CLOSED: La Mere Restaurant 老媽肉餅 (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 3278 Midland Avenue
Type of Meal: Dinner

Don’t be fooled by the name, La Mere doesn’t serve French cuisine. Rather, it’s a swankier translation of their Chinese name “Old Mom’s Meat Pie”. Tucked away in a non-descript plaza in Scarborough it’s a small restaurant that could easily be overlooked. But, locals know where it’s located and they are visiting; even arriving early during dinner service got us the last table. Luckily, with their limited menu, service is quick and tables turn over quickly as no one seemed to wait more than ten minutes.

It would be a shame to visit a place named after meat pies and not try their pan fried meat stuffed pancakes. With three proteins to choose from we went with pork ($4.99). Similar to a green onion pancake there are alternating layers of chewy dough and filling. Except, in this case, it’s less greasy and there’s a much thicker layer of tender spiced minced meat. The crust is toasted (but not that crispy) and may have been made with a grill press (similar to what’s used for burritos) judging by the even dry browning. Overall, it’s a decent dish that’s worth a try.

I thoroughly enjoyed their handmade noodle with beef soup ($6.99). The noodles were soft but still springy and went well with the flavourful beefy soy sauce based soup. With some chili oil mixed throughout it had a nice level of spiciness without being overwhelming. On top were plenty of sliced tender beef each with a marbling of collagen. And finally a sprinkling of chopped cilantro stems helped add a brightness to the noodles.  

Another meaty dish is marinated pork bones ($5.99). If you like Korean pork bone soup, this is similar with tender fall-off-the-bone meat. As a warning they are smaller in size, but with plenty of pieces there's enough to go around. They were flavourful and aromatic; I'm not quite sure what sauce they used but it may be a master stock mixed with five spice?

The boiled dumplings ($5.99 for 15) appear home made with a fresh doughy wrapper. They are a bit imperfect as some arrived split, but for those that stayed closed there was plenty of juices in it. Stuffed with pork, Chinese vegetables and black fungus they were decent dumplings.

I'm a little torn on the pork with Chinese sauerkraut in a clay pot (I believe was $7.99?). The cut of meat was pork belly, which when boiled is rather chewy, fatty and bland. But the pickled preserved vegetables and thicker chewy bean thread noodles in a flavourful broth was nice. If the dish was made without pork belly and had dumplings instead I think it'd be perfect. 

La Mere’s only downfall is their lack of vegetables – if you’re vegetarian I wouldn’t even bother visiting. The sole green offering appeared to be the mixed celery with dried bean thread and agarics salad ($4.99). Served cold, it’s a refreshing dish of crunchy blanched celery, dense bean curd sheets and crispy cloud ear black fungus. Tossed with sesame oil and some salt it’s a simple but tasty offering.

The food arrives in quick succession with the salad appearing soon after ordering. Service, although not rude, is also not the most attentive given the family run business and lack of true trained staff. However, with La Mere’s prices and their scrumptious comfort food items, the service and atmosphere is not why the locals are keeping this place busy.

Overall mark - 8 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!