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Jan 11, 2008 12:56 PM

"Calcutta Chinese" (Indian Hakka) in downtown Toronto?

My mom grew up in Calcutta and is craving Calcutta Chinese food. She also loves khatti kebabs. For her "big" birthday this Saturday night, we want to treat her to the food she loves the most in a "nice" atmosphere (not upscale but not a total dive). However, we can't stray too far from Riverdale/Leslieville area (maybe a max 20 minute drive each way) because of bringing a newborn baby along.
Please help!

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  1. Yueh Tung Restaurant
    126 Elizabeth Street
    Toronto, ON
    (416) 977-0933

    I am from Calcutta myself and find that they have the best Chilli Chicken/Fish.The owners are Hakka from India.

    1. Yueh Tung has always been my favourite for Indian Hakka in the GTA, it's located in the Dundas / University area (just east of University). I recommend getting their hot and sour fried chicken.

      126 Elizabeth St.

      15 Replies
      1. re: squingy

        My London UK based friend is from Calcutta and is doing a thesis on Calcutta Hakka people - earlier this summer she too recommended Yueh Tung so I am happy to see that other chowhounds concur on this. Lin Garden and Frederick's also claim to be from Calcutta but 1. are much further out and 2. have had mixed reports. Enjoy your food.

        Sadly, do not know where you can get authentic kathi kababs in the GTA - I had some at Nizam's last month and am craving them again....they don't taste the same out of Calcutta

        1. re: js288uk

          Outside of Kolkata it is next to impossible to find kathi roll,and I am talking within India.Talking of Nizams I was in Kolkata in Feb 2007,and I had the kathi roll a few times :-)

          1. re: js288uk

            Yueh Tung is definately a dive. The whole place reeks of a musty, sewage type smell.

            1. re: paper_bag_princess

              Thanks PBP. Perhaps I'll have to walk in this week to smell and see for myself!

              1. re: paper_bag_princess

                Walked into Yueh Tung tonight to pick up a take-out menu. Seems nice enough - just like any other Chinatown place, only more spacious and slightly more modern!

                Also walked into Spadina Garden - really attractive decor - picked up a take-out menu there, too.

                1. re: Food Tourist

                  I didn't notice a bad smell inside Yueh Tung, but I did earlier that night at Japango which is almost directly below YT! Smelled like a bathroom when I first arrived around 7 pm Wednesday.

                2. re: paper_bag_princess

                  Finally tried Yueh Ting (and it isn't a dive - perhaps you're thinking of an earler incarnation). Neither Yueh Tung nor Spadina Garden promote their hakka dishes (no special section on menu) so you have to know what to navigate through.
                  Unlike both Lin Garden and Federicks (which cater almost exclusively to a SE Asian clientele) Yueh Tung had several tables of each of Asian, SE Asian and Caucasian clients - a promising start as I find both Lin Garden and Federicks seem to use 'hot' as their space - no layering of flavours.
                  I ordered the Hot & Sour Fried Chicken and the Hakka Chow Mein and sipped tea (OK not great) while I waited. After a relatively long wait (a good sign, suggesting that the dishes were cooked fresh) the Hakka Chow Mein arrived. Admittedly didn't look that great - all sort of a beige/brown colour - and about 90% noodles. What other ingredients there were tasted pretty good (when I could find them), especially the onions which were slightly caramelized. There was no trace of 'heat' in the sauce which was pleasantly sweet soy based. So stodgy but pleasant. However, as the dish cooled down (temperature, not spice which was absent) it became very oily. Eventually the hot and sour chicken arrived (maybe 10 minutes later). Placed on the table so carelessly that pieces of chicken skittered off the plate, across the table, and were stopped by the teapot. Breaded chicken balls on shredded lettuce with a wedge of lemon on the side and two pineapple rings. Tasted the chicken - the breading was fine - not greasy - but again no trace of spice at all (NOTE: On the menu it had a chili symbol beside it). Squeezed some fresh lemon on it and tested the pineapple - TINNED! So no spice, and more closely resembling a sweet and sour chicken ball dish - the stuff that nightmares have been made of. And the Chow Mein was now coagulating.

