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Chinatown East (Gerrard) Recommendations?

I've been through Chinatown East only a handful of times, despite the fact that I live pretty close. The only restaurants I've tried are Ka Ka Lucky (pretty decent, cheap chinese food) and the Xe Lau Vietnamese place (not as good as the old Spadina location - soggy noodles). Does anyone have any other recommendations for this area (Broadview & Gerrard)? Dim Sum? Northern Chinese? Dumplings? Cantonese? All suggestions welcome :).

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  1. The only Dim Sum place I've been to is Pearl Court. It's not the best Dim Sum, but for my frequent cravings, it does the trick.

    For Vietnamese, i find Xe Lua pretty subpar. If you want slightly higher end (it's still pretty casual in nature), go to Hanoi 3 Seasons. The spicy clam with rice cracker appetizer is a "keeps me coming back" appetizer as is the grouper with dill on rice noodle.

    Another Vietnamese place I have recently started going to is Peach Garden Express. It's at 1018 Gerrard St. East. That's in the strip mall just past the Home Depot. 2 4 1 pizza is in the same spot, pretty much. I've had the Pho once, and the broth had a really deep flavour.

    If you're getting BBQ for takeout, I prefer Sing Sing BBQ house. I get it every now and then for a snack. I've ordered the BBQ pork from Ka Ka Lucky (or maybe next to it) and found it too salty.

    One place I've tried only for a few less ambitious items (e.g. singapore noodle, chili garlic chicken wings) is Pepper Chili. It's a Szechuan place. I'm curious to see how they prepare this kind of food, which I'm less familiar with.

    2 Replies
    1. re: grandgourmand

      My default meal on that strip (my old hood), is the #79 at the Pho 88 on Gerrard.
      (Grilled Chicken & Spring Rolls on Vermicelli)

    2. Unfortunately, there are few places worth eating at in the area. As a long time resident, I've watched with ever increasing gloom as good places stopped trying, sold to others who didn't try, or simply closed.

      Bejing House (originally Chan's Peking) had an almost 30 year run, but the business died during the SARS scare and never revived. They cut the quality and then closed.

      Pearl Court was wonderful at one time. You'll still see rave reviews posted in front. These were true at the time, but note the dates on them. It's now mediocre at best, though they still have a few decent dishes. They also do the "white guy thing" sometimes and dumb down food that wasn't exciting to start with. Their dim sum, which is the only edible dim sum remaining in the area, is a shadow of its long ago self.

      KaKa Lucky has good food given their prices. Their barbecue, for under four bucks, is very good and everything is so cheap that lapses are easily forgiven.

      Grand goes from one pitiful owner to another every couple of years. Edible - no more than that.

      If you're okay with strict Buddhist veggie food, Simon's Wok has a good reputation.

      Pepper Chili is awful. They manage to serve food (not even remotely Sichuan) that is loaded with peppers yet has little perceptible spice heat or any other flavour. Their "fruit" drinks are made from powders.

      The Viet places vary in quality. Most are primarily about pho and various rice/noodle dishes, offering more or less the same menu. Where the broth is good, the meat is less so. Equivocal recommendations for Mimi and XeLua - you can end up with okay food or blah food at either one. XeLua has better broth; Mimi better meats.

      Hanoi 3 Seasons has a slightly different spin. It's also more expensive. I find the owner's recommendations unreliable and can't abide the canned clams, but the food is sometimes delicious.

      The shack on Boulton, Que Ling, is reputedly the best, but they've never been open when I was eating.

      Spring Rolls/GO needs no further explanation. It's Spring Rolls. Edible, overpriced, not worth going.

      Beyond that, you're on your own. Some of the Viet places have changed hands several times in a year.

      Best in the area, without question, is Batifole (hardly Asian, though). There is a new veggie place on Broadview that I haven't tried.

      10 Replies
      1. re: embee

        Embee, you and I are running in the same circles these days.

        I agree with you on the Chinese restos. Most are pretty weak. Although I go to Pearl Court for dim sum and enjoy it, I recognize that it's nothing special. And frequently, I am frustrated when I see one of the items I really like has been circulating for too long and lost whatever freshness it once had.

