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Best Roast Pigeon in GTA? (reviews + photos)

BokChoi Oct 11, 2008 03:55 AM

Thought I would start a thread of the best roast pigeon in the GTA judging from the responses on earlier threads.

We are probably most familiar with the famed ‘Full House’ version, but some other versions have also come up over the past few months, so I would like to create a list to help everyone eat their way through the different versions of the crisp birds around the city.

Let’s start off with comments about the Full House version, as this one probably started it all. I have had pigeon only a handful of times before recently, as I had them in places such as Keung’s Delight and did not enjoy them as thoroughly. They were a bit too gamey, and this was probably due to the fact they were not handled well. The Full House version was very sweet, juicy and the skin was what set it apart. It was exceptionally thin and crisp. An excellently prepared dish (the same cannot be said of their other dinner items). This dish was quite pricey at $20 a bird. The size of it was a bit smaller than my hand, as is typical. Would I head here again for the bird? Not likely because the dishes that rounded out the meal were sub-par. The bird itself was very tasty though. Perhaps if you know ahead of time what to order, you may be safe.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Next up, we have a recently sampled Ruby Chinese Restaurant version at $8.99. At this price, I was tempted to order 2. Please note that this is only a ‘special’ item and is on sale for a limited time with a restriction on 3 birds for tables less than 6, or something to that effect. The bird’s flesh tasted similar to Full House, however, the skin was just not as crispy. But overall, I would say it was approximately 85% as good, and at 50% of the price – I would definitely order it again. They have it prepared two ways – the popular fried way with salt condiment, or with soya sauce. I will be returning to sample the soya sauce version and will let you all know how that goes. At $9 a bird, it is quite a steal. A great entry price to try this bird to see if it is to your liking. Please ask for it by name, as it is only available on the Chinese menu at the front of the room on poster board, if you cannot read Chinese.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

I would, however, like to know everyone else’s thoughts on their favourite purveyor of pigeon. TIA

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Oct 11, 2008 05:31 AM

    Full House is mostly for banquet style of dinner and this is what they are famous for in case if you don't know ... and their banquet dinner is one of the best value vs quality in GTA. If you have been to there once and order some dish that is not good, it does not really show that it is not a good restaurant as there are hundred of items in a chinese restaurant menu and it is impossible to have all of them good. Go try their dinner for 10 and you will like it. On a saturday night, you will see 7 out of 10 table doing banquet style dinner in there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: skylineR33
      BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Oct 11, 2008 07:44 AM

      True enough skyline. I tried to get a few recs for a smaller family gathering before going, but there seemed to only be comments about their large banquet style dinners - I unfortunately do not have the luxury of dining in groups of 10 on a regular basis. I did mention that I believe, so it is not a review to dissuade customers from going to Full House. Hope this was not misinterpreted. Trust me, I feel the same way about many restaurants that have been labeled as 'poor', only to find that some may not have ordered the correct dishes - I made the same post about Ruby's not so far back, using almost the exact same wording in my argument.


      1. re: skylineR33
        pinstripeprincess RE: skylineR33 Oct 31, 2008 06:36 AM

        this isn't quite the right thread to ask this, but is the full house banquet menu often printed in an equivalent english menu?

        a couple friends have been interested in going for a banquet style meal sometime but being the only asian in the bunch and speaking incredibly minimal cantonese and not being able to read an ounce of it makes me a little hesitant. i know what a dish is supposed to look and taste like... but trying to get a menu for 10 and making sure we get the right stuff concerns me.

        otherwise that legend dinner charles mentioned below sounds great. i could just fill it out with a few other dishes but hit the major items that my friends would likely want.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess
          skylineR33 RE: pinstripeprincess Oct 31, 2008 07:22 AM

          Hi pinstripeprincess, the banquet menu at Full House do not have a equivalent english menu. This is also the case with quite a few restaurant on Hwy 7.

          But you can obtain copies of these menu (in chinese) just at the entrance of the restaurant, they put them in a rack on a counter table, grouped by different price range. You can go to obtain these menu in advance and think about it at home (hopefully you have some family members who can help out reading it ?), because these dinner set requires booking in advance.

          The banquet at Full House has a medium to high end quality and pricing. But in terms of quality and value, it is very good. It ranges something from $400 to $700 (cash deal all inclusive) for a typical banquet dinner for 10 and it is customizable, and they charges $50 more on weekend.

