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Jan 26, 2009 09:12 AM

Chinese New Year - not just downtown

Thinking of heading out on Thursday or Saturday to try a Chinese restaurant in Markham, RH or Scarborough. Will restaurants still be serving special dishes for the New Year later on in the week? If so, can someone please recommend a spot as well as dishes to order? I have a slight preference for any of these further afield spots that are closer to downtown i.e. a 20ish minute vs. 30ish+ minute drive, if possible. Many thanks.

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  1. How many people are you dining with (set dinners are usually for 8 people at least)? Do you want something high end (Casa, Empire Court, Yang's, O Mei)? If decor doesn't matter, then there are quite a few places known for their wok hey in the burbs (Big Mouth Kee, Maple Yip, Fantasy Eatery, etc).

    Don't worry, you'll still be able to get a set dinner. If you got cash, they will not turn you away.

    19 Replies
    1. re: aser

      Depending on the evening, we'll either be a small group of 4 or a teeny twosome. I guess the set dinners are out but can we perhaps try some special dishes? It needn't be high end - I don't need fancy decor so long as the food is yummy (and the place is clean...).

      Can you please enlighten me - what is wok hey?

      1. re: peppermint pate

        Hello peppermint pate,

        I highly recommend 'Tanchikee' at 360 Hwy 7 E, Richmond Hill. Currently, there's a write-up on about it. They have a 'lobster special' on right now. 2 x 1.5lbs lobsters for $24.99. Ask for them to be cooked with Maggi sauce!. Also, the honey glazed black-bean/chili oysters are to die for! The list of restaurants high lighted by aser are mighty fine too.

        BTW, 'Wok-Hey' is a Chinese term used to describe the aroma and taste infused into the food whilst the combination of the ingredients, cooking wine and oil are being ignited during the tossing action of the wok over the open flame of the burner.


        1. re: Charles Yu

          Thanks for the tips Charles - and the explanation (wok hey sounds a bit like the Chinese version of umami, no?). I was a bit put off when I scrolled down the blog and saw the picture of the bloody Loblaws egg (eww) before realizing I needed to go further on the Chinese New Year link - ha!

          Just out of curiosity, are the dishes you describe at Tanchikee especially prepared or priced for the New Year or are they "just" year round great, tasty dishes at this resto? I've heard that there are things like long noodle dishes and other symbolic foods that are eaten for the holiday so I was curious to also try one of those.

          1. re: peppermint pate

            Actually, umami refers to a taste naturally occurring in food. Wok hey is something infused into the dish from the way it is cooked.

            1. re: peppermint pate

              You're most welcome p.p
              Lobster special is currently on since lobster prices are low. This might change down the road. The pigeons and oysters are their staple house specialties.
              Regarding 'wok hay', Teep is right. I usually associate 'umami' with the taste of msg!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                tanchikee is also known for their snake soup, if you're feeling adventurous. It is a dish traditionally consumed in the winter by the Cantonese.

                1. re: aser

                  Good point aser! John's b-b-q soup is pretty good too. Unfortunately, both places do not provide all the side condiments like chrysanthemum flower petals...etc that one gets in HK.

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Looking for new restaurants to try. Lately, we've been going to Judy's Cuisine at Times Square. We tried Maple Yip and Big Mouth Kee based on recommendations here but maybe we did not get the right dishes. Looks like Tanchikee is the next one on our list - for snake soup and lobster.
                    Another restaurant we frequent is Full House on Midland and Finch. Not sure if it's affiliated with Full House on highway 7 and Casa Victoria. But we just had the 5 lb lobster special for $60 on and it was pretty good.

                    Does anyone miss the old Bayview Garden on highway 7? That was our go-to restaurant - great food, good value and good service. That and Dragon Dynasty and Dynasty on Bloor used to be the best. Now the next one I will have to try is Yang's.

                    1. re: caitlink

                      Judy's Cuisine at Times Square used to be one of my favourite go to places in the area. Love their free range chicken. Then, about a year or two ago, they opened up another subsidiary on Midland. Subsequently, food quality at their Times Square location has rapidly gone down hill. ( dilution of kitchen staff? ). A few months back, I noticed their Midland location has closed down, so, out of curiosity I bought some take-outs from the Times Square location to try. Food was surprisingly good! May be the original kitchen team is back?! Guess next time, I'll give their dine-in a try.

