Lin Garden: What's good there?
My sole visit there was a mixed experience. Service was friendly, courteous, speedy and helpful. The Hot and Sour soup was a little bland but chock full of ingredients. The House Shrimp were magnificent and the green beans were the best I've had in a Toronto Chinese restaurant. The much ballyhooed chili chicken was disappointing, as was the crispy beef. The Hakka noodles were also bland and short on toppings. The chicken pakoras were really good, but I haven't been back so they may have gotten worse as noted above. I still prefer first rate Cantonese (Hong Kong) cuisine but Lin Garden would be fine for a change of pace.
1806 Pharmacy Ave, Toronto, ON M1T1H6, CA
re: Big Kahuna 1
Lin Garden has one major thing going for it: it's cheap. Many dishes are $1, $2, even $3 less than at other similar restos around town. I'm surprised it hasn't been nominated - yet - on another recent thread on this board on the best cheap eats in Toronto. (Perhaps it's because it's too far uptown for those regular tipsters who live south of Bloor St. without a car.) If you're watching your pennies, you probably shouldn't eat out at all, but if you must, must, must eat out just for a change, this is the place for you - if you live nearby. Mind, you get what you pay for at Lin Garden, which may not be so good.. Dishes arrive with lightning speed, and heavily spiked with MSG, which at least helps the taste. If you're not too fussy, you might even like it for what it is. Sometimes, items are quite edible, sometimes simply blah. The hot and sour soup is a washout. The acclaimed chili chicken, the joint's signature dish when it first opened years ago, is now forgettable at best, as are many other dishes. Inferior ingredients, an inconsistent kitchen that just cranks it out. Lin Garden's best days are probably behind it, though it's okay for the impecunious in the neighborhood. Damned if I can remember what I had the last time I was there a few months ago, when I was taken for dinner (I wasn't told in advance where I was going). But it sure was cheap, if kinda greasy: for the two of us, soup plus three main dishes, about $25, all in. You can't beat it - for price anyway. Decent service - but then, we were just about the only customers in the place. Quite different from when it first opened, and it was jammed just about every night. Hour-long waits for a table. Not any more, though.
I've tried their lunch specials, and ordered a la carte at lunch, and the food was merely competent in all cases. I do like the hot and sour soup, but even it needs some more heat. Luckily they toss in the red and green hot sauces with every take-out order, or have them tableside if you're dining in.
Not that it's bad food. Just not great food.
Price is the main factor for going here. I only wish I'd come by when it was in its heyday.
My faves are the crispy beef gam-bien, kan-shue green beans. The chicken pakoras used to be good but the last time I had them they were not cooked through and lacked the flavour they used to have. I also like the manchurian fried rice. Agreed that the chili chicken is not as good as other places, last time I had it it was full of gristle.
A guilty pleasure for sure.
"special" chicken (best dish in the house IMO)
Chicken pakura (sp?)
salt and pepper shrimp
Green beans (not sure what they're called)
Former co-workers and I used to go once a week and order these 5 exact dishes. It's highly addictive, and I'd hate to see the sodium content in some of those dishes - but delicious never the less.
My standard order there was chili chicken and house shrimp. It's hit-or-miss cheap Hakka - keep your expectations in check - I do really like those shrimp, but have had better chili chicken elsewhere.
ABC Euro Deli is a nice little spot for your eastern European goodies - breads, deli meats, pickles, etc. The ladies behind the deli counter are authentically gruff. They also have some nice prepared soups and things in the fridge case, if you want to pick up a quick lunch/dinner.