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Nov 10, 2009 07:26 AM

Must-Have Dishes at O'Mei on Highway 7

8 people are heading to O'Mei in a couple of weeks to experience lobster cooked 4 ways. I understand that many authentic Cantonese dishes appear on the Cantonese menu but not on the English menu. I'm not sure if anyone in our group has proficient reading skills for Chinese characters. Can people please throw out some strong recommendations for their favourite dishes there? Also, can anyone give me an idea of the cost per pound for lobster done 4 ways and what each preparation is? One last request: what size lobster would be best for 8 hungry people who will also order other dishes? We are adventurous eaters, so any suggestions/recommendations are welcome.

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  1. I live around the corner from O'Mei. I ordered a takeout from there once. Never again. The food was horrible. Up there with the worst Chinese takeout I have ordered. I haven't tried the lobster and haven't ordered from the Cantonese menu. I just ordered some standard dishes from their English menu. Don't remember what I ordered, one of them was Kung Pao Chicken I recall. Worst Kung Pao chicken ever. I am not exaggerating.

    16 Replies
    1. re: ManAbout

      Thanks for your comments, ManAbout. However, you've reported on the English menu, which is exactly what I'd like to avoid. Based on what I've read in other threads, O'Mei does some dishes really well, while others aren't great. I'm looking for the inside track on those great dishes.

      1. re: ManAbout

        When did you visit? I went a few years ago, and I agree it was pretty horrid. However, they have a new chef, and it's now our "go to" spot. I think you'd be surprised if you tried it again.

        1. re: ManAbout

          First, O'Mei specializes in 'Cantonese style' seafood!

          Kung Pao Chicken is a 'Northern Chinese' dish requiring special sauces to make it authentic! So, no wonder?! Though not exactly a great analogy, but its like trying to order Southern fried chicken in Red Lobster!

          Every ' Chinese food specialist' chowhounders on this board, be it skylineR33, Aser, Royaljelly, Bokchoi....etc all give O Mei a big thumbs up!

          Back to must have dishes. First, I would go with their house-special free-range chicken. Some of their 'wok-hay' stir fry dishes are worth trying too. A simple stirred fry Chinese broccoli with beef can be executed perfectly. Another flavourful dish is their sauteed veal with mushrooms and spring onions served in a sizzling hot pot. A touch on the expensive side, but, when available, the steamed live French Turbot with premium soy, ginger and scallions can be superb. Actually, a favourite of ours is their sweet and sour pork??!! Very nicely done! Lastly, their interpretation of stirred fry string beans with minced pork and preserved olives produces a dish thats better tasting than most.

          For 8, I would order about a 9-10 pounder! ( seasonal pricing ranging from $18-22 a pound which includes cooking of the beast ).
          The 4 ways usually entails the following dishes:
          - Steamed claws with minced garlic on a bed of rice vermacellis
          - Deef fried head and body in an ultra light spicy salt and pepper crispy batter,
          - House secret stirred fry lobster tail - ultra yummy!
          - Lobster brain rice rice OR braised e-fu noodles with lobster brains and shitake mushroom. Personally, I prefer the latter. You have to let the waiter know otherwise they'll automatically give you the fried rice!

          Have fun and good luck!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Thanks, Charles! And thanks for your comments regarding Northern Chinese dishes. I didn't want to be the one to make that comment, lest I seem ungrateful toward the first person who replied.

            I'll write your recs down and take them with me, plus any other intriguing ones that come in over the next 10 days or so. I'm all over the e-fu noodles choice. Sounds awesome!

            1. re: 1sweetpea

              Just give them a call, ask for Ringo the owner and ask him for the daily price!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Sorry Charles. I replied to your post before I'd read all the way through. I was very excited by the suggestions. I've since edited my reply.

            2. re: Charles Yu

              The 4-Way lobster was perfect, we had both the rice and the noodles with brain, they said this was the automatic option. The beef and Broccoli was very well done as well. didnt care for the free range chicken, a bit on the dry side. 10 pounds of lobster with 4 extra dishes proved more than enough for 9 people. what great time!

