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May be the 'Best Tasting' Cantonese roast duck in the GTA?!

When it comes to Chinese B.B.Q outfits, there must be tens of dozens around town. Every one has a crispy, lacquered skin Cantonese style roast duck in their repertoire. Crispy skin is one thing, however, whether the rest of the duck actually taste great is another??!!

When I was young, through my foodie father, I was fortunate to meet a real Chinese B.B.Q master. With 30+ years experience under his belt, his retail B.B.Q shop in Hong Kong was legendary. The duck he prepared for our dinner was out-of-this-world. Its not the crispiness of the skin or the moistness of the meat that was memorable, it was the sauce and the perfectly seasoned marinated carcass that was totally mesmerizing and addictive! Whilst everyone were focusing on the skin, the drum sticks or the breast meat, I was munching on the utterly delicious back bones and carcass of the bird.

This evening, on my way home, I bought a Cantonese roast duck from a relatively new place called ' Cotton Tree B.B.Q Restaurant ' at the corner of Spadina and 16th Avenue in Richmond Hill. The first few bites left me speechless! The crispy skin and the perfectly balanced sweet and not too salty herbed spiced sauce and marinade brought back memories of that great duck I once tasted in Hong Kong years ago. Sure, fellow foodies have mentioned in past postings, the great birds from First Markham Place 'Peak Top', 'Sharksfin City' in Pacific Mall or the various 'Kam Heung' around Markham, Scarborough or Richmond Hill.. etc. However, IMHO, they all fell short when compares to this Cotton Tree bird. Next time, I'm going to check their timetable and buy a fresh, whole, uncut bird and eat it in the car, there and then with bare hands!! Utterly amazing and enjoyable!!

By the way, for those of you chowhounders with no cholesterol problem, I noticed also, they have skewers of honey roasted Duck Liver on display!! Great with a glass of icewine or Sauternes!

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  1. Great post. I want to drive there and buy one right now.

    1. I was just there this past weekend! (In the area, that is). Though my fave has been Peak Top, I really have to give this a try next time. I looove roast duck, especially with lai fun. Thanks for the reco, Charles!

      1. Hi Charles,

        I went to look for this BBQ place in 1 Spadina, at the corner of 16th and Spadina, in the same mall as Regal 16, and I could not find it. Is it beside the supermarket? Thx.

        6 Replies
        1. re: aliangwb

          Yes!!! They have a whole display window showing off their B.B.Q products!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Wow Charles, that's quite a proclaimation! You do realize that we'll hold you personally responsible if the duck falls short! How's the roasted pig? Try the bbq pork? Details, more details, Charles!!! Ah heck, I'll just go tomorrow... Mind you, if I[m disappointed, wonton noodles are on you, Charles!!!

            1. re: dachopstix

              Details on roasted pork and b.b.q pork?! You buying??!! Ha!!

              Wonton noodles my treat?! Well, my chowfriend, I no longer want to waste my money on the mediocre Toronto version. If you happen to be in Hong Kong next March, may be I'll treat you to the real mccoy at Mak's on Wellington street!! Ha! Ha!!

              1. re: dachopstix

                Dropped by this morning ( around 11.30 ) to buy both versions of the 'pork'.

                Roasted pork was still piping hot! The skin was very crunchy and crispy. The meat chewy yet very tender. However, comparing to my favourite roasted pork place in the area ( the B.B.Q place inside the Richlane Plaza at Leslie north of 16th ), i did find the Cotton tree version a bit 'underseasoned' and bland. Overall still pretty decent especially to those foodies who are paying attention to their salt intake!

                As for the B.B.Q pork. IMO, as long as they are seasoned with the traditional marinade of 5 spice powder, chu hau sauce before cooking and finish off with molasses and honey, the outcome is pretty much the same everywhere. In Cotton Tree's case, the product was pretty tasty. Moist and tender, the piece I ordered has the desired 'burnt' edges and the appealing sweet taste of honey. I ordered the semi-fat and lean cut which tends to provide a better textural sensation. I would rate it fairly close to John's B.B.Q on Hwy#7. So far IMO, the best 'Char Sui' in the area but went downhill a bit recently due to 'overcooking'?!!

            2. re: aliangwb

              went to the mall today and cannot see the sign either. But we did not get out of the car. Now that we know it is beside the supermarket - will try again next week.

              1. re: caitlink

                It's to the right of the supermarket, the location has actually changed ownership countless of times. It has constantly been a canto bbq place in all previous incarnations though.

                I haven't been to the current version but my parents live around the corner so I should try it soon.

            3. Sounds good. Question: What do you mean by check their timetable?

              2 Replies
              1. re: haggisdragon

                'Check the time their ducks are ready from the oven /kitchen'!. Most restaurants have them ready around 11.30 am or earlier in time for lunch. Piping hot, freshly roasted duck directly from the kiln!! Yuummm!!
                The reason why I made this comment was that this detail also applies to KFC! I know the KFC in my area has their 'new batch' ready by 5.00pm, in time for the evening rush. If one can catch this freshly fried batch in time, the taste can be greatly accentuated due to zero time under the heating lamp! Extra crispy and moist!! There's KFC and there's really fresh KFC!!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  Do you find then that lunch is the best time to get it then?

              2. How does it compare to the place at Midland/McNicoll inside the food court in the corner? The couple of time I had it there, it was pretty good and there's always a lineup for their ducks.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ragged25

                  Tried the Midland place a couple of times. OK, nothing to shout about! In fact I find ' Kam Heung' further south, inside the strip plaza at the corner of Finch and Midland better.

                  I recently tried the Cotton Tree version again. This time,15 minutes after they took them out of the kitcken kiln. Apparently, this is when the bird is at its prime, since like ' broiled steak or roast prime rib' , this 15 minutes 'rest time' allows the juice to re-constitute back into the bird. The result, bird is still hot, skin still crisp and the meat ultra juicy. Utterly amazing!!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Is it the place right next to supermarket with the green signs? There's a BBQ display with the name of the restaurant does not say Cotton Tree, but rather chinese characters.