        Hanoi 3 seasons, I really enjoy. Sure the spicy clams are canned, but I love the curry/lemongrass flavour with the toasted rice crackers. That's a taste thing, though. If you don't like it, you don't like it. I do believe the grouper flavoured with dill is one of the better dishes I've had in all of toronto. The fish is lightly fried, and each time I've had it, wonderfully moist. And the dill flavour I love. I find it's a good place to go if you're taking friends not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine and aren't ready for one of the old school places.

        Thanks for the info on Pepper Chili. I was only considering it because I want to get some Szechuan food, without driving too far. Guess I'll have to bite the bulled on that front.

        If you're looking for a different Vietnamese place, do check the Peach Garden Express (i gave location above). I'd be curious to hear what you think.

        Have you been to Batifole lately? It's been a couple months. I've had all but one good experience (out of 10+ visits). Read a few disapointing posts on this board since then, though.

        1. re: grandgourmand

          Some great info here - with so many restaurants to mine, there has got be gold in there somewhere...

          1. re: grandgourmand

            Thanks for the info, hounds. It really is kinda disappointing - i was hoping for someone to come out with a head-over-heels unanimous and fabulous recommendation. I'll be sure to check out the dim sum at Pearl Court.

            1. re: Sinfulia

              The area basically caters to a working class Asian clientelle, mainly Vietnamese and Cantonese speakers. Hence the preponderance of cheap but solid food joints.
              For shopping, Fu Yao is a good Chinese supermarket and Bill's Lobsters is a nice addition to the the strip, although I imagine the opening of T&T nearby has taken some biz from both these places.

              1. re: Sinfulia

                If you go to Pearl Court, I'd recommend sticking with their steamed and panfried items. The last 2 times I've visited, the deep-fried items seemed to be fried in stale oil.

                Also, don't be shy to request items that you don't see circulating on the cart. If you eat there during the week on a day that isn't too busy, it can be a long time before the dumpling you're waiting for finds its way around the room. The special requests are freshly steamed or pan-fried- whereas some of the 'specials' in the cart look like they've been wheeled around for a while.

                Another option for decent dim sum that isn't too far away from Chinatown East is Bamboo on Danforth. The people running this place are really nice. The dim sum costs about twice as much as Pearl Court, but the har gow are twice as big and everything I've ordered has tasted fresh. I like their siu mai better than most versions in TO- it's not greasy at all. Not too fond of Bamboo's nor mai gai. Most of their dishes are more generous than average economical dim sum restos, so you might find you can order less dishes. 7 orders of dim sum, 1 order of gai lan and 2 cokes costs around $45 at Bamboo (basically the same price as 8 dim sum dishes at at Ambassador or Casa Imperial, but Ambassador and Casa Imperial serve better quality dim sum). I don't consider Bamboo a destination restaurant, but if you're craving dim sum when you're in East York, it hits the spot.

            2. re: embee

              que ling closes at 7pm, and is closed on either tues or wed, can't recall exactly.

              Bearing that in mind, it's still one of the best spots for bun bo hue and banh cuon in the city.

              1. re: aser

                I totally disagree. Their Bun Bo Hue is nothing like an authentic Bun Bo Hue should be - spicy, fragrant, laced with lemongrass and chili oil, and absolutely filled with pig's trotter chunks, pork blood cubes, and other meat miscellany. Their version is weak and watery. For great Bun Bo Hue, try Pho Mi 99 at Dixie and Dundas (they have 8 or 9 types of Hue style Pho!), or Pho Nho at Dundas and Howard Park. Honestly, I try Bun Bo Hue at every Vietnamese restaurant I go to, and I was very disappointed at Que Ling's version, particularly after reading such positive reviews on this board.

                1. re: redearth

                  I haven't been since the summer, but it was one of my favourites, I will revisit to gauge my opinion. Last time I had it, it had all the ingredients you spoke of, trotters, blood cube, etc....

                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/aser/341...

                  I've been going to Pho My Duyen on Bloor and Pho LInh more lately due to its proximity. I quite enjoy Pho My Duyen's bun bo hue, it is better than Pho Linh's, if you want to give that a shot.

