Best Authentic Thai & Chinese in Calgary
I've combed this board and elsewhere for high-end, fancy food places for my in-laws who will be visiting you all next month (Teatro, Alloy, Capo, Rush, River Cafe, Chef's Table, Blowfish, Jaro Blue, etc.), but there's just anecdotal stuff on real deal Thai and Chinese, and they're craving it. Price/location absolutely immaterial. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
I had a nice dinner at Tai Pan not too long ago. I like going to Calgary Court for lunch. It's not a fancy looking place so not sure that would be the best place to bring in-laws.
Tai Pan Restaurant - 171 1518 Centre St. NE
Calgary Court Restaurant - 119 2 Ave SE
I'm not an expert but to my understanding there are a several strains of Chinese done well and widespread here. One is the HK-style cafe, among which Calgary Court is an example and IMO one of the most interesting restaurants in Chinatown, one with food that is delicious and incredible value. We also have a fair number of the cavernous by-Chinese, for-Chinese restos that you find (in Canada) in strips like Richmond BC and along Hwy 7 north of Toronto; one great example of this is T-Pot Bistro in Harvest Hills NW of the airport- there are neighbourhoods in the far N and NW of Calgary that are 40% or more Chinese and these are great areas to explore for 21st Century Chinese ethnoburb sorts of restos. But for all that my two faves in Calgary are still tiny, Taiwanese Han's in Chinatown and,for dim sum, Harbour City, also in Chinatown, but there are dozens of other options. Calgary's Chinese population is huge by NA standards (more the 6% of the city's population is Chinese) and there is no lack of authenticity.
Thai? That's tougher. There are some very decent Thai places in town but I'm not sure about authenticity. That said I really like Thai Bistro in Chinatown and, lately, the Thai Place West (I think that's what it's called) in Motel Village. I've only been to these two and of course I go to Ruan Thai at least weekly for their lunch buffet so there's a start.
Oh, I have to second 23skid's suggestion of Delicious Country for some really interesting, not dumbed-down Chinese treats.
re: John Manzo
Han's has both Taiwanese and Szechuan style food. If they can handle heat (chilies), this is the place to go. Here are some of my favourite dishes:
- wontons in red sauce (basically garlic chili oil)
- their eggplant dishes (there is a spicy and non-spicy version; both are very good)
- there is a spicy mung bean vermicelli dish with pork that is very good; i forget the exact name on the menu but it does say something about spicy mung bean vermicelli with pork
- spicy fish stew with tofu; it's almost like a spicy bouillabaisse; it has A LOT of chilies in it. We usually ask them to tone it down a notch. This dish is very addictive if you like spicy food. It's a really bright flavours. Again I can't remember the exact name of the dish on the menu. It comes in a metal dish with a burner below to keep it warm. It is a very popular dish at the restaurant and you will see a lot of people ordering it.
- they also have braised oxtail; again both a spicy and non-spicy version. Both are also very good.
- their taiwanese style beef noodle soups are also very flavourful.
I paid a little more attention to the menu today when I went for lunch and got the names of the dishes I had mentioned for you:
- the spicy fish stew with tofu is labelled as "spicy fish hot pot" on the menu
- eggplant dishes - non-spicy was labelled as "soy sauce egglant"; spicy version was labelled as "szechuan eggplant"
- spicy mung bean vermicelli was labelled as "stir fry spicy bean vermicelli".
Btw, Han's is closed on Mondays.
I would suggest Pine Lake for dim sum (118 5 Avenue SE Calgary, AB T2G 0E2 (403) 266-3720) or Golden Inn (107A 2 Avenue SE Calgary, AB T2G 0B2 (403) 269-2211) for dinner. Both places would have the phantom Chinese only menu in addition to the menu with pictures and English translation menu. For Hk style cafe food, you can go to one of the following: Calgary Court, Sun Chiu Kee, Pebble Street or T-Pot which are owned by the same people.
Taipan on Centre Street N, diagonally across from Sun Chiu Kee, Lambda Supermarket is alright for dim sum and dinner, but I found I needed a lot of Bo-Lei tea to digest and cut the greasiness of the meals.
Does anyone know if T-Pot would be a good place for Chinese dinner? I mean order a few meat/veggie dishes and rice. Or is it something like Sun Chiu Kee where it's better to order noodles and congee and such?
Whatever you do, don't send them to Silver Dragon for "authentic chinese food". While it is one of the few places where they still push the dim sum on carts the traditional way, I feel the calibre of the food is just not there. You will see Silver Dragon winning the People's Choice awards, etc in magazines and tourist brochures. And I could totally see the concierge at the Palliser sending them here as well. And that's why I thought I should mention it. Even though I knew up front it wasn't a place I normally would go for chinese food, be it the "authentic" or westernized chinese food, I decided to give them a try anyways recently for a business dinner with some out-of-town folks. The main reason I had suggested that place is that I knew they would have good service and would be relatively "clean" for western standards and my business associates wanted a place within walking distance from the Sheraton Eau Claire. I was thoroughly disappointed with the food. When the food came out, the dishes weren't very hot... I certainly couldn't taste the "wok-hei", otherwise known as the "breath of the wok". That is a common way to measure the calibre of chinese food. I would say even for westernized chinese food (eg. ginger beef, salt & pepper squid, etc), Gee Gong on Centre St does a much better job. And for "authentic" chinese food, I don't even think Silver Dragon is the same league as the other restaurants that have been mentioned here by others. The restaurants that have been recommended here so far are restaurants that are actually frequented by Chinese people.
