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Salad King - still OK?

kokoko Dec 4, 2007 11:45 AM

Haven't been back to Salad King since I moved from Toronto in 2004.
Do they still make the most amazing golden tofu curry ever??
Do they still close between Christmas and New Years? Please someone say no!
Otherwise I will have to go straight from the airport to have it!

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  1. xtal RE: kokoko Dec 4, 2007 06:28 PM

    I'm not sure of their holiday hours, but I dropped by there last week for a quick lunch. The food is still tasty, though I don't go there often enough to comment on their quality over the years.

    1. vorpal RE: kokoko Dec 4, 2007 07:20 PM

      I've only gone in the last year or so, but I was generally very unimpressed with the food and even worse was the service. I was told (not asked) that my appetizers would come after my entree, and that's just the way things were to be. Now, I don't really care all that much about things like that, but the way the information was conveyed to me was downright rude and abrupt. The green curry was a thin, pale, ugly, unbalanced mess with little flavour other than chillies. There was no hints of lemongrass, galangal, coriander, or any of the things that make a Thai curry what it is. Satays were decent, as were the ice creams. The noodle dish we had was positively vile; it tasted of rancid shrimp. I don't like shrimp, so I thought it might have been just me, but my husband loves it, and he deemed the dish inedible after one bite.

      I've heard that it used to be better, so if you're going in expecting 2004 quality, you may well be disappointed. People like it because it offers a cheap and predictable lunch experience, but I can't imagine anyone making a special trip to go there. I consider it the Spring Rolls of Thai cuisine.

      Toronto finally has some good Thai restaurants. Why not give them a try? Mengrai Thai is excellent, and from the sounds of it (I have yet to try, but I'm enthusiastic from all I've heard), Ivory Thailand seems like a winner.

      1. r
        Raptorfan RE: kokoko Dec 6, 2007 08:26 AM

        suprising question. are we talking about the same Salad King? The one I know is around Yonge and Dundas, fully packed during luch and dinner and tastewise - nothing worth to say.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Raptorfan
          Teep RE: Raptorfan Dec 6, 2007 09:03 AM

          That's the one. Some people rave about it but in my book Salad King has never been OK (except for the prices).

          1. re: Teep
            Roberto7 RE: Teep Dec 6, 2007 11:38 AM

            I agree. My wife and I were there in July 2007 and did not love it. More a trendy place for the 20ish crowd than a realt chowhound find.

        2. Googs RE: kokoko Dec 6, 2007 10:41 AM

          If you're looking for the latest greatest Thai food in Toronto near that area, I strongly suggest as I believe Vorpal has also, that you try Mengrai. Amazing food, excellent service, no... rush... at... all..., lovely room.

          82 Ontario Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2V3, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: Googs
            Full tummy RE: Googs Dec 7, 2007 05:51 PM

            My husband and I ate at Mengrai tonight; I love the little tables, surrounded by padded benches, in the back alcove. Very cosy. Food was excellent. So, is their "authentic" pad thai really what it tastes like in Thailand? More fishy, and also more interesting flavour. Everything was excellent. Thanks to those who have recommended the place. It wasn't half-full on a Friday night, so I am urging everyone to head on out there!!!

            1. re: Full tummy
              Googs RE: Full tummy Dec 8, 2007 08:10 AM

              I think it's about time Vorpal posted that Mengrai review he's been promising us. No pressure though. ;-)

          2. s
            SxCx RE: kokoko Dec 9, 2007 04:22 AM

            After being disappointed and nauseated by many of the alternate Thai picks gleaned right from this board, I think I've zeroed in on why Salad KIng satisfies me where others don't: turnover, combined with a comparably brief menu.

            Seriously, I encourage anyone to walk by Salad King during the dinner and lunch hours of any day. The lineup is spilling out the door, which anyone savvy about eating out should know is a good indicator of freshness. How many times have you folks entered a vacant dining room and sat down to a good meal? My record is pretty shameful, and I always use it as a guide to where money should be spent.

            Salad King is inconsistent, yes, and maybe even a bit inauthentic (horrors!). But I'll take it over most every other tacky and underperforming room in the city.

            11 Replies
            1. re: SxCx
              T Long RE: SxCx Dec 9, 2007 05:41 AM

              What does "authentic" really mean anyways....if you enjoy the food, go for it. And totally agree with your assessment that a busy place usually equates to food freshness.

              That said, I've been very disappointed with the quality of service at the Salad King and I avoid it for that reason.

              1. re: T Long
                vorpal RE: T Long Dec 9, 2007 08:34 AM

                My issue with authenticity is that so many Thai restaurants don't even try to prepare dishes like they appear in Thailand, but still describe themselves as authentic on their sign, menus, self-ascribed descriptions, etc. For example, the Friendly Thai claims to serve authentic Thai and Malaysian food. I can tell you that there's not much that's authentic about ketchup in pad thai, and their Malaysian food is an insult to Malaysian cuisine. The term is bandied around to the point of being completely meaningless, which I don't find is the case nearly so much with other styles of cooking.