                  I've been to Pho Nho once, and only had the pho. It wasn't particularly memorable. Worth a revisit for the bun bo hue?

                  1. re: aser

                    I would say yes, definitely worth a revisit for the bun bo hue. I was quite surprised by it, as I've had their Pho before, and while it was decent, you're right - it wasn't particularly memorable. But Pho Mi 99's version is way better - if you ever make the trek to Dixie and Dundas, definitely check out their Hue style soups- spicy and delicious!

              2. re: embee

                The only defense I have for Pepper Chili is that I do enjoy their soup dumplings - no ginger in the sauce (blast!) but does in a pinch for a xiao long bao craving

              3. Anyone tried Pho Mi Gia Phung? Vietnamese place on the north side of Gerrard (598 Gerrard).

                I recently went there by chance and love it. Never tried the Pho, but the Bun is great, as is the Lemongrass Beef Skewer appetizer. A seafood chow mein was also very tasty.

                The interior looks like it's recently been painted and all the furniture and fixtures look new-ish.

                I've lived in the area for much of the past 20 years, and agree with many sentiments regarding the general decline. But Gia Phung has got me going back to the neighbourhood for dinner again.

                3 Replies
                1. re: aveivy

                  I still like Mimi's. We've rarely been disappointed there.

                  1. re: aveivy

                    I too live fairly close to the Gerrard & Broadview area I'm disappointed as well at the quality of the Chinese restaurants in the area. One place that I've tried a few times and come away happy is Fireplace on Jarvis, just north of Carlton. I got the tip from this board. It's not GREAT, but they do some serve up some solid Canadian style Chinese food. I've tried Pearl Court a few times and I'll take Fireplace over it anyday.

                    1. re: Brain of J

                      I agree with you 100% about Fireplace serving "solid Canadian style Chinese food." It's our default setting for that kind of order-in.
                      Also, they share a kitchen with Thai Jasmine, so you can put together a combined order from both restaurants with one phone call!

                  2. Rose Cafe, for Vietnamese subs, is supposed to be good, but I've never been (for some reason, I've never been able to find it)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: merlot143

                      It's pretty much opposite Kaka Lucky.
                      Good fresh Vietnamese subs, but not really worth the 5 stars NOW gives them.

                      1. re: koknia

                        They are really good - much fresher and prepared with more care than any of the Bahn Mi you might find around Spadina. Order the deluxe. You won't be disappointed (get it spicy if you like it hot!).

                    2. Just came from Angkor, which is just East of Broadview, on North side. Only people in there, but the place is funky, including a huge aquarium. The only staff member there recommended 3 dishes, all of which were excellent. I think it was the wife. Green tea, 3 dishes, 2 people, worked out maybe $20? I will definitely be back. Great meal.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: BeeRich

                        Angkor was totally disappointing. I went there twice and everything was so oily. The owner was very pushy with recommendations, but his recommendations were for the more Thai-sounding dishes. We were really unhappy with our meals there both times and haven't returned since. I love Hanoi Three Seasons for the Cha Ca La Vong (grouper with dill) and their super fresh cold shrimp rolls. I had Cha Ca at the official Cha Ca La Vong restaurant in Hanoi and I preferred the Hanoi Three Seasons version. Imagine that! I've enjoyed Peach Garden the two times I've been there. I ate vegetarian both times and was impressed with the depth of their veggie options. According to my co-diner, the pho tai nam is pretty decent too. I'm not in love with Xe Lua, but it seems I'm the odd person out among my co-diners. If someone knows what they do best, please let me in on the secret. I like Mimi, but I've never had pho there. I had their vegetarian soup, which was nice and a shrimp dumpling and seafood noodle bowl with soup on the side that was also quite good. I ate at "the shack" once. I can't remember what we ordered, but they didn't have it, so we both settled for pho, which was decent, but not stellar. The place was packed with Vietnamese families and the next time I go, I'll order what pretty much everyone else was having: banh cuon. My BF reports that Simon's Wok is pretty good, though I haven't been there myself. The biggest surprise for me was Batifole. I'd have nothing but glowing reports on every item ordered there, except for one over-riding issue: SALT. Everything was so over-salted that by the end of the meal, I had to remove my rings and undo my pants. I was blowing up like a balloon. My Bf had the horse tartare, which was excellent but so salty. My mother and I had the fish baked with tomatoes, fennel and pernod and my comment is the same: excellent, but too salty. My father had calves' liver with a Banyuls vinegar sauce. It was lovely, but still on the salty side. The side green vegetables and fries were also salty. The salad starters were seemingly dressed with just oil and salt. Believe it or not, I even found the fresh baked bread salty, my BF mentioned that the butter was salted. I won't go any further, except to mention that two friends ate there a short while later and had the same observations. They added (tongue in cheek, no doubt) that even the water tasted salty.

