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Mar 6, 2008 04:06 PM

Best Shanghai Food in Toronto

T.O Chowhounders,

I will be visiting Toronto soon, and wanted to know where I can get the best Shanghai style food? I am craving Xiao Lung Bao. Any place close to down town would be preferred. Additionally, what is the best place for dim sum? Where is the best chinese vegetarian restaurant?


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  1. 2 places I like
    Ding Tai Feng at First Markham Place has the best Xiao Lung Bao in my opinion.
    But the best Shanghai food is Skyland de Shanghai 1 block east of Pacific Mall. They have the best menu full of unique items you can't find at other Shanghai restaurants. I'm not big on Asian legend as their red vinegar sucks.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sorjue

      Any example of the unique item ? I have been to Skyland de Shanghai a few time, find the food ok, but I like Shanghai Bund and Ala Kitchen more.

    2. I've been very disappointed in the Chinese veg places in Toronto. There used to be one or two that I enjoyed that had some great dishes, unusual vegetables and such but they are no more. The remaining places are flawed in my opinion by not using garlic (I've heard you can ask them to use it at some places and that might help the situation) and a lack of interest in leafy greens (which has always seemed ironic to me). I've been to Simon's and the 668 (or whatever it's called) on Dundas W. Same problem at both. A Chinese friend explained to me that the lack of garlic is due to Chinese people treating these veg restaurants like Christians giving up enjoyable things for lent. Definitely doesn't encourage my interest in wanting to go. The other reason I tend to avoid these places is the mock foods have never interested me. (If you want meat, then a) eat it or b) why are you vegetarian?) In short, I tend to go to non-veg Chinese restaurants that do vegetables really nicely and have a good selection--like Asian Legends (though I admit I've never tried the red vinegar, their hot and sour soup is very good).

      I hope I didn't just veer to far off subject!

      1. Ala kitchen is the best Shanghai cusine resturant. However if you are coming from China or HK, you will be disappointed.
        Ding Tai Feng's Xiao Lung Bao is good 2.

        9 Replies
        1. re: pokerdan

          I'm really surprised that Ala Kitchen is getting so many recommendations thus far as being the "best" Shanghainese in town. I tried it with a group of friends back when it was still new and almost all the dishes were very lacklustre (see my review below).

          Mind you, that meal I had was in the middle of a saturday afternoon and the head chef might not have even been in the back cooking for all I know. Perhaps they've changed things around since... If someone can actually suggest some dishes that they actually liked at Ala, I'd love to go back and give it another whirl. From what I could recall, I only liked their cold drunken chicken and cold marinated fish.

          Lots of places now in GTA are doing xiao long biao (small steamed dumplings) very well, so I almost never use that as a judge for quality of their "shanghainese" cooking. It's the more complicated dishes that I usually look at.

          Can someone also confirm whether Ala Kitchen is actually the old Shanghai Xue Yuan that used to exist on Glen Cameron in Thornhill? I recall going to Xue Yuan a few times just after Ala opened, and they had Ala's business cards there by the front door. Soon after, Xue Yuan got taken over by another owner (now called Tian Xin Place).

          On a side note, does anyone think that Shanghai Bund's prices on certain dishes are rather steep? I recall having this pork chop w/ fried noodle dish and it was in the vicinity of $13+ and I couldn't understand how it could justify that cost?

          1. re: Royaljelly

            Does anyone recall the English name of the Shanghai restaurant "Yut Bun Heong" in the Golden View Plaza on Hwy 7 just west of Chalmers on the north side at the end of the plaza. They sold out for a few years ago. IMO they had the best Shanghai dishes aound. Their "hung sill" beef, pork hock, lion head (pork meat balls), "ding poa" pork, wine fish fillets along with their dim sum are on another level. The proprietors are Shanghainese. I still couldn't find a restaurant matching all the dishes in taste that they had. In fact they had a stuffed tofu in a soup casserole that no one else makes. The afore mentioned restaurants are good in some dishes, but no all rounder. The recent find that is a decent all rounder is "Po Kong" (not certain of exact English name) is a bit pricey on Denision and Kennedy next to a large Chinese super-market.

            1. re: Royaljelly

              Ala kitchen's braised shredded eel is some of the best in Toronto, fatty eel in a very tasty sauce, it just smell so good too. The one at Skyland de Shanghai also good, but still not quite like the one at Ala.

              The cold dish "Pork cake" is also very nicely done, well balanced in both flavour and ingradient used. The special fried duck with wrap is another good dish in there. I also have a underwhelmed lunch at Ala when they first opened, but looks like they have improved and are very busy now, better to make a reservation if you go at night.

              I do agree Shanghai Bund is more on the expensive side.

              ianmmmmmm, Shanghai Bund = "Po Kong", it is from a very famous Shanghai restaurant "Yut Bun Heong" of HK.

