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Sun Star Chinese Cuisine in North York - excellent roasted pigeon

A few foodie friends of ours recommended this little chinese restaurant on Finch just between Leslie and Bayview (next to the mechanic shop, in the same strip mall as Maxim's). It's called Sun Star Chinese Cuisine. At first we went there for lunch a few times since it was so close to work, but all we saw was a bunch of contruction workers eating huge plates of carbs (rice, noodles etc). We just couldn't figure out why our friends kept going back for more.

So we decided to go with them and let them order everything for us. Turns out, their dinners are done much better than lunches. We started off pre-ordering 4 roasted pigeons (table of 8). These are pretty good sized birds (not quite as much meat as you might get in a free range chicken, but bigger than the roasted quails I remember having at Ruby's dim sum). They cook it by repeatedly pouring hot oil over it, thus rendering the skin a lovely crisp while maintaining the juiciness of the meat. Really went well with the bottle of Shiraz that our friend brought along as well.

Also got to try a spicy pan fried fish cake in green pepper... just enough burn to give you a kick, without overwhelming your taste buds. Apparently the chef sometimes gets a little heavy handed with the peppers and it can really knock you out. The lotus with pork stir fry was light yet flavourful, a "sand and salt" chicken was a twist on the usual BBQ chicken but with much more seasoning and taste... we really enjoyed this one. Fish fillets stir fried was tender and juicy, soft tofu coins w/ mushrooms was melt in your mouth delicious, beef and veggie was standard along w/ the sweet and sour pork ribs. Finished the meal with some e-fu noodles and sticky rice.

We returned for another meal with my parents, but this time we tried their fresh eel which was enormous and well done. Again had more pigeon, which both mom and dad liked. Other dishes like fried veggies were good too. They also give free soup, but only oranges for dessert. Cash only.

Overall a satisfying meal, especially if you're in the mood for some roasted pigeon (but do book ahead). BTW, I don't think you'll see the actual English name of the restaurant on the front door signs, so it might be hard to find from a distance. But it's the one located right next to the mechanic's shop.

Here's their contact info:
416-733-2688

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Sun Star Chinese Cuisine
636 Finch Ave E, Toronto, ON M2K2E6, CA

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  1. Here's their take out menu I promised to upload for you non-chinese readers (including myself). So if anyone tries any other standout dishes, please let us know which # it corresponds to on the menu so that others can easily order it as well.

    Each jpg is about 340k.

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    19 Replies
    1. re: Royaljelly

      Hello fellow Chowhounders,

      This is like picking winning numbers for 6/49. Ha!

      The following dishes are the ones that I have tried and found pretty good. However, all these come with a caveat.to most of them! A lot of the dishes use very authentic Chinese ingredients with taste and smell that might be foreign to the western palete. Casing point, fermented red bean curd, preserved/pickled Chinese radishes/vegetables, preserved meat and sausages, salted shrimp paste.. etc. Anyways, here goes:

      4, 10, 12, 16, 37, 117, 132 ( ask for the free range version ), 140, 151, 152, 212.

      All these I have tried in-house and NOT take out. For 'Wok-Hay' dishes ( the Chi of the wok - enhanced flavour/taste resulting from flambees and ignition of the achohol, oil and sauces whilst the food are being tossed in the wok ), take-outs can be a waste of money since the prolonged time the food spend in the container and the resuling condensation will literally 'destroy' the dishes by the time they get home! So, if one wanted to savour the REAL thing, try going EARLY, before the mad 7.30 rush and EAT IN-HOUSE!

      Lastly, there are tons of specials on the wall that are not included in the take-out menu. Mostly seafood availability of the day and also dishes like roast pigeon.

      Good Luck and Happy Chowing!

      1. re: Royaljelly

        Damn, too bad it's so far south for me. The roast pigeon has me interested though.

