Sugar Marmalade (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 5322 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

Sugar Marmalade is situated on Yonge in between two popular Korean restaurants. Although it’s a rather large restaurant, its one I’ve never noticed until my friends introduced it to me. With a name containing “sugar”, it’s not surprising that they specialize in desserts. Regardless, we decided to go there for some savoury dishes to start as well.

With various types of chicken wings available, we chose the house special Swiss style ones ($5.99). The “Swiss” sauce was actually a Chinese Master stock (also known as “low siu”) a popular braising broth made with soy sauce, sugar, water, rice wine, star anise and a variety of other spices. In most restaurants the broth is used over and over again becoming increasingly concentrated and ingredients are braised in the flavourful liquid until they reach a deep brown colour. Sugar Marmalade seemed to have done this as the wings were richly hued and had a great sweet and savoury flavour.

The description for the stewed beef brisket on rice noodles with special sauce ($5.99) was deceiving. The "rice noodles” weren’t the flat kind I was excepting rather than the dried “lai fun” variety; they were almost impossible to pick up with the forks. Meanwhile, the "special" sauce was just stewed tomatoes with egg. The strange combination of tomatoes and eggs aside, the noodles could have been good – the brisket was soft and delicious. However, everything arrived lukewarm with the tomato mixture bordering on cool which ultimately ruined the noodles. 

The Taiwanese style popcorn chicken ($5.99), a surprisingly large portion compared to the chicken wings, were tender and well-seasoned. Although it didn’t happen to me, my friends each had a piece that was cold throughout, which was odd as all the other pieces were scalding hot. There were a couple of pieces with hard cartilage in it so you may want to be careful before chomping down too hard on the meat. Served with a sweet Thai chili sauce it's not a bad snacking dish and can also be ordered with rice if you’d like to eat as a meal.

Another nice snack dish were the steamed rice rolls ($4.49). Served fresh and piping hot the soft rice rolls were drenched with sweet hoisin sauce, nutty sesame sauce and some sesame seeds. If only there was a light drizzle of chili oil over everything it would have been even better.

Most of the other tables that were in there for the night went straight to dessert. We decided to order a few to share amongst the table and this is a good idea as by themselves each would have been too much of the same flavours and texture.

First to arrive was the mixed golden sago ($5.99). Sago is a starch based product which tastes and looks similar to tapioca and can sometimes be found in tapioca pudding.  The creamy mango juice base was very sweet and a bit soupy for my taste. The restaurant did try to balance it out with tart grapefruit pieces but personally I found the dessert didn’t work for me, although the real pieces of mango mixed throughout were nice.

Having heard about the wonders of snow ice, we decided to order the strawberry one ($4.99). Unlike snow cones, the base isn’t icy but rather like ice cream except it’s shaved off in layers to make ribbons. The texture is waxy and has a gluey after taste, perhaps from gelatin mixed into it. Additionally, the strawberry flavour very fake so we felt like we were eating strawberry Pocky sticks. It's only saving grace were these pieces of fresh aloe on top adding a juicy bite to it that I could have easily eaten by itself.

Thankfully, not all the desserts were bad. The house special black grass jelly mix ($5.49) was great and definitely something I’d order again. There were so many different ingredients within it. First, yoghurt bubbles filled with Korean yoghurt drink that explodes in your mouth as you bite into it. This juicy surprise then contrasts with chewy tapioca balls (generally found in bubble tea), neutral herby tasting grass jelly (actually made from boiling a plant to get its extract rather than grass) and smaller sago balls.  The liquid flavouring everything was a light milky coconut mixture and wasn't as overpowering as the other desserts. Of course the huge scoop of vanilla ice cream also helps - but was hard to dig into without making a mess. 

In general, the dishes are pretty average and with the exception of the mixed house special black grass jelly dessert nothing outstanding. However, Sugar Marmalade’s prices are more than reasonable and will allow any visitors to get their salt and sugar fix for under $15.

Overall mark - 6.5 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!