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Decent Chinese downtown (that has good veg & seafood and has wine or allows BYOB)?

I know most of the best Chinese is outside the downtown core but I don't want to drive that far. And I find English translations not always the best Out There.

Any ideas?

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  1. swatow - wall dishes in Chinese and wonton mein.

    taste of china - seafood and chinese combo menu (they'll not give it to a whitey, and it's chinese only).

    xam yu - seafood again...

    10 Replies
    1. re: aser

      Last time I went, Swatow wasn't liquor licensed. Not encouraging for me re T of C! Does Xam Yu have wine?

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      Swatow
      309 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E6, CA

      1. re: Ediblethoughts

        My favorite place downtown is E-Pan (pretty sure they have a license - not certain as I don't partake), and I enjoy the food at Lee Garden (although I hate the line-ups). Both are English friendly too. I want to try out Taste of China sometime. New Sky and Xam Yu are down the list for me, but have their fans. I consider Swatow mainly a Noodle place....like King's Noodle or the House of Gourmet.

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        E-Pan
        369 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2G3, CA

        Lee Garden Restaurant
        331 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

        Taste of China
        338 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G2, CA

        1. re: Ediblethoughts

          Wine is not listed on Xam Yu's online menu. You could email the restaurant to confirm. http://www.xamyu.com/contactUs.php

          I plan to visit Taste of China soon. I might even report back if I succeed in ordering from the Holy Grail menu.

          I like the Buddha's Feast rice flour roll/cheung fun on Rol San's dim sum menu.

          Lee Garden is licensed: http://www.leegardenrestaurant.ca/ You could email them at info@leegardenrestaurant.ca to ask about byow or their wine list.

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          Rol San
          323 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

          1. re: prima

            I've brought wine to xam yu before, no corkage.

          2. re: Ediblethoughts

            Re: wall dishes & Taste of China Chinese combo menu

            Even if you can't read the wall signs or the Chinese combo menu, you can always ask the staff or another customer if they could describe or translate the wall specials or Chinese combo menu. I've ordered wall dishes at other restaurants with friends who are illiterate, but speak enough Cantonese so the servers were able to tell them about the specials in Cantonese. I'm sure some of the servers would be able and willing to answer the same questions in English, if they were asked.

            If you see someone else eating something you'd like to order, ask the staff if you could order whatever it is that person is eating. If there's something you like, that's not on the menu, you could always ask them if their kitchen would mind making a special order. Might want to confirm the price for any special orders.

            It's not impossible for non-Chinese customers to order dishes that aren't listed on the English menu.

            1. re: prima

              Wall dishes very doable, discount combo menu? Not really. The dishes aren't their specialties or anything. It's just the typical canto dishes in most restaurants. There are often 20-30 choices, you select 2 or 3 or 4 for a set price. It's price competition for the Chinese clientele, they know non-Chinese are less price adverse.

              They won't sit there translating 30 dishes for you, they just won't give you the menu. It's just how it goes. You ask for a dish on the combo menu, they'll just charge you full price off the regular menu.

              1. re: aser

                Ok, fair enough. I haven't tried ordering the discount combo menu. I do know that last time I ordered an order of gai lan at Chinese Traditional Buns ( I realize CTB is not Cantonese, so maybe I shouldn't bring it into this thread), I ended up with an order that would feed a family, so I wouldn't mind finding a way to order a combo, so I end up with a personal size serving of gai lan rather than a full peck of gai lan.

                I'm sure I get secret Greek discounts that aren't available to non-Greek Chowhounds, so I'm not going to complain if I pay a premium for a special combo in Chinatown.

                I will ask for the Chinese combo menu next time I'm there, just to push the envelope.

                I'm curious- roughly, how much is the set price for 4 typical Canto choices on the special discount combo menu?

                1. re: prima

                  For Taste of China, I think 3 dishes was like $25 or something, it's very cheap plus you get the free soup. No discernible drop in portion size, although at other restaurants you'll get smaller plates w/ the combo menu.

                  Typical choices would be several clay pot dishes like brisket w/ radish, stir fry gai-lan, veg w/ squid/shrimp, pepper/salt squid.

                  Sometimes late at night, they don't give me the menu unless I specifically ask for it. Or they'll say they've ran out of soup (they haven't, they just save it for the regulars). They probably figure I'm a banana or something, especially when I'm eating with non-Chinese people.

                  I'll remember to take a pic of the menu next time I'm there.

                  -----
                  Taste of China
                  338 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G2, CA

          3. re: aser

            @ aser: Joanne Kates didn't seem to have any problem ordering the seafood specials at Taste of China. She's about as "whitey" as they get.

            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/f...

            -----
            Taste of China
            338 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G2, CA

            1. re: iMarilyn

              The chinese only part is for the combo menu. Seafood specials are on the wall.

          4. Crown Princess on Bay N of Wellesley.

            2 Replies
            1. re: syoung

              syoung, which dishes would you recommend the most at Crown Princess? I had some decent dim sum shortly after they opened, but haven't been back for dinner yet.

              I liked the dim sum I ordered at the new location of Dynasty on Yorkville Ave this summer. Haven't tried anything on the dinner menu yet. Dynasty is another good place for upscale Chinese, without getting into the Lai Wah Heen price range. Not sure if Yorkville is close enough to downtown for the OP.

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              Dynasty Chinese Cuisine
              69 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON M5R 1B8, CA

              Crown Princess
              1033 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, CA

              1. re: prima

                For me, south of Bloor is downtown! We haven't been back for a while since we don't live downtown. We knew the managers from their sister restaurant further north. I do recall the Peking Duck we ordered from Crown Princess and it was pretty good, as were most of the other dishes. We went to the "new" Dynasty for dinner once after the move and it wasn't good. Haven't been back since.

            2. Interesting no one mentioned New Sky??!! Has the food gone down hill?! Their ' Lotus leaf wrapped steamed whole dungeness crab rice', Razor clams and roasted pigeons used to be very good!

              -----
              New Sky
              353 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G3, CA

              3 Replies
              1. re: Charles Yu

                ditto New Sky...Szechuan Chicken with crispy greens, any of their eggplant dishes or, if nursing a cold, spicy clam hot pot!

                1. re: eco_bach

                  Is this the best Szechuan or Hunan place downtown? New Sky seems to specialise in Cantonese seafood.

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                  New Sky
                  353 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G3, CA

                2. re: Charles Yu

                  We frequented New Sky for many years, and can't quite describe why we stopped going.
                  The food simply didn't excite us any longer.
                  Less care taken with each dish.
                  e.g. The Duck in Taro, last time was very dry , and somewhat greasy.
                  In the past it was usually perfect, etc.etc.
                  We like Taste of China for Seafood, and I had responded that the best Crab we ordered this year was there.
                  Also the older Lady, is very generous in offering suggestions, and does tell us about some of the specials, but we ask what is best in Seafood, or Chicken today.
                  We also like Lee Gardens, which I know you don't as it is Chinese as well as Chinese Canadian, and everything is offered in English, hassle free, and enjoyable.

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                  New Sky
                  353 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G3, CA

                  Lee Garden Restaurant
                  331 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

                  Taste of China
                  338 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2G2, CA