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Jan 28, 2010 06:59 AM

Miu Garden - Cheap & Good Chinese Food (review + pics)

OK, sometimes you just want something cheap to eat. Not everything I put in my mouth has to be Michelin-calibre and I'm the first to admit it. Value is always at the forefront of my mind. I just wanted to get that out of the way before I get ragged on for suggesting something not 'tops'.

I recently found a pretty decent Chinese restaurant in Market Village (near Pacific Mall) on Steeles. It took up residence in the now defunct City Inn Restaurant space across from Tung Tung (Chinese waffles/ "gi dan ji"). My recommendation would be for dinner, served Monday to Friday. During this time, a special is offered that is pretty much a steal. For $29.99, you get a pretty decent tofu dish (the tofu was silken, but the black bean sauce was a bit overwhelmingly salty for me - but I guess that's the style when preserved black beans are served), a sauteed fish chunk / 'cuw' with veggies with ginger strips, sweet & sour pork (we substituted for chicken for an extra $2 because of a dietary restriction that they accommodated. This was definitely one of the stronger versions I've tried. The batter is not too thick, and it's dry and crispier than most other places I have sampled. The sauce had a nice balance between sour and sweet, and I really think it was standout dish.), AND a DOUBLE lobster dish (stir fried with green onion and ginger. They were about 1-1.15lb each. Tiny.). Because I was 'wuh-sik'/greedy, I also wanted to sample their crab claw for $1.50. Sure, it was nothing great, but it was $1.50 and brought back memories of my childhood (when I was always denied a claw because of the exorbitant cost) Yes, I was disappointed (it just didn't taste as good as the ol' days' ones), but it was only $1.50, so I wasn't shedding any tears. You also get free soup at the beginning of the meal that is definitely above par.

Fish chunks:
Sweet & Sour chicken:
Crab Claw:
$29.99 M-F Meal:

On another occasion, I returned and got a few other dishes, including their fantastic crispy chicken with chips. Their frying technique is what truly separates them from the rest. The chicken was exceptionally crispy, and the chips were some of the best I've had in a long time. They weren't soggy, nor oil drenched. The chicken wasn't the sweetest, but it was moist. You're not going to get sweet, free-range for the prices that they're charging, but as part of a set menu of $29.99, I'm not one to complain.

Crispy Chicken:
Whole dish:

The lobster that they served was also double cooked as I pleasantly surprised with. They first fry the lobster chunks (touch of flour/cornstarch), and they sautee it with the standard ginger and green onion (unless your request an alternate cooking method - an extra $1-3 depending on the method you choose). This was stellar, especially given the prices they charge. I was impressed that they would take the time to cook it twice. The lobsters themselves weren't the sweetest, but once again, for the price - it was a steal. Ordering it fried was probably not the best idea because the sauce didn't quite cover the lack of sweetness and lobster flavour of the crustaceans. I would recommend the regular ginger & green onion style.

Standard Twin Lobster:
Fried Twin Lobster (+$2):

The fantastic "Bay foong tong"-style crab was another standout. For $12, you get a 1.5lb crab (pretty standard/lower end price-wise) fried with bits of pork and seasoning. It was very, very well fried. There was hardly any trace of oil on the crabs and they were quite sweet and fresh. I would highly recommend this dish as one of their standouts - call ahead though, because they often sell out. I liked it very much more than the Fantasy version I ordered earlier in the week (though that was priced at $10). I liked the fact that they took the time to flour the head/body and fry that up as well. That way, the 'goh' was kept in the head and there was actually something in there to eat.

"Bay Foong Tong"-style crab:
Crab Head/Body "Goh":

Some other components for a second $29.99 special menu (offered 7 days a week) were a veggie dish (baby bok choi) made with sea cucumbers (tiny strips). The cucumber was rubbery and to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of them to begin with. Either way, they weren't standout. The veg was cooked nicely (not overcooked) and was sweet and crisp.

Veg w/ Sea Cucumber:

Shrimp balls covered in the classic 'orange' sweet & sour glaze was another dish. Nothing special here - it reminded me of Chinese Fast Food. It was well executed though.

Shrimp Balls:

The steamed fish was pretty much a failure though - not high quality and it was pretty small. But once again, this menu was $29.99 and you got the shrimp balls, the steamed fish, the veggie dish with sea cucumber, and the fried chicken with chips. It was enough to feed 4 with everyone being very full. This is served on weekends as well, but it's not as good a deal as the lobster one served M-F.


Here are some photos of the menus (specials hung around the restaurant) so you can see the prices and items for yourself:

Overall, I thought it was pretty darned good for the price point. I have a price versus quality / value curve in my head and this one definitely surpasses expectations. It's not the best, but one has to keep expectations in check if they are to enjoy a 5 course meal (incl soup) for 4 for $29.99.