              1. re: skylineR33

                Thanks for clearing up the "Po Kong" skylineR33, but Shanghai Bund is not run by the same folks as "Yut Bun Heong" of Golden View Plaza in Richmond Hill. Yep, I was really overjoyed when I saw Shanghai Bund said they were "Yut Bun Heong". But still not the same....sigh...

              2. re: Royaljelly

                This thread make me thinking what's meaning best resturant in particular style. My interpetation is the overall food is better than others, he is the best. When you ask me Shanghai style resturant, I can only tell Ala. If you ask me where to go for xiao lung bao or Shanghai fried noodle, I may say somewhere else. In fact, since I am coming from China and I lived in Hong Kong for so many years, if you ask me where to get the best chinese food, dim sum and something like that, I would say go to Hong Kong or China, even go to Vancouver (In my mind, Vancouver has the best Chinese cusine resturants outside China).

                Taste is so subjective and that why I always recommend places to my friends base on service.

                1. re: pokerdan

                  Have you tried Shanghai Bund or HK's "Yut Bun Heong" ? If yes, how do you think of it ?

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    I tried Shanghai Bund couple times and of course "Yat Bun Heong", but not lately.
                    Shanghai Bund, they serve authenthic shanghai dishes no doubt, the ingredients they used, the presentation they made are very traditional shanghai dishes, however I didn't like their taste. For example, I like Shanghai soup noodle(thick), everything look great except the tasteless soup. No favour at all. If you try the same dish at Dine Tai Feng, you will taste their soup had a lot of favour including shitake. I know they said they are somehow related to HK's 'Yut Bun Heong', but 'Yut Bun Heong' is much better than them. If I was in Hong Kong today, I will go to 小南國. I try 小南國 first time in Shanghai and they serve Shanghai dishes in a new style, more healthy way, not too guessy and you can taste more favour of ingredients they used rather than the thick sauces. You know Shanghai dishes mostly are very strong taste in sauces. Btw, I line up for more than an hour in order to get in for the first time. Another past favourite shanghai resturant in HK for me is "Lo Ching Hing", I said past because the chefs were move to Vancouver about 15 years ago. Anthoer place I like to go for Shanghai dishes is the kitchen for "Shanghaiee association". I don't know how to translate into english. They always serve authentic shanghai dishes even though they change the executive chef several times.

                2. re: Royaljelly

                  I find them to be mixed but consistent. Their good dishes are good every time but if you've had something poor, you'll be a fool to order it again.

                  What stood out to me were their marinated pepper duck (香酥鴨) and the baked pork belly (東坡肉) - they're both really damn well done. The salty duck (鹽水鴨) cold dish is pretty good too. Their dim sum is all right but I found everything else I've tried to be average or bland. I actually thought their drunken chicken was horrible.

                  The owner's of A La are SH BTW. As far as I can tell, the owner of Shanghai Bund is HK and yeah, their menu has been reorganised and their prices raised. Too expensive for my taste as well.

                  1. re: tksh

                    Went to Ala this weekend with my parents. Reviews were mixed but generally good. In my opinion the noodle dishes we ordered were superior to most of the "small eats" we got.

                    The shanghai style stir fried nian gao were good, not sticky in dark soy and shreds of pork and napa cabbage. Also liked the beef noodle soup and the soup dumplings.

                    The Gelatinous pork item was merely okay, but felt the pan fried dumplings were below par (wrapper too thin, filling a bit ambiguous)

              3. King's Cafe in Kensington is one of my favourite Chinese veg restaurants. I've brought meat eaters there who told me the Kung Po "Chicken" is better than the real deal. Plus there's a veg shop at the back of the restaurant.

                1 Reply
                1. re: afternoonveggiedelight

                  Have you been since it reopened? Seriously, everything tastes like ketchup or Campbell's soup, and the veggies are your run-of-the-mill frozen medley (corn, peas, diced carrots).

                2. Just went to Ding Tai Fung for my mom's birthday, and seeing that we're all shanghainese we thought we'd do some food rating too.

                  The xiao long baos were excellent, and were quoted to be better than many places in shanghai (my mom and sister were there in the summer). The key was a thin skin that still held together enough to lift into a spoon. The filling had sufficient grease to release the excellent soup inside.

                  Everything else was mediocore. We had baby spinach (i think that's it in english), fish in wine sauce, green onion cake, shanghainese noodle soup, and wou tep (pot stickers?). Nothing spectacular like you would get in asia, but for Toronto, it wasn't bad, and unfortunately that's what we have to live with.

                  Overall, my mom wants to bring my grandparents to try the xiao long bao when they return from china, and if it wasn't so far from downtown, I'd return to try out the rest of the menu. Is it in my top 10 go to restaurants? No, but top 25.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: guillow

                    Hey guillow, do let us know if you come across any really good, authentic Shanghainese places or specific dishes in GTA. The ones like Ala Kitchen, Hi Shanghai and Skyland de Shanghai are just ok (at least the stuff I've ordered thus far).