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        I would give points to Judy's for consistency. Have not had a bad dish there. Free range chicken, garoupa dish two ways (soup and stirfry), pea shoot. Great service as well. That's why I have not tried Fantasy yet.

                        1. re: caitlink

                          Thanks for the heads up. May be I'll give it a 'dine-in' try this weekend.

                          1. re: caitlink

                            Hi caitlink - this downtowner has no idea where Times Square is - can you please fill me in? Judy's Cuisine sounds good. Thanks.

                            1. re: peppermint pate

                              Hwy 7 and Leslie area. Here's a map of some popular Chinese malls:
                              (Times Square is #15


                              I had a meal the other day at Omei - lobster 4 ways. I would recommend that one if you're in the area. I have never been disappointed. The rest of their food is just "okay" in my book.

                              Cheers and Happy Eating!

                              1. re: BokChoi

                                Hello Bokchoi,

                                'The rest of their food is just "okay"'??!! What 'other' dishes did you order? Have you tried their 'steamed minced pork pate with diced dried cuttle fish, Chinese mushrooms and water chestnuts'? Perfect seasoning and texture. Havn't come across a better version in TO. HK may be? How about their 'steamed live French turbot' or 'stirred fry Gai Lan with ginger juice, cooking wine and Chinese preserved meat? The former, perfect timing whilst the latter displayed great 'wok-hay'. Their version of 'crispy roast free range chicken' is not bad either. IMHO, all the afore-mentioned dishes are more than just 'okay'!!

                                On the other hand, I did find the 'Tomalley fried rice' of the lobster 4 ways way too dry for my liking. Therefore, I always opted for the ' stewed e-fu noodles with shredded mushrooms, yellowing chives and tomalley' instead.

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  Hello Charles,

                                  Sorry for the delayed response. I must have missed this comment. I have tried a number of their other dishes, including the aforementioned crispy roast free range chicken, their king mushrooms with dol mew, their gwai fai gai (free-range chicken), a hot pot with XO sauce and scallops, and a veggie bowl with bamboo pith. Many of the dishes were just average for me due to the heavier usage of oil than I would like, as well as the lack of texture from their veggie dishes (many were overdone). The crispy roast free range chicken I have had twice (went with two different groups and the waiter recommended it each time, even though I tried to veto it the second time) and both times it was a soggy failure. The skin was far from crisp and the texture of the chicken was mushy and soggy. Though it was marketed as 'moist', it was not the texture I would like to see in my chicken. No one at the tables (13 different people) liked that chicken dish and found it to be a failure. But everyone has their own tastes. The XO scallop dish had a thick pasty sauce that I wasn't a fan of personally, but another at my table really enjoyed it. The dol mew was very oily, but the taste was nice and sweet.

                                  I actually enjoyed the fried rice tomalley due to the fact that it was dry and crisp with lots of wok hay (once again illustrating how everyone has different tastes I guess!). It was amazing on the last visit and reminded me of a tomalley fried rice that I had several years ago at a favourite restaurant just North of Hwy 7 (English name Chicken Inn or something, Chinese phonetic translation "Wun Wah Sun Jong") that has since gone bankrupt. Does anyone know where that chef fled to?!?! I need to track him down - he was the BEST Chinese chef I have had the pleasure of trying in Toronto.

                                  Charles, do you have any idea? You have many food connections I'm sure!

                                  1. re: BokChoi

                                    Probably at a restaurant like Omei (峨嵋海鮮魚翅酒家), you want to stick with live seafood item, as you are already given a hint from the restaurant name. Try the steamed live french turbot next time, it is excellent.

                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                      Thanks for the suggestion skylineR33. I tried to ask for their suggestions as their best dish- and they highly recommended their fried chicken. Thought I should go with the house rec. And I always need my vegetables with each meal... habit. I'll try the turbot next time. I love thier lobster. Addictive.

                    2. re: aser

                      Hi Aser - I love a lot of food but sadly, I'm a bit of a chow-wuss on some stuff - just the image of snake soup makes my face squirm up, though I'm sure it would be delicious if I could ever muster up the bravado. Thanks for the rec, though.

                      1. re: peppermint pate

                        Why peppermint, did you just invent a new chowhound term? "chow-wuss" I love it! :)