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Old School Chinese Restaurant (like China House,RIP)

  • emq Sep 23, 2013 02:53 PM
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When China House on Eglinton closed it left a void in my life. It had been our "go to" place for all family celebrations for at least 15 years. Please Chow Hounds, I need your help. We don't need authentic chinese, just good food and family style. Banquet seats or big round tables. We live downtown but willing to travel for the sake of the family.

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  1. The closest thing I've found to that style is Sea Hi up on Bathurst. I like their steamed pork at very least.

    32 Replies
    1. re: Dr. John

      Lee Garden on Spadina is our answer to Canadian Chinese.
      We Went to Sea Hi, about a year ago, and could not believe how bad the food was.
      Loved the ribs (honey garlic especially) from Lichee Gardens, and sort of liked China House, but find ourselves at Lee Garden at least once a Month.
      No fancy round tables, or dried noodles on the table, but no MSG, and it is the only Chinese restaurant that we are aware of that doesn't steal the Lobster Roe for their dim sum.
      They are also very nice, and the menu is in English as well as Cantonese.

      1. re: erly

        I agree on Lee Garden but I didn't want to piss a lot of people off by comparing them to the old China House. I know many who think LG is the best Chinese restaurant in the world.

        1. re: justsayn

          No you don't.. seriously?

          1. re: justxpete

            Quite seriously.....

            1. re: justxpete

              I know of a family who drives from Thornhill to eat at LG.

            2. re: justsayn

              Holdon, isn't China house old school canadian chinese food (or fake chinese food)?

              1. re: flonie

                Canadian Chinese is referred to as old school on CH Toronto. Ja doo chicken wings, Vancouver ribs (dry ribs), egg rolls, chicken balls, chow mein, moo goo gai pan, dai dop voy, house noodles, long glow in the dark pork ribs, sweet and sour pork ribs, honey garlic ribs, breaded fried wings, pork wonton soup, pork slices, general tsao, kung pao chicken, fried rice, fried noodles, plum sauce, hot mustard and a fortune cookie or almond cookie

                1. re: justsayn

                  They didn't use corn starch as the breading, it was either a simple flour breading or the chicken ball batter type.

                  1. re: justsayn

                    Don't forget Cantonese chow mein (basically dai dop voy topping crispy fried skinny wheat noodles), beef with broccoli, beef with Chinese greens, Egg Foo Young and Butterfly shrimp (the ones with bacon, egg and onions).

                    Our old school standard order was Wor Won Ton Soup, egg rolls, chicken balls with pineapple or ginger sauce, dai dop voy, beef with Chinese Greens (usually bok choi) and steamed rice.:)

                    1. re: prima

                      OH right....Egg Foo Yong !! lol Loved that.

                      And shrimp and snow peas.

                      Egg Foo Yong reminds me there was a place on The Queensway that is still open but I haven't been for over a decade. Perhaps it is still exactly the same? Has anybody been to Ancom Chinese Food near Islington?

                      1. re: justsayn

                        haha........yes, I have been to Ancom for about two lunches. Would prefer not to go back as the food is very bland. Really bland. Not the same owner as years ago.

                        1. re: fryerlover

                          : ) memories

                          1. re: justsayn

                            You can say that again. My first job was at the Baskin Robbins across the street 22 years ago. Ordered from there twice a week while at work. Great food then. Now not so much.

                            1. re: fryerlover

                              Ok! So do you remember the name before Ancom? THAT was good!

                              1. re: justsayn

                                As far back as I remember, it has always been Ancom Chinese Restaurant.

                                1. re: fryerlover

                                  I found it! This was when it was at it's very best! The nicest family ran it too! http://www.restoronto-reviews.com/rev...

                                  1. re: justsayn

                                    Oh yeah, that name does ring a bell. Do you know when the name change happened? Just curious as I'm now wondering what the name was when I was ordering twice a week at my first job.

                      2. re: prima

                        Us too

                        Also BBQ pork ends, fried wontons, and just for good measure, fried rice.

                        Hmmmm, yum!

                        1. re: prima

                          In our family, every person chose a dish. My dad picked beef with broccoli, my sister, sweet and sour chicken balls, my mother, honey garlic spare ribs and me, sizzling rice soup.

                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                            And the North American way was/still is to eat your chosen dish as opposed to family style sharing.

                            My friends loved eating Chinese at my house because my parents would put everything out on the counter for sharing. And of course there was no shortage of food.

