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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.

                      2. Welcome back (/home?) Bok.

                        Living on the southern border of Markham, I can suggest both Yangs and Casa Victoria so satisfy your initial Dim Sum cravings, though I have not been to HK to offer a fair measuring stick, both kitchens seem to execute a fairly consistent (though the last visit to CV was sub-par) level of food.

                        Nino Da Versa (Yonge south of Clarke) makes (what I hear is, I do not partake) a good espresso, and they make some killer Italian cold cut sandwiches!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Sadistick

                          I can vouch for the giant lobster at O-Mei, John's BBQ and dim sum at Emperor. My last experience at Lai Wah Heen left me feeling that their dim sum are prettier than they are tasty. Nothing was bad, but the chi-chi ingredients (i.e. foie gras) seemed wasted on items that in their traditional preparations are as good or better, not to mention more affordably priced. I haven't tried Crown Princess, but an HK-born friend that has had pretty good things to say about it.

                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                            Thanks 1sweetpea - O-mei and John's were my favourites before leaving, so I'm glad they're still consistently great. That's what I was hoping to hear when posting about lobster and char siu - glad you caught that!

                            Lai Wah Heen is always hit or miss for me too. Quite a pretty penny to be spending without consistency - but alas, not much choice in the higher-end dim sum in the city. I'll look into Crown Princess. Thanks. This is the address I just googled: 1033 Bay, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, Canada

                          2. re: Sadistick

                            Thanks Sadistick! It's only back for a family visit really. Not for too long, but I've just been so far away for too long that I feel I've lost touch on the pulse of things. Thanks for the recs - seems like those are the same ones that were highly listed back when I was around, so not too much has changed.
                            Nino's sounds great. I'll have to take a browse!

                            Appreciate all the suggestions. Glad home isn't too foreign a place.

                          3. Welcome back Bok!

                            On your next visit to Yangs try the Singapore Noodles.
                            It is certainly one of my favourite dishes of the year so far!
                            An ordinary dish lifted to the extraordinary.

                            IIRC you spent a lot of time in Boston. Did you find any first rate Chinese or other asian cuisine?

                            I did not find anything noteworthy but was able to console myself at Neptune's Oyster.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: sumdumgoy

                              +1 for Yang's Singapore Noodles!!
                              Glad both Juno and yourself liked it!

                              1. re: sumdumgoy

                                Haven't tried this yet, typically we have stuck to Dim Sum.

                                Any other recommendations?

                                1. re: sumdumgoy

                                  Thanks sumdumgoy.

                                  I'll have to try the Singapore noodles as both you, Charles Yu and Juno were all raving for it. I do love Yang's, so I'll have to make my way out there again.

                                  Boston is devoid of good Chinese food unfortunately. Hence why I have to head back and get my fill. I satiate myself with lobster rolls, and local food while here since that is what they specialize in. Nothing to complain about, mind you - except maybe the cholesterol levels.

                                  If I do need a fix, I hit up New Golden Gate while out here. They have some off the menu items like "Gwai Fai Pong" (large clams) baked with great 'wok hai' and vermicelli.

                                  1. re: BokChoi

                                    >> Boston is devoid of good Chinese food unfortunately.

                                    I disagree. I was very fond of Fuloon, Mulan, Shangri-La and Qingdao, and would love to find anything along those lines in Toronto, by which I mean actually in Toronto and not in Markham or Richmond Hill or, what is just as well (for those depending on transit) on Mars.

                                    While I would agree that the stuff in the burbs of Toronto are miles away from what you can get in Boston, if you are comparing places that are reasonably accessible by public transportation, then Boston stacks up pretty well. Toronto's strength is disproportionately in its inaccessible suburbs, and if you strip that out of the equation, it's really not that great. (Toronto isn't so much a city of neighborhoods as a city of suburbs.)

                                    That said, even the downtown dim sum in TO knocks the socks off of anything in Boston, at least since Gitlo's closed a few years back.

                                    1. re: autopi

                                      Hi Autopi,

                                      I think we'll agree to disagree as I guess I should give more context. I am from the suburbs of Toronto, so that's my point of comparison for Chinese food. I should note that my preference is towards Cantonese-Chinese, rather than Taiwanese food, so that may lead to some disagreement in preference. If we're talking all provinces of Chinese cuisine, then Sichuan Gourmet will destroy competition of that region in the Toronto area.

                                      I live around the corner from Qingdao. Let's just say that if I can cook better than a restaurant can, then they have a lot of explaining to do.

                                      1. re: BokChoi

                                        I used to live around the corner from Qingdao as well, and was a big fan, though they could be a bit inconsistent. However, if you can cook better than Qingdao on a reliable basis, then you can also cook better than most of the Chinese restaurants in (downtown) Toronto as well.

                                      2. re: autopi

                                        "Toronto's strength is disproportionately in its inaccessible suburbs, and if you strip that out of the equation, it's really not that great. (Toronto isn't so much a city of neighborhoods as a city of suburbs."