                But I do agree. If you like it, eat it. Authentic does not necessarily equate to good, unless you're looking for a specific experience (which I am when it comes to Thai food). The key to a good meal is well prepared food with fresh, quality ingredients. I find that perhaps Salad King uses fresh ingredients, but their food is very poorly prepared. If you've had a good Thai meal, you can clearly tell the difference between that and what Salad King serves.

                1. re: vorpal
                  T Long RE: vorpal Dec 9, 2007 09:03 AM

                  Hi Vorpal: Thx for this...well stated.

                  1. re: T Long
                    estufarian RE: T Long Dec 9, 2007 09:15 AM

                    I must admit I'm surprised at the vehemence that Salad King is now attracting. I find their takeout is still remarkable value and tasty. Still my 'go to' place around the Eaton centre.
                    And Linda's (upstairs) is still my first place to visit when returning to Toronto. Great food (but nowhere near as cheap as Salad King - and uses the same kitchen).
                    No - it's not my "thing" to eat communally, so I rarely visit Salad King for a sitdown meal anymore - but the last time I did (about 6 months ago) I got a very respectable meal with fresh ingredients, including beer for under $30 for two. If people know something better, please let me know (haven't tried Mengrai yet, but it's not really in the same area - maybe 15-20 minutes by public transit).

                    1. re: estufarian
                      Googs RE: estufarian Dec 9, 2007 10:09 AM

                      Mengrai is 10 minutes at most if walking from Yonge & Dundas. If you took the Queen car from Yonge the ride is less than 5 min. It is well, well worth the extra wee bit of time. Nothing against Salad King. Just think Mengrai is fantastic.

                      1. re: estufarian
                        vorpal RE: estufarian Dec 9, 2007 11:44 AM

                        I think that restaurants like Salad King are lowering the bar for what Torontonians should expect and deserve when it comes to good Thai food. They're doing what Spring Rolls has done for Asian food in general, and what McDonald's has done for hamburgers and fries: they've brought, IMO, a quick, affordable, but less enjoyable experience to the masses. I suppose I feel about the issue as I do because well prepared Thai food is really a joy beyond words to eat, and frankly, I want other people to *know* that joy and understand why I am as passionate about Thai food as I am. Salad King may be an acceptable and relatively healthy choice for a fast meal for many, but if you've come to associate it with good Thai food, you've settled for less-than-mediocrity and are denying yourself of the bliss that Thai can bring.

                        I speculate that this is why Torontonians, in my experience, have less of a proclivity to Thai food than other cities that I've lived in. In Ottawa and DC, people seemed more excited about Thai, from what I saw, and with good reason. Here, the general attitude towards it is more subdued.

                        Have you tried Ivory Thailand yet? It's quite a bit closer, location-wise, to Salad King (on Church where the old Young Thailand was). I can't speak personally on it, but I will try it soon and I have high hopes given what I've heard on here so far.

                    2. re: vorpal
                      skylineR33 RE: vorpal Dec 9, 2007 10:13 AM

                      I agree that Salad King is not 100% authentic, in fact Linda is a Thai fusion as they mention in the website. FYI, Salad King does not use ketchup in their pad thai. I think the food at Salad King is reasonable, especially with its 'food court' price point, although it has been going downhill for quite a while. It is set up like a fast food joint with communal tables, people eat and leave. If you see the line up at Salad King, you will see at least 95% of the people agree on this, do they go there looking for authentic food ? mostly not. I would rather spend my $10 at Salad King than at Made in Japan !

                      1. re: skylineR33
                        vorpal RE: skylineR33 Dec 9, 2007 11:50 AM

                        I'm sure that 95% of the people in line at McDonald's and Spring Rolls also feel the same way about those restaurants. Good for them and I'm glad they're enjoying themselves; at the same time, if that becomes their idea of what constitutes a meal of burger and fries / Asian food / Thai food, then I can't help but feel that they're depriving themselves.

                        1. re: vorpal
                          skylineR33 RE: vorpal Dec 9, 2007 12:28 PM

                          I don't feel people are depriving themselves. Just like Tim Horton, Mcdonald, Hero, they are places for quick meal, coffee. Do people at Tim Horton think it is the best coffee ? Some yes, some no.

                          1. re: skylineR33
                            vorpal RE: skylineR33 Dec 9, 2007 12:59 PM

                            I can't compare to coffee as I don't drink it, but if someone told me that they thought that McDonald's served up the best hamburger, I'd be very sad for them.

                            Looks like we'll just have to disagree on this one.

