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short trip, looking for feedback

I'll be in the Toronto area this weekend for a wedding and as always, I'm hoping to eat some great food I can't get at home (Chicago) when I'm away. I came up with some ideas from reading over the boards, but I appreciate any feedback people might have.

Friday night I was hoping to find an interesting place to eat near our hotel in Mississauga. I read some positive reviews about the Ming Room and I've never had Hakka cuisine before. Do I need a reservation on a Friday night or can I just show up?

Saturday I'll be tied up with the wedding, but I'm hoping to eat some great North Indian food.

Sunday morning I'd like to get dim sum. I first looked for options in Mississauga in case we're running late and came across Perfect Kitchen and Emerald. However, if we do get up early enough I'd love to seek out some of the best Toronto has to offer. In this search I came across Rol San and Lai Wah Heen. Any feedback on these places?

Before we leave that night I wanted to try some Portuguese BBQ. For that I read great reviews about Costa Verde. I've never been to a churrasqueira restaurant, any recommendations on what to order? Are they open Sundays?

Thanks

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  1. Hi turkob, just a note that Ming Room serves Indian-Hakka cuisine, which is not the same as the actual Hakka cuisine of China, they are two completely different things. Think of it as American-Chinese food, those at Ming Room is Indian-Chinese food, both are food which cannot be found in China.

    Lai Wah Heen's dim sum is the best quality you can found in Toronto/Richmond Hill/Markham/Mississauga, it is much expensive (around $35 a person) than Rol San, Perfect Kitchen and Emerald but a few level higher than them.

    6 Replies
    1. re: skylineR33

      just want to reiterate what skylineR33 is saying about Hakka.... i've found my experiences to be very lacking because it is virtually american-chinese food with some layers of indian spicing over top. this means heavily breaded fried meats and very goopy sweet sauces with heat. for the most part i just feel nauseous afterwards.

      i would suspect that grand is also within distance for you for dimsum, i've never been so will not vouch either way for it. there are many many reviews about it that you can find. i personally would not go to rol san, their service is terrible and i've had a lot of old reheated food from them.

      for more suggestions on what you wouldn't get in Chicago, i would defer to TorontoJo's posts and advice! i'm sure we'll see her on this thread soon.

      1. re: skylineR33

        Don't mean to hijack this thread but message to skylineR33: Do you know of any real Hakka restaurants in either TO or Vancouver - meaning Chinese Hakka versus the Indian Hakka.

        Thanks.

        1. re: fogducker

          Hi fogducker, there are cantonese restaurants in Toronto which provides one to two real Hakka dishes, but I don't think there is any restaurants in Toronto which labeled themselves as restaurant providing real hakka cuisine. I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong on this.

          Not sure about Voucouver.

          1. re: skylineR33

            Hi skylineR33: Thanks for the response. I do eat at the Indian Hakka places but it is Hakka with an Indian twist. Really, you'd be hard pressed to find a place anywhere in China where the locals do not eat pork but none of these Indian Hakka places serve pork so that takes away from the Chinese authenticity right away.

            There was a proper Hakka restaurant in Richmond, BC called Famous Hakka and it did serve pork. I was in Vancouver in December 08 and saw it and made a mental note to visit it when I next came. That was in April 09 and the place was gone and is now a regular Cantonese rest. Sure didn't last long - maybe 6 months.

            I am trying to track a Hakka dish from Moi-Yean - deboned duck with sticky rice & almonds - Noh Mi Ap ( I believe )

            1. re: fogducker

              You can find that duck dish at Maple Yip of Scarborough, but require one day advance notice. It is pretty good !

              1. re: skylineR33

                Awesome - thank's a lot. I'll let you know how I make out.

      2. For dim sum in Mississauga, definitely go to Grand Chinese Cuisine. It's by the airport on Dixon Road and it's in a hotel. I've even read that their dim sum is served on Cathay Pacific to their first class customers.

        Here's an extensive review of the place by Bokchoi:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/557688

        My husband and I have been there twice based on his recommendation and we both agree that it's the best dim sum we've ever had!

        1. Well people on the board,in general don't recommend indian hakka chinese, but i love it. Its different and spicy and great. Dont' know about mings but near the airport there is also china palace which does great indian hakka chinese: have the dry chilli fish, chilli chicken or veg manchurian. All are good.
          Also for north indian in mississauga, the host is good and so is bombay bhel.

          1. Yeah, let me third the "meh" vote for Hakka. It is really not worth wasting one of your meals on it. I think it's one of those cuisines (Indian-Hakka, that is) that you must grow up with to love. My experience with it at Lin Garden (praised as one the best places for this type of food) was really bad -- really greasy and lots of heat with no flavour. Blech.