                                        Truism Alert! Besides, autopi, 'burbs are the new 'hoods. Everyone knows that...Don't hate us for living in the 905.

                                        1. re: Kagemusha

                                          Agree!!!!
                                          All top 5 Chinese food centers in North America - Vancouver, Toronto, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have there best stuff in the suburbs!!!

                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                            Queens is not a suburb of NYC. It's part of NYC. Unless you meant some other place?

                                  2. can't comment on most of the special kinds of cuisine you mentioned, but I'll throw out a few new gems I like...

                                    For "Local Fare" - Farmhouse Tavern in the Junction (esp brunch) is a great newbie. There's also some degree of local to the food at some of the other BIG new guys like Edulis, The Grove and even Richmond Station.

                                    for Espresso/Lattes - Sense Appeal is going strong downtown, as is Thor Espresso. There's some of my favourite coffee happening at Fahrenheit on Jarvis and Broadview Espresso near the Danforth.

                                    Of note, and mostly new, that I've enjoyed in the last little while... Bar Isabel, Bellwoods Brewery, Hawker Bar, Oddseoul, Hoof Raw Bar (RIP), Brockton General, Skin & Bones...

                                    so welcome back :)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: LemonLauren

                                      Thanks LemonLauren for the welcome back and the suggestions. Wow - those names are all so foreign to me, so I'm definitely out of the loop. Thank you for the list. Hawker Bar sounds intriguing as a name. Will look into this all. Thank you again.

                                    2. Hey Bokchoi, welcome back to the board.

                                      Ditto what Charles reco, he's my guru too.

                                      A few places to add if you're in the area:

                                      Dayali - Beijing style peking duck, a bit different than the Cantonese style. More smokier flavour esp if you get the "Gold" version duck. I'm not crazy about their skin wrappers tough. They also have some good frog grilled on skewers, and an amazing pork belly on glutinous rice.

                                      Honest Kitchen - newish place right next to Maple Yip, cheaper Cantonese fare but still well done. Try the roast pigeon and their egg battered fried bitter melon.

                                      Dragon Dynasty is solid of traditional push cart dim sum. Just don't show up between 11am - 11:30am on a weekday (after their early bird time). We did it twice and didn't see much food during this time, growling stomachs didn't help.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Royaljelly

                                        Hi Royaljelly,

                                        Thank you for the suggestions Royaljelly. Seems like I have a bunch of new spots to add on my list of places to visit. There will definitely be overflow to my next visit. Top two sound like great new places to try. Dragon Dynasty is an old standby, so thanks for the timing tip.

                                        I've never tried a Beijing style duck, so I would be very interested in a comparison. I think there may be time and room in the belly for two peking duck meals this trip.

                                        1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                          Too long. How have you been, Chester Elegante? I still miss that Wonton place you introduced me to many years ago. It closed up shop. Would love to hear if you have any other favourites. Are you still in the area?

                                        2. Agree with Northern Dumpling Kitchen!!
                                          I first discovered and reported it on this board exactly 5 years ago! Wow! how time flies! Quality has not dropped a bit!!
                                          Their ' Sliced leg of pork with garlic chili oil soya sauce' 蒜泥白肉is awesome!! It was actually awarded one of GTA's ten best dish for 2013.in the Best Chinese Restaurant award (which a couple of us chowhounders were on the judging panel). Simply a level above the rest!!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                            well. my post disappeared. I recommended Northern Dumpling Kitchen.

                                            Restoran Malaysia for Malaysian.

                                            If it's hot go to Cho Sun Ok for Nang-Myun (icy cold noodles).

                                            1. re: s12chung

                                              Thanks for the recommendations, s12chung. Restoran Malaysia sounds perfect and thank you for the dish rec.

                                            2. re: Charles Yu

                                              Great to hear quality hasn't dropped. Is there anything in the neighbourhood that will fill the Fantasy Eatery gap?

                                            3. I just read on my old email account that I haven't been monitoring that there was a rumour I was banned. I would just like to take a moment to clarify that I have not indeed been banned. Just a very long vacation from the foodie blog world.

                                              Thanks everyone for the warm welcome back.

                                              Cheers!
                                              BokChoi

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: BokChoi

                                                4 years? thats federal time, not house arrest. so you out on parole or full pardon?

                                                - khao san road

                                                1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                                  Ha! Thanks khao san road. It has been a rough past few years, but I am out now and hungry. Cannot wait for my next fill of Toronto food.

                                              2. Any favourite stops near Bayview and Steeles?

                                                5 Replies
                                                  1. re: MissBingBing

                                                    Thanks MissBingBing. Appreciate the rec.

                                                    1. re: BokChoi

                                                      Order carefully, you must get the "homeburger", the regular hamburger is a sad frozen puck

                                                  2. re: BokChoi

                                                    Cho Sun Ok is at yonge and steeles.

                                                    1. re: s12chung

                                                      Thanks s12chung. I forgot that Koreatown was close by there.