                            1. re: justsayn

                              Huh? No way. Even my family (read: Very caucasian) shared/s dishes, and has done so ever since we started eating very Westernised Chinese food (which I no longer eat unless forced).

                              I actually find the opposite. People of ethnic backgrounds tend to prefer to eat their own dish as opposed to sharing.

                              1. re: justxpete

                                ALWAYS ate family style. And so did every other suburban family I knew heading down to Elizabeth St. on Sunday evening in the 60's and 70's. Plus it seems that everyone had "their" go to place. Ours was The Nanking, right behind the "New" City Hall. Other friends went to Sai Woo, still others to Lichee Gardens.

                                1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                  All I can tell you is this was the "white bread" way that I saw and STILL see. I will have beef and broccoli, I will have Moo Goo Gai Pan etc etc. That's what helped make combo meals so popular - it was for people who wanted a mix because their family hadn't figured it out. I would go to the restaurant with these people and couldn't get them to share plates.

                                  The two of you grew up the way I did, but MANY did not.

                              2. re: justsayn

                                Our family always shared the dishes......and the same when I ate Chinese at my friends house up the street. And both families are/were all North American born french Canadians with a bit of some other backgrounds in the french Canadian mix.

                                1. re: justsayn

                                  Not in my family or circle of friends. It's always family-style. I have never seen anyone order their own dish (and not share with others) until having dinner at a Chinese resto in Calgary in 1999 with a classmate from Thunder Bay (who ate half of my dish, when I offered it, but offered none of his). I have never seen anyone do that since, and I'm guessing I've eaten at Chinese restaurants 800+ times (almost weekly for my first 25 years, and at least monthly over the last 15) in the last 40 years ?

                                  1. re: prima

                                    Folks, we've removed some posts from this thread about whether it's common or uncommon to dine "family-style" at Chinese restaurants, as that topic is getting pretty far afield for this board. If someone wants to start a survey on whether people eat family style or everyone has their own dish in Chinese restaurants, the General Topics board is the best place for that thread. Thanks!

                                  2. re: justsayn

                                    We shared all of our dishes, but we each had definite favourites.

                              3. re: justsayn

                                What is the translation of dai dop voy? Most of the names seem to be cantonese versions of the dish phonetically.

                                Moo goo gai pan (mushrooms, sliced chicken)

                                Ja doo (Ja is fried, I don't know where the doo comes in)

                                1. re: flonie

                                  I don't know the direct translation. Dai Dop Voy (大什會 ) contains chicken, shrimp, bbq pork and mixed vegetables.

                                  1. re: prima

                                    Not sure either of the direct translation, but I understood it to mean "big assortment of veggies and meat (seafood incl.)". I still usually order it at Yueh Tung downtown and always look forward to the sauteed dried bean curd that they include.

                                  2. re: flonie

                                    Dai Do Voy ... "Large Assorted/Mixed/Misc Meeting" I am pretty sure on the Do being asst/misc/mixed as I have heard other pronunciations as Chap/Chop (as in Chop Suey).

                                    Moo goo gai pan ... "Mushroom chicken slices" (pretty literal). Moo goo ... mushroom and at least from what I learned is button mushrooms (vs dong goo for shitake and so on for other types of 'goo').

                                    No idea on Ja/Jar Doo wings ... Ja would def be fried in Cantonese.

                                    There is an interesting Wiki on this. Please note my credentials in this matter are based on growing up in Toronto as a fluent Canto speaker (HK and other sub-dialect) sorely lacking in literacy.

                                2. re: flonie

                                  @flonie That's what the OP asked for.

                          2. Not a lot of places doing this type of thing anymore. Really not much demand for it, I suspect. I like to call it North Americanized suburban Chinese food.

                            What about P.F. Changs? Not exactly old school, but the food style is close, and they can probably handle a large party...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                              I think Sea Chai (Hi) is much closer and PF isn't the same while also not terribly authentic.

                            2. Just north of Bay & College is Crown Princess Fine Dining. It has big round tables, and pretty authentic Chinese food. I enjoyed it!

                              Just be mindful as it is a bit pricey!

                              http://www.crown-princess.ca/english/...

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: ammaark

                                I doubt they do sweet and sour chicken balls.

                                1. re: MissBingBing

                                  or fried noodles and plum sauce.....

                                  1. re: justsayn

                                    Well, I didn't say it was mainstream Chinese food :P

                                    It's a fairly great restaurant, and has the decor and capability the OP wanted.

