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Silver Carriage HK style restaurant/cafe - Gem of a find!

Charles Yu Jan 18, 2010 04:46 PM

Whilst having my haircut yesterday, I over heard a lady raving about the quality of the rice congee at a new Richmond Hill, Hong Kong Style cafe called ' Silver Carriage ' . The place is right next to 'The Emperor' on Bayview Avenue.

Decided to give it a try today, I went and ordered a Rice Congee with shredded pork and thousand year eggs, a Russian Borscht and a Baked ox-tongue and fried rice. For those of you chowhounders who are true congee aficionados, you will definitely recognise and appreciate the real quality of the congee base. Unlike other places who use only rice and may be a bit of yuba skin, this place go full out in cooking the congee base using shredded dried scallops, yuba skin, ginko nuts and dried tangarine skin. Just like what Hong Kong best congee places did years ago!!

As for the Borscht and the Ox tongue. The former was very dense and flavourful. A reminder of some of Hong Kong's best. As for the ox tongue, it was cooked very tender and the sauce was pretty delicious. I was told by the owner, they are brand new and quality will still improve! Wow!

Nice to have a quaint and cozy HK style cafe with matching good food in the Richmond Hill area!

  1. f
    food crtic Apr 2, 2010 08:11 AM

    Charles, thanx 4 telling us about all these special finds! I am a Borscht finatic! I got hook onto Borscht 10 yrs ago on vacation in HK. Now I go around trying to find the most similar taste in GTA and I've to say, this Borscht comes very close. I agree that its rather dense but very flavorful. I guess u just need all those ingredients 2 make it that flavorful. I was so happy with my Borscht that I just had to pay them a compliment. The staff informs me that their Borscht had great reviews in the newspaper in their previous location. So everyone who is a Borscht finatic, go try it 4 urself! I luv it!

    We also had the fillet w/blk pepper sauce & Bolognese w/spaghetti. The fillet was so flavorful and tender, even my 90 yrs old grandpa can eat it. The sauce smell n taste very good. I love food with a rich flavor. Oh n 1 of my favorite feature is the sizzling plate. Just love it when they pour the sauce and all the smoke comes out. My gf had the Bolognese n she actually finished the whole dish, I didn't even get a chance to try it. She says the sauce was just right, not too sour or sweet and the combination of solid and liquid is nicely combined w/a rich flavor. She hates those plcs where the Bolognese is just full of tomato sauce n very little meat and charges u around $8. Our Bolognese was $9, b/it came w/a soup, bun and bubble tea (for n additional $0.75 only!). What a great deal! I m certainly going back and will report back on other dishes. Bon Apetite mon ami!

    2 Replies
    1. re: food crtic
      c
      caitlink Oct 10, 2010 02:22 PM

      Finally got around to trying Silver Carriage this weekend. My daughters love the borscht at the HK diners so we wanted to try this one for sure. Place was closed the last few times we stopped by and we do not live in the area.
      Found it to be pretty good in comparison to most. Special today was braised pork hock in red wine sauce on rice. We loved it. Great value.
      Also love the fact that there is more variety in the drinks that come with the meal. Not most places would love the salty lemon tea. Nice change.
      Thanks Charles. Next time, we will try the congee.

      1. re: caitlink
        Charles Yu Oct 10, 2010 03:26 PM

        Glad you all liked it! Their congee, especially the plain ginko nuts one, is definitely 'old Hong Kong' style! Worth a try!

    2. BokChoi Mar 18, 2010 07:45 AM

      Hi Charles,

      I got around to trying Silver Carriage last time I was in town and was pretty excited after reading the reviews. I would have to say that I unfortunately really disappointed with the quality of the offerings there. I'm not sure if maybe they were having a bad day...