            For great dim sum close to Mississauga, I'd go with Grand. Lai Wah Heen may be a bit better, but I'd go with Grand for the convenience factor (depending on where in Mississauga you are staying). I grew up eating dim sum in Chicago's Chinatown, and there is nothing of this caliber there that I'm aware of (mind you, it's been a while since I've had dim sum in Chicago).

            Portuguese and Caribbean are two things that Toronto does well and plentifully that Chicago does not.

            I don't have any specific recs for Portuguese, as I don't really hunt it down as some others do, so I'll leave it them. I will warn you, though, that the Portuguese generally cook their meats drier than some North Americans like it -- this applies to both chicken and beef. Also note that this is a fairly simple cuisine in terms of flavouring/spicing. It's wonderful tasty stuff when cooked well, but not earth shattering (except for maybe the perfectly grilled sardines I had on the coast of Portugal, but that's a different story!).

            In terms of Caribbean, I really recommend that you have roti and doubles while you're here -- addictitvely good stuff that is not easy to find in Chicago (if at all). If you can tell us where you are staying and where you are willing to travel for your meals, we can give you better recommendations.

            5 Replies
            1. re: TorontoJo

              Thanks for the tips. Dim Sum is still pretty underwhelming in Chicago. Grand sounds like a winner, thanks for all the recs.

              I looked at the threads about Portuguese BBQ and that's how I came up with Costa Verde. Everyone said Chiado is the best spot, but it's fancier and more expensive than what we're looking for.

              I'd love to get some Caribbean food. Is there anything good not too far from Mississauga? We're getting in Friday night around 7PM and I assume we'll have people joining us, so we'd prefer not to spend too long getting to dinner.

              1. re: turkob

                I should add, on Friday we'd like to stay near Mississauga. Say within a 20 minute drive. We'd be up for anything that's good, but we'd prefer something distinctive.

                Saturday we'll be at the wedding all day, but we'll be treated to some N Indian food, which I'm sure will be excellent.

                Sunday morning we'd like to do Dim Sum near to where people are staying (Mississauga), but after that we're free to roam the city. So we could do Portuguese or Caribbean or anything else for dinner before heading to the airport at night, as long as it's not too far out of the way.

                Thanks again

                1. re: turkob

                  It looks like Barb's Roti Shop is the place to go in Mississauga. Here are a couple of mini-threads on it.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1005...
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9978...

                  It's mentioned in several other threads as well if you want to do a search. The good news is that it looks like she has doubles as well.

                  BTW, you mentioned Sunday morning for Grand -- just so you know, it opens at 10:30 on Sundays.

                  1. re: turkob

                    For Portuguese barbecue you want Bairrada. Search and you'll find plenty of recs. The main one is downtown/west-end on College with a great patio but they have one in Mississauga as well. Don't know about a patio, identical food. Roast pig on Wednesdays!

                    http://www.bairrada.ca

                    1. re: Dimbulb

                      excellent!

                      So Barb's sounds great, but I'm guessing it's a little dingy. This doesn't bother me at all, but I have to gauge the mood of the people dining with us. But it sounds like Bairrada is a good alternative that I'm guessing has decent ambiance.

                      Thanks so much!

                2. I hope no one will mind if I join this thread. My husband and I have planned a last-minute trip to Toronto and will be staying near the King subway stop from Sat-Mon. We won’t have a car, but are happy to take public transportation and walk.

                  I’ve been reading through the threads and would appreciate your input. We'll eat any kind of food, but would prefer to not eat anywhere that's so fancy that we’d be uncomfortable in nice jeans. We would like to sample some of the best that Toronto has to offer, whether it’s at a $4 hole-in-the-wall or at a nice sit down spot. (We're just watching the budget a bit and would prefer to not spend $200+ on a meal.)

                  Being from Chicago, we’re likely going to skip Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, Thai, and Italian this weekend. Lately, what we’ve been enjoying most are locally-focused nose-to-tail restaurants - - and we’re sad that the Black Hoof is going to be closed.

                  We’re planning on going to the St. Lawrence Market once we arrive on Saturday. I have a call in to Union about a Saturday night reservation, but haven’t heard back. Any suggestions if Union is a no-go? How's Swirl Wine Bar? Hard to get a reservation?

                  On Sunday, I think we’ll go to Lai Wah Heen for dim sum. As turkob mentioned, Chicago dim sum just isn’t that great. Do folks think that we should delay LWH until Monday for dim sum? Will we get better food/service by not going on a Sunday? If we do switch, where should we eat Sunday brunch? I shared the Senator’s website with my husband, and he thought it looked overpriced and a bit boring, despite all the history. Should I convince him to go?

                  For Sunday dinner, I’m tempted by Jamie Kennedy WB. It’s close to the hotel and the most-recent menu looks tasty.

