Al Premium Supermarket
New supermarket at Birchmount and Eglinton East. Finally saw that they were open after months of seeing a sign that a new oriental market would be opening up. I went in and it looks similar to a T&T supermarket set up, plus a few more things like Indian and Middle Eastern products. In the back they've got 2 butcher sections, one for halal and the other just regular. Their fish section is totally enclosed in it's own chilled room. Finally, their food court seems pretty impressive, they have both chinese and Indian food in there own areas, with large open windows behind them where you can see cooks making the food fresh. I didn't buy any of the ready made food, but the food looked good. Chinese food was similar to what you would find at T&T food courts, and Indian food like butter chicken, kabobs, tandoori and the like. Also noticed they also have a Shawarma bar, Japanese sushi bar and a Coffee / Bubble Tea bar. Only thing missing was a Banh Mi bar :-( . Thought at first they might have North American food products, but it looks like it's geared towards asian and south asian tastes. Prices seem on par with what you would see at T&T markets as well.
Here is the report from today's visit. I spent a couple of hours here on todays visit.
So here goes
Initial impression a clean open and bright space and the interestingly the interior color scheme reminds me of Micheal Angelos Super Market.
This store has taken a shot gun approach and tries to cover pretty a lot of ethnic cuisines (an approach that was unsuccessful IMO when the Denison Super Market tried it)
The sub continent region is covered well with a halal meat counter kept separate from the other meat cuts (looks like they did their research) and an aisle dedicated to spice mixes and other goods from that region. The frozen food and dry goods also covers that area well.
The main attraction is the cuisine from China and it is covered very well IMO. I am by no means an expert but I saw some items I have not seen elsewhere but a connoisseur is sure appreciate the effort that went in to procuring these items.
Thai Food Selection is decent and I even found the now hard to locate Tom Yum Soup Can from Aroy D (one of the preferred make of Thai canned goods IMO)
Now for the regions that could have been covered better:
Japanese aisle is lacking IMO and even T&T covers that region better. Indonesian and Malay spice selection was decent though.
So far so good now for the bad part
The Seafood area had water on the floor and in fact there was so much water I felt like wearing rubber boots (Tsukiji Market Style in Tokyo :) The prices were good . The prices for shell fish were decent and some of the fish looked beautiful. One thing that alarmed me were the discounted fresh lobster. OK I get it many big super markets sell them on ice but these were just piled on top of the other and lobster that is not cooled properly can go bad real fast.
I did look at the food court as well and tried the hot and sour soup to help with the weather. It was OK just like any neighborhood greasy restaurant would serve. There is quite a selection here and it can be daunting sometimes to choose what to order as all sort of cuisines are represented here as well. There doesn't seem to be a flow of things. Some people were lining up some were just walking up and ordering.
The staff needs training , it was hard to locate them and were not helpful when approached. They were only accepting cash or debit when I was there (though someone who tried this store said they do take VISA and MC) They also had a lot of promo items for the weekend.
IMO its a decent addition to this area and it will do well as I don't think they have alternate that can compete with them by sheer size and selection.
Checked it out yesterday. It's closer to Warden than Birchmount next to where previously Rona had been.
Didn't have a lot of time to browse but noticed a few things while picking up what I needed. Al comes across as big, with a great selection, reasonable prices and even some good deals. I was really impressed by the steam table variety and am curious about the quality of the take-home food and hope it's not like the salty/starchy/fatty stuff they try to pass off at other grocery stores.
I have serious doubts about the service, which is per the standard Asian grocer where if you want help, you're on your own. This is still where T&T is unmatched. The cashout was cash only.
Overall it was a good experience since generally I find asian markets chaotic and frenzied... Because of the time of day I was there it wasn't crowded so it was kind of laid back not unlike T&T.