                  If this is Chinese Hakka then I'll stick with the Indian thank you.
                  My worst meal for many months.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    These dishes sound like chop suey, no wonder it is your worst meal for many months, definitely not chinese hakka.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Ugh. Thanks for taking one for the team.
                      I'll try ordering the Special Hakka Noodle Soup (add egg extra $1), the chili chicken, beef and/or fish fillet, Manchurian chicken, and chicken pakora and will report back.

                      There's also something on the menu called "chili/manchurian chicken chow mein or rice noodles (or lo mein)" and a chili beef version, all the same price as your Hakka chow mein with sweet soya sauce. Maybe the meat-titled noodle dishes would be slightly meatier.

                      1. re: Food Tourist

                        Maybe put the chicken pakora at the bottom of your list. The breaded chicken I had was certainly reminiscent of a pakora!

                      2. re: estufarian

                        Maybe we have different definitions of a dive, my male collegeues regularly frequent this place and the females will not set foot inside.

                        1. re: paper_bag_princess

                          I guess we have different definitions of a 'dive'!
                          On the plus side, it's fairly open and spacious with fairly high ceilings. Also VERY brightly lit. It's also upstairs (which may be a handicap - ever since Psycho some people have difficulty going upstairs to an 'unknown' place - although you can see the restaurant door as you ascend) - somehow even the word 'dive' implies going to a lower level for me.
                          On the downside, the windows are VERY dirty - and that may turn people off (e.g. if they can't keep the windows clean, what is it like in other areas).
                          No obvious aromas that I noticed (this from somebody who crosses the street to avoid LUSH stores; and avoids perfume counters as if they're infectious). And the clientele was certainly mixed both racially and sexually - maybe more so than any other place I've visited in the downtown chinatown. On reflection, that may mean I've just questioned the taste of all races and sexes - an equal opportunity offender?

                        2. re: estufarian

                          Wow, they use chicken balls now for the hot and sour chicken huh?, they must have changed the way they make it, they use to use whole pieces of chicken and had the right amount of spice. Sorry you had a bad experience Esty, I almost feel bad about recommending the place....oh well!.....I'll have to try them again in the near future and find out what happened to the place.

                    2. re: squingy

                      I walked into Yueh Tung for the first time today for some take-out and decided to order something that tested the restaurant's Hakka authenticity. I decided on chicken pakoras since it was something I'd usually order at other Hakka restaurants besides chili chicken. I have to say it was the WORST chicken pakoras I have ever had! All it was breaded chicken deep fried, no spices, heat or flavor! Food Tourist, if you would like to try some great Hakka food, you'll have to travel further north. I recommend Tangerine Asian Cuisine in Markham. They have some of the best Hakka dishes in the GTA, better than Frederick's and Lucky's in Scarborough. My second choice would be Lin Garden. Both are far superior to Yueh Tung.

                      Tangerine Asian Cuisine
                      7690 Markham Rd

                      1. re: squingy

                        Were from cal. Remember johnsons chow

                      2. A couple of years ago, my mom ate at a supposedly Hakka place in Spadina/Dundas chinatown area called...Spadina Garden? Does that make sense? Where is China Garden - there is another thread touting the tasty food there? Or Danforth Dragon? Are these Indian Hakka places?

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          Spadina Garden is on Dundas (despite the name) just west of Bay. I don't know if its authentic hakka or not but I go there fairly often as it is close to my work.

                          They recently renovated and its a lot nicer inside now.

                          1. re: paper_bag_princess

                            I've looked up Spadina Gardens on various websites and there is absolutely no mention of it being Hakka. Anyone else know for sure?

