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Jun 8, 2009 09:37 PM

battle of the 鑊氣 (wok hay)

On my regular late night haunts, I've been to the following of late........

Sun Star
Big Mouth Kee
Fantasy Eatery (Richmond Hill location)

I was really surprised at the quality of the outpost of Fantasy Eatery considering all the negative comments on the board. It was really good bang for the buck like their Midland location, and the flavours are excellent. Let me focus on a particular dish as a comparison, black bean clams (豉椒炒蜆).

Sun Star $8.99
Fantasy Eatery $6.50
Big Mouth Kee $9.95 (I think)

Portion size wise, Fantasy being the cheapest, still had the biggest plate. Flavour wise, both Big Mouth Kee and Fantasy delivered, with the pungent black beans and the tingling burn of the red chili. Sun Star's version was adequate but lacked spice, and was a bit heavy on the corn starch. Of note was the tiny portion offered by Big Mouth Kee.

I did like the quaint HK feel of Sun Star, I went there around 10ish during staff meal time. They were watching the NBA finals and cussing up a storm in Cantonese and talking about their wagers. This might turn off westerners but it reminds me of the neighbourhood dai pai dong of a forlorn youth. I also had honey pepper oysters (good flavour but sadly overcooked) and garlic snow pea tips.

Fantasy RH location actually delivered a better meal than my last visit to the Midland one. Contradictory to all reports on the board but that is exactly what happened with me. I also had tong choi in shrimp paste (蝦醬炒通菜) and pepper salt baby smelt (椒鹽白飯魚). Great value here....

I haven't been to Maple Yip is 6-7 months, and I can't recall the last time I've been to Elegantview. No conclusive feedback from me on those two.

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  1. Hello Aser,
    Tanchikee does a pretty good job with your clam dish too! In fact, of all the different versions I've tried, I find their's the most delicious since, in addition to the black bean taste, they also nfused a little bit of sweet and sour to it.
    As for 'wok-hay' in general. My current favourite is John's B-B-Q, hands down! On any given night, a plate of their 'Stir fry Gai-Lan with Chinese preserved meat and liver sausages' say, can easily bested any of their competitors! Sooo good! Reminds me of dishes coming out of some of Hong Kong's 'butane burner blasting' Hawker stalls years ago!.
    BTW, have you tried the relatively new 'seafood wok-hay' restaurant further down from Midland's Fantasy Eatery. Forgot the name but its on the left hand side of Midland as you head towards Steeles. I believe the place used to be Judy's Cuisine other outpost?!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Charles Yu

      I suspect what's good at Midland's FE won't be good at RH's location. The typhoon shelter crab I had at the Midland location last time was dissappointing, rather bland. Again I tend to go to these places late at night so I'm catching the graveyard kitchen crew.

      Last time I've been to Tanchikee was over a year ago, so i can't comment either.

      John's I was there this past winter, unfortunately I was dining w/ someone allergic to shellfish so we stuck to mainly meat dishes. Did get the "stir fry gai lan w/ lap cheong" as Charles mentioned and it is indeed top notch. Their small dish menu is a good deal too, allows you more options in ordering.

      If either of them are open late for siu yea, I would go more often, alas they're not. :(

    2. I greatly appreciate your "time-stamping" of your reviews. So much can change in 6 months in any restaurant.

      1 Reply
      1. re: T Long

        You're most welcome! Totally agree with you about how things can change in 6 months. With chefs constantly on the move, Casa Imperial and Dragon Dynasty are two fine 'down hill' examples

      2. I have been to Fantasy Eatery RH location around 1 month ago, the food there is really some of the worst I had in Toronto, the famous Rose Soy chicken has no taste at all and the chicken meat is hard, very unfresh. Maybe they have improved.

        I found the new one "King of Kings" at First Markham place has pretty good wok hay !

        11 Replies
        1. re: skylineR33

          Hello Chow Friend! Incredible! You are turning into a 'food explorer' as well!
          King of Kings' - What is that? Is it a new restaurant? Haven't heard of it?! You must have some pretty good sources! What's good there?
          Yup! Fantasy Eatery RH's chicken is no where near the Midland location's quality.

          1. re: Charles Yu

            "King of Kings" is 皇上皇 which takes the spot of Peking Garden (?) at First Markham Place. They are standard wok hay stirred fry like Tanchikee and Big Mouth Kee with similar quality, but it is a bit more expensive than Tanchikee. It has much less seafood selection than Big Mouth Kee though. Had the scallion and ginger wok fried lobster there, very nicely done with good wok hay without a thick sauce, however the lobster is small, maybe I need to order a bigger one.