      2. Charles Yu RE: BokChoi Oct 11, 2008 05:41 AM

        Roast Squab/pigeon has become a staple feature in almost all GTO's Cantonese restaurants. In addition to the above captioned two restaurants, one can try it at Fantasy eatery, Maple Yip, Tanchikee, John's B-B-Q, Regal 16, O'Mei ( advance order ) Keung's....etc. Due to the use of five spice powder in the preparation, IMO, they all tasted pretty similar.

        To fully enjoy and appreciate the bird, one should adopt the approach taken by the majority of patrons in Hong Kong and that is to order one per person and eat the bird in its entirety, 'uncut'! This way it will help to retain more of the juice and temperature of the bird. For taste and comparison, for those of you fellow CH from Hong Kong, one should use the Sha Tin's 'Lone Wah'., Fung Lam or Kowloon's TaiPingKoon version as yardstick! I believe SkylineR33 love to compare the Full House version with Hong Kong's Sha-Tin ones? A bird in Hong Kong now costs over CAN$30 nowadays!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Charles Yu
          BokChoi RE: Charles Yu Oct 11, 2008 07:46 AM

          Thanks for the suggestions Charles Yu. Perhaps I will request it 'uncut' next time, as I feel I can probably consume a bird in its entirety on my next visit!

          Please note that the Ruby version did not have the 5spice rub preparation. This, I felt, made it also feel a bit lacking when held in comparison to the Full House version.

        2. Royaljelly RE: BokChoi Oct 11, 2008 05:41 AM

          We used to order the roast pigeon at Ruby's for dim sum all the time. I can't remember the price now, but a good way to sample the bird as well for first timers. It probably not as fresh as the made to order ones though.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Royaljelly
            BokChoi RE: Royaljelly Oct 11, 2008 07:48 AM

            Hi Royaljelly

            Ahh, the famous dim sum version - I believe that was what they labeled as 'quail' though. I believe that one uses the same preparation method as the pigeon, though it was about $2.65 the last time I went! Quite a good deal. I have not ordered it as of late though, as I have switched my dim sum visits to solely Grand the past 1/2 year. If you have enjoyed that version, I recommend trying their larger 'pigeon' the next time around - rounding out the meal with some recommended dishes I had posted on another thread (fried sole prepared two ways, etc.)


          2. Charles Yu RE: BokChoi Oct 11, 2008 03:01 PM


            LEGEND ( Yonge/Glen Cameron, Thornhill ), one of the better Cantonese Chinese restaurant is cuurently offering 4 Prix Fix set dinner choices. One of them has the following dishes:
            - Diced winter melon soup with assorted meat and seafood
            - Peking duck two ways
            - Sauteed King mushrooms and greens with prawns
            The dinner is enough for 4-6 people and cost $68.95. A fairly good deal IMO.

            Another option is:
            - Soup of the day
            -Peking duck two ways
            -Sauteed beef with trio of mushrooms
            - Sauteed Lobster with Maggi sauce

            Also, $68.95

            3 Replies
            1. re: Charles Yu
              BokChoi RE: Charles Yu Oct 12, 2008 06:53 AM

              Thanks for the menus, Charles Yu. Sounds promising. I have never been to Legend, but the menu seems well suited to my usual smaller group gatherings. Have you had an opportunity to try it yet? How does their roast pigeon rank compared to others (say Full House's version)?


              1. re: BokChoi
                Charles Yu RE: BokChoi Oct 12, 2008 07:20 AM

                Morning BokChoi!
                I have tried Legend a number of times and found their food above par with a few dishes quite outstanding. My daughter just loved their 'Deboned Crispy roast free range chicken with flavoured sticky rice' - not a lot of restaurants have the skill to do this challenging dish.
                As for the pigeon, never tried it before. Will be giving it a try next week if time allows. Based on the quality of their B-B-Q products, reckon the pigeon should be more than acceptable!

                1. re: Charles Yu
                  BokChoi RE: Charles Yu Oct 12, 2008 07:47 AM

                  Good morning Charles Yu. Thank you very much for the information. I have never tried that sticky rice dish you have mentioned - but it sounds very good. Hopefully I will be able to round up my usual dining companions to try this one out soon!