                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                          I had a similar salty experience at Batifole recently. Took a group out, and everyone was disappointed with the food because of the salt. The veggie side was so bad, we actually sent it back - which I never do, but the food was actually inedible. The server handled the complaint well, and the dish was comped, so no complaints about service, but I wonder what's up - I'm used to better from Batifole.

                          1. re: 11oclockish

                            When I go to a restaurant, if there is no salt offered at the table, it is nearly always the case that the chef thinks he/she knows better than the customer how much salt is appropriate to each dish. In theory, this should be the case, but too often, the result is an entire menu of oversalted dishes. I'm not against salt use whatsoever. I think it has a place in every dish, including desserts. But, I also believe that subtlety of salting is key. Isn't it safer to err on the side of caution, then allow diners to request a tiny bowl (or shaker) of sea salt to season to his or her individual taste? I understand that chefs want the first bite of their dishes to be perfect, in presentation, seasoning and doneness, but just as I abhor overcooked and tough proteins, I detest food that has been salted so much that it overwhelms every other aspect of a dish.

                            Had the sodium levels been 50-75% lower (90% on the side greens and salad), depending on the dish, I would have raved about my meal there. It was a Father's Day dinner and fortunately my salt-fiend dad was happy with his selections, but the rest of us had the same comments, course by course: "this would be heavenly if it were a lot less salty". A part of me would really like to return and make a special request that the kitchen use a very light hand with the salt at the time of ordering, but I fear that great offense would be taken by the chef and owner. The sad thing is, we probably won't return to Batifole, which is so ideally located for where we stay (with friends) when we are in Toronto. We'd have already been back at least once had our first visit not required two days of rehydration to correct the imbalance in our systems.

                          2. re: 1sweetpea

                            Went to Xe Lua for the first time today, with three others, and we all ordered different things - Pho, Beef Satay soup, Broken Rice & BBQ Pork Chop with Steamed Egg, Vermicelli with Spring Roll and Sour Ham, and for an appetizer, Shrimp Roll with Smoked Bacon. Everything was subpar. The pho was mediocre at best, with a weak, overly salty broth. The grill used to cook the pork chop was obviously not hot enough, the Beef Satay soup was so thick with corn starch it was more like spicy wallpaper paste than soup (the person who ordered it actually sent it back in exchange for a bowl of Pho), and the shrimp rolls were so dry as to be mouth-puckering. Everything fried was obviously fried in old oil. Yuck. Never again.

                            1. re: redearth

                              xe lua unfortunately is wildly inconsistent between locations. I go there only when viet options are limtied (ie spadina location @ 2am). Then again Pho Pasteur is open 24 hrs, so I end up there mostly over xe lua.

                              the xe lua in richmond hill is absolutely disgusting btw.

                        2. Hi Sinfulia, I have lived in the area since 1999 and agree with many of the posts below but I'd like to add Sum Kee Noodle House. 1060 Gerrard Street East (416) 465-4167‎. They are one business west of the northwest corner of Gerrard and Jones. The food is delicious, cheap and fast. My only complaint is that while you can request no added msg, their meat has already been seasoned with it. I have not found it overwhelming and I eat the food regularly.

                          The elderly couple that owned and cooked there have recently sold to a young couple and they have kept the original menu and added some "Canadian Chinese" food. Chicken can be subsituted for pork for a nominal fee. They are polite and efficient and already know me on the phone, which is nice.