                                    1. re: ammaark

                                      The OP asked for something like China House. Ever eaten there?

                                      1. re: MissBingBing

                                        No, I assumed "old school Chinese" meant authentic. Judging by your reaction, I assume that's not the case. My mistake.

                                    2. re: justsayn

                                      when you say dried noodles, do you mean those orange things they call 'chow mein noodles'?

                                      1. re: flonie

                                        Fried noodles - yes those are them. lol

                                    3. re: MissBingBing

                                      CP serves sweet and sour pork, listed under chef's recs. Haven't tried it yet. Next time I'm there, I'll order it. :)

                                  2. It seems to me this question - where are the old-school Chinese joints in town? - has been asked before, and the overwhelming consensus was (as Dr. John has noted) Sea-Hi Famous Chinese Food, on Bathurst St., just south of Hwy. 401. It has been around for about 50 years. I haven't been into the joint for at least 30, so can't recall whether it has the requested banquettes or big round tables. But elderly friends - even more elderly than I am - who frequent the place seem to like it a lot, though they point out that it's probably not quite up to China House standards. Its parking lot usually seems busy when I drive by.

                                    1. We would love an answer to your query, as we are also having an issue finding a replacement for Lichee Gardens, China House, etc. We do get Sea-Hi take-out occasionally and also Cynthia's take-out, which is much less expensive than Cynthia's dine-in. We live in Thornhill, but are very willing and able to travel. We do also go to authentic Chinese restaurants, but would love a replacement for China House, especially their ribs and plum sauce! Now I'm hungry.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: farmgirl1836

                                        Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. We have tried Sea-Hi, and while I love the decor, the food was not nearly as good as China House. Crown Princess Fine Dining is good for weekend dim sum, but is definitely not old school. I want the fried noodles, the long ribs, and a really fat egg roll with meat in it!

                                      2. C'est Bon has the good Canadian-Chinese cuisine, but I don't know about the table sizes.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Pincus

                                          Just adding my support on C'est Bon. Good old school Canadian-Chinese seems to be harder to find (RIP Tasty) and this place does it nicely in a very pleasant environment.

                                          Most of my experience has been with the south Yonge location but the more northerly original Yonge location seems good too.

                                        2. Someone just mentioned Cynthia's in Thornhill to me. I checked the menu and it looks old school. Not downtown but apparently it was very good.

                                          They do the gong thing for the peking duck if you like that kind of thing.

                                          20 Replies
                                          1. re: millygirl

                                            My Mom is a big fan of Cynthia's. Food is ok... I wouldn't call it "old school"... but I suppose it qualifies as "North American Chinese".
                                            Always prefer Sichuan personally, but I do miss those China House BBQ pork slices of my youth with the weird burgundy colored glaze...

                                            1. re: millygirl

                                              DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT go to Cynthia's in Thornhill for any reason. Just trust me on this one.

                                              If you want some Western-style Chinese food, try either "The Great Wok of China" (ugh. I know) in Mississauga, or preferably, "Emerald Chinese Restaurant" at Eglington and Hwy 10.

                                              I haven't been for quite a while to the latter but it was always packed with Asian and others alike. The authentic food *was* that good and they also served all the western-friendly options (read: Chicken balls).

                                              If you don't mind the drive, it would probably be worth it.

                                              1. re: justxpete

                                                Have ordered a few times from Peking Express on Parliament. It was pretty good for what it was.

                                                1. re: justxpete

                                                  Emerald in Miss. isn't "Western-style." Dim sum and Cantonese.

                                                  The buffets dug the grave for Chinese Canadian restos in the GTA.

                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                    And yet, they serve chicken balls. Or used to.

                                                    1. re: justxpete

                                                      When was your last meal there? Current clientele isn't the "chicken ball' crowd.

                                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                                        See "Sweet & Sour Chicken Ball" under "Poultry".

                                                        http://emeraldchineserestaurant.com/d...

                                                        And yes, you're right. Not the chicken ball clientele for the most part, but still serve them. That was largely my point.

                                                        "but it was always packed with Asian and others alike. The authentic food *was* that good and they also served all the western-friendly options (read: Chicken balls)."

                                                        And I haven't dined there for years.

                                                        1. re: justxpete

                                                          Looks very Western friendly to me too...maybe some people didn't know Poultry is the appropriate category for chicken dishes?

                                                2. re: millygirl

                                                  I've never seen that, do they ring the gong when your duck comes out?