            2. t
              tksh RE: BokChoi Oct 12, 2008 06:10 AM

              Actually, when was the last time you were at Full House BokChoi? I was at tan chai kee last night (incidentally, they were pushing their own pigeon for $8.50 I think?) and drove by a unlit and dark Full House. Are they under renovations or...?

              8 Replies
              1. re: tksh
                BokChoi RE: tksh Oct 12, 2008 06:51 AM

                Hi tksh. I went about a month ago? September 23, 2008 according to my photo log. I am not sure of their opening hours, as that was the first time I have ever gone there. Maybe the other 'Full House experts' can shed more light on the issue?

                I doubt I would go again, as they made some pretty critical errors (serving old, bitter vegetables, etc).

                For smaller parties that don't order the set menu, note that portions were exceptionally small for the price and quality.


                1. re: tksh
                  BokChoi RE: tksh Oct 13, 2008 06:20 AM

                  tksh, have you tried tan chai kee's version - what are your thoughts on their capability as a restaurant?

                  1. re: BokChoi
                    tksh RE: BokChoi Oct 13, 2008 02:15 PM

                    I haven't tried tan chai kee's version and to be honest, I don't think I've ever seen anyone eating it there either. But their other dishes are quite nice and I would wager you would get the opposite experience of Full House.

                    You know the style of casual Canto eating in HK where you would sit on folding stool on the side of the street under some blue tarp? Nothing amazing but just plain good food with the wok skills you wish you had. To me tan chai kee is the closest we have to that style of casual eating in Toronto. While not as cheap as their HK counterpart, you can easily feed three people for under $40.

                    I stayed away from them for the better part of this year because it looked like they changed management and they only had two girls serving a floor of something like 20+ tables but I'm happy to say that they have three girls now and service is fast once again. Pretty sure the kitchen didn't change either.

                    I definitely agree with you about Full House BTW. The pigeon was excellent but we too were disappointed but the quality of the other dishes. Still hoping I'll get a chance to try out their banquet service like skylineR33 suggested.

                    1. re: tksh
                      Charles Yu RE: tksh Oct 13, 2008 03:43 PM

                      Hello tksh!
                      Did you try out Tanchikee's 'Sauteed fresh goose liver with garlic chives shoot' Awesome dish, lots of wok-hay and perfectly cooked liver ( if you like that sort of thing, that is! )

                      1. re: Charles Yu
                        tksh RE: Charles Yu Oct 13, 2008 05:03 PM

                        No! I actually went there to try out that dish (I know I heard about it from you in another thread) but I didn't see it on the white board where they list the 'seasonal' dishes. I really wanted to try that goose liver too damnit.

                        1. re: tksh
                          Charles Yu RE: tksh Oct 13, 2008 05:41 PM

                          Hi tksh,
                          Too bad!! When I had that dish about 10 days ago, it was listed on the right hand side on the 'Special of the day' board above the cashier counter. May be they have exhausted their supply of foie?! I usually order take out lunch from them once a week. If I notice that dish again, I'll let you know, pronto!

                          1. re: Charles Yu
                            tksh RE: Charles Yu Oct 14, 2008 05:58 PM

                            Try out their pigeon for all of us and let us know how it goes!

                            1. re: tksh
                              skylineR33 RE: tksh Oct 18, 2008 08:58 AM

                              Tanchikee's pigeon is good, very crispy skin and nice aroma. However, the way they fried it make it not as juicy as Full House's. But for $13, it is a good deal in Toronto with such a quality !

                2. d
                  doctorandchef RE: BokChoi Oct 12, 2008 09:37 PM

                  Ha! I've been waiting for a while for people to post on this topic.

                  I still remember the pigeon's in Lung Yung in Shatin (the one across the railway bridge)... distinctly recalling the increased fattiness of winter pigeons vs summer pigeons.

                  It has been quite the quest to find one of similar succulence and flavor, but I suspect much of it has to do with the breed of the bird and the weather/temperature they grew up in. Farmed pigeons in Canada likely were raised in strictly controlled temperatures indoors.

                  Thanks for the above suggestions.... the one I had recently at Big Mouth Kee was fair, juicy but not plump enough, plus the marinade didn't quite "penetrate".

                  BTW roasting is somewhat a misnomer as the pigeons are usually cooked in hot oil, otherwise known as "deep fried"!