Miu Garden
4390 Steeles Avenue East
Markham, ON L3R 9V7, Canada
(905) 477-3822

Cheers & Happy Eating!

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  1. wow excellent review bokchoi! there's a mini chain of restaurants in vancouver called mui garden that serve hainan-ish chinese food (hainan chicken rice, curry, fish balls) and I initially thought that they opened up a toronto outpost (like guu!). the $30 menu is indeed steal, particularly if as it seems, the cook has deft frying technique. how's the "wok hei" of the dishes?

    are the cheapie set menus all in chinese? I can make out frequent menu words, but am not so good with the more flowery names often used for chinese dishes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mapotofu

      Thanks mapotofu. The wok hei isn't of particular note, but I would say that most restaurants don't have much wok hei in the area anyway. It is definitely above par of most restaurants I frequent in terms of technique (for fried dishes), though the freshness of ingredients is sometimes less so. One time, the veggies were over-steamed, but another time it was stir-fried quite nicely. But still a great deal either way!

      Unfortunately, all the 'specials' menus are in Chinese, like so many other Chinese restaurants. The waiter will always be happy to describe dishes to you as well if you ask them. They all spoke English when I went. As well, if you tell them what you like (seafood/beef/etc) they could make recommendations from the set menu list.

    2. Thanks for the picturesque review, BokChoi! For a $29.99 set dinner to include lobsters is one mighty good deal! I also like the fact that they use the exotic yellowing chives in their stirred fry fish fillet dish. A nice touch for a lower end restaurant!

      A couple of questions if I may?!

      - Since the price is so cheap, I assume the fish used in the stirred fry fish fillet dish must be the el-cheapo Bassa or Talapia.?! Did you by chance take a browse at their 'regular' menu to see whether there's any stirred fry dishes using better quality fish like ' yellow-fin garoupa fillet'?
      - Any chicken dishes using free range chicken rather than the mushy texture varietal?

      If their modus operandi tends to focus on value for money, then I would presume prices for more exotic dishes should still be on the 'relatively reasonable' side?


      17 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        I'd like to add a question...any English versions of this set menu available?

        1. re: childofthestorm


          Unfortunately, all specials menus are in Chinese only. However, the waiters I spoke to all were very comfortable with English and even on a busy evening, took the time to describe each dish to our table. We also asked for recommendations of the specials menu based on our likes. He was quite helpful. I have included full resolution photos on the flickr site though, in case you decide to perhaps print it out/send a link to a Chinese-reading friend and get them to decipher it for you ahead of time? There were many repeat 'signature' dishes on the set menu - with a fried, or soya chicken included in each meal.

          I hope that helped!

          1. re: BokChoi

            Hi Bokchoi, so we wouldn't have a problem ordering the set 29.99 dinner, if we spoke English and a bit of Cantonese? Are the set dinners on the wall then?

            Secondly, how was the lobster? I've had tough and chewy lobsters before and wondering if the lobsters might not be so fresh (or alive) for such a low price.

            1. re: red dragon

              Red Dragon,

              It shouldn't be a problem at all ordering that menu. I would just call ahead to make sure they still have it available before you head down. All set menus available for the evening are on the wall by the entrance (and behind the partition near the entrance). There are also a bunch of seafood specials at the back of the restaurant.

              The lobster wasn't tough or chewy. However, they weren't the sweetest lobsters I've had - hence why I recommend sticking with the normal prep of ginger and onion above. But it is surely worth your $29.99 (and more)

              I hope that answers your questions!

              1. re: BokChoi

                Hi Bok Choi,

                Thanks for the info. My husband has a huge appetite, so no doubt the set dinner for 4 would feed the 2 of us! When you say the ginger and green onion, isn't that how the lobster is cooked? That's the original way it is in most restaurants, is there a choice to how it's cooked then?

                1. re: red dragon

                  FYI, a restaurant like Fantasy Eatery offers around 10 different ways! Ranging from the two traditional ginger and scallions or black bean sauce preparations to steamed with chicken fat and Xiao Shing wine, baked with creamy cheese sauce, sauteed with XO sauce, deep fried with pepper spicy salt, sauteed with Maggi sauce, Typhoon shelter style....etc.

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    I've been meaning to ask, can you (or anyone) write "Typhoon Shelter" in Cantonese for us? It's one of my favourite preparations but half the time the wait staff has no idea what I'm talking about. I need to put a card in my wallet.

                      1. re: g_lee

                        Thanks! I'm going to print this out and laminate it, not even kidding. One of these days I have to corral a Cantonese speaker and get a master list of all the dishes I like and some that I need to try.