              1. re: shekamoo

                Great to know, Shekamoo! My party's grown to 9, so we'll be largely mirroring your order next weekend when we're there. Just of out interest, how far in advance did you reserve your table? Also, to continue a question from another thread regarding this restaurant, did they charge you for tea? The answer is not important, I just want to know.

                1. re: 1sweetpea

                  We only called two days ahead, but this was a Thursday night so that is probably not a safe indicator for weekend nights. We were not charged for tea, nor for the 4 rounds of dessert that followed our meal without our having ordered anything. maybe this had something to do with the fact that we were having a birthday celebration, I do not know, having been there only once

                  1. re: shekamoo

                    One last question, if you don't mind, Shekamoo. What did your bill come to in the end? I'm not asking how much you left for tip or anything, just the food total before or after tax. A couple of people in my group are wondering what this dinner might cost. Without a menu, I can't really guess.

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      320 for 9 people including tax before tip. The exact number of dishes we ordered in addition to lobster escapes me (I was pretty sure it was 3, now I am not so sure )but it was either 3 or 4

                      1. re: shekamoo

                        Thanks so much for answering all of my questions! I can hardly wait!

                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                          my pleasure. I hope you will enjoy your time as much as we did

                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                            Let us know how your visit went please 1sweetpea!

                            1. re: 1sweetpea

                              We order a 7.5 pounds with 4 people in the party ! With a dish of vegetable (Dried fish Gai Lan), we are all stuffed.

                              The fried rice is not very consistent, it is really good if they make it good that night, but sometimes it is too wet. I actually like it more than the noodle if they make the fried rice right.

              2. I second the question of how much lobster to order for 8 people, if you will also order side dishes, but no main dishes

                1. Yeah, the lobster fried rice is the only method I didn't care for out of the four. Get the noodles if there's a choice. For a veg dish, the pea shoots ("dul miu") is a dazzler if they have a good batch in that day, so ask. I think they call it 'green sprout and prince mushroom stir fry'. The 'juicy sea bass' is a fun option, a sort of grown-up take on fish sticks, the pieces of bass lightly battered and tossed in a spicy salt. (Complimentary) desserts are also a winner, with my favourite being the unique mango glutinous rice dumplings. Seriously good food here.

                  1. Went for my daughter's 13th birthday last night. We had a set banquet, no special dishes.

                    Soup was crab with fish maw, cold appetizer platter, shrimp and (huge!) scallops with snow peas, pork rib in lemon sauce, shrimp and dried scallops with baby bok choy in crab sauce, steamed chicken, wok-fried lobster (Note: not the lobster 4-way, just the standard prep), steamed fish in soy with green onion, rice, and dessert.

                    Everything was tasty, but nothing was "knock your socks off". On the other hand, as noted, this was the standard banquet menu, and we didn't make any special requests.

                    The only thing that bothered me was although the restaurant was practically deserted - a table of 4 Chinese, and another table of 2 white people, and the nine of us. That was it (well, except for the noisy mah jongh game going on behind closed doors) - but when we asked to sit at a larger table (they had squeezed us into a table for 8), the maitre d' looked like he had had a sudden attack of indigestion, but after some quiet insistence on our part, we were moved. Even then, sitting at the larger table, the dishes came out so quickly there wasn't room for everything, and we were sweeping remnants of some dishes onto small plates so that there was room for the new ones.

                    Honestly, if I wasn't going for one of O-Mei's special dishes, I'd rather go to Ambassador, where I feel the level of service is a step up, and the banquet standards are prepared just as well, if not better.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: FrankD

                      How much do you spend on this banquet set ? Probably the set is around $2xx something from the description of your dishes ? You are right, with this pricing, the stuffs are pretty much standard everywhere. A typical better quality banquet which good quality stuffs starts at $500 (before tax and tips) and up for a table of 10.

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        I don't disagree; you get what you pay for to some extent. But my point was that, for a "standard" banquet, at Ambassador, they serve some of every dish to each person as it comes out - they just don't plunk the platter down in front of you and skedaddle. Dishes get changed every few courses; they were never changed at O-Mei.

                        If the restaurant was crowded, I could forgive any of this, but we were the only large table in the place, and as I noted, the other tables were a 4 and a 2. I should have thought we'd receive better service. Again, if we were ordering some of their special dishes, I'd recommend O-Mei in a heartbeat, but for standard stuff, I think you get comparable quality and better service elsewhere.