        The only memorable place I've had in Toronto for roast pigeon is a restaurant on highway seven. I've forgotten the name of the place but it's in the same plaza as Saigon Star and Richmond Court. Sits on the (inner) corner and its front is covered with red wood carved traditional style and looks expensive (and it is at $20 a bird). But damn it was good.

        Have either you or Charles been to this place I'm so desperately trying to describe and can offer a comparison?

        1. re: tksh

          You must be referring to 'Full House'?! Both skylineR33 and myself agree they have the best damn Roast Pigeon/squab in town! However, pre-ordered ones from Fantasy Eatery and Maple Yip can be pretty good too. As for Sun Star's version, I would give it an 80/100 assuming Full House is 100/100.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Yes, I like Full House's roasted pigeon, most juiciest pigeon I had in Toronto ! Everytime I had pigeon there is great except one time as the oil they used is kind of old so it gives a bad taste, but I hope it is only an off day for them.

            Here is a picture of it !

             
            1. re: skylineR33

              80% eh? Sounds good enough to give the place a try some time. (And yeah, I was pretty damn sure either Charles or skylineR33 would've known the place I was referring to.)

        2. re: Royaljelly

          Thanks for this post Royaljelly. Sounds promising. Thanks for the menus as well - prices look very reasonable. Always on the prowl for a good resto in the area.

          Charles Yu, thanks for the itemized list of what to order. I will now be armed with this thread when I head there and know what to order. We should keep this format up for future Chinese restaurant recs as there are so many items on a Chinese menu and the quality varies drastically between each item.

          skylineR33, the photo looks great. I must try this Full House restaurant ASAP. Perhaps I will try either Full House or Sun Star tomorrow or later this week. Will report back. Thanks for the tips guys.

          Cheers

          1. re: BokChoi

            They have the 5 lbs Maggi Sauce Lobster for like $60 special at Full House, not sure if they still have it or not now.

            1. re: skylineR33

              Great - thanks skylineR33. Any other specials at Full House to try? I am trying to make it out there today, or tomorrow. I want to make sure I order their strongest dishes - 5lbs may be a lot as I usually go with only 3 people. Any suggestions for smaller dishes?

              1. re: skylineR33

                Skyline, ss the 5lb lobster special big enough to get 3 cooked dishes out of it? Last time we wanted the lobster cooked 4 ways as you and charles suggested, but they said we needed at least 6lbs+ to get enough meat (which is a lot of food, even for 4 mouths).

                1. re: Royaljelly

                  Hello Royaljelly, The 5lb lobster special only comes in one dish with the Maggie sauce style. I have not order this special but I have Maggie sauce lobster at Full House before and it is delicious.
                  But I see this special at Full House like 2 months ago with a big notice on its window, so I am not sure if they still have it or not.

                  Hey Boi Choy, I have been to Full House mainly on banquet events which we order the dinner for 10 set course mostly. I have an older positive review regarding their banquet dinner which I think is still valid for now in terms of quality. However, for normal dinner, I have been to Full House only once, the dishes we order is only so so, maybe we did not order the right dishes ?!

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    skylineR33 - that is exactly how I feel with so many of the Chinese restaurants in Toronto. You really have to know what to order, or else your meal will turn out mediocre - and you are left wondering "Why does this place have such a great reputation?". It makes sense as there are literally hundreds of menu items on Chinese menus, half of them on the walls/specials menus in Chinese - of course they can't be a master at everything. Each restaurant must have its forte. That is why I will always try to get recs for dishes before heading there or else I would not be judging fairly. I like to keep an open mind to everything and will try things, if but just once. And unless I have tried their more popular dishes, I will not prematurely judge.

                    If anyone has tips on Full House for a normal dinner, please advise. TIA.

                    RoyalJelly - what is the # for the dishes you described: "Fish fillets stir fried was tender and juicy, soft tofu coins w/ mushrooms". They sounded great.

                    Cheers!

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      Hey bokChoi, I think their dinner sets are very popular, as I notice mostly people go there are big groups having the dinner sets.