            1. re: skylineR33

              I tried King of Kings last weekend. But very set dinners where you get to pick your own dishes and it's not the usual 'cheap' tofu or veggie dishes. With the peking duck, we chose steamed fish, oyster in a hotpot and seafood in a bird's nest.
              The fish was huge, not the small ones you normally get with the specials. And plenty of oysters. so definitely good value. But cannot taste too much wok hay.
              One thing I found nice about the restaurant is that it was light on the seasoning. Most restaurants overdo it on the salt but for King of Kings, I found them to be light on the salt.
              So definitely good on value and would go back. But still looking for a restaurant that can rival Magic Wok on the wok hay.

              1. re: caitlink

                I remember I really like Magic Wok when it was at its original location which is like more than 10 years ago. I have a couple of good to ok meal at the current Magic Wok but have not visited it for a long while. Is there any particular suggestion to order there ? Thanks.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  the honey fried oysters, best rendition in the city.

                  imo of course, others might differ.


                  1. re: aser

                    The popular dishes on every table are: the smoked grandfather chicken with jelly fish, stirfried seafood in birds nest, mango chicken or beef in birds nest, stir fried pea shoot leaves (so much wok hay it burns in your mouth on first bite)
                    And salt pepper fried oyster /squid / shrimp - i love how they do not overcook the oyster
                    And so those not worried about fat - preserved vegetable with the fatty pork (mui choi with pork)
                    There is also a sliced pork with chinese cucumber and bean vermicelli dish that goes great with rice

                    1. re: aser

                      TanChiKee's version is pretty fine too! Would be nice to do a side by side tasting of the two!

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Yes Charles, I remember Judy Cuisine's version is not bad too !

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          I've had the tanchikee's version, my vote is still for magic wok's. The fried crispy exterior interspersed with the moist center, it's just cooked perfectly. I've never had it overcooked before.

                          I haven't been to Judy's Cuisine in close to two years, will have to revisit.

                          1. re: aser

                            Judy's stirred fry free range chicken with shallots and black bean sauce is one of my favourite dish in TO. ( if cooked by the chef ).

                  2. re: skylineR33

                    Hi everyone, please be aware of King of Kings "皇上皇" at First Markham Place. The food is fine. But beware of their "Special set dinner/lunch", many of them would cost much cheaper if order SEPARATELY then ordering together through a special set meal. (i.e. their 1 dish + 6 dim sum set lunch is more expensive than if you order the same 1 thing and separately ordering the same 6 dim sums -_- Does this sound like a deal to anyone?). Also for those who can't read Chinese, please be careful. Certain items on the menu are different in Chinese then in English. (NOT the usual poor translation, BUT for example certain set lunch says it comes w/ 6 dim sums in Chinese, but says comes w/ 5 dim sums in English). When we asked the staff why this is so, they basically said it's their way of doing business and marketing, plus they refuse to give us the right price nor the right amount of items. We all felt like it was such a scam... Just want to share this w/ everyone, so no one would have to feel what I have felt at this scammy restaurant.

                1. re: Paulustrious

                  Its like a rorschach blot, so you tell US what it means!

                    1. re: Blueicus

                      Ah this would be a thread comparing the best wok-prepared dishes in town? Or does 鑊 氣 address anything more specific than that?

                      1. re: Everythingtarian

                        Essentially, the OP's comparing various stir fry/wok dishes (the clams, the smelt, the tong choi), in which the places mentioned generally specialize in (casual Cantonese eateries where you can order dishes to share with lots of rice).

                  1. re: Paulustrious

                    Transcribed as wok-hay in the posts above.

                    1. re: tjr

                      Thank you. I had problems getting my head round that word in the past until I found this thread.


                      Even then I'm not sure I captured the essence of it.

                      1. re: Paulustrious

                        I have done this before, but for the sake of visual explanation of 鑊 氣, I will do this again. You will get some good 鑊 氣 (Wok Hay) if you cook like this guy in the picture. Hope you will understand it more.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          A grown-up version of my avatar then?

                    2. re: Paulustrious

                      thanks for asking...i was feeling mildly alienated

                    3. Thanks for the information. We are really lucky in the GTA (and north) it seems that we have a plethora of authentic (or close to) cantonese restaurants to choose from. I've visited John's a few times but never dived into their wok -hay dishes, I know what I'm eating for lunch later this week!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Apprentice

                        For wok hay, I still think the best bet is Magic Wok - which is not popular on this board but the long line ups continue.
                        Will try Sun Star although a bit out of the way for me. Never quite understood Fantasy Eatery - I do agree it is cheap.
                        Big Mouth Kee - maybe I went on an off night but was disappointed.
                        What about Tanchaikee - have not gone yet but is it still worth trying? Thanks.