                  Any other locations serving good pigeon? I've tried buying fresh squab from SLM, marinading and deep frying it, turns out too gamey/livery. I suspect when the birds get too old that's how they taste. Quite good with a red wine/squab stock jus though.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: doctorandchef
                    BokChoi RE: doctorandchef Oct 13, 2008 06:38 AM

                    Ahh yes, thanks for the clarification for those less versed in 'roasted' in Chinese cuisine. I always forget to clarify that point, as I have been raised to know what 'roasted' means. Thanks for the reminder on the SLM versions - the red wine/au jus version has made me start thinking of ideas for preparation methods. I have heard Big Mouth Kee has gown downhill as of late - your thoughts?

                    Hope this thread is of some assistance, doctorandchef. In order to help, does anyone have any ratings on the aforementioned "Fantasy eatery, Maple Yip, Tanchikee, John's B-B-Q, Regal 16, O'Mei ( advance order ) Keung's" birds - Charles Yu perhaps? I was not very impressed with Keung's version - a bit too gamey.


                    1. re: BokChoi
                      skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Oct 13, 2008 11:18 AM

                      Big Mouth Kee's food is definitely at par if not better than Red Ruby, I just tried it this week. Lots of seafood, but not cheap. Lots of wok hay cantonese cuisine.

                      All the pigeon mentioned here except Full House are more or less same level of quality. I have eaten Keung's version many year, their pigeon have some bad days, but overall, it is just as good as others.

                      1. re: skylineR33
                        BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Oct 13, 2008 01:38 PM

                        Have not had an opportunity to try Big Mouth Kee. Red Ruby has been an old favourite of the family, so it will be tough to drag them away. Any suggestions on dishes?

                        1. re: BokChoi
                          skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Oct 13, 2008 02:11 PM

                          Their wok fried style dishes in general are pretty good. Seafood like "sea eel" is so fat, the ones on our night in the tank is like 3 ft long, steamed with the black bean sauce, I can eat 2 bowls of rice just with this dish ! But it is not cheap with $20 per lb.

                  2. Charles Yu RE: BokChoi Oct 13, 2008 07:24 AM

                    On the subject of pigeon/squab preparation, my exchange with skylineR33 was removed by the moderator, which I guess is understandable since we deviated by talking about Hong Kong food instead.
                    Anyways, getting back on track, I'm curious to find out if any fellow CH has eaten 'drunken squab' in Toronto before and if so where? Lots of Northern Chinese cuisine restaurants in town serve either chicken wings or whole chicken drunken style, but never try deviating and use squabor pigeon instead!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      skylineR33 RE: Charles Yu Oct 13, 2008 04:33 PM

                      I have not seen drunken squab in Toronto either, other cooked method I have seen in here is the squab swallow shark fin. Hey, but l wish we can have the drunken squab together one day, your treat !? Haha.

                    2. t
                      tksh RE: BokChoi Oct 25, 2008 09:50 PM

                      I had a chance to try the roast squab at La Chine. They call it boneless but it's more like half a squab with the rib bones plucked and with the bones in the wing and leg intact. I had it as part of a set dinner and it was served with eggplant garnished in garlic. The garlic was an interesting pairing to the dry roast but I found the squab too dry and too oily.

                      Still have to get messy to go through the limbs but having the body deboned was definitely nice. If they could make it more juicy and play on the fusion aspect a bit more with the garlic, I think it'll be an interesting dish. But as it is now, I don't recommend it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tksh
                        BokChoi RE: tksh Oct 26, 2008 08:07 AM

                        I would agree with you tksh. I have been to La Chine once, and I was not overly impressed. I would be willing to go back to try some other dishes, but IMO, they were a bit pricey for their quality/quantity. I did an older review a while back: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549144

                        Thanks for the report, now I won't try their squab on my next visit.

                      2. BokChoi RE: BokChoi Oct 30, 2008 11:32 AM

                        I managed to try the second version being offered by Ruby's at $8.99 a bird. This soya sauce version (soaked in their "house made" special sauce/soup) was a very different take on the dish. It lost much of its 'gamey' taste, in that the soya sauce's flavour was better able to permeate the meat, and offset the traditional flavours. It was a welcome departure. My dining companion that usually despises pigeon for this exact reason was actually fighting for another piece! I have not decided which Ruby's version I prefer better, but both dining companions raved about this bird and enjoyed it much better than the fried version. The dining companion that despises the typical 'game' taste of the pigeon said this was their favourite version (better than Full House). I would have to say I still prefer Full House's version, but at $9, this is a great deal.

