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Coming home after 4 years away from Toronto

It's wonderful to see that the boards on Chowhound are alive and well in Toronto. It's been quite a number of years since my last post in Toronto, and well, Chowhound in general. I'm writing this time to solicit advice in eating around the city now that I've been away so long. I'm hoping to rely now on the advice of the fine folks of Toronto to get me up to speed. I'll be browsing the board of the past few months, but also hoping for some pointers in the right direction so that I may know where to focus my search.

A lot has changed (career switch to full-time professional photographer for one) since my last visit, but I'm still in search for good food, especially of the Chinese persuasion. My current hometown is sadly lacking (Boston) and I'm definitely looking to satiate my cravings upon my return to Toronto.

I'll be here for only a few days and hoping to get as much jam-packed in as possible. So a good foodie region or food tour would be appreciated.

Priorities:

Dim Sum
Chinese BBQ
Excellent Chinese Signature Dishes (i.e. specialty restaurants such as Char Siu, Roast Pork, Peking Duck, Lobster/Seafood, etc.)
Local Fare
Espresso/Latte Shoppes
Chinese Fast Food
Congee
Malaysian
Chinese Dessert

And anything else that's of note recently (I'm game for anything: Izakaya, Charcuterie, Poutine, the gamut).

The regions I'll likely focus on are near St. Lawrence Market/Waterfront, North York, Scarborough, and Markham/Richmond Hill. Though if there's a great area outside that region, I'd be willing to venture.

I appreciate anyone and everyone's assistance! And hello to all the chowhounders of Toronto.

Thanks in advance.
BokChoi

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  1. Welcome back BokChoi!!!

    I'm not an expert in these areas so I will leave it to others just wanted to say welcome back :)

    I will throw in Momufoku and Gu though.

    Cheers

    1 Reply
    1. re: millygirl

      Hey Millygirl - thanks so much for the welcome back. I feel like I fell off the face of the earth for so long. Hope to get back into the foodie scene out there. I appreciate the recs - I've gone to Gu before I left I think. How is the momufoku here compared to the Manhatttan outlet?
      p.s. hope you're well!

    2. I'd recommend a wander through Kensington. You'll find lots has happened while you've been away.

      3 Replies
      1. re: midtowngirl

        I've heard some great new places have opened - I'll search the board. Any personal favourites? Thanks midtowngirl.

          1. re: midtowngirl

            Thanks midtowngirl. Appreciate the pointer!

      2. Welcome back! Ask Charles Yu for his infallible Chinese dining guidance.

        15 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha

          Thanks Kagemusha. Appreciate the welcome back. Hopefully Charles will see this post. If not, I'll take a look at his history. Cheers. Hope all is well!

          1. re: BokChoi

            Hello BokChoi! " Yu is here "!! Nice hearing from you again!

            4 years seems a long time, but on the 'Chinese front' nothing much have changed. Some surprise closings and lots of uninteresting openings.

            My favorites are still O Mei ( Giant Lobster 5 ways ), Yang's ( high end fine dining and Dim Sum ), Emperor ( similar to Yang's but better value for the $ ), Judy's Cuisine ( great wok-hay stirred fry ), John's BBQ ( great Char Siu and roasted Pei-Pa Duck ), Maple Yip ( Steamed Garoupa ), Spring Villa ( renovated and one of the best Dim Sum place ). All the Casa(s) are still good. Regal 16 has moved to Richlane Mall and changed its name to Richlane Cuisine. Scheduled to open end of the month, if you are still in town.

            Lots of mediocre northern and dumpling places opening in almost all strip plazas in, Scarborough, Markham and Richmond Hill. Repetitive menus that always include cumin coated bbq meat skewers, extra spicy dishes covering with floating chili oil, thick skin dumplings...etc. Once is more than enough!

            Also, the period sees the opening of lots of 'Congee Queen' branches. Above average 'comfy' Chinese fast food if you are in a rush. Cantonese BBQ meats are OK.