                            1. re: Food Tourist

                              Spadina Garden has a few Hakka dishes but is primarily a pretty standard cheap Cantonese/Szechuan lunch spot catering to non-Chinese working downtown IIRC

                              1. re: Edith S

                                According to their take-out menu, Spadina Garden only appears to have Chili chicken or shrimp, and "house special fried noodle (hakka style)". What are the other (if any) hakka dishes there?

                            2. re: paper_bag_princess

                              They are hakka -- I can recognize some of the words they speak.

                              I go there for only one dish: the hot spicy beef soup!

                              I don't know if this soup is hakka but if anyone knows where else I can eat this soup in the GTA area, please post.


                            3. re: Food Tourist

                              I've been to Spadina Gardens with my family, which includes my mother and aunt who were born in Calcutta. Spadina Gardens is Hakka and the family owners are from Calcutta (lots of talk about which school who went to). Family members were all happy though nothing is quite the same as long ago memories! I'm in the Leslieville area and Danforth Dragon is my takeout chinese of choice because of its Hakka menu items. My mother hasn't eaten there yet so I can't tell you how authentic it is. Neither place is a dive.

                              1. re: klashton

                                Thanks, Klashton. Do you prefer the food at SG or DD?

                                1. re: Food Tourist

                                  DD - I find the quality of the food when I order in to be much better than anything else so it's my chinese order in of choice. Spicy is actually spicy (compared to 'ooh we don't think you can really take it' spicy). I usually have the Jeera beef, Hakka Chow Mein and then some regular dishes that my daughter will eat too. Spadina Gardens wasn't memorable to me but my mother and aunt liked comparing schools with the owners so always talk about going back. That's not enough for me!

                                  1. re: klashton

                                    Sounds pretty good. Other than jeera beef and hakka chow mein (what's in it?), what other hakka dishes does Danforth Dragon offer? What's their phone number or website?

                                    Anyone heard of China Garden?

                                    1. re: Food Tourist

                                      website, menu and phone number at place link...

                                      Danforth Dragon
                                      861 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J, CA

                                      1. re: JamieK


                                        They actually have a whole section of the menu just for hakka dishes!

                                      2. re: Food Tourist

                                        I know a China Garden in Mississauga (Derry Rd/Airport Rd)..average Indian side is the huge quantity.....on weekdays lunch i have seen it get real busy with the nearby office crowd....


                                        1. re: warlock

                                          Yup this is what I just googled:

                                          Looks like a lot of Hakka dishes.

                                          On the bright side, we now are doing take-out so I can head anywhere in the west end or downtown to pick up our order...just not Scarlem. (just kidding) No seriously I can't drive as far as Scarborough to pick up, which is why I've never eaten at Zen or Cafe Michi yet either!

                                          1. re: Food Tourist

                                            This place can get quite busy. It's one of my family's favourites, and I've found it usually quite decent. It can get a bit oily though, but it's worth it.

                                    2. re: Food Tourist

                                      i don't recc Spadina garden. i don't know why it's packed inside all the time, but i went in there expecting a great meal (esp from all the mentions of that place on this board) and i was sorely disappointed. the food is very greasy and nothing special at all. yes it is run by a Hakka family, but i would stick to Yeah Tung, or lin garden (also run by Hakka families). the chicken pakora at lin garden is delish.

                                  2. re: Food Tourist

                                    Spadina Garden actually used to be on Spadina. they have amazing food. I don't like Green Onion which is right beside it.

                                  3. We've decided to give Danforth Dragon take-out a try. Will report back!

                                    1. Danforth Dragon is a real chowfind! WOW! We got free delivery (under 30 minutes!) and ordered 12 dishes. Highlights included: jeera (cumin) beef, chicken pakoras, chilli chicken, and hakka fried rice. Also good: stir-fried snow peas.

                                      Not everything was great - avoid the lo mein! And, the Manchurian fried rice had nothing going on!

