Linda - Asian Bistro?
Wasn’t quite sure how to present this review.
First, the food is excellent – BUT I don’t want to mislead anyone.
Most of us know Linda’s as the ‘upstairs restaurant at Salad King’ – so we expect it to be Thai. However, the new incarnation at ‘Shops At Don Mills’ confounds that perception.
I always felt that the atmosphere above Salad King had a ‘Bistro’ feel to it – but that seems even more so after the move.
On a recent visit we had Lobster Soup, Grilled Jumbo Prawns, Crispy Duck Leg, 28-day Aged Steak (I recall Ribeye, but the on-line menu shows sirloin); and on a previous visit I had scallop. Indeed some of these did have ‘asian’ spicing, but the ingredient list more closely resembles a bistro menu!
Certainly the more familiar dishes survive (although I didn’t notice the Thai Style Cornish Hen – one of my favourites from before); but the other faves often mentioned survive (seafood in parchment; Islamic Noodle etc).
Obviously this isn’t your typical Thai restaurant – Linda has morphed into what I’ll term an ‘Asian Bistro’ – they still offer a choice of spicing, but one could completely order dishes more associated with France than Thailand (although most do have an asian twist).
Reviewing as a Bistro it’s extremely good – prices comparable to a ‘regular’ bistro and, in most cases more interesting (the steak doesn’t come with frites). The lobster soup (we ordered 3* spicy) was superb; the prawn (tiger shrimp?) came with a basil based sauce (next time I’ll spice that up a bit – then it will rival The Tiger Shrimp with piri-piri sauce, at Chiado, which is the gold standard for this dish). The crispy duck leg was deboned at the table and served in a similar way to the skin on a Peking Duck dinner – but with a small dumpling as the wrapper and several choices of condiments/fillings (sauce, mushrooms, scallions); and the steak was superb – full of flavour, but served fairly thin – order this rare for the best effect.
We had some ‘Thai’ dishes too – a vegetable dish and a Chicken Panang – both up to the original standard set before the move.
And the wine list seems expanded – in particular we had a Spanish Tempranillo that went extremely well with the food (and cheaper than most bistros).
Two visits so far – once we had a corner table and the other time sat on the patio (heated) – the latter is particularly good as it avoids my usual patio problem – exhaust fumes from passing cars. I know others have not liked the centre tables, but I can’t really comment – except that if you think ‘Bistro’ then you expect a crowded atmosphere.
And it was packed (and turning tables) both visits – but the clientele seems mostly new (suburban? – I’m not trying to dis the locals – just commenting that they aren’t the same crowd you get around Dundas). Of course, this may be (almost certainly is) the best restaurant for several miles around – certainly some ‘finer’ dining was needed in this area (North of Eglinton and east of Bayview).
If you’re tired of ‘same old’ Bistros, this is an excellent alternative. If you want ‘westernized asian’ food in a pleasant (casual through semi-formal) environment, then equally this is a destination. If you want ‘cheap, street-style, Thai’ food – I don’t think this qualifies (go to the Salad King or Sukothai – you’ll pay far less at both). They do have ‘real Thai’ here (you can still choose the heat level) – but the prices are higher (as is the ambiance and ingredient quality).
This is as close as we get to Asian Dining (with a strong Thai slant) in Toronto. I put it in a similar category to Bangkok Garden – except Linda is better food at lower prices.
But it ain’t “upstairs at Salad King” any more.
I finally got my shots up from my visits to Linda's. Menu is in there too:
I guess, when looking at the other thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/619469 there's a lot of concern over the food at the new place. I really haven't noticed poor quality of ingredients. And trust me, I took my parents here - I'd have heard about it!
Bests: Curry Hot Pot, Beef Penang (thought it as good as before the move), Islam noodle (better in the new location for me), Seafood fried rice, (about the same), Coconut baked rice, (this could be for the novelty... and my penchant for coconut). Mieng Kum is also really fun/interesting, though the parents commented that it wasn't an aromatic leaf. I agree that it isn't very "fragrant" but it does not lessen my enjoyment of the app.
I'll aim to order things that I haven't already ordered (it's hard to break habit...), as the lobster soup sounds good.
The thing to remember is that Linda's is on new ground, with a different clientele. Can't really slag 'em for making themselves accessible to their new audience. I also think that there's enough of the old Linda to keep me happy.