I have also been to Silver Dragon in the past for dim sum. Again, I fould places such as Pine Lake and U & Me Restaurant doing a much better job with dim sum. If they are willing to drive the distance, I definitely would recommend Forbidden City or T-Pot as someone had already mentioned.
Sorry if I miscommunicated... I wasn't trying to recommend U&Me. I was merely trying to point out that the dim sum I had at Silver Dragon wasn't very fresh. I used to go to U&Me a lot because the dim sum was fresh but I'm well aware of the health issues and have not been back ever since the health issues were publicized.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Grand Central on 16th ave and Centre north for dim sum. I associate good Chinese food with holes in the wall and this isn't but I've gotten over that because this place is good. Turnover is important in dim sum so big, busy places have a better chance at being good. Eating early is best. I get there at 11:30 even if it means waiting for the custard tarts.
Don't rule out Silver Dragon. We went there recently for some reason, probably because we needed to be downtown. The XLB were the best I've had in Calgary. Otherwise the food can vary a lot. We may have gotten lucky with the XLB, they really do have to be fresh.
We like Han's and have enjoyed T-Pot for dim sum but can't testify as to whether they are as good at dinner.
I like Happy Valley for Hong Kong style cafes mostly for the beef and noodles in black bean sauce but definitely order off the Chinese menu.
Sharonanne, I can see the appeal for hole in the wall for certain ethnic cuisines....but in my opinion, Chinese food doesn't really follow this correlation anymore. Perhaps certain small noodle/congee shops, but for the most part, the best Chinese food I've had in Western Canada (Calgary/Richmond/Vancouver) have all been at larger, clean and definitely more 'upscale' chinese restaurants. In fact, I've been to alot of 'hole in the wall' chinese resto's in Calgary and have been supremely disappointed.
Also, I had no idea Silver Dragon even had XLBs as I'm quite certain they aren't a Northern cuisine restaurant. I think Silver Dragon gets recommended so often is due to the huge history it's had in Calgary. That restaurant has been around forever!
I'm showing my age when I talk about holes in the wall. I agree that the 'palaces' aren't associated with westernized crap any more. We only tried Grand Central the first time because they took over the more cafeteria style place next door that had incredible beef and black bean sauce.
I wish I could remember if we ordered the XLB at Silver Dragon or got them off a cart (that doesn't sound likely if they were fresh and good). I've noticed an occasional oddball dish in their dim sum so it could have been a special. My son reads enough chinese to have picked them up in a menu.
In terms of authentic Chinese food I would really have to say Forbidden City is my tops for dinner. Their food is done very well .... and being the new age Chinese restaurants their menu is in full picture and colours so for anyone that doesn't fully know what they are ordering it comes in handy.
I haven't been to Silver Dragon in ages but I really was never a fan of it .... like some previous posts, you'll notice a big chunk of the resto isn't asian people which usually means it's a bit more catered for westerners.
Dim Sum at T-Pot is very good too. I don't think they have XLB (they might) .... but I know forbidden city has a good XLB too. Dinner at T-Pot is fairly good too .... do try their 'fried' chicken. It's one of their signature dishes and it's awesome!
Sun Chui Kee is good for HK style 'casual' dishes like fried rice, veggies and stuff like that
Calgary Court is good for HK style cafe's ..... almost like a fast food place, but chinese food. Their cold milk tea's are one of the better ones in the city.
You have to remember that one company owns all these restaurants, they also own a few restaurants in HK and 2 in Vancouver? I believe they have done well for their name ..... they constantly use fresh ingredients and they are very comparable to restaurants out here in vancouver.
hope this helps
I briefly skimmed through all the posts here...For Thai, I would second Thai Bistro in Chinatown. A friend of mine took me there last week for lunch. It was a nice little place on the main floor. The price was reasonable, I paid $12 including GST and tips for a big plate of pad thai and the spring roll (splitted between 4 of us). Spring rolls were also delicious.
As for Chinese, I'm rather disappointed with Silver Dragon lately. The quality of the dim sum just isn't as good as years ago. I don't really like Forbidden City for dinner either, dim sum there is okay though.
I did hear about Tai Pan and a family friend goes there every week, so it must be pretty decent.
There's this other new place up by Centre St N & McKnight Blvd N (It's right next to the Petro-Can gas station) which I quite enjoy. They have newer styles dim sum that other places don't have. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of it.
I would also recommend Golden Inn for Chinese dinner in Chinatown, probably the most authentic chinese food in Calgary for dinners. Do make a reservation in advance though since it's not a very big place.
Other ones that I see on this page and would also recommend:
Calgary Court Restaurant
Grand Central (more of a hit or miss, sometimes the dim sums are fantastic, sometimes they are a great disappointment)
Sun Chiu Kee
As there are several opinions on great Chinese food in Calgary I won't comment on that count. Thai on the other hand I will say my first choice in the city is Thai-Sa-On on 11th Avenue SW, beside the Tantra nightclub. Not only is the food second to none, but also Sammy, the gregarious and gracious host supplies Calgary with one of the best wine lists in the city. The atmosphere is laid back yet elegant and the food is always prepared fresh and is authentically Thai. Also note there are several interesting photos on the walls including one of Sammy with Jackie Chan, as Jackie dined at TSO every evening he filmed Shanghai Noon in Calgary. If you are lucky enough to make Sammy's acquaintance he will keep you entertained as well as educated on wine. I can't say enough about TSO, it is one of my top three restaurants in Calgary.
I also agree with Thai Bistro. i actually got recommended the place by my friend that is Thai and he said that it was the only Thai place he'd eat at in Calgary other than his kitchen =P
I too have yet to find really good authentic Chinese here in Calgary...
102 Centre St S, Calgary, AB T2G 2B7, CA