      Starting things off, we got our borscht soup (which reminded me of condensed tomato soup from a can - it was that thick) http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4387572767 . SO liked it, but I would say there was just too much tomato sauce in it for me to like it. The bread was pretty standard HK Cafe rolls (bland, full of air). DC got the cream soup for variety, but I didn't try it ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4387572861 ). I ordered the congee and was really excited to try it (the price was fantastic!). Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by it and found it incredibly bland (the soup base they used... it seemed like water almost) : http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4388334474 . It had all the requisite ingredients you mentioned, however, the overall dish just fell flat for me. However, that was probably the strongest dish of the evening. We also got the ox tongue (SO enjoyed it. I found the cream sauce to be of exceptionally poor quality) with what seemed to be canned gravy. I was also confused as to why there were olives in the dish. Perhaps this is "French-style", but I would highly doubt it. The olives were bland and tasteless either way and didn't add anything to the dish (ox: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4388334588

      )

      The next two dishes were ordered by our DC's, so I didn't try a lot of it. The Portuguese chicken was a mess. It was smothered in this cloyingly sweet sauce. It was very unpleasant. ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4387573239/ ). Finally, the Korean Fried Chicken dish came out. I almost ordered this in addition to my congee, but I wanted to see the quality of their 'fry' before I ordered it. After we saw the "Fried Chicken", I was immensely happy that I decided to wait (that, and after tasting the other dishes). We even asked the waitress/owner if this was the Korean FRIED chicken, and she said that it was indeed the aforementioned dish. I'm not sure if they were trying to pull a fast one on us, but the chicken we received was stir-fried and served on a skillet. Either way, it wasn't fried chicken, and it surely wasn't anything I could have imagined Korean Fried Chicken to taste or even look like.
      KFC: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4387573153

      Anyway, I was happy I only spent $3.50 +tax/tip for my congee and ran out of there, swearing I'd never go back. I am sure that they were 'off' that day, because it surely isn't up to the quality you usually recommend, Charles. I was pretty disappointed that a meal in Toronto was wasted. I'm not sure what was going on with the kitchen that day - maybe the Olympics distracted them in the kitchen? I'll still be trusting you on your future recommendations, Charles. I just thought I'd put in my two-cents on Silver Carriage. Keep them coming! Thanks in advance.

      Storefront: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4388334806
      Menu: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-snowpea/4387572643
      Set Menu: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

      Silver Carriage
      around 9019 Bayview Ave

      Cheers & Happy Eating!
      BokChoi

      1. a
        aliangwb Feb 17, 2010 06:18 AM

        Have a chance to try them on takeout yesterday night. The slice pork and thousand year old egg is good as charles said. However, the curry beef brisket on rice is slightly below bar, the beef brisket is tender enough but lack flavor, the curry is a bit bitter. I will give them a try though later on their baked pork chop and portugese chicken on rice/spaghetti and report back.

        1. MeXx Feb 11, 2010 10:49 AM

          Went yesterday. Ordered the same congee as you Charles, plus a Hainanese chicken rice. Congee was good, although I suggest mixing it a little bit as my first taste I got a taste of pepper. The chicken however looked undercooked to me (very very light pink on the meat). Wait staff need to be more attentive though. The table beside us was getting frustrated just trying to get service. Getting the change from our bill caused a mix up as well. They're not rude at least, and do apologize for their mistakes. Probably try again later on down the road.

          1. chefhound Feb 9, 2010 12:52 PM

            I had a chance to try this place on the weekend. The congee does have a special flavour - one I think my parents would love. I'm sure it's traditional but I'm not sure I loved it. I'm not a big fan of the tangerine peel, though I know it's a gourmet ingredient in the Chinese repertoire. We also had the rice noodle with beef and XO sauce, not the best I've had but not bad.
            My big disappointment was the Portuguese style chicken. The chicken was very tender and not greasy at all (again something my parents would love) but the sauce was strange. It appeared to be a white sauce with barely any colour at all. In my experience, Portuguese sauce is yellow like curry but not a really more than a mild curry flavour - more of a coconut or condensed milk base with maybe tumeric for colour?
            I definitely prefer the Portuguese style chicken at D&R Wings at Bamburgh Circle. The chicken pieces are fried and the sauce is delicious.

            7 Replies
            1. re: chefhound
              T Long Feb 9, 2010 01:49 PM

              Agree the Portuguese Chicken is great at D&R Wings, a go-to HK style Cafe for me. I usually go for one of their special set lunches....too bad that menu is only written in Chinese - makes it an adventure each time!

              1. re: T Long
                c
                caitlink Feb 14, 2010 06:57 PM

                I tried D&R Wings Portuguese chicken this weekend. However, not blown away. Not sure if I ordered correctly. The chicken pieces are fried like mcnuggets. Lots of chicken meat and onions but very few potatoes. Sauce was thick and creamy but rice was not fried and dish was not baked.
                Did I order the right one? I still think Mings and Golden Phoenix are best when it comes to HK cafe. Especially Mings. Have not had any bad dish there at all.

