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Congee Queen - What are their best dishes AND are they licensed?

  • Googs Oct 4, 2011 02:18 PM
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While we're at it, how's the service and decor?

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Congee Queen
895 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M3C3L2, CA

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  1. Yes, it's licensed. Not much of a wine list, though (like most Chinese joints). But you can bring your own, if I recall, for $10 corkage.

    Congee Queen is a solid mid-range Chinese resto in my end of town. I've been going for years. Prices have risen about 10-15% the past little while, and quality has dipped slightly, but it's still pretty good. Still good value, too. There are dozens upon dozens of menu items, some of which seem better than others. Servings are substantial, so try not to over-order (which I invariably do). Almost every table seems to leave with doggie bags. Insanely popular. There's often a wait for tables, but things move along quickly.

    My favourite dish is K19 on the menu, braised bean curd and minced pork with spicy sauce. Consistently good, which not all menu items are. Fried chili turnip patties (K43), is usually good, sometimes just average. Most of the dishes listed under Gourmet Dish and Side Order are worth trying. K28, Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce (K28) is usually solid. Some dishes listed on special cards on the table are quite tasty. There's one card entry, chicken in a black bean sauce on a sizzling plate, that"s delicious. I used to be partial to the hot and sour soup, but the last time I ordered it, the recipe had changed completely. Overly sweet, and an ugly pink colour. Had to send it back (they charged me anyway - service is swift, but not particularly solicitous). Next time I go in, I'll insist on a free sample in a teacup to decide if the joint is back to the original recipe. The small size of hot and sour is enough for four feeders. Most of the Thai-Vietnamese fusion dishes aren't up to much.

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    Congee Queen
    895 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M3C3L2, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: juno

      That's extremely helpful. Thanks. I can't tell you how many times I've looked at Congee Queen while at Shops at Don Mills and recalled the favourable reviews here. For the life of me, I don't understand how I couldn't have gone in by now.

      All I really ask from wine is that, if you can't for whatever reason have a solid wine list, then please get a Bring Your Own Wine endorsement from the AGCO. It's very considerate and savvy of them to have done so.

      I would never order Thai or Vietnamese dishes anywhere other than a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant, but thanks just the same. That may save a friend or two.

      The dishes you describe sound terrific. I can't wait to try it now. Especially the chicken and black bean sizzling plate. Oh and yeah, you never know about hot & sour soup. There are so many elements to it it's a wonder it isn't messed up more often. It's highly likely they just had an off day, but again, I'll keep that in mind.

      Thanks again.

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      Congee Queen
      895 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M3C3L2, CA

    2. Try the soft shell crab fried rice. It's slightly spicy but incredibly flavourful.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Big Kahuna 1

        Do they have that year-round or only when ss crab is in season?

        1. re: Googs

          The type of imported Asian SSC used in most economically-priced Chinese, Korean and Japanese restaurants in TO is always in season (at its source), and available frozen.That way, all us Torontonians can enjoy spider rolls year-round.

          If a SSC dish is costing less than $15/pair, and it's being served in Toronto outside of May or June, it's most likely Asian SSC, and it probably was previously frozen.NTTAWWT.

          The handful of restaurants that serve the seasonal East Coast SSC in May and June are pretty excited about that, and are always going to let everyone know where they're sourcing their precious crabs. I got a kick out of one restauranteur telling me not to bother with the Floridian SSC offered by some of his competition early in the season (early May), because the Chesapeake Bay SSC season was about to open (late May), and he thought why bother with the Floridians if the Virginians were almost ready. Real pecking order in the world of molting crabs, I guess.

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/496803

      2. curry beef brisket w/ rice (its very different than the curry beef w/ rice) also iirc the eggplant is excellent.

        1 Reply
        1. re: KhaoSanRoad

          if you can handle spicy, fried rice noodle with beef in XO sauce is good. It's the white flat rice noodle stir-fried in soya sauce and XO sauce. So it comes brown with beef and onions.