                            1. re: vorpal
                              skylineR33 RE: vorpal Dec 9, 2007 01:04 PM

                              Actucally I think McDonald serves the best fish burger among Burger King, Harvey, etc. And I also enjoy my meal at Splendido and the foie gras burger I had at Robuchon.

                2. zed1984 RE: kokoko Dec 9, 2007 10:31 AM

                  Salad king is probably one of the worst restos in the city, and living here for nearly 20 years i've been to some bad ones; the food is anything but thai. Fusion? please.i don't understand with so many s. east asians in the city people like it SO much. and they do, people just love salad king. i mean if u like bland, tasteless food in the shape of "thai"food it's just perfect. thai basil is much better, as is sorn thai. if you want fusion food you would do better at spring rolls, and i don't even like SR. people should learn to appreciate good food and have better palettes. toronto is teeeming with GREAT restos in general and MANY of those are asian.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: zed1984
                    estufarian RE: zed1984 Dec 9, 2007 11:46 AM

                    "one of the worst restaurants in the city" REALLY!
                    Dozens of people with a long history of posting recommend it. Your first ever post is categorical!
                    How about telling us something about the 'best' places so we can put your views in perspective?

                    1. re: estufarian
                      zed1984 RE: estufarian Dec 11, 2007 06:23 AM

                      I take back what i said about spring rolls.i don't like their food CATEGORICALLY. i was just making a bit of an absurdist point, and it was what came to mind first as a mid range fusion place.I am able to justify any post i make first or otherwise. In MY view satay on the road, thai basil, and sorn thai are among the "best" in the city. My main problem with Salad King is that it is NOT thai food. And does as many other posters have stated misrepresented itself as such. Regardless, i think that the overwhelming popularity of Salad King speaks for itself. and there obviously is a huge market for western palatte fusion food. (i've seen the lineup down the street at lunchtime). I feel like people who do not normally eat ethnic food, and do eat at salad king, are doing themselves a great diservice. I do not though, disdain the owners of Salad King.

                    2. re: zed1984
                      skylineR33 RE: zed1984 Dec 9, 2007 12:23 PM

                      I strongely disagree that fusion food at Spring Roll is better than Linda.

                    3. c
                      cupcakez RE: kokoko Dec 10, 2007 09:10 AM

                      I like it. Its cheap, fast, and delicious. I had the golden tofu last week, and it was worth every penny of the $7. Yes theres probably better and more authentic thai in the city, but for a student who sometimes doesn't want to have a fancy, pricier sit down dinner, this works for me.

                      My bfs pineapple beef wasn't as good though, maybe stick to the favourites.

                      1. k
                        kokoko RE: kokoko Dec 10, 2007 01:22 PM

                        Thanks everyone for your opinions -- all worth reading.
                        I agree Salad King is NOT authentic and they shouldn't sell themselves as such.
                        And even back in 2004 the service was iffy and other dishes (to me) were kind of hit or miss. Anyone remember what SK was like before the current layout? It had zero ambience, and you got a number, then they called it out over a broken speaker system, and you usually had to ask someone else what number they'd called out. The entire interior looked like a bathroom in a Chinatown restaurant. But people still came, and it was always packed.
                        In the end, I am craving Salad King after being in New York for three years because I have not found a single restaurant here that makes Golden Tofu Curry the way SK does. Something labelled "Massaman curry" is always bound to not quite get the taste right. That's all. (IMHO Thai is astonishingly disappointing here in NYC, given the size of the city.)
                        Now, if anyone has found a different place that makes Golden curry the way SK does, I will be very happy to try it out!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: kokoko
                          xtal RE: kokoko Dec 10, 2007 03:26 PM

                          I'm not certain why this discussion has strayed into the realm of Salad King misrepresenting their food. In my mind, they're making a product that is in demand, and are turning a profit as a result. I think it would serve us chowhounds well to remember that the average restauranteur is not interested in the sanctity of cuisine if it doesn't make for a profitable business. But, I digress.

                          In answer to kokoko above, I do recall the "pre-renovation" Salad King, and much prefer it to the restaurant today. The decor may have been lacking, but the food was quite tasty. In fact, one of the chefs from those days left Salad King during the renovation and opened up her own place (Flip, Toss 'n Thai) on Harbord near Bathurst. I think it's still there, and the big plus is that they deliver.

                          Flip Toss & Thai Kitchen
                          141 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1H1, CA

                          1. re: xtal
                            vorpal RE: xtal Dec 10, 2007 04:35 PM

                            I was going to mention Flip, Toss, and Thai here. They essentially have the same menu as Salad King, but I find that the dishes there are much better in terms of flavour and preparation. It's still very dumbed down Thai, but the price is cheap and there are a few good winners amongst a large number of blah dishes. As well, it's a hole in the wall, but the staff is just so friendly and really want you to be happy, which is really quite endearing.

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