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Hi Charles, thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, I've tried Fantasy Eatery (on Midland) and we didn't like it at all. We went back a second time and nope it wasn't any better. I know it's a favorite of some posters here, but respect that we all have different tastes and opinons.

                      I like the typical ginger and green onion myself.

                      It's great to see a restaurant that offers so many variations though!

                    2. re: red dragon

                      Yes, the ginger and green onion is the standard method. You can choose other methods though if you prefer - it's an additional charge though. I would recommend the original because the lobsters themselves aren't the sweetest, so this accentuates the flavour. I got deep-fried once and it was a bit bland.

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        Great, thanks again. Looking forward to trying the restaurant out.

                        1. re: red dragon

                          Do report back! I hope you enjoy it. Make sure to call ahead to see if they have the specials still on. Keep your expectations in check, especially given the price, and I'm sure you'll enjoy your time. Cheers!

            2. re: Charles Yu

              Hi Charles!
              It has been a while. How are you? I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

              - I believe the cheaper fish was basa fillet (so you're correct!). They did indeed have grouper fillet on their regular menu. They are priced a 'bit more' - for miu garden standards! It is quite a steal according to the menu (though I haven't tasted the quality of the fish yet). The price quoted is $8.99 for grouper served with veggies, or XO sauce. I doubt there is much quality behind their "XO" sauce, but it's worth the risk of trying for that price, if I do say so myself! I haven't seen grouper for those prices....ever!

              A copy of their seafood menu portion can be found here:

              I asked them what they were known for, and they did say that seafood was something that many of their patrons came to try (and citing the 'bay foong tong'-style crab as one of their top sellers!). Unfortunately, I did not get a shot of the chicken portion of the menu, so I can't say if they have higher-end free-range chickens on the menu.

              I hope that satisfies your desire of 'reasonably priced' dishes with higher-quality ingredients and that I was of some assistance!


              1. re: BokChoi

                Thanks BC!
                I mentioned this to some foodie friends this evening. They told me they've tried it once and never returned due to the 'horrendous' service they got! The wait staff literally threw plates and dishes onto the table, rushing them and handing them the bill before they are ready to ask for it. Price was indeed cheap but overall quality was not enough to offset the abuse they receive!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Really? I'm shocked! I went 3 times during the course of the holidays (all very busy evenings), and I was never once treated badly. My friends and I were able to sit for as long as we wanted, even though we didn't end up spending very much at all. Everyone was surprisingly courteous to us as well - especially compared to other Chinese restaurants. I'm surprised your friends had such an opposite experience. I guess it really just depends. I, personally, never had an issue with service, and actually found them all to be very nice and patient.
                  Hope you have a chance to try it yourself.

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    Arrrghhh!! We were at Pacific Mall a few hours ago when I remembered your post on Miu Garden, but I couldn't remember the name!! I told my husband to drive around the plaza while I looked and maybe the name would sound familiar. I saw City Inn and Mongolian Grill (is it somewhere in between)? I'm not sure how I could have missed it?

                    Do you still enjoy the food there? I read below about a disappointing dim sum, but I find some restaurants are like that, better for dim sum or dinner, but not necessarily both.

            3. I've been there for dim sum, so long as it's the same restaurant from May 2009 (that's when I went). It was pretty good, so I'll have to try it out for dinner sometime.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MeXx

                MeXx, I believe it's the same place. I haven't tried dim sum yet, but I've heard it's good value. I might have to check it out sometime. Thanks

              2. I just read this thread for the first time.

                I stumbled upon Miu Garden last Monday when searching for the (defunct) City Inn.

                My friend and I arrived before 2 pm and there were still several dim sum carts traversing the rooms. (We were seated in the small back overflow room at a rickety table.) We opted to order from the dim sum checklist menu but also chose a dumpling item from the cart. In all, we tried 7 different items.

                The food was mediocre and disappointing. I had "City Inn" expectations and standards in mind when walking in, and they were not met. (City Inn wasn't even the "best" dim sum!) You can find better dim sum in some parts of Spadina Chinatown and other places in Markham Chinatown, for almost the same price.

                I would not recommend Miu Garden to any serious dim sum lovers. Maybe we should have arrived before noon or sat in the main dining room...or maybe the food is just lousy. On the bright side, we only spent $16 including tip.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Food Tourist

                  I was there Sunday night, dinner for 2. 1 tiny lobster (bay feng tong style)- tasted good, lobster season, fresh, and not over cooked, steamed talipa -- boring should not have ordered that, and baby bok choi & fish maw & straw mushroom. It was all mediocre, nothing special. This was the tiniest lobster, they should have thrown it back in the water!