            Won ton Hut on Warden/Hwy#7 now boasts the best Won Ton noodles in town. Nice chewy fine noodles, decent broth and crunchy won-tons. Only outfit that uses yellowing chives as condiments!

            Biggest relocation/opening is 'Fisherman's Club House' on Steeles/ Silver Star. Now occupying a huge space and less time restriction imposed by management. Good seafood selection. Crabs and Lobster towers still pretty impressive! ( Typhoon shelter style and Gold Dust ( salted egg yolk ) preparation excels ). Whilst in the area, stay away from 'Fantasy Eatery'!! It has gone down hill big time after the head chef left!

            If you are downtown, 'Crown Princess' near Bay and Joseph is the best Chinese place downtown. Pretty high-end, good dim sum.

            However, IMHO, the thing that changes the most are the 'Ramen explosion' ( Izakaya as well )!!
            For Ramen, here's a posting for your reference:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892947
            For Izakays, there's Hapa, Guu, Kingyo, Jabistro, Zakkushi...to name a few.

            Personally, I find the birth and evolution of smallish western eating places during the past few years much more exciting! Some notable ones include:
            Acadia, Electric Mud, Edulis, Table17, The Grove, Chantecler, Ursa, Frank's Kitchen, Ortolan, Yours Truly, Buca, Patria....etc

            Really new openings like Carmen, Bar Isabel, Woods, Origin North, Bero....are filling the culinary landscape quickly.... hopefully with great food??

            Good luck with choosing and enjoy your stay!!!

            1. re: Charles Yu

              Charles, I've had very mixed feelings about Table 17. What do you like there? Maybe I'm ordering the wrong things?

              Love the sister restaurant though, Enoteca Ascari.

              1. re: millygirl

                Hello Millygirl!
                Long drive for me! So only been there once but experience was positive. May be I was lucky?
                Had the roasted diver scallops which was seared to perfection. Caramelized crust outside, just cooked inside.
                I love anything 'Bolognese'! So, I was lucky they have a Wild Boar one when I was there. Very rich and flavourful. Had it with creamy Polenta. Very similar to Tutti Matti.
                Dessert was Sticky Toffee pudding. Good but Starfish version was much better!!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  That does sound very good Charles.

                  We've been a few times for brunch which was okay but our one dinner was underwhelming. It was awhile ago so maybe we should give it another try.

                  Thank you!

                2. re: millygirl

                  I've also had very good experiences (for the most part) at Table 17 :)

                  I highly recommend Charles' Emperor Fine Chinese Cuisine suggestion, BokChoi. Mondays, their wonderful Peking duck is $19.99!

                  Charles also introduced me to the baked pork buns at Lucullus Pastries on Highway 7. Not to be missed!

                  For Dim Sum I love Ding Tai Fung and Northern Dumpling Kitchen.

                  The pork buns at Momofuku are fantastic as well.

                  Also BokChoi, you must try Banh Mi Boys (two downtown locations)

                  Nice to see you again BokChoi!

                  p.s. go to Mul's Diner in Boston for their creme brule french toast!

                  1. re: magic

                    Great to see you again as well, magic. I think I've had my fill of Momofuku pork buns, unless they're drastically different from the NYC branch - not too much of a fan, but the SO loves it. I'm definitely intrigued by the mention of baked pork buns though, so I will definitely have to check that out on HWY 7. Thanks so much for that tip (and Charles Yu as well). I frequented Northern Dumpling Kitchen a few times before I moved to Boston, and I find the soup dumplings here to be a bit superior, so I will stick to what Toronto is good at. And the peking duck is exactly what I had in mind...

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      Lucullus has the most tender, luscious baked bbq pork buns in the city. All of their savoury baked goods are worth a try. But do not, I repeat, do NOT leave Lucullus without getting a half dozen of their Chinese custard tarts. Melt in your mouth deliciousness. The only ones I've enjoyed more were the warm bite-sized ones from Grand.

                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        It's been too long, TorontoJo. Thanks so much for the tip. I miss Grand. I haven't had anything remotely close to that in years. As I get older, I don't think my body can take 1/2 dozen of anything any longer. It just doesn't go away like it used to. But sharing is a great way to eat vicariously through others. Many thanks.