                                                  1. re: flonie

                                                    Yes, apparently so. I've never been, but I've been told.

                                                    This is quite common, or at least used to be. Not sure what the origins of this are.

                                                    1. re: millygirl

                                                      ahhhhh.. the gong. I seem to recall a mini version on top of the cart.

                                                      Brings back memories of Champion House Downtown (scrawling on the wall) and Missisauga (decor too nice to do that!) crispy skin and hoisin...mmm...

                                                      Speaking of which, anybody have a current reco for the classic Peking Duck experience?

                                                      1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                        Peking Duck: Emperor Fine Chine Cuisine on Bayview, north of Hwy. 7.

                                                        1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                          Yes!!!! Champion House!!! That shrimp dish....omg!!! So good!!!!

                                                          1. re: millygirl

                                                            Champion House still around?

                                                            1. re: magic

                                                              Unfortunately, long gone, Magic.

                                                              Mississauga location was still around about 10 years ago?

                                                              Thanks for the reco re: Emperor. Next time I have a craving...

                                                              1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                                So no more Champion House eh? Ok, thanks for the info.

                                                                Hope you check out Emperor. I believe the Peking Duck is half price on Mondays ($19.95?)!

                                                                1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                                  Yup. Located at Hurontario and Matheson. Never really took off. Emerald killed 'em.

                                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                    Second floor of an office building IIRC. Used to take a small elevator to the second floor. Beautiful space. Dark Mahogany wood and beautiful furnishings (unlike Dundas St. with more spartan decor and the names all over the walls) Come to think of it, Dundas (Chinatown location) was always crowded and Mississauga was usually kinda quiet... I just remember always being happy to get a table on a weekend evening... assumed it was because of the bigger space and less demand for "semi high end" Chinese in Miss back in the day.
                                                                    There was that Champion House shrimp (per mg above) and the Peking Duck service. Fantastic! All the food was quite good as I recall.
                                                                    Kagemusha, I have never been to Emerald. Is it worth a special trip into Mississauga?

                                                                    1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                                      Champion House's shrimp sounds a lot like the "Palace Sauteed Shrimp" at Tasty Chinese Restaurant on Eglinton, which are delicious.

                                                                      Might be worth checking out for those that miss Champion House's shrimp. I never made it to Champion House so cannot fully comment on how similiar the two dishes are, but they sound similar.

                                                                      1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                                        I personally don't think Emerald is worth the trip, I haven't been in a long time but from what I've read on here it's not very memorable. In Mississauga, Golden fountain by creditview and eglington is as close as you can get to ok chinese food.

                                                      2. Check out Szechwan Gourmet in the Kivas plaza at Bathurst and Steeles. Been there for about 100 years. Very old school and very good. Awesome prices and portions. Always busy.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: zeva

                                                          Szechuan Gourmet is a solid Szechuan resto, if you can put up with the noise and crowds in a smallish space (especially on Sundays, when diners seem to be sitting on top of each other), but I don't think it's what the OP is looking for. I read his/her request as a nostalgic yearning for the Chinese restos of yesteryear, when the usual order was for something like consommé soup, pork ends, chicken with pineapple, and sweet and sour ribs - old-fashioned North American Chinese dishes that have long since been bypassed. In those days, we'd never heard of hot and sour soup, or even Szechuan cuisine, which is what's on display at Szechuan Gourmet. (Though with, as zeva points out, decent prices and substantial portions.) But as I take it, the OP is seeking a throwback to simpler times, when menus were shorter, less complex and more straightforward. Downtown's Elizabeth St., in Toronto's original Chinatown, used to be studded with such restos wall-to-wall. All gone now. Only the uptown Sea-Hi stands alone, impervious to substantial change. Most of the other resto suggestions here, though sincerely presented, are mere poseurs that have sneakily added more modern choices to their expanding menus.

                                                          1. re: zeva

                                                            Szechwan Gourmet is greasy and horrible. There is no first rate Szechwan in Toronto. And believe me I've really looked.

                                                            1. re: evansl

                                                              !

                                                          2. Two short blocks away from where China House used to be is Tasty Chinese Restaurant.

                                                            Go there. It's my go-to. Good stuff! Been there for 20 years.

                                                            Certainly not the ambiance of China House (but then, what could compete with that atmo?!) but good food. Ribs are meh, but most other food nice and old school... tasty. Delish spring rolls (prolly not so much for the egg roll though, sorry).

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: magic

                                                              China House atmo LMAO!