                1. re: caitlink
                  T Long Feb 15, 2010 06:32 AM

                  I think they only have the one version. My observation is that there can be lots of variance among HK style cafes for the same name dishes. I've also had very satisfactory experiences at Mings and Golden Phoenix (the one on Woodbine, N. of Steeles right). I guess one has to find the one that suites them the best. PS. I like your review of the Crown Prince.

                  1. re: caitlink
                    jennjen18 Feb 15, 2010 07:21 AM

                    Which one is Mings?

                    1. re: jennjen18
                      j
                      juno Feb 15, 2010 08:02 AM

                      My son and I turned up at Silver Carriage last Wed. about 7:30 p.m. - any Charles Yu stamp of approval deserves close investigation - and found it to be pretty good, if not exactly a rave. I now know what a Hong Kong-style cafe is: an hilariously wild and eclectic menu. Congee, Portuguese-style chicken and ham and cheese sandwiches, all on the same card, along with many other incongruities. We liked the congee, though I'm not sure the tangerine peel adds all that much to the taste. Good, though, and filling, so much so that we couldn't finish our Chinese-style main dishes with rice (or, if you prefer, spaghetti), also good and substantial. I just couldn't bring myself to order the ham and cheese sandwich, much as I'd be intrigued to see how such a place would pull it off. And borscht!!! I also can't get my head around borscht in a Chinese resto, though I may give it a whirl next time I'm up that way, just for fun. How one kitchen can pull off so many different cuisines, if indeed it does, I'll never know.

                      Service was ...well ... certainly game, if a little disorganized. For us English-only speakers, it's hard to make yourself understood. Once they brought the wrong, unordered dish, but I didn't bother complaining - it was at least close to what I'd ordered, and besides this was little more than a casual exploratory visit. I'm sure it'll all sort itself out - eventually. I ordinarily find myself dim-summing at Yang's or Emperor when I'm up that way, but this could be a useful, less expensive and infinitely more entertaining backup in the neighborhood. Note to those who arrive in the evening: you need to buzz the doorbell to get in, I assume because Chinese restos that only take cash are often targets for holdups. I guess we didn't look like stick-up men, because we were buzzed in immediately. Lotsa fun.

                      1. re: jennjen18
                        T Long Feb 17, 2010 08:25 AM

                        Ming's Cafe on Kennedy, south of Steeles, north of Passmore....mentioned often here for its HK style tea.

                      2. re: caitlink
                        chefhound Feb 17, 2010 07:56 PM

                        The chicken is fried but not battered like McNuggets. That would be like chicken fingers in curry sauce. The frying is what gives it that extra savory flavour. I'm not sure I've ever had Portuguese chicken with fried rice, though it's possible I have and just can't remember it. Anyway, I prefer fewer potatoes, they're just filler. If you have the chance to try the one at Silver Carriage, you'll see that D&R's version and Ming's version are much closer than the one at Silver Carriage. To each his own, right?

                        I have to agree with you about Ming's. Most things at Ming's are pretty damn good. Some of my favourites are the French Toast and the Stir-fried rice noodles with egg and beef. My all-time favourite: the chili oil! I crave that stuff. Thank god they sell it, though if you don't go on Wednesday, they might not have any left by the weekend. I've gotten lots of people hooked on this stuff.

                  2. MeXx Feb 9, 2010 05:30 AM

                    Looks like a place I can try out tomorrow when I'm up north. We'll see how that goes!

                    1. y
                      yummymomo Feb 8, 2010 10:02 PM

                      Just went there last weekend and it was AWESOME!!!! My bf ordered a sirlion steak and it came on an iron grill, where they pour the gravy in front of you. The whole dish just sizzled. Quite fun if you don't mind getting the aroma on your clothes or in your hair. The steak came with the standard fries and veggies. Nothing specutlar there.

