King Lobster, recently opened on Spadina - a quick review
We lunched at KING LOBSTER, 358 Spadina Ave. (In the old 'Happy Seven' location.) It has been open four days and we had a good overall experience given the genre.
The wonton soup - always a good test - came with a decent broth and the shrimp wontons were fresh and tasty. The stir fry mixed vegetables were crunchy and there were at least half a dozen varieties, including some interesting seaweed. Of course we had lobster, which was excellent, sweet, not over cooked (steamed) and in a mild ginger and green onion sauce.
They were able to accomodate a no MSG request, but it limited our choice. Service was typical Spadina China town - fairly abrupt and very efficient.
Total cost including tip, excluding drinks was $30, which given that we had sufficient lobster for two was good value.
For the present they are clearly trying very hard, (they specifically distanced themselves from the previous 'Happy Seven' emphasising cleanliness, new ownership and chef etc.) and are well worth a try.
We went for lunch yesterday and tried their "Beijing dumplings". The xiao long bao were quite juicy inside, but the texture of the filling is not quite right. The pan-fried buns had almost the same filling, were nicely fried and juicy too. The radish pastries were crispy outside but a bit gummy inside. The har gao were OK, there were shrimp pieces in the filling but mostly it's mashed shrimp. All of them tasted all right.
The server told us (more than once) that the chef used to work at the famous Jumbo Seafood Barge in Hong Kong. Maybe that's why the "Beijing dumplings" aren't quite right as it's a different style of cuisine. They also have some dishes I've not had before, e.g. chicken with lingzhi (靈芝) - a medicinal herb, and they also do lobster in hot and sour, coconut or thai sauces as well. We may go back and try some of those.
I have not been to Happy Seven in recent memory, but the carpet does not look like it's been changed and is a bit grungy.
We had dinner at King Lobster last night, and we were not impressed. The broth for the wonton soup was totally lacking in flavour, and we had to add quite a bit of soy sauce to make it bearable. One of us ordered the soup with shrimp wontons, the other with shrimp dumplings; the dumplings were better -- plumper than the wontons and containing mushrooms and some other vegetables, as well.
We had two lobsters, $15.99 each: one with ginger and green onion, the other deep-fried salt-and-pepper style. One lobster would not have been sufficient for the two of us. The salt-and-pepper won for flavour, but it was overcooked and tough and, as such, difficult to remove from the shell. The ginger/green onion lobster meat was properly cooked, but the sauce had way too much cornstarch, a problem we found with the other dishes we ordered, as well.
We had Chinese broccoli with garlic and Cantonese chow mein. Both suffered from the heavy-cornstarch hand, and the broccoli was overcooked. And I'm pretty sure the garlic came from a jar (one of the greatest insults to my palate).
The service was attentive and not at all abrupt. We got there at about 9:45 p.m. and only two other tables were occupied. Chinatown was very quiet last night.