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Jun 17, 2008 08:05 PM

Desperate for Decent Cantonese food south of the 401

Holy heavens.
Why can there be no decent Cantonese Chinese food south of the 401 and north of Bloor?

I moved back to Yonge Lawrence after a spell in Willowdale and I sure do miss Pho and Cantonese food badly.

Anyone have a hidden gem in the area boundaries of Yonge to Avenue, Wilson to Eglinton?

Please for pity's sakes don't say the Sea Hi or Happy Garden.


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  1. Lai Toh Heen at Eglington/Mt Pleasant is one of the best in town, be it north or south of the 401! Serve authentic as well as 'noveau' Cantonese with a twist!

    1. I think Charles suggested something east of the boundaries.. but if you don't mind travelling to the east side..I also have a suggestion..
      On Lawrence past Leslie and not before Don Mills lies Congee Queen.. I've seen Congee Queen at Steeles and Victoria Park (I think?) so you may have tried it before.. if you haven't it's like Congee Wong..
      It's much cheaper and more homey Chinese food.. very authentic.

      1. What is it about Cantonese food that is so appealing to you Idas? I'd be interested in appreciating the subtleties of what makes Cantonese so special... I'm a big Swatow (on Spadina) fan - mostly out of habit, but I find the fast service, hot, steaming, no-nonsense approach to eating at these places tough to match, but I digress...

        If I understand correctly, Cantonese is probably the most common region of Chinese cooking in North America, although I'm sure they weren't responsible for almost everyone's guilty pleasure... the sweet and sour chicken ball.

        Also, are there any very authentic Cantonese restaurants that you would recommend outside of your zone so that I can also appreciate what makes Cantonese so special?


        3 Replies
        1. re: Moimoi

          I don't quite understand your question. Just want to point out Swatow is indeed Cantonese style cooking cuisine with a board range of noodle soup, chow mein, fried rice and wok fried dishes. It is similar to the Congee Wong/Queen which hippotatomus suggests. All these restaurants provides economical, fast service, good for a quick bite. Quality wise is ok in Toronto standard. Or am I misunderstanding something ?

          1. re: skylineR33

            To me, Cantonese cooking is the most interesting, wide-ranging and imaginative of the assorted Chinese regional cuisines, though I'm certainly game occasionally for the other cuisines as well. And, though I live in the same general area as the original poster, and have tried just about every Chinese joint - Cantonese and otherwise - within the specific boundaries cited by the OP, I've yet to find a Cantonese spot I'm desperate to get back to. That includes the aforementioned Sea Hi, which is an intriguing historical artefact in the neighborhood (as are some of its customers).
            For sure, the recommended Lai Toh Heen, just east of the prescribed boundaries, is very good - as it should be at the price - but I contend that good, reasonably-priced Cantonese is a holy grail, the last value-priced ethnic cuisine left in a city of startling price increases. And if it exists in the boundaries the OP insists upon, I've yet to find it, though Congee Queen, already mentioned though outside the boundaries, isn't a bad backup choice - provided you know what to order (some menu items are quite good, some not so, though nothing's a washout).
            So If I want good, solid, well-priced Cantonese, I find myself driving east 20-25 minutes or so to the corner of Sheppard and Midland, where Maple Yip awaits me. I'm sure there are other good ones in that far-flung district I don't know about, but someone on this board tipped me to this resto about a year ago (I think it was the omniscient Charles Yu), and it remains a winner with me. It's a bit of a safari, I know, from Yonge and Lawrence, but in about a dozen visits I've yet to discover a weak spot on the voluminous menu, through which I'm diligently working. Like the OP, I'd prefer not to have to drive so far, but sometimes sacrifices must be made for a good Cantonese chowdown.

            1. re: juno

              Cantonese cuisine is actually an expensive cuisine in Chinese cuisine. One of the reason is there are lots of seafood being used whether in the fresh form or dried stock in Cantonese cuisine, which can get very very expensive. In short, high class restaurants like Lai Toh Heen provides cantonese dishes in another dimension which can not be directly compared to Maple Yip. It just depends on what kinds of Cantonese food you are looking for.

        2. Carving on east side of Yonge st., north of Lawrance, decent decoration but not so sure it is cantonese or not. I haven't try it yet.

          1. Thanks everyone. Good tips.
            I guess Congee Queen will be it for a while. I have a nutty 1 year old that would tear apart Lai Toh Heen and I read not such nice things about the owner there in some other posts though I'd like to try it for my self once I manage to get this baby to a babysitter hopefully soon.

            I totally agree sacrifices must be made for some good Cantonese, you'll see what I meand when you find out I used to eat at The Winds restaurant near York U for ages.

            By Cantonese I did mean things like properly made chow mien, ja dao fu, wat dan ha yan, yeung jo chau fan, jong sik gnau lau, jiu yim sin yao, suhk mai ban fai.and most importantly Lai Tong

            Sorry for my bad phonetic Cantonese but these are my classic staples:
            crispy fried tofu, soft egg with shrimp, Cantonese fried rice, Chinese filet steak,, crispy fried spicy squid, fried grouper with cream corn sauce, and critical is the "daily soup".

            We used to go to a little place near York University called The Winds Restaurant which after eating there for decades, closed suddenly.

            They made classic Cantonese, their crispy spicy squid and their deep fried tofu was untouchable, as were there bathrooms (in the other sense). I didn't care, I was so addicted to their soft egg with shrimp, their tofu, and their free daily soup. I get teary thinking I'll never have those yummy dishes the same again. No place has made their deep fried tofu triangles with a drizzle of oyster sauce on top the same, Even on Spadina.

            For people who enjoy the crispy spicy squid, made with a proper puffy coating not that weird Congee Wong kind of coating, I did find by accident a little shop off Dufferin & Orfus that makes it just as good as The Winds. That little place is called "Noodle King". My husband refused to eat there until I insisted, he was misled by the self-serve dining atmosphere. They also make a pretty good Cantonese Chow Mien with real bits of Cha Siu. I'll bet they have some other cool Cantonese stuff you can request by asking the owner not looking at the menu as it covers way to weird a range.

            I was secretly hoping I would hear about some little unassuming restaurant that looks a bit cliche from the outside would actually be able to produce some good stuff when asked instead of using the menu..

            I have to blog one day about the first two months when we moved to Melrose Avenue and started ordering from anthing that would deliver, sometimes two places a night asking for the same 5 dishes just to see if by accident one of these places knew how to cook, the funniest results were from the Sea Hi. I should have taken photos because each dish came with virtually the same brown sauce. Wickedly funny though we went to bed hungry that night.

            I have hopes now that Mela (Indian) and now Bread Bar opening soon (also Indian) staking turf in my hood, that it will inspire more diveristy from Japanese and Italian.
            I like both but honestly, more that 2 per block is too many..

            Fingers crossed and praying to the kitchen gods.

            Thanks again.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Idas

              If you like deep fried tofu, Keung Kee (強記) has some of the best in GTA. Their deep fried "honey comb" tofu - so delicately crispy outside, so fresh, steaming hot and soft inside. Forget about Spadina, Scarborough and Richmond hill/Markham are the areas you want to go for good Cantonese food of any kinds these days. And in your area, you really need to do some driving.