                        1. re: FrankD

                          That's true, you got a valid point.

                          1. re: FrankD

                            FrankD, they way you describe the dinner scene is similar to what I've experienced a few times as well on a weekday (scarce tables, mahjong playing in the small rooms). While I haven't had an issue w/ their service in the past, I do agree that they are a notch below Ambassador, Casa Imperial or any of those "fine" chinese dining places for service (food is a different story).

                            Nonetheless, I do find it odd that they didn't even bother to change your dishes during your meal, particularly since you had one lobster dish in your meal (almost a given that they need to rid of your shells, chicken/fish bones).

                            1. re: Royaljelly

                              We thought it a bit strange that 1) they didn't change the dishes, and 2) the stuff came out of the kitchen without any pacing at all. We surmised afterward that they were ticked that we wanted to move to a larger table, and just wanted to get rid of us.

                              1. re: FrankD

                                We had the $300 set dinner menu tonight for 8 (only 5 adults, 2 kids and lots of left overs). Service was quite good and they must've changed our plates 4 times without prompting. The kitchen did forget our last 2 dishes (soup noodle and fried rice) which took forever to get to us, since the place was packed (the giant lobsters and crabs were just flying out the kitchen). This was after I notified 2 different servers and to no avail, I finally had to ask the manager and he apologized profusely and gave us 3 rounds of free dessert.

                                Had the following:
                                -seafood soup w/ shark's fin (very little fin!)
                                -peas w/ scallops and squid (a bit tough to chew)
                                -8 dried scallops, shrimp on sea cucumber (sauce was rich and hearty)
                                -fried chicken (little too salty and dry)
                                -fried lobster dish which was cooked differently than their usual method (more of a wet sauce, which I didn't like as much)
                                -steamed fish (good as usual) - if I could only get my nanny to cook it that good
                                -soup noodle (like the one you get w/ wontons)
                                - fried rice (huge plate), just so so

                                I don't think any one of these dishes are considered as "must have". I find that they aren't the greatest w/ their red/white meat dishes, but seafood is usually their strong point. Next time I'll just stick to the lobster 3-4 ways.

                                1. re: Royaljelly

                                  After great anticipation, the date finally arrived for the grand lobster feast for myself and 8 friends. We ogled the enormous crustaceans crowded in the tanks and awaited the drama. The manager arrived at our table and suggested that for 9 people, we tackle their largest beast, at 13.25 lbs. I balked, since one from our group wouldn't be partaking (much to my surprise) and we wanted to try other dishes. My group was so stunned by the size of the monster that we agreed to it. Way to upsell, Ringo! With gentle insistence, I ordered us the standard 3 preparations, plus the lobster brains with e-fu noodles, rather than the fried rice (thanks for the tip, Charles! Everyone loved the noodles).

                                  My Cantonese speaking friend inquired about other dish suggestions and Ringo rattled off some pretty standard round-eye faves. She told him that we were here to experience more authentic Cantonese specialties and asked him to go off and think about it and return with a small menu of complimentary dishes. In the end, those were the flounder with spring onions, superior soy and ginger, scallops with snow peas, gai laan with XO sauce and the free range chicken, served cold and with an accompanying salty sauce of ginger and scallion. Our non-crustacean eater also ordered a couple of very standard choices from the English menu to keep himself happy, though he partook in the chicken, gai laan and fish dishes. I didn't mention the ingredients of XO sauce and he didn't seem to be phased by the miniscule amount of conpoy that might have contaminated his gai laan, so all was well.

                                  Needless to say, we had far more food than we could possibly eat, though it was a decadent feast, to be sure. I enjoyed each of the lobster preparations, but I did find the two fried courses a bit greasy and unwieldy. I should add that in the privacy of my own home, I'd have worn my oldest clothing, rolled up my sleeves and dove in hands first, but among friends and in a restaurant, I was trying to be on much better behaviour. No such luck. I was still a greasy mess after wrestling with legs, the tip of the tail and other cartilage-laden parts. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the lobster, though we would have done very well with a 10 or 11-pounder instead.

