CLOSED: Lychee Bay Cuisine 荔枝灣 (Toronto)

Location: Scarborough, Canada
Address: 4771 Steeles Ave E
Type of Meal: Dinner



My dinner at Lychee Bay Cuisine happened by chance. We had intended to eat at their neighbor, Ba Shu Ren Jia, only to be greeted by a renovations notice. Not wanting to find another place, Lychee Bay seemed like the best alternative - and it was a good choice. In fact, I ended up visiting again within the same month.

Lychee Bay is an area in Guangzhou that offers various seafood delicacies. At the restaurant, the large lobsters seems to be the popular choice amongst patrons. Unfortunately, their smallest lobster is five pounds ($16.95/lb) so unless you’re with a larger group it’s not the most conducive dish to order. So, we ordered a crab instead. Given that by itself it's already $50, the meal for four ($118 and includes a crab) is an economical choice.

To begin, the normal complementary pork and vegetable soup was substituted for shark fin (complementary soup pictured on left and shark fin on the right). I was a bit surprised it was real shark fin as I thought it’s banned in Toronto. Generally, for ethical reasons, I wouldn’t order it. But, I guiltily admit the soup base was good – thick and with a rich ham, chicken and seafood essence. It also had plenty of crab meat and shredded chicken. The shark fin itself is tasteless but adds a crunchy texture to the smooth base (personally I find bamboo shoots can serve the same purpose).


The star crab dish was steamed in Chinese wine allowing the crab’s natural sweetness to shine through. The crab was a bit thin so lacked the plump meat I’d like but was still satisfying. Underneath were thin bean thread vermicelli which soaks up all the delicious juices and is such a great part of the dish.


The stir fried clams with spicy black bean sauce was a decent interpretation and certainly had a kick from the chili pieces strewn throughout. The clams were a fair size and cooked perfectly.


If you’re ordering the set meal, remember – the vegetable dish that comes with it is yu choy (more on this later). Sitting in a flavourful supreme soup sauce with julienned Jinhua cured ham on top, it was good and not overdone.


The crispy roasted pigeon squab took forever to cook (we almost finished everything else before it finally came). But, it was worth the wait arriving piping hot, juicy and crispy. If you’ve never had pigeon squab, it’s a gamier fowl (more so than duck and quail) so can be an acquired taste. Marinated with five spice powder, soy sauce, vinegar and rice wine, the meat is full of flavour. Then it’s roasted and at some point blanched with hot oiled to really crisp up the skin. If you like Peking duck, you’ll probably want to try this dish.


On the whole, the set meal was fine but really not the greatest. Personally, I enjoyed the a la carte dishes more, even though they were more “everyday” non-fancy offerings. Below are the ones we've tried. 

Trust me, you’ll want to order the salt and squid ($8.95). Not only was it a huge portion at a low price, but the squid was tender, had a great crispy crust and was well flavoured. Although it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (I’m partial to My Wonderful Kitchen), it was nonetheless delicious and satisfying.


The pan fried pork neck with lotus slice and chili ($12.95) may sound odd but is rather a tame dish. Essentially, the pork neck tastes like lean pork but more tender and has a somewhat crunchy bite to it. The lotus root is what drew me to the dish as I love when it’s just quickly stir fried and remains in its crispy fresh state. Just be mindful of the peppers mixed throughout as they’re much spicier than they look.


As a child, I loved having the sizzling “ja ja” chicken hot pot ($10.95) at a hole-in-the-wall in Broadview.  Sadly, the restaurant has long closed and I’ve been to various places trying to relive the wonderful taste. I didn’t find it at Lychee Bay but it wasn’t horrible. If only it wasn’t so overcooked (the chicken a bit shrunken looking and a tad dry) the dish would be better. Lychee Bay also adds sweet cured lap cheong to the dish to give it more flavour and a fatty essence.


The eggplant in hot pot ($8.95) was a mixture of sweet, spicy and savouriness. At Lychee Bay, I found the dish slightly tarter than most. But, this saucy dish is a great to eat with plain steamed rice.  


I found the stir fried snow pea leaves with prince mushroom ($16.95) to be an average interpretation. The vegetables were crispy and tender but the mushrooms sliced too thinly so the “meatiness” I enjoy in the mushroom was lost.


You’ll also receive a complementary dessert. During our first visit we were treated to a great milk soup with bird’s nest. It was such a great silky texture and ever so lightly sweetened. The second visit we were served tofu pudding, which is much plainer. But, it was piping hot and had a great soy flavour (rather than being the tasteless powdered versions that is so often served).


The service was refreshingly friendly and attentive … sadly, not something you can always expect at Chinese restaurants. However, each visit a mistake was made:


  • At the first dinner we were overcharged for a dish (sometimes it pays to be a blogger since I note down prices for each post). Of course, it could have been an honest mistake since Lychee Bay still makes bills manually and they were apologetic and fixed the error.
  • The second visit was worse and lowered the mark they ended up receiving. During this dinner we ordered the set meal. When the snow pea shoots arrived we naturally assumed it was the vegetable dish that’s part of the meal. It wasn’t until the second correct vegetable (yu choy) was served that we realized the error. The whole situation was rather uncomfortable as the waitress looked at us and asked if we still wanted the first dish. Indeed, we didn’t. But, having already eaten a portion, it seemed rather awkward to make her take it back. So, we grudgingly accepted it.


On the whole, these are small mistakes. But, you should carefully remember what you order and how much it costs. It won’t keep me away from visiting again (as I did enjoy the surroundings, service and dishes) but Lychee Bay won’t become a regular haunt. Their Cantonese style dishes were good; but, there are plenty of other restaurants that offer comparable versions without having to deal with the administrative errors. 


Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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