Linda Restaurant by Salad King, grand opening tmrrw
Heard that Linda Restaurant (loved by many CHers as the best Thai in Toronto) was moving closer up north (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/606743) and got excited. The "shops on Don Mills" outdoor mall (I predict it will be the hot summer shopping spot) opened Wednesday, April 22. But many shops weren't opened.
Bravely, I tried my luck today and saw that Linda was still rushing to renovate. I walked in to ask someone there when they were opening. They told me they are preparing for a Saturday, April 25, 2009 Grand Opening... I hope to get a reservation tomorrow night to review the restaurant for my Toronto food blog (http://toreservations.com/). I might be shooting myself in the foot if many people also try to make reservations. But good food is meant to be shared.. so is good food news!
If Linda remains anything close to the downtown original, should provide some stark contrast to Jack Astors, etc that remain at Don Mills mall.
Vincechan, btw, I was on your website and I dont suppose there is a place you can direct to for a good pad thai recipe? One that looks like the pic on your site -- a saucy version made with tamerinc?
Well, I went there on Sunday night. I didn't even know if it was open or not but thought we'd try our luck.
In short, food is good - as expected. The prices were a bit higher than downtown, but that's also expected. I'll let others go on in more detail about the food, since i enjoyed it.
As for the restaurant? I didn't enjoy that as much and it bothered me enough so that i couldn't really focus on the food at all.
The "mall" itself is nice enough, but the restaurant was a bit smaller than I had expected. I wasn't paying attention and it took me a third tyr to realize that the door wasn't locked (I saw people inside, so it had to be open!), but instead, it was just REALLY FREAKIN HEAVY. Unnecessarily so. We were looking for a table for 2, and found one that would come by in short order, so we waited ~5mins for it. The waiting hallway wasn't that great - every time the heavy door opened and closed, the wall would shake. And I think in winter, I would want the seat farthest away from the windows. They look like they're going to be cold.
After the rickety exterior walls, the next thing we noticed was that it was a small restaurant, and it was NOISY. Tile floors, and other hard surfaces abound. Nothing to absorb the noise at all. It sounded like the new stainless-steel salad king, and definitely not the place for an intimate dinner.
There are these strange red partitions in the dining room - I guess to break it up and make it feel more intimate. But it seemed to make the whole thing just made walking far more awkward for the servers. I was paranoid that they might accidentally hit the partition and drop their plates on me each and every time they carried a tray past me.
I would probably go again, even with the noticeably higher prices. But I'd definitely go on a slower night and choose a table that's nowhere near the red partitions. Oh, yeah, the waitstaff was ok. Didn't notice anything good/bad about them, which, in my book, is good.
One of the things I liked about Linda before was the table, and how interesting the room looked. The dining room here is an utter disappointment. Good thing I don't choose restaurants by their appearance but instead by food. But the ambiance of this place is enough to give me second thoughts on coming.
Quote: "Good thing I don't choose restaurants by their appearance but instead by food. But the ambiance of this place is enough to give me second thoughts on coming." Unquote.
You could have fooled me. In this very long post of yours, you make no mention at all of what you ate. It would seem to anyone reading this that food is definitely secondary to decor in your mind.
Possibly because the noise and the paranoia about having plates dropped on my head bothered me that much, perhaps?
The noise one can compensate for - just talk louder. And I am used to eating in loud establishments. But having plates overhead to avoid unnecessary obstacles? I can't say I've experienced that before.
For those who have been to the old Linda location, the atmosphere of the new location is probably a step back. The old Linda does much to help foster a romantic mood.. I missed the creaky wooden floors.
I sat on the outer bankettes where noise wasn't as much an issue (for me). But I can see that the tables in the middle were closely placed.. almost cramped even. Definitely not the best seats in the house.. but then.. neither were the booth setup which IMHO makes Linda feel like a darker, higher-end and smaller area version of a Congee Wong / Congee Queen decor. But it's about the food.. and I'm ready to return... perhaps for the grand opening?
I'm in the middle of writing the food review for my blog.. so I'll probably put that up soon.. just wanted to echo PhuFighter's sentiments about the decor.
So, Hubby and I went to Linda tonight. I called early in the evening and was able to make a 6:30 reservation without difficulty. The place was about 1/3 full when we arrived, and by the time we left (around 8), it was probably about 2/3 full.
I counted, and it seems to seat about 80. It is a bit squishy (and I overheard some commenting on this as they squeezed between tables to get to the banquette). There are a couple of long tables in the centre divided somewhat from the edges of the room by room height dividers (as PhuFighter mentioned), and these tables seemed tighter than the banquettes. That said, I was not uncomfortable, except when the food arrived (we were sharing), and it was served on platters so large we barely had enough room for our own plates and glasses...
Our waiter was very polite and professional, gently bowing each time he greeted us, and he made a point of telling us at the outset to please ask him if we have any questions. We started with spring rolls (nothing special, but decent) and soft-shell crab (good, but this was my first time eating this type of crab so I have no reference point to compare). I noticed servers having some trouble determining who dishes belonged to at various tables (wandering around asking who ordered the Panang, for example), and this also happened with our appetizers.
Then onto mains. We were asked what level of spiciness we preferred; there's some sort of rating system from mild to 20, but I'm not experienced with it, and so I just asked for things to be cooked however the chef thinks they should be. The waiter politely suggested a 3 for the "phud thai" we ordered, and a 5 for the Panang curry. We also ordered fried duck legs. The waiter warned us the pad thai was made in a traditional Thai manner with fish sauce, and I told him that was fine with us, we weren't looking for a ketchup sauce. He assured me, with some gravity, that there was no ketchup in it...
So, first the duck legs arrive; they were deep fried in batter reminiscent of a good fish & chips shop batter. The waiter used a couple of forks to efficiently remove the bones for us. Alongside were three mini-taco-shaped steamed bun wrappers for the duck, plus three shiso leaves (I think that's what they were) -- again for wrapping -- plus slivers of mushroom, celery, and green onions and a bowl of hoisin sauce (to go inside the wrappers with the duck). We had never eaten anything like this before, so I can't speak to authenticity, but we did enjoy it; the one issue was that there weren't enough wrappers for the amount of duck, so I requested a few more, and the waiter obliged. Panang chicken curry was good, but not as flavourful as the coconut-based curries I have eaten at Mengrai. Thank goodness there's a pad thai sans ketchup in the area. Even so, it was quite sweet, and I really felt it lacked some oomph. Maybe more fish sauce? Maybe tamarind?
They seem very, very service-oriented; my water glass was never empty, and that's saying something considering how much I drink... I believe it was the owner who walked around checking in at various tables (not ours, though), to greet people and chat about the food. They're still getting into their stride, though, which is to be expected, given that this is still their soft opening.
No liquor license yet, though I'm sure they've applied. Prices seemed a bit steeper than I expected, especially given that despite the large serving platters, the portions didn't warrant them.
I would go back if I had a craving for Thai and Mengrai was inconvenient, but with Jean's Vegetarian just around the corner from me (which I love, and which also is unbelievably affordable considering the quality), I don't know how often that will be.