                                                              That little bridge you crossed between the front door and the dining room! Classic!

                                                              1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                                The interior of China House was incredible. A rare gem, of an era long gone.

                                                              2. re: magic

                                                                Darn, wish I'd noticed this before I went there today... had a yen for egg drop mushroom soup and really Yonge and Eglinton is pathetic for such things... and now even more so!

                                                                1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                                                  Sorry Ediblethoughts - not sure which post you're referring to :)

                                                                  1. re: magic

                                                                    Tasty. I tried to go there last night (and when I posted, it looked like I was posting under Magic's post and now, not so much...)

                                                                    1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                                                      Yeah, Tasty has closed apparently :-(

                                                              3. House of Chan? They are kind of old school though not as neat-o classic inside but they are close.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                                                  Don't most go to HOC for steak?

                                                                  1. re: MissBingBing

                                                                    My only order at HOC is lobster.

                                                                    1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                      Then you're missing out on a good steak (LOL)

                                                                      RE: Lobster, Broiled, steamed, Ginger and Scallion or Cantonese?

                                                                      Pork Dynamite and dry ribs w/ salt are pretty good appetizers at H of C too.

                                                                      1. re: kwfoodiewannabe

                                                                        Steamed. I have to beg them not to hack it open and take out the tomalley. I ask for it just cracked.

                                                                        I have tried ginger and scallion, as well as the Cantonese versions. Both are tasty, but greasy.

                                                                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                          Used to order a Cantonese one and have them slice up a 16oz. New York too. That and a Pork Dynamite app (plus onions and potatoes) and 2 of us would be nicely full.

                                                                          ahhh... the good old days when I could still eat. Now I share a plate of pasta and I am stuffed. (probably a good thing)

                                                                2. Mandarin Gardens?

                                                                  1. I too, miss the China House, I grew up with it and have not found any 'old school' places to fill that niche..We also miss Peter's Chung King...have recently had good to excellent food at Szechuan Landscape on Spadina.....but not too many dishes available that I would consider 'old school'...whatever you do...AVOID the Lemon Chicken....gave new meaning to the word 'glutinous! My 'heat' tolerance is way less than it used to be and sometimes it's very, very spicy at Szechuan Landscape and not a huge choice of non-spicy dishes...but it is now our first choice of restaurants downtown where we live........

                                                                    1. I was just getting crucified on another food forum for standing up for "Canadian Chinese Food" when some dork was making a thread crying about egg rolls, chicken balls, and fried rice not being real Chinese food, and was trying to get people to stop calling it such.

                                                                      I am not Chinese, but to me, this is still Chinese food, and although some call it inauthentic, I am not embarrased to say there are some times where all I want is a couple of those chicken balls with red sauce, pork fried rice, an egg roll and some won ton soup! Maybe some beef and broccolli and chicken chow mein as well?

                                                                      I'd travel for a really good version of it too, so thank you for this thread

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: duckdown

                                                                        Hey dd ... just a word of support on "Canadian Chinese Food".

                                                                        What you described IS Chinese food but I would call it authentic Chinese food from a place and time that Chinese restaurateurs had to modify their cuisines to match local market. Hence the Canadian modifier.

                                                                        I am Chinese (grew up here) and hanker after Canadian Chinese food on the odd occasion. There is a lot to be said for a well made egg roll and duck/plum sauce or a chicken ball with a good sauce. Growing up, I only got to eat the stuff once a year at a family friend x-mas party who also once ran a chop suey house.

                                                                        This is a great thread and I wish I could find a place that matched China House. I only went there a couple times near the end of it's run but it exemplified that style of cuisine.

                                                                        1. re: kerwintoronto

                                                                          I love a good egg roll. And there was nothing better in the universe than Mr. Pong's chicken balls after a night of drinking at the Phoenix. #amiright???

                                                                          1. re: justxpete

                                                                            I haven't heard Mr Pong's mentioned in years!! I used to date a guy who LOVED that place :)

                                                                            1. re: justxpete

                                                                              Is there a picture of Mr Pong's jumbo egg rolls somewhere in the internet universe.

                                                                          2. re: duckdown

                                                                            My spouse (who is Taiwanese) and I refer to "Canadian Chinese Food" as fake Chinese food. I've known the difference between the two since I was 11-12 when I was introduced to the real deal by a friend (big shocking surprise that was!) My spouse gets a hankering for the fake stuff once in a while particularly when she's been back home for several months.