Linda Restaurant by Salad King, grand opening tmrrw
- vincechan Apr 24, 2009 08:28 PM
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.
Went to Linda for dinner last night and loved it.
First, I should note that I've never been to the original Linda so can't compare food or the room. That being said, I have to disagree with PhuFighter about the room. Yes, the tables are fairly close together and yes, it's fairly noisy. However, I found the noise level (which was high but by no means overwhelming) to be helpful given the proximity of the tables to one another -- ie. I didn't feel like I was listening in on my neighbours' conversations and vice versa. My husband and I were seated at a table for two between two of the red partition things, and I appreciated the division it created between us and the tables on either side of us. Not for a moment did I worry that the servers wouldn't be able to get around without dropping things.
Now onto the food... It (or at least most of it) was fantastic. We started with the Mieng Kum and the Lettuce Wraps. The Mieng Kum was incredibly good. You make your own little mini-rolls using a sesame leaf, filled with diced onion, lime, chilies, coconut, peanuts, and dried shrimp, topped with a Thai sauce of some sort. The explosion of flavours was amazing. It's not a huge dish, but the mains were quite substantial/filling, so this was by no means a problem. The Lettuce Wraps were the low point of the meal. They were okay, but nothing special. I wouldn't be inclined to order them again.
For our mains, we shared the Green Curry Chicken and the Fish Curry Hot Pot. The Green Curry Chicken was good, with nice, tender-crisp veggies (broccoli, greeen peppers, snap peas, and peas) and grilled chicken breast in a delicate green curry sauce, but it paled in comparison with the Hot Pot. It was served steaming hot and poured into an interesting paper basket over a flame (which the paper pot withstood). Like the Mieng Kum, it was tremendously flavourful and the fish (turbot) had a mild, lovely flavour and texture. It was the highlight of the meal (though the Mieng Kum was a very close second).
Our server was excellent -- very attentive and helpful when we had questions.
I will definitely return, even though it's not in my neighbourhood.
Went last week and it was quite good, better than the old Linda above Salad King. We went on a Wednesday and the restaurant was full at around 7pm. Very good was the Mieng Kum described nicely by torontofoodiegirl above, the Golden Beef Curry and the Fried Duck Legs described well by Full tummy above (also agree that more than 3 "bun wrappers" was needed given the amount of duck). We also ordered the Baked Young Coconut with Fry Rice which was a bit dry.
The Chocolate Burst dessert was recommended by the waiter and was cold and undercooked in the middle. We informed him and it was taken off the bill.
Service was excellent at all times and Linda herself even walked around to all the tables to talk to the customers and she's very nice and willing to accept suggestions.
Overall, we would definitely go again. Re the interior design, it was on the noisy side but acceptable far from the noisiest restaurant I've ever been to. The design is kind of modern classic, nothing to write home about. We did mention the noise issue to Linda and she said she's going to talk to her designer to see if anything can be done.
My wife and I went last weekend and we were not impressed. As other posters have mentioned, the place is small and too crowded. Also, we found the prices high and the food not great. Had the softshell crab appie, mango salad and pad thai with a juice and tea and bill was $43. Have had better mango salad and pad thai over on Bayview.
However, the worst sin was that the coke was flat. It is not licensed so I had a coke and when it arrived there were no bubbles. I really hate fountain coke and flat fountain coke is the pits!
Compounding the problem was that they continued to serve the coke to other tables and guess what, it got sent back too! Quel surprise.
Waiting for the other restos to open because we won't be going there again. Price, crowding, food and attention to detail are all lacking.
I had a fantastic meal at Linda earlier this week.
I pretty much had some menu items in mind based on previous recommendations by other chowhounders. We ordered Mieng Kum and Soft Shell crab to start. Both were fantastic. Mieng Kum was like an amazing explosion of flavor and the sauce for soft shell crab was really good and not what i expected.
for main, we had fish curry hot pot and this other fish in black bean sauce. They were both really good but the fish in black bean sauce seems like a small portion whereas the hot pot was a good size.
They had ran out of most of the dessert that night so we didnt order any and also, their liquor license was still in the mail.
Tried Linda's tonight, and I've never tried Linda's downtown location before. Had the papaya salad (very bland), the pad thai (overly sweet just as Full Tummy mentioned, shrimps were not fresh at all), and the duck curry (sauce was way too thick & creamy). Service was fantastic, but with the overly high prices, I doubt I will go back again any time soon. The food overall reminded me of the many non-thai chefs trying to cook thai dishes. My most recent authentic thai meals were a few days in bangkok, and another amazing meal in vegas (Lotus of Siam). Tonight was a huge disappointment.
i ended up there for lunch and kept things basic (panang chicken, phud thai, beef salad) and wasn't really happy with the food side of the experience at all. it seems that their more interesting/complicated/expensive dishes come more highly recommended but my time and expense were a bit limited.
the shrimp in the phud thai were just awful. we mentioned it and they said they bring in their shrimp frozen "fresh" every day. they said it tasted exactly as it should... probably a sign that i might not agree with their seafood selections overall. the noodles had a great chewy texture but the sweetness was so overwhelming that i needed spoonfuls of curry afterwards to balance my palate. i thought the panang was weak in flavour and i'm used to them being a bit nut forward whereas this one was mostly coconut. the portions were quite small as well.
i did enjoy the beef salad though. the flavours were vibrant and tasty.
the service though is quite good. they apologized for any time issues with the kitchen and a very busy restaurant. they took the phud thai off the bill after the shrimp complaint and we couldn't stay longer to have a replacement dish.
i'm not too keen on the space. it seems very... congested with people, noise and all the various types of partitions. i think i would like them more if they offered greater privacy but they're still quite open. i certainly didn't feel like i was going to get spilled on though as servers seem to have been deftly moving between tables. the benefit of experience i guess!
beef salad was $9 and rice was $2. that's all i can accurately say.... otherwise my bill (salad, rice, chicken curry) was $31. i'd say the pad thai was about $13 to 15 + $2 for shrimp.
it is NOT cheap. it would appear the menu is the same for lunch and dinner except for a lunch specials list they have. if we had the beef panang off that menu it would have been more affordable. i want to say it was closer to $11 then but i can't vouch for portion sizes.
Two things really impressed me: 1) The beef in the golden curry was very tender. 2) Their chicken satay was soft and juicy.
The level of heat could have been higher but that's easy to adjust. If they consistently cook their meats this well, I will be a frequent visitor.