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Nov 27, 2009 08:47 AM

Where To Try Next In Our Cantonese Food Tour Of The GTA

After a fabulous lobster and fish dinner at O Mei on Highway 7 last weekend, we are eager to push forward with our exploration of the finest Cantonese cuisine in the area. I'd like to make a reservation somewhere for Friday, December 4 and think I should get on it ASAP. There will be 6 diners, but one is an infant and a second is very young. We need a place that takes reservations, is kid-friendly (meaning that they won't be in a mad rush to turn over our table if we want to take our sweet time) and has ample lot parking (there will be strollers involved). I was thinking Tanchikee or Maple Yip, but I honestly don't know about the parking situation at each or how accommodating they are toward slow eaters, especially on a busy Friday night. We're looking for a Cantonese restaurant that has fresh fish and shellfish, but also good wok hei skills. I have a growing list of restaurants, but as a non-GTA resident, I am without the ability to drive by these places and familiarize myself with each. We are expecting to head north, rather than anywhere downtown, so don't bother suggesting anything south of the 401, please. We ate with them at Magic Wok last time and it was great. We'd like to try somewhere different though. Thanks!

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  1. Tanchikee has a private room, but they may not give it to you w/ only 6 diners (unless you specify that you've got lots of kiddies and strollers). You may feel rushed as well (plus it's packed there so not good for the little one to run around in), should be ample parking at the back if you need.

    Maple yip has a basement level, rather dingy down there but more isolated (still they cramp in many tables). You will feel rushed too on a busy friday night. They probably do better seafood than Tanchikee. Parking is tougher on the main floor, but there's underground parking (which I don't usually trust, so I end up parking at the few stalls in the front at the next lot east of them).

    7 Replies
    1. re: Royaljelly

      Thanks, Royaljelly. Should I be considering other places too, then? We didn't feel rushed at all at Magic Wok and O Mei. Our two little guests aren't rambunctious at all. We don't need a private room. I simply want a place where we can take our time with the menus and then again after we're finished eating. Some places are a bit brusque with dropping the bill the moment you're finished eating. Our guests are Cantonese speakers, so they can certainly communicate to staff that we will be socializing with one another as well as eating. My list of great places to try is the following, in no particular order (bear in mind that we've already hit Magic Wok and O Mei):

      Xam Yue
      Fantasy Eatery
      Maple Yip
      Sun Star
      Magic Wok
      John's Chinese Barbecue
      Big Mouth Kee
      Regal Palace
      Casa Imperial/Victoria
      Regal 16
      Grand Chinese
      Dragon Dynasty

      1. re: 1sweetpea

        I'm surprised you didn't feel rushed at Magic Wok, as the few times I've gone there is was like a mad house (although it been a year or two since I've been back). I guess it all depends on how many people are standing around waiting for a table. Did you go on a busy weekend night?

        Perhaps the higher end places on your list will be better for a friday night, especially if you want to linger a bit afterwards. Yangs has very nice ambiance and if you kids are well behaved then it should be fine. I'm itching to try Emperor, but I hear it's cramped seating.

        1. re: Royaljelly

          We went on a Friday night in late June. Our reservation was for 6:00 p.m. and it wasn't busy at all. They gave us a table for 8, even though we were only 6. We left around 9 and it was pretty busy, but still no major lineup at the door. There were a couple of parties waiting for tables. We really didn't feel rushed at all. Maybe we got lucky. My friend made the reservation at 6 because he thought it would be really busy as well.

          How is Yang's for fish and seafood? I'll have to go back through the various threads and see what I can glean.

        2. re: 1sweetpea

          Out of your list, my vote would be for Maple Yip. I like their old school environment and great food. Only drawback is difficult parking, but unfortunately, many places suffer from this....but then you've already experienced this at Magic Wok.

          1. re: T Long

            My only issue with Maple Yip is their 'inconsistency'! When they are less busy, the kitchen churned out great food. However, on busy weekends, the quality of food suffers and can go down hill pretty fast. This is not the case with John's B-B-Q. Take yesterday evening for example, the place was packed at around 7.30 with people lining outside, however every single dish we ordered was executed flawlessly. BTW, they also do a great crispy skin Peking duck. Considering the fact that I noticed at least 3 tables around us ordered that dish. That provide a pretty nice independent confirmation! Lastly, I also noticed the quality of ingredients used by John's is overall slightly better than Maple Yip.