                      I had the baked pork chop in a tomato sauce, and that was really good also! It had a good balance of sweet and sourness, and I could taste some additional herbs in the sauce. Its not like the Richmond Court baked pork chop that's mostly just tomato paste (nothing against Richmond Court - this one just seems more flavorful). Both meals came with a soup (I had borsch, my bf had a cream soup) . Re: Pincus - not sure if you had a chance to try it yet, but defintely worth a go.

                      My mom had a Western Fried Rice (it's like fried rice with ketchup - sounds weird, but tases pretty good). She seemed happy with it too.

                      The wait staff seemed a little slow to me, but overall a good experience. Would defintely go again.

                      1. p
                        Pincus Jan 19, 2010 06:40 PM

                        Charles, what did you wind up paying for your meal? Curious what price ranges they are charging for lunch/dinner.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Pincus
                          Charles Yu Jan 19, 2010 07:28 PM

                          $3.99 for the congee, $2.75 for the soup and $7.99 for the baked ox-tongue rice. I think?!

                          1. re: Charles Yu
                            v
                            Vinnie Vidimangi Jan 19, 2010 11:04 PM

                            Charles, the prices are like wow, man! How big were the portions? What is the base for the congee? MSG?

                            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                              Charles Yu Jan 20, 2010 04:56 AM

                              Portion pretty generous.
                              Base for congee as I eluded to are ' water, rice, yuba skin, ginko nuts, dried tangarine skin and conpoy (aka dried scallops)' The latter to provide the umami to the rice porridge. MSG?! That, I didn't ask since I don't mind. The glutamate is good for brain cell growth and health!! Ha!

                              1. re: Charles Yu
                                p
                                Pincus Jan 20, 2010 07:34 AM

                                Thanks Charles. Will definitely be checking this place out as I have always been curious about congee but never sure where to try it.

                                1. re: Charles Yu
                                  v
                                  Vinnie Vidimangi Jan 20, 2010 11:43 AM

                                  Charles, Congee Queen has a pork base. Only water here?

                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi
                                    Charles Yu Feb 9, 2010 02:54 AM

                                    Interesting?! The typical traditional approach used by all Hong Kong congee outfits usually adopts the formula I eluded to above. This 'generic' congee base has a milder taste which can be used to make up both meat based as well as seafood based congees without interfering with the taste of the main ingredients. However, based on some of my experiences, I have seen HK 'street stalls' that focus on only a couple of specialty items like Congee with salted pork, thousand year eggs and dried oysters or Congee with pork spare ribs, peanuts and dried bark fish using pork and chicken in the mix during their multi-hours slow cooking.

                          2. p
                            Pincus Jan 19, 2010 07:41 AM

                            A Hong Kong style place that serves borscht? I have to go there just to try this out, if nothing else. Thanks Charles!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Pincus
                              t
                              theel Jan 19, 2010 09:42 AM

                              We haven't had a decent HK style place in the GTA for a while. After May Doh changed hands that was it. New City once in a while. Anyone try Dickens after it 're-opened'?

                              1. re: theel
                                Charles Yu Jan 19, 2010 05:58 PM

                                'New Dickens', Yes! Same quality as before. Passable good!

                              2. re: Pincus
                                T Long Jan 19, 2010 09:54 AM

                                I think every HK style cafe I've ever been to has had a version of borscht soup on their daily special menu....at least they would call it borscht.

                                1. re: T Long
                                  c
                                  caitlink Jan 19, 2010 06:28 PM

                                  Yes, most serve the borscht as the free soup that comes with set meal. But none that are memorable. I prefer to make my own. At the cafes, I usually settle for the creamed soup or the Chinese soup when available.

                                  1. re: caitlink
                                    Charles Yu Jan 19, 2010 06:36 PM

                                    Every borscht I've tasted nowadays, be it in Toronto or even in Hong Kong all lacked the 'commercial taste and aroma' that was once found in the 'old' Hong Kong establishments like Cherikoff, Sainte Claire ( aka Red Rooster in Chinese ). Rickki's or ABC! Even HK's Tai Ping Koon's version nowadays is below par when compared to the old version!

                              3. c
                                caitlink Jan 18, 2010 06:06 PM

                                Charles,

                                You have never steered us wrong. We really enjoyed Emperor for dimsum. My daughter is now asking that we try silver carriage this weekend. always on the lookout for good hk cafe. Especially ones with great congee. Very difficult to find.

                                Will let you know if we agree :-)

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