          Deep fried calamari (with salt and pepper) is also good.

        2. Decor is not as nice but for this type of restaurant I prefer Congee Wong at Leslie/Finch. Nothing wrong with Congee Queen really, but I just think the food is a little bit better at CW. Nothing really spectacular about either of them but good go-to places for a hearty dinner.

          One dish I always get at either restaurant is the singapore fried turnip cake...I love this...but this is one of the dishes that is better at congee wong...i guess this is probably the dish that tips the favour for CW for me)

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          Congee Queen
          895 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M3C3L2, CA

          4 Replies
          1. re: szw

            Even at 6:22 a.m. it all sounds incredibly wonderful. Must make my way there one of these days soon. Heard lots about it but have never been. That will change.

            1. re: millygirl

              Late flash: the hot and sour soup at Congee Queen is back tasting as it always has (though maybe just a touch sweeter). When I enquired about my last dreary experience with the hot and sour about a month ago, I was informed: "Oh, that chef? We fired that chef." Who knows if they were just bullshitting me? The important thing is, the good hot and sour is back, back, back.

              Note: the chicken in a black bean sauce on a sizzling plate is no longer listed on the specials card. But it's on the menu just the same. CQ21, if I recall, is its listing.

              1. re: juno

                Hi juno, have you ordered the hot & sour at Congee Queen lately?

                1. re: prima

                  Indeed, I have. I now order it just about every time I get there - last time about two weeks ago. And it's back to where it was, tasty, zingy, full-bodied, one of the best half dozen or so in town (that I've tried). I get the hot and sour, usually the chicken in black bean sauce on a sizzling plate (listed once again on a specials card alongside the main menu), maybe one other dish, and a bowl or two of steamed rice, and you've got a banquet for two for $35-$40. all in.

          2. With so many choices, it takes a reminder that the place is named after rice porridge.

            I like their congee. I find it flavorful without too much msg or other additions to boost the taste. I used to order all the time their Super(Duper or Supreme or something) delux seafood bowl and now that we've moved onto the rest of the menu I'll just have the single bowl of sliced fish congee. I believe Jan Wong mentioned it (the fish congee) long ago in the G+M which the restaurant posted in their vestibule when they first opened and I get cravings for it again and again. Definitely a take-out order when feeling under the weather.

            1. Had Congee Queen for the first time on labour day weekend, but at the new Sheppard-Kennedy location. Ordered a plate of bak choy stir fried with garlic, a bowl of abalone clam and chicken congee and Empress Fried Rice (bbq eel, crab meat and fish roe fried rice). Loved the fried rice, very tasty although some may find it a bit sweet because of the glaze from the bbq eel. The bak choy was tasty too, very big plate of veggies. The congee we had was a bit plain, a good palate cleanser but probably won't order that variety again.

              1. Interesting not a single soul mentioned them, but IMO, their Cantonese roast and B-B-Q meats are of pretty high standard ( by TO standard ).

                1. While not a fan of congee as a dish, the Congee Queen restaurants have a large amount of very tasty well executed dishes to offer!

                  1. I would say their fried turnip patties but that has gone down in quality at all the stores. They used to be nice and red, now they are just a bland gold color and really lacking any real flavor. Really sad.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: flonie

                      The chili oil flavoured with star anise is exceptional.
                      Also, try the deep fried pork chop, which is very generous at about $6, and the 6 very large wings (unsauced) at about $5 could be the best and cheapest in town.
                      I recently had the Congee with shrimp (about $5), 5 very large and tasty shrimp.
                      I have not had the deep fried calimari but see a lot of it coming out of the kitchen.

                    2. 1) shrimp rice noodle roll
                      2) Barbeque duck
                      3) Roast Pork
                      4) Fried turnip patties with XO sauce
                      5) Shredded pork/preserved egg congee or the seafood Super Bowl congee
                      6) some miscellaneous veggie
                      7) Singapore rice noodle or beef vermicelli (broad based noodle with wok hay)
                      8) Spicy/salted deep fried squid or shrimp

                      -no MSG if possible
                      -usually ordered for take out while shopping at McEwans
                      -love Congee Wong but don't like the wait times (want food immediately!)

