CLOSED: SoSo Food Club (Toronto)

Walking into SoSo Food Club, you would think you’re entering a retro hipster diner instead of a Chinese restaurant. The neon lit tunnel at the entrance is both trippy and wacky, I can’t help but think of Star Trek and going into hyper drive as I walk towards the host. Just pray you get seated at the plush banquettes by the window. The small circular tables by the bar are impractical when Chinese cuisine serves dishes that are meant for sharing – have fun trying to fit more than a dish, bowl of rice, two cocktails, and two water glasses on the desk-sized table.

If you’re feeling hungry, get one of the smaller bites to start as the main dishes take a while to arrive. I’m glad our waitress, Tabitha, convinced us to get the xiao long bao ($9) to tie us over. Truthfully, they’re like the ones from Asian Legend; nonetheless, they are well made: the wrapper thin with a slight elasticity and holding a lot of broth. An extra flavour element was added into the minced pork filling that I couldn’t decipher, maybe Chinese cooking wine? It gives the trapped soup an interesting taste.

Every table seems to get the lobster mapo tofu ($29). An entire lobster is halved and the meat removed from the shell then stir fried with soft tofu cubes, crab, and a thick spicy sauce (the mapo really has heat, especially if you eat the little chunks of red chilies strewn throughout). Smartly, the kitchen leaves the lobster in big chunks, it’s the only chance you can taste it since the strong sauce will cover any seafood essence. But there is something indulgent about having lobster with a dish that’s typically something served in homes. If only the rice it comes with was better, it needed more water and didn’t seem to be the “perfumed” variety.

A lot of SoSo’s menu is spicy and I expected to their dan dan mian ($16) to be scorching. Surprisingly, the heat was restrained with sesame sauce added to help mellow the spice. The chewy noodles are made in-house and thick enough to hold up against the thick spicy sauce. If there was some of the traditional crunchy preserved vegetables added, the noodles would be even better, the crushed peanuts just didn’t provide enough contrast.

For vegetarians, there’s also enough to choose from on the menu. The Not Really a Buddha basket ($15) could work as a main dish as the deep-fried taro paste pancake is pretty heavy. Covered with various chopped vegetables in gravy, the fresh corn kernels were a nice touch and provided crunchy elements against the soft taro. Adding some of the traditional Buddhist vegetables to the dish, like jook sung, would have made this even better as the vegetable would soak up the gravy, providing a more flavourful bite.

Coming from a Chinese background, I know SoSo Food Club is not 100% authentic. Yet, the creations are great representations of traditional dishes, with original elements that make it special. Plus, they have a great bar menu that is much better than the dusty bottles of alcohol or run-of-the-mill “cocktails” found in the old school restaurants. Their SoSo lager ($8) and Liefmans Yell’oh pineapple ale ($8) both intrigued me (and went great with their food) … this is coming from someone who rarely orders beer. SoSo encouraged me to enjoy Chinese food differently, in a dark day-glo environment with drinks that are much stronger than tea.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1166 Dundas Street West

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - 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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