                                      Warning: the website and take-out menu differ slightly. The website doesn't mention manchurian or chilli paneer with chinese greens; masala chicken, fried paneer with green chutney, or masala fish. Take-out menu specifies no MSG upon request.

                                      Mom also really loved the food, though realized that after 43 years of not living in India, she couldn't really remember what it used to taste like! As for me, it was my first hakka experience and I'll definitely go back soon.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Food Tourist

                                        Sufficient encouragement that I finally made it to Danforth Dragon. Overall a bit mixed - but certainly worth another try.
                                        The highlight (as almost everyone has indicated) was the Jeera Beef. This is so good that DD may become one of those places that I always order the same dish. It's not 'perfect' - the beef was tenderized (but not destroyed) and I would have preferred a little less oil, but the 'saucing' which was perfectly caramelized onions with chilis, coriander and scallions was bursting with flavour. The accompanying rice bowl was best ignored. Both mushy and lumpy(!).
                                        Because all mains seem to include rice (and the portion size could theoretically serve four) looked for a veggie based dish. But the mixed veg included tomato (which I avoid) so I took a chance on the Hakka Fries.
                                        Unfortunately they used the wrong type of potato so the consistency was both flaccid and starchy. I guess fries just don't wok well. But the sauce was the identical one to the Jeera Beef. So I suspect they have a 'single sauce' that they use for all the hakka dishes. And, if so, for their other spicy dishes. I noticed that all their Szechuan dishes are double-described as hakka also, so maybe they're using 'Hakka' as a generic description for 'spicy'.
                                        Definitely worth a return visit.

                                        1. re: estufarian

                                          Don't worry about the single sauce syndrome (SSS). At DD, if it's labelled "Manchurian" it is mildly spiced with lots of red colouring (we tried the chicken, beef , and fried rice, and all were similar). "Hakka fried rice" contains really fresh spices and chiles and is up a notch heat-wise. Jeera beef was one-of-a-kind in our 12-dish order. Chicken pakoras and Chilli chicken likewise had distinct flavours. We didn't try a "hakka" veggie dish, only the snow peas (spicy) and szechuan eggplant (mild) which were again, nothing like the other dishes.

                                          1. re: Food Tourist

                                            That gives me something to aim at next time. Thanks.

                                        2. re: Food Tourist

                                          AARRGGHH! Danforth Dragon is wildly inconsistent. Had about 9 different dishes delivered on Tuesday night and again, they arrived in just under 30 minutes - but this time, chilli chicken wasn't crispy, hakka fried rice wasn't fried (lumpy rice, no wok flavour) -- you get the idea. Hakka chow mein was the best of the lot with lovely wok flavour and properly cooked shrimps. Szechuan eggplant was significantly better this time around - had actual hot and ginger flavours (last time, it was nearly tasteless).

                                          1. re: Food Tourist

                                            Hi there - I couldn't agree more about DD. Sometimes their food is really great, and sometimes it is only mediocre. My wife and I actually ordered from another Chinese place (Number One Chinese - another CH recommendation) last night because of this, and were disappointed. (we weren't specifically looking for Hakka, though when we order from DD, Hakka chow mein is always something we order)

                                            Usually good items include their Vegetable chop suey and Crispy Ginger Beef. (for any transplants from Calgary - this is the closest to "Calgary Ginger Beef" that I've found in the GTA.)

                                            One of my wife's big turnoffs at DD is that they seem to use frozen vegetable mixes in several of their dishes (Cashew Chicken for example).

                                            I'm going to start a separate thread about DD for discussion of favorite dishes... sorry to hijack a bit here! :)

                                            For Chinese from a non-Hakka expert, DD is probably the best if you can handle inconsistent results.

                                            -- ST

                                            1. re: Food Tourist

                                              I'm giving up on Danforth Dragon. Besides their suspiciously fast delivery (well under 30 minutes from time of order), the 5 items we tried this week were mostly disappointing, even our previously consistent favourite jeera beef.