            1. re: Charles Yu

              I had a problem w/ inconsistency at Tanchikee today. 2 dishes were ok, but 2 others were terrible (deep fried silver fish was done w/ stale and old oil and way too much batter), and the chow mein dish was way too salty. This was when the resto was not even busy, so no excusees from the kitchen. Plus the waitress "forgot" to tell the kitchen to skip the chili's to the fish dish (after we specifically asked her), thus rendering my kids unable to eat it at all. Overall a frustrating night.

              1. re: Royaljelly

                Haven't been there for a few months! Thanks for the heads up!

      2. I would like to suggest John's B-B-Q next! Hopefully skylineR33 will see this posting and provide you with some dishes which he had luck with. As for me, I love their 'King of char-sui' and their Pei-Pa Duck ( a version of B-B-Q duck with the duck butterflied like a mandolin ). Their wok-hay stirred fry are all pretty good as well.. In fact, IMO, better executed than O Mei.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Charles Yu

          How's the parking situation at John's B-B-Q, Charles? It wouldn't matter a lick to me, personally, but my two friends have to contend with strollers and little ones, so parking is their issue. When we went to Magic Wok with them, the reservation was pretty early, so the parking lot was still fairly empty and manageable. Do they take any reservations at John's? You mentioned lineups, so does that mean it's first-come-first-served? Lastly, I realize that BBQ is their specialty, but do they do fresh fish and/or shellfish or should we stick to BBQ and stir-fried dishes?

          1. re: 1sweetpea

            Parking is not an issue. There are plenty of parking spaces at the back of the plaza.

            They do take reservation. A must for weekends since even weekdays their business is better than most people!

            Yesterday, they have live Talapia, seabass, green bass and black bass available for steaming. They also have crab,lobster.and certain bi-valves.

            The skill of the kitchen is that you won't go wrong with 99% of the dishes. So feel free to order anything. However, as you mentioned, B-B-Q and stirred fry dishes are their forte!

            Good luck!!

            1. re: Charles Yu

              does John's Chinese BBQ do a peking duck, or am i better off getting the pei-pa duck?

              1. re: c_snapper

                Yes, they do an absolutely gorgeous one. The Pei-Pa version is also great. However, the latter would require one day advance notice. May be you can try them both in consecutive visits?!
                If you are lucky enough, they might even have 'fresh goose liver' available. Marinated and then roasted whole like roast duck, the chef finish it off with a honey glaze! Absolutely divine! At $5 each, better tasting and better value than seared foie gras! Ha!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Dinner at John's BBQ was a great success! Thanks, Charles, for the recommendation. Once again, your advice is greatly appreciated and bang on! John's was not super busy last night, so we had an extremely leisurely meal and visit with our friends and their very young children.

                  I found the staff extremely friendly, particularly the owner, John. We barely glanced at the menus. After chatting and visiting for a while, John came over to our table to greet us and ask what we'd like to eat. My Cantonese speaking friends took over and asked him for recommendations. His picks were the following: medium fat char-siu pork, honey glazed oysters on Canadian broccoli, sliced fish stir-fried with tiny fish and green beans, snow pea leaf with roasted garlic cloves and a sizzling dish of sliced chicken with black bean sauce.

                  We began with the house soup, then the dishes casually arrived one by one. Everything was well-received by all members of our group. Our friends were so pleased with the meal that they vowed to return with parents, which I took as a strong endorsement.

                  The pork was succulent. It was sitting on a bed of small beans that had simmered with the sticky-sweet sauce. I did some discreet collection of the remaining beans and sauce after the pork had been consumed to season my rice ... yum!

                  The oysters were fantastic! The caramelized honey had rendered the outer edge of the oysters crispy-crunchy, while the interior was tender, savoury and juicy. I could have eaten a whole plate myself.

                  I adored the sliced fish with green beans. This dish was a shining example of the wok hei skills of the kitchen. John had mentioned that this dish was a little spicy. I can't agree with that whatsoever, but, being the type that sucks on the bird chiles that I wantonly toss in my pho at Viet restaurants, who am I to judge spiciness of a Cantonese dish? Green beans don't tend to be my favourite veg, even though I love most vegetables. They were, however, delicious in this dish.

                  The snow pea leaf was the correct tenderness. It was, perhaps, the least interesting of our dishes, but by far, the most nutritious. I was happy to see it on the table. It rounded out our meal perfectly. The occasional bite of meltingly soft roasted garlic was a treat.

