number and take your order to the back to be made up fresh. It's a tiny little hole in the wall spot (we definitely overwhelmed the place) that mainly focuses on groceries, but fresh made pupusas were tasty.

    Next door is Jumbo Empanadas. We ordered just a couple -- a beef and a veggie -- to split since they are, in fact, jumbo. (Ooops, I think we might all owe you money for that Edythe, since I don't think we chipped in.) These were great -- excellent, flavourful pastry and fantastic fillings. Possibly my favorite stop of the day.

    We stopped at Moonbeam coffee for a beverage and caffeine break at that point. I don't drink coffee, but they have a huge selection of juices and slushies. Apple Cider Slushie was absolutely smashing--several of us tried them and all agreed that they were a perfect summer drink. The baked goods, which emphasize organic and vegan options were iffy. They might have been okay for organicly vegan stuff, but they just weren't great.

    Our next stop was a push through the crowd at Nguyen Huong for Banh Mi. Ordering was chaotic, and it's not entirely clear that it's possible to both know what you're eating and get what you actually ordered at the same time (sort of a Heisenberg uncertainty principal for food), but it was still fun. Just decide what you think looks good and point at it. You may never know what it was you just ate, but it'll probably be good.

    Finally, we stopped at Mother's Dumplings, which I'm obliged by daut calm to point out, is just like eating in someone's basement, for some lamb and dill dumplings, marinated beef and hand pulled noodles. Everything is fresh and excellent. The funniest moment of the day came when the waitress brought menus over, stopped, glanced around our table, apparently decided that Curtis was our most authentic looking asian and gave him all the menus and the order form. Of course, that allowed the rest of us to abdicate ordering responsibility to him, so if anyone didn't like what we ate, it was his fault.

    Thanks go to Edythe for acting as the tour guide for the day -- it was an excellent afternoon of serious hounding.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jacquilynne

      just curious about your ordering at nguyen huong... i usually just get the everything bahn mi but my boyfriend likes extra spicy and extra cilantro but i'm all about just the extra cilantro (the habeneros they use can cause some serious pain!)... so what they tend to do for us is mark them in some manner so we know the difference, once it's been with different bags (plastic vs paper) and another time was actually an elastic band!

      next time anyone is there though, especialy at the end of the day, i totally encourage you to grab one of the reduced priced meals in the open fridge. they're pretty darn good and cheap!

      1. re: Jacquilynne

        Thanks for writing this up, Jacqui! It was indeed a great afternoon of hounding and it was fun to put a few more faces to names. My personal favourite were the pupusas. After reading about them for so long on chowhound, I was very happy to finally get to try them myself and decide that they do indeed live up to the chowhound recs. $2.50 for spicy (sauce), crunchy (coleslaw/"salad"), warm, cheesy, corny goodness. I can't wait to go back and try some of the other items on the menu.

        I had to leave after our Moonbeam stop, but I laughed when I realized that after 4 chowstops I had spent less than $10, including the $4.50 cider slushie. Cheap and cheerful indeed! Well done, Edythe -- thanks again!

        1. re: Jacquilynne

          Just adding some place links to this thread.

          Kim Moon Bakery
          438 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

          Mother's Dumplings
          421 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON , CA

          Jumbo Empanadas
          245 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2L8, CA

          Latin America Emporium
          243 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

          Moonbean Coffee Company
          30 St Andrews St, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

          1. re: Jacquilynne

            You're welcome! That was a fun outing. Thanks for documenting it Jacqui and thanks to everyone who came out. It was great sampling everyone's choices.

            Tony's mooncake reminded me of a christmas fruitcake. I definitely prefer the lotus paste version over the savoury ones.

            Loved the pupusa, that spicy coleslaw topping is a nice touch. Would love to go back and try one of their churros next.

            Those cider slushies were fantastic, definitely the highlight of the day for me.

            Kudos to Diana, Curtis and Jacqui for getting those subs. In response to pinstripeprincess's question about ordering, we basically used Curtis as a battling ram to push ourselves up to the counter so we could point at the stuff we wanted. It was so loud and chaotic in there, we were just happy to walk away with something! Curtis’ sub had the bizarre pink sausage meat (I think it had cilantro, pickled vegetables and definitely hot sauce). Jacqui’s was the grilled chicken one, I don’t remember what was on it but the chicken was on the dry side. Diana’s was with cold cuts and they forgot the hot sauce on that one. Next time we’ll know to just ask for everything. It’s very overwhelming when it’s packed like that. Shuman equate it to something out of a soup nazi scene!

            1. re: Jacquilynne

              Sounds like you had a very enjoyable afternoon! Now I'm planning on checking out Emporium Latino for the pupusas and Moonbeam for the apple cider slushie this weekend.

            2. I'm sad to have missed this as well. You guys seem to have hit all of my favourite places in the neighbourhood. :)

              Glad to hear the meet was a success.