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        bokchoi, my wife does the ordering, I'll have to ask her when I get home. :)

                        For some reason I was thinking O Mei lobster 4 ways, I didn't realize skyline wrote Full House. I must be craving it again...

                        1. re: Royaljelly

                          Thanks so much Royaljelly. Appreciate that.

                          skylineR33 - I think this may be why we are having so many discrepancies with respect to favourites in restaurants - I always go in a small family group (3-4) and thus never order the larger set menus, whereas your experiences tend to include the larger party ones. Alas, I need to expand my regular dining group in order to try some of your recommendations!! Thanks for the advice.

                          1. re: BokChoi

                            ok, my wife is fast asleep w/ baby on her, but browsing the takeout menu, I think the soft coin tofu w/ mushroom is #213. The fish must've been a "wall" menu item, since it was our foodie friend that ordered for us that night and I don't' see it listed. We also really enjoyed #30 Spicy salted small white fish (my wife has this dish almost every restaurant she can find).

                            The one dish they can't seem to do it right is their sweet n sour pork. Our foodie friend (who goes there almost weekly) even asked the chef to taste it himself to prove to him that it wasn't sour enough, but he politely refused.

                            1. re: Royaljelly

                              Thanks so much for taking the time to respond back about what dishes to try, Royaljelly. Strange that a chef would not even try their own dish. Speaks volumes about what he may think of his own food, if you ask me. Either way, the customer is always right - if they want it more sour (and they go there weekly) - I say make it more sour for them.

                              Tried Full House yesterday - was not very impressed. And given the price, would not likely go back. Squab was good though - nice aromatic 5spice rub.

                              Sun Star and Tanchiki are next on my list.

                              Cheers!

                              1. re: BokChoi

                                I miss Tanchikee, now that I've moved quite south of Hwy 7. Really enjoyed their sweet n sour dishes, which are a bit more robust, darker and stronger in their vinegars. Reminds my wife more of the stuff her uncle used to cook for her in China. We preferred the pork ribs version. Their oxtail hot pot is decent too, very hearty on a winter's day. Plus there's this fried rice that comes in a bamboo vessel, quite neat looking esp if you have friends to impress, otherwise it tastes ok. I'm sure the other guys can chip in on their fav dishes too...

                                1. re: Royaljelly

                                  Currently they have an awesome dish! 'Stir fried Garlic sprouts with fresh goose liver'. Lots of Wok-Hay and the liver was not overcooked. However, you have to power walk home afterwards to work off the cholesterol though! Ha!

                                  1. re: Royaljelly

                                    Ahh thanks for the recs Royaljelly. I will mark these dishes down to try when I make it there. I really find it's a crapshoot when you head to unfamiliar Chinese restos - you really have to know what to order from experienced diners. Most recs are for larger groups, and I usually dine in a smaller group - so experiences will vary widely.

                                    Thanks for the recommendations - hope the family is well. Cheers

              2. Were they full-grown pigeons, not squab?

                " Toward a better world I contribute my modest smidgin;
                I eat the squab, lest it become a pigeon."
                -- Ogden Nash

                1 Reply
                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  Direct translation from the Chinese menu describe them as 'Milk Pigeon', hence correct definition should be squab.

                2. This place is fantastic in both taste and value. Most of the non-seafood dishes are under $10, and the quality easily surpasses most Chinese restos city-wide. The aforementioned 'wok-hay' is close to top notch.

                  Particularly good dishes include the oil-poached crispy free range chicken (wall menu), the eggplant and enoki pot, the dry sauteed shrimp (wall), of which the shrimp is of noticeably better quality, and the beef with broccoli. Had a steamed fish once at $19/lb, came out to around $30, not worth it...you can easily prepare it in the same way at home.

                  Service is sometimes spotty and slow (esp. when busy) but there is a youngish waitress (she's not always there) who's particularly adept; very informative, patient, helpful with recos, handles multiple questions with aplomb, and is generally having a good time.