                  The sizzling dish was the last to arrive. It was a very generously sized dish, as were all dishes, frankly. We had plenty of food for five adults and one youngster (the youngest wasn't interested in anything more than his bottle). The flavours in the black bean chicken were a lovely salty contrast to two sweet dishes (pork and oysters). I often find black bean dishes way to salty for my liking, but this one was more rich than salty. It was very well received.

                  We finished with a sweet, which was on the house. It was slow stewed sweet potato in a sugary ginger syrup. Despite not being much of a dessert eater, I am a fan of Chinese desserts, because they aren't sickly sweet. Our three year-old must have really enjoyed the dessert, because she gobbled up the one delivered to her mother, who was busy attending to her squirmy 15 month-old. I witnessed her deftly drinking the syrup straight from the bowl. We asked for one extra bowl, so mom could enjoy some, but when she wasn't looking, her daughter inhaled half of that one as well. She'd have finished it, had it not been pulled from her reach by her mom, who managed to get a bite or two. So funny!

                  As mentioned, John and his staff were very friendly toward us and our roaming youngsters. We were surprised and thrilled to find our feast so reasonably priced. With taxes, the total for 5 dishes, 4 bowls of rice, unlimited pots of tea, gratis house soup and dessert came to approximately $75. Wow. We'll be back very very soon for more exploration of the goodies listed on the wall and the four menu cards (with translation assistance), not to mention a full menu. One word of warning: it's a cash-only restaurant. We were lucky to have had cash on hand.

                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                    You are most welcome! I'm glad you love the food!
                    BTW, we were there tonight! Place was packed but food quality did not deteriorate!

                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                      Thanks for a detailed report (as well as for this thread with all its hearty recommendations). I think I now know where to bring myself, my toddler and my non-Chinese partner tomorrow for dinner when I'm in the Markham area!

                      The only thing to decide now is whether to call and order the Peking duck, or to get the Pei Pa duck...

          2. Hey All is John's still considered a top spot for Cantonese/Wok Hay? I haven't dined out on Cantonese for a while so I'm "out of the loop". Other options I'm thinking are Tanchikee or Sun Star. I understand chefs change so frequently that's why I ask.


            Tanchikee Restaurant
            360 Hwy 7 E, Richmond Hill, ON L4B, CA

            10 Replies
            1. re: Apprentice

              Our last 2 meals at Tanchikee have been a bit of a disappointment. DIshes were cooked very haphazardly, sauces were way too salty or overly heavy for dishes that we've had many times. This was around 5pm when it wasn't busy at all for the kitchen. Johns and Sun Star haven't changed chefs as far I I know, so either one should be safe for good wok hay.

              Tanchikee Restaurant
              360 Hwy 7 E, Richmond Hill, ON L4B, CA

              1. re: Royaljelly

                Next stop in the Cantonese food tour for me will be Emperor for dim sum. I'd love to have some suggestions for must-have and must-avoid items on the dim sum menu card.

              2. re: Apprentice

                Just had the "King of Cha Siu" at John's BBQ, really disappointed ! The meat quality is not as good as before, it is not even tender. It is too expensive for the price they charge on this. This is the first time I am so disappointed on their "King of Cha Siu". I hope it is just an off-night.

                What John's BBQ good at is really not "wok hay" dishes although they do this type of dishes pretty good. The expensive dried seafood dish such as shark fin, conpoy, sea cucumber...etc, double boiled soup as well as their BBQ meat are done very well with a reasonable price. But certain dishes require advance notice.

                How about dishes other than Wok Hay stuffs ? There are many cooking method and skill in Cantonese cuisine, wok hay is just one aspect. Best Dragaon is rarely mentioned here, but their "Beggar Beef" or "Fortune Beef" - 富貴牛坑腩 (which is not exactly a Cantonese cuisine dish) is very nicely done ! The part of beef they use is the part near the beef brisket. It is so intense in flavour together with the sweetness of the chestnut. They break apart the shell in front of you just like Beggar chicken. But this dish requires advance notice as well.

                Finally, I notice Fantasy Eatery has been going downhill a lots, it is now on my avoid list.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  Thanks for the input. I've had good experiences in the past with the resto's I mentioned - though I've never tried wok hay at John's I just assumed they excelled at it!

                  I'm definitely open to try other recommended dishes and styles. However, this search is specific to wok hay because I'm trying to introduce some friends to the style.