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          I would also recommend egg tarts from ABC Bakery on Victoria Park near McNicoll. (HSBC plaza) especially when they've just come out of the oven, they are to die for. Just make sure you don't burn your tongue.

                          While you are in the same plaza, the early morning tea (dim sum) at Crown Prince is pretty good too. $2.80 for any S, M, L items. You have to try their tofu fa, I think it's probably one of the best in all of Toronto.

                          1. re: ragged25

                            Great call on those egg tarts, ragged25!!
                            I drove past around 2.30pm. They just happened to bring out a new batch! Yup! Definitely 'tongue burning' hot!! Nice shell and custard was very smooth and creamy but NOT overly sweet!!
                            The lady owner must be expecting every customer who enters the store to buy her egg tarts. Her first comment to me before I have a chance to see whats available in the premise was 'How many egg tarts do you want?!' Wonder what her reaction is if I told her 'I'm just browsing'!! Ha!! BTW, there was a line when I left!

                            1. re: ragged25

                              Thanks ragged25! I will definitely have to get my fill of egg tarts in Toronto. Tried to visit the acclaimed one in SF while I was out there and they of course randomly were on vacation. And I do love a great bowl of tofu fa. Many thanks for the recommendation.

                          2. re: BokChoi

                            Ok! Keep us posted :-)

                            Lucullus Pastries, 328 Highway 7 E

                      2. re: Charles Yu

                        And thank you so much Charles. Saving this response to the last as I have so much to digest here. I appreciate you taking the time to write a full analysis of the goings on of Chinese cuisine on the Toronto front. You're always a great foodie and resource.

                        I'm happy to read about the new openings and depressed to see Fantasy is no longer what it once was - I lived practically next door so I've been eating there for over a decade before I left. That's really unfortunate. Any word on where the chef's gone?

                        I love the tip on the wonton place. ChesterElegante had introduced me to a great place up in hwy 7 that closed down not too long after I left. Happy to see there may be a worthy replacement.

                        I'll have to check out the Western places, but coming from Boston - there's a huge representation of that type of cuisine here - so I'm definitely leaning towards satiating my craving for all things Asian and ethnic whilst at home.

                        Congee Queen will be a great place for fast food - they were pretty prevalent when I left, but I guess it was good enough to make an impact. I really miss a good bowl of congee.

                        And thank you for Crown Princess and Fisherman's Club House - those seem like just what I need to fill up on. How does the seafood there compare to a staple like O'mei?

                        I will likely be back again in December hopefully for the holidays. So what I don't get to sample this time will surely make the list for the repeat visit.

                        Cheers!

                        And thank you for the comprehensive list, Charles. Glad you are still doing well and eating up the town. Thanks as well for the welcome back. It's good to read some familiar names still.

                        BokChoi

                  2. if you don't get into west end downtown (queen and dundas west, roncesvalles, etc) you'll be doing yourself a huge disservice as that's where a lot of the interesting restaurants of the past few years have popped up

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: disgusti

                      Ahh.. that neighbourhood was just developing when I left. I'll definitely check out what the board has to say about it. As long as it doesn't have too strong a 'hipster'-vibe, I'm game. The area I live in - the force is strong here. I think I need to get away for a bit from that. Any personal recs? I'd love a noshing tour suggestion if you have one. Thanks in advance.

                    2. Oh wow - BokChoi in the hood!!! :) Welcome back!

                      There's lots of stuff happening around the Ossington area.. west end as @disgusti had mentioned. I've always stuck to the Chinatown area (Queen/Spadina/Dundas) and we always like to visit Come and Get It (http://www.comeandgetit.ca/) for poutine....

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jennjen18

                        Hey Jennjen18. It's been too long. How are things? Definitely with two recs, I'll have to put that area on my list. Poutine is definitely on my must hit. Heading to Montreal on my way up, but I can never get enough. Thanks very much for the tip.