                          I can recommend about the following items that are all terrific. Hot and Sour soup, shrimp wonton noodle soup, spicy (chilli) fried squid, cashew chicken, braised chilli bean sauce chicken, beef with brocolli, egg noodles with meat and veg, chow mein (tastes very different from the usual bland version ), Chinese broccoli, malaysian noodles (curry), sliced spicy fillet mignon with thick noodles (I forget what they call this dish but it is on the back of the takeout menu), the fried rice is great, kids we had over recently raved about the chicken balls (a new addition to the menu) and the General Tsao chicken (I found both too sweet but kids like that) and the shrimp dishes are great. You can order anything with extra heat and they will amp it up, which is a bonus. Enjoy.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: greenwoodgerrard

                            Thanks, greenwoodgerrard. I'll add it to my list of places to try out.

                            1. re: Sinfulia

                              There is also a vietnamese noodle shop near scotia bank (@broadview and gerrard), the one that you have to walk up a few steps.

                              They make an above average Fukien noodle (a pho variation). I like the dry version (lo mein), with soup, shrimp crackers, fried wanton all serve as side dish.

                            2. re: greenwoodgerrard

                              Nursing a cold, I was looking for Hot and Sour soup, saw this post, and headed there without passing go! It is fantastic, not too gloopy and ram packed full of treats. I also picked up the cashew chicken and a tofu/veggie dish for dinner.. Thanks for the tip.

                            3. Pho 88 is my favorite. #124 XL, the Pho Sate, is their specialty. They make the best Pho Sate in the city, and I always order it with extra noodles. It doesn't look appealing at first, but you forget about the look once you dig in. It's the best $9 I can spend in Chinatown, and if the owner is there and feels nice, he'll waive the $1 extra noodles cost! Their tea, while a bit watered down, is free, so no complaints there. The decor is rather bland (which is why it's usually overlooked) but hey, you're there to eat. As for their regular Pho, I don't know how good it is because I always order Pho Sate.

                              Pearl Court is still good for dinner. However, you'll need someone who knows Chinese for their best dishes. Their dishes still have a distinct aftertaste, but it's still great for the price. Unfortunately, all of their rave reviews seem like they came last millennium, so the food quality must have dropped from back then.

                              Grand's best dim sum are the pastries: Cha Siu So (fried BBQ pork bun), custard buns, and egg tarts. Their pastries are actually better than what the myriad of devoted bakeries in the area can offer. Non-pastry food is rather bleh. It's still the only main option, as Pearl Court's dim sum is quite limited.

                              Batifole is awful. As some people people have told in this thread, the food was ridiculously salty. I had an acquaintance from Montreal come over in the summertime and we went to that restaurant. Everything from the fish, the frog legs, and the "frites" (gourmet french fries) was way too salty. How anyone could give it rave reviews is beyond me, because I'd rather eat at Pearl Court over it any day.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: GipFace

                                Batifole had been the best and most reliable place in this area for several years. We haven't been in a while and this spate of bad reviews is really distressing. I hope someone there catches on to this and corrects it...

                                1. re: embee

                                  Not to mention some of the better value for good food. There have been several mentions of over-salting and of oiliness as well. It's one of my favourite places. Haven't been for nearly a year. It is not good to hear that it could be going downhill.

                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                    Hmm...I was just there on Sunday, so here's my $0.02. My soupe lyonnaise was, in fact, quite salty - it tasted as if maybe the broth might have been seasoned just right before the sausage was added to it, pushing it over the top. That being said, I didn't mind much, because it was still an incredibly delicious and rich soup. Yes, they do sprinkle some coarse sea salt on top of the butter, and I found it a very enjoyable kind of crunchy saltiness. Aside from that, I didn't find dinner salty at all - my rack of lamb was actually slightly undersalted for my taste, and my boyfriend's salad and main were not at all noticeably salty. Maybe I just have a higher salt tolerance than some of the people posting above (I am a bit of a salt fiend), or maybe this is one of those good night/bad night kinds of things. As far as oiliness, I certainly didn't run into that in any of our dishes. Overall, we had a very enjoyable dinner, and agreed that we would come back anytime.

                                2. re: GipFace

                                  I like Mimi as well. The ladies in that place run a very good menu. I get one of their special chicken soups. Fantastic.