                  It looks like Sun Star is in the lead unless someone has something else in mind.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    Not just you my friend. This time, I even found the Wor-Gor Cha Siu of Fu-Sing so-so! May be we are both suffering from Cha Siu overload?!!!
                    Even though I just came back from HK, I found the dinner I had at the Emperor the other day very high standard!. Good wok-hay and tasty. A while back, I tried one of their more 'obscure' dish ' Chu-Hau braised pigeon with two types of Chinese preserved sausages and Chinese mushrooms '. It was surprisingly tasty! Remember the discussion we had about ' The chairman' steamed flower crab with aged Fa Dew wine? The steamed dungeness crab with aged Xiao sing wine of the Emperor's was pretty good too! Go on the Thursday when they have it on special for $18.88!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      The Wor-Gor Cha Siu used to be so good, what a pity ! Too bad we only have dungeness crab here, if flower crab is used, the sauce will even be better with it's better roe and smoother meat.

                      Talking about Fu Sing, it reminds me dim sum. I found the dim sum in Toronto has gone down in quality, somehow I cannot even find a decent Goon Tong Gow anymore ?! The one in Casa Imperial used to be good, but now is crap, the one in Yang is ok too but gone down in quality and Lai Wah Heen used to have it on its menu a while back but not anymore. Grand's version is funny with shark fin cut into thin strip ?! Many other ones use fake crab stick as seafood in it and loaded with lots of way over-cooked mini size shrimp ....

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        After trying some really top-notch dim sum in HK these past few weeks, guess I'll be staying away from Toronto DS for a while. Somehow, I find 'the skin' of a lot of the 'dumplings' simply not up to standard. Others include taro croquettes and Rice noodle ' cheung fun '. Just not light and refine enough!

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          I'm starting to wonder what top-notch dim sum really is? I had a fine meal at Emperor yesterday. Everything was tasty, but I found all dumplings to be large and unwieldy. The har gow was a 3-biter. Pan-fried pork and vegetable dumplings were the same. The Shanghai-style soup-filled buns had almost no liquid in them and were also quite large. Should they all be this size?

                          Standouts of the meal were duck tongues served on cucumber (they called it zucchini) and jellyfish, which was a welcome surprise. Deep fried honey ribs were delicious. Glutinous rice with Chinese sausage was very tasty. Other dishes were tasty and serviceable, but nothing blew me away. Our friends did more than half of the ordering before we arrived, so some of the more interesting sounding dishes went ignored. I'll have to make a return visit soon to try some of those. I wanted to try the boneless chicken feet in Thai sauce. There were also a handful of seafood dumplings that sounded good.

                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                            IMHO, and I believe other foodie masters on this board like skylineR33 will agree with me. In addition to taste, 'Top notch dim sum' should, as the name implies, be ' delicate, dainty and refined'. (Har-gow the size of a golf ball or bigger, as served in most Vancouver restaurants and some Toronto ones is a travesty!! ). These criteria should especially be applied to the 'skin/wrapper', be it dumplings, puffs, buns, croquettes or rice roll ( cheung-fun )! Unfortunately a lot has to rest on the skill of the dim sum chefs and, with the current 'China boom', the best of the best all decide to stay put in the orient!
                            Also, since shrimps/prawns are the main ingredient used, they should be crunchy, crisp and fresh. In Hong Kong's top dim sum restaurants, fresh and 'non-frozen' shrimps are actually used. That is one of the reason why Toronto's dim sum will never reach the highest level.
                            Of course, the aforementioned two reasons are just a couple out of a slew of other factors that determine the quality of great dim sum. Unfortunately, Its hard to put them in words without going through a comparison taste tests!
                            All I can say is, based on the few great Dim Sum lunch I had in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, Toronto's counterpart is just not up to snuff!!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              Yup, agreed with Charles ' comment. Many dim sum restaurants here are taking short cut, overall quality has been going down instead of improving over the years. I guess 'most if not all' restaurants here do not care to produce high quality dim sum anymore and as everyone is doing the same, the dim sum scene in Toronto just stuck and not moving forward. I hope those food groups/organizations which owns restaurants such as Casa Imperial, Celestial Court, Ambassador, Casa Victoria, Regal Palace ... etc can do better in controlling the quality of their food to make it more consistent and refined.

                2. This is quite a great post, 1sweetpea, I don't know how I've missed it.

                  My family tends to frequent restaurants heading east of Kennedy along Sheppard -- namely Fisherman Villa(ge?) Oriental-something or the other (obviously I know the locations but not the names so well) and Best Friends. However, I'm not too sure how virtuous these establishments are. Charles Yu, you must have some input on this...