                        Soya Sauce Pigeon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: BokChoi
                          lsk RE: BokChoi Oct 30, 2008 05:41 PM

                          When you're referring to Full House's version, do you mean their fried or soya sauce version?

                          1. re: lsk
                            BokChoi RE: lsk Oct 30, 2008 06:07 PM

                            lsk - I may be incorrect, but as far as I know, they only have one version - their "hoong sew" version, or fried/roasted version. I'm sure Charles will correct me if I am incorrect. Either way, I have only sampled their roasted/fried version and found it quite tasty. I would have to say that I was not impressed with the rest of the meal that I ordered though.

                            1. re: BokChoi
                              Charles Yu RE: BokChoi Oct 30, 2008 06:12 PM

                              I too am unaware of Full House having a 'Soy sauce' version! SkylineR33, can you confirm?

                              1. re: Charles Yu
                                skylineR33 RE: Charles Yu Oct 30, 2008 09:26 PM

                                I am only aware this version at Full House too. Do they have a Soya version, Isk ? Thanks.

                                1. re: skylineR33
                                  lsk RE: skylineR33 Nov 1, 2008 08:50 PM

                                  I thought I saw, on the way in a few times that the dish they had up on the banner of their entrance way as their signature dish in a competition/showcase of Chinese restaurants in and around Markham/Richmond Hill was the soy sauce pigeon.

                                  My family and I, for variety's sake, tried the soy sauce pigeon, but I may be confusing with another place that also offers pigeon both ways. It might have been at one of their sister restaurants.

                                  BokChoi: Full House has been going down since its chefs have either left or have been transferred to Casa Imperial or Casa Victoria (purely a guess). A year or two ago, the rest of the meal besides the squab wasn't so lacking in quality.

                                  1. re: lsk
                                    skylineR33 RE: lsk Nov 1, 2008 08:54 PM

                                    If you are talking about the winning dish up on the banner, I am sure it is the fried version. Casa Victoria just open this Feb/Mar. I have tried their banquet dinner at all 3 places in the last year you mentioned and they are just not too much difference in quality on similar dishes. Full House actually has some dishes that is done better. But I also notice it is not as good as before on their banquet set dinner.

                                    1. re: skylineR33
                                      Royaljelly RE: skylineR33 Nov 2, 2008 07:22 AM

                                      I confirmed with my friend who's uncle owns Full House, and the dinner chef has indeed moved to Casa Victoria.

                                      1. re: Royaljelly
                                        BokChoi RE: Royaljelly Nov 2, 2008 08:11 AM

                                        Thanks for the info Royaljelly. I wondered why the food was so below par, yet so highly recommended. I didn't want to post a really bad review because I had only gone once, but it was actually VERY mediocre, and at such a high price... it was quite disappointing. As mentioned before, I would not go back, even though their pigeon was excellent.

                                        1. re: BokChoi
                                          skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Nov 2, 2008 12:31 PM

                                          The chef move to another branch does not mean that the food will go down in quality. I had banquet dinner at both Casa Victoria and Full House in recent months and their quality of similar dishes are just the same. However, same as you, I am never fond of their regular dinner and I don't think it has ever been recommended here in the past year or so (before or after the chef moved) FYI.

                        2. Charles Yu RE: BokChoi Nov 2, 2008 03:33 PM

                          We ordered three squabs during our Fantasy Eatery chow meet. Pretty good though the breast part was a bit overcooked. Took the left over home ( one thigh and one breast with wing ). Reheat them using a Foreman grill the next day. Turned out to be surprisingly crisp and tasty!
                          John's B-B-Q's owner claimed theirs to be one of the best in town. Need advance notice since they have to order the birds fresh from the farm. At $19.99 per bird, they better be?!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Charles Yu
                            skylineR33 RE: Charles Yu Nov 2, 2008 03:44 PM

                            I got to try it if it is one of the best in town ! With Tanchikee's $13 pigeon which is just across the street, it better be good !

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