                  Any thoughts? Anything we’re missing? Finally, if anyone can recommend an outstanding beer bar (microbrews preferred over European beers) or an amazing cocktail lounge (nothing too fancy), I'd appreciate it.

                  Thanks so much in advance for your tips. And, "hi" to Turkob, a fellow www.LTHforum poster (I'm REB).

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: RChicago

                    ha, definitely join the conversation, the toronto thread at lth definitely needs some new entries

                    1. re: RChicago

                      LWH is a high end operation, their quality is consistent. Unless you find a restaurant you want to try that is closed on Monday, that's the only reason for you to switch LWH to a Monday.

                      Bars w/ cask ales and good selection include Bar Volo, Smokeless Joe's, C'est What, Beer Bistro, and Victory Cafe. Only place amongst the list worth eating a full meal at is Beer Bistro. I recommend you try Waupoos cider.

                      1. re: aser

                        Though I have always been a loving fan of beer bistro, I must say that the quality of food served there has declined over the last year or so. My visit last weekend left me less than impressed. Some examples include dried out duck confit corn dogs, the suckling pig saturday feature (the chef misguidedly paired it with an "asian" noodle salad with overcooked mushy noodles and too acidic a dressing), three different mussel orders tasted nearly identical...

                        May I suggest just grabbing a drink at beer bistro instead? (And maybe the belgian frites, though insist that they come crispy as I've had to send them three times for being limp and soggy).

                        1. re: pinkprimp

                          You know, the food menu struck me as a bit strange and unfocused. I have a feeling, given how few meals we have in Toronto, that we'll only be drinking at the Beerbistro. Thanks for the tips!

                          1. re: pinkprimp

                            wow 3 times over fries, you do live up to your namesake.

                            Food is decent, it's certainly not a destination restaurant. It is one of the few bars I would consider eating at to settle the booze after a few pints. Someone on here will surely say it's hardly a bar, for my purposes it is since I go for the beer.

                            1. re: aser

                              3 seperate visits, though I've discovered it is not an uncommon problem; APDC suffers from this as well. Poorly done fries are sad little things.

                              I'm not high maintenance, promise! (VBG)

                        2. re: RChicago

                          Welcome to another fellow Chicagoan! You've got a pretty good plan going on already, so "well done!" on your homework.

                          St. Lawrence Market is great for Saturday breakfast/lunch. Just graze your way through the market. There are lots of threads discussion the best eats in the SLM, and if you can't find them, let us know and we can certainly throw some recs at you.

                          Your service will be good at Lai Wah Heen no matter what day you go. I think brunch at Lai Wah Heen and dinner at JK Wine Bar is a great Sunday plan. JK Wine Bar has a very local focus and recent reports seem to indicate that they are back on top of their game.

                          I would skip the Senator -- there's nothing special to draw an out of town visitor there.

                          Here's a recent discussion of Swirl that should give you a good sense of whether it's up your alley or not:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/645445

                          In case it's not clear, most of the food comes in canning jars -- the food is made off site as there is no kitchen in the tiny space. Reports are good so far!

                          If you're a fan of charcuterie, the platter at Nota Bene was roundly loved at a recent dinner there. It's a nice spot, with quality food at not outrageous prices. It would probably fall a bit under your $200 limit for two (depending on how much you drink). Here's the thread with a recent discussion:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/642734

                          But for something with more character and atmosphere (and cheaper than NB!), you might enjoy Torito in Kensington Market. It's a tapas restaurant with some nose to tail type options. A recent review:

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/646937

                          As for beer, Beerbistro and Cafe Volo are two very different options, both with excellent beer lists. Beerbistro is literally steps from your hotel. For cocktail lounges, you're near Kultura, which has a beautiful lounge space on the main floor and a restaurant on the second floor. The menu is small plates, which are nice to order in the lounge for nibbles.

                          1. re: RChicago

                            Swirl is tiny, but if it's just two, you should be able to get a table. It's a fun place to nibble and drink, and while I was full, I didn't feel satisfied for a dinner attempt. Sometimes it's packed, sometimes it's empty, I guess it just depends. Going around 9ish would probably give you a good chance at a table. If you like nose-to-tail, this is like the "lite" version.

                            I've only been to Beer Bistro and Bar Volo, but my recs for beer would be Ephemere Pomme (cask!) and the Waupoos cider as well.

                            ---
                            http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                            1. re: RChicago

                              Petit Thuet is on the ground floor of the hotel at 1 King West. Small French/Alsatian cafe. Excellent pastries. And not expensive (still relatively unknown).

                              http://www.petitethuet.com/

                              1. re: RChicago

                                On the last Sunday of every month the streets by Kensington Market are closed to just pedestrian traffic from about noon. Some nice restaurants and cafe's for coffee and snacks like empanada's, etc. Nice place to browse as well. For me on par with St Lawrence Market.