                      1. My Congee Queen faves (usually the HWY 7 location) are:
                        BBQ Char Siu Pork, Roast Duck and Roast Pork, the Seafood Super Bowl Congee, the Turnip cubes, any of the grouper dishes (deep fried or stir-fried), and the stir fried Beef Ho-Fan rice noodles w/ soy sauce, onion & bean sprouts.
                        Hmmm... the wings sound good, keep the suggestions coming :-)

                        1. congee queen is a non-fancy chinese restaurant.. the wine list is not going to be anything to write home about. beer will usually be of the molson and labatt's variety or tsing tao. also, service and decor are not usually things to care about too much at a restaurant like this. good service for chinese means fast and efficient, and with different servers each time. this you will get. don't expect western style service. as for decor, it's clean and bright... again, don't expect special ambiance. it's a chinese restaurant for crying out loud...

                          not trying to be snarky but as someone who has part chinese ethnicity and have been going to places like this all my life, you just have to leave western expectations at home and enjoy the food. food arrived fast and hot, and no one spilled stuff on you, and the teapot was refilled quickly when you put the lid on upside down, and you were able to flag down a waiter by waving your arm in the air when you see one (don't expect them to come up and ask you if you need anything)? then service was good.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: helenhelen

                            You make it sound silent film hilarious.

                            1. re: Googs

                              i think it was at a congee queen that a waiter actually did spill hot congee on my little sister (who was just a little kid at the time, a long time ago since she is in her late 20s now). needless to say, my mom was pretty pissed off about that...

                            2. re: helenhelen

                              I don't take what you're saying as being snarky, but some of us who have no Chinese ancestry have been going to places like Congee Queen our whole lives, too, and know what kind of service to expect at that price point.
                              ;-)

                              1. re: helenhelen

                                As someone with full Chinese ethnicity, I think I should point out that there are all kinds of restaurant's out there that could be classified as a "hole in the wall". You make it sound like Chinese restaurants have cornered the market on no frills restaurants. Some people like a nice atmosphere along with good food and some people don't care. I don't think it is fair to say that you need to lower your expectations when eating Chinese food.
                                That said, I can accept the so so service at Congee Queens because I like the food.

                                1. re: sweetie

                                  +1.

                                  1. re: sweetie

                                    true.. but there are very few chinese restaurants here that will offer western style service (and those that do might be looking to cater more to a western customer base).. even with the best ones up in markham and richmond hill, you will more or less get the above service. you have to wave to the waiter for service and put your teapot lid on upside down at the vast majority of restaurants (whether hole in the wall or "nicer"). when my family was at crown princess (considered "nice") for dim sum, we still did these things, and the waiters knew what these gestures meant. i am not saying that the above service means it is always a hole in the wall.. i'm just saying it is culturally different in terms of what constitutes "good service" so people should leave expectations of western cultural norms at home and just enjoy the food experience. even the whole notion of "hole in the wall" is a western one because it is based on what we perceive as such, when those places might not be considered as such by those who frequent them. that is the flaw that you make too.. it is not about "lowering expectations" but about accepting that things are just different (with no value attached to it). it doesn't mean it's worse, imho.

                                    i personally enjoy being exposed to all aspects of people's food cultures.. i think it adds to the whole experience of eating that culture's food.

                                    that said, we are talking about congee queen here.. it's just a casual place.

                                    p.s. my other ethnicity is also an asian one.. same stuff applies in terms of not expecting western style service there either. a lot of cultures don't care about "ambiance" while dining (and sometimes when they do, it's because of western influence and then their restaurant gets decorated to appeal to western tastes), or consider "nice ambiance" to be something different from what we consider to be nice here. again, just cultural differences.