                                  The two standard dishes ordered by the non-seafood eater were just that: pretty standard. They were tasty enough, though. The flounder was lovely. I was honoured to be served the head and tail, though truth be told, I don't think any of my co-diners would have fought me for it. Much to their horror, I ate the eyes, cheeks, tail meat and whatever else I could scavenge from our very expensive fish.

                                  The scallops and snap peas were good, though not mind blowing. I loved the gai laan with XO sauce. The gai laan was cut into very manageable pieces, which was a relief. At most other places I've ordered it, the stalks are usually whole and a bit unwieldy, especially when slick with oil from the wok. My least favourite dish of the evening was the chicken, but only because I absolutely didn't need it after all that wonderful seafood. It was prepared beautifully, served cold and arranged impeccably on a platter. Most were surprised that it was cold. Our Cantonese friend told us that the fresh and clean chicken flavours could be better appreciated at that temperature. I have to agree with her.

                                  Totally stuffed, Ringo returned to tell us that he would bring four different traditional Cantonese dessert items to try, on the house. We mentioned that we were quite full and really just wanted a taste of each. Either they misunderstood or simply ignored us, because a parade of dessert platters arrived soon after. We sampled the stuffed Chinese "doughnut, but not a doughnut", glutinous rice balls with sesame, mango stuffed pastries rolled with coconut and black rice soup with red beans. I enjoyed all, though my favourite was the little glutinous balls in syrup. I felt badly that we barely touched the soup. I quite like it, but my stomach had shut down for the evening by the time it arrived. Each of us had been hoping for the equivalent of a bite of each item, but it wasn't to be. I hate being so wasteful, but Ringo had to know we'd never make it through all that food.

                                  Armed with our leftovers, we rolled ourselves to our vehicles, my co-diners vowing not to eat again for days. I nodded in agreement, secretly wondering where I'd go for lunch and dinner today, my final day in Toronto. Ah, sweet gluttony. Tomorrow, it's back to healthy eating and a 6-day-per-week exercise regimen. What a night, though, at O Mei! It's not something I'd do more than once a year, but it was a lovely way to do it up big with good friends.

                                  Thanks everyone, for your suggestions. Aside from going hog-wild and ordering too much food, I think we fared extremely well. For anyone interested, the price for lobster per pound last night was $19.

                                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                                    Thanks for the report sweetpea. Sounds like a lot of fun.

                                    1. re: haggisdragon

                                      I'd like to add that we weren't charged for tea. We each had individual steamed rice bowls and I must say that the rice was superior to that of most Chinese restaurants I've been to previously. The grains were longer and there was less starchiness to the rice.

                                    2. re: 1sweetpea

                                      Thanks for the great review! This will help us tomorrow immensely (9 of us are going for dinner)... Thanks to Charles Yu, as well, for the e-fu recommendation - we'll definitely be ordering that!

                                      1. re: redearth

                                        I hope you have a wonderful dinner, redearth! I could eat just the e-fu noodle dish and be quite happy. It was very decadent with all the green lobster innards from our 13-pounder. I'd post a photo of the lobster, but the photo doesn't do it any justice.

                                        1. re: redearth

                                          Don't forget about the pea shoots dish.

                                2. re: FrankD

                                  Ya, Ambassador certainly takes the idea of service more seriously.

                            2. Just came back from dinner at O'Mei 15 minutes ago. Unbelievably quiet! Only 6 tables occupied. People must still be scared of eating out after all those armed robberies the past few weeks!
                              Had a 13 pound lobster cooked 3 ways only. This was paired with a German Scherbe Spatlese 2007. Perfect pairing for the sauteed tail dish. The slightly sweet and spicy sauteed eggplant with pork tendons also paired well with the wine! Tonight's outstanding dish was the Green Sea bass soup with clams, tofu and Gai Choi. Dense, milky and delicious. The steamed minced pork pate with diced dried cuttle fish, water chestnut and Chinese shitake mushroom was also outstanding. Instead of peashoot, we had the stirred fry Gai Lan shoot with diced dried tile fish. The Geoduck clams sashimi was not enough to go around. Should have chosen a bigger, fatter one!