Showing posts with label Canadian-Chinese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian-Chinese. Show all posts

Dim Sum Queen (Toronto) for delivery and takeout

Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

Coming from a Cantonese Chinese background, my brunches were less about eggs benny and pancakes and more about steamed dumplings and pan-fried delights. Being able to have dim sum was something I took for granted, just a lunch we’d have as a family every other weekend. It wasn’t until the quarantine hit that I realized how much I would miss these small bites. So much so, that one Saturday, I placed a huge order at Dim Sum Queen and delivered care packages to family members.

A groan of delight must have escaped when I bit into my favourite dish, the siu mai (pork dumplings). They were a little wet from sitting in a steamy closed container, but once the condensation evaporated, they’re not that far off from what you’d get at a restaurant. Both the pork ($5.30 for 4 pieces) and chicken shitake ($5.30 for 4 pieces) versions are delicious, a nice meaty consistency but not overly dense.

The shrimp and snow pea leaves dumpling ($5.30 for 3 pieces) doesn’t travel as well since the wrappers get soft and sticky. Order the pan-fried shrimp and chive cakes ($5.30 for 3 pieces) instead, the thin wonton wrappers don’t mind a steam and the filling is just as good – plump pieces of shrimp studded with bits of leafy vegetables.

Of all the dishes, I would have thought the steamed sticky rice with meat in lotus leaf ($5.30 for 2 pieces) would be best for takeout - the wrapper helps keep in the heat and they are steamed for so long anyways that another 15 minutes wouldn’t make a huge difference. Alas, Dim Sum Queen’s has so much rice and so little filling that it’s a bland forgettable dish.

Their steamed BBQ pork rice rolls ($5.30 for 3 pieces) are thicker than what I’ve had at the restaurant, nonetheless, they’re a still decent and the restaurant smartly sends the soy sauce separately so it doesn’t get too soggy.

One of my favourite items from Dim Sum Queen is their sesame seed and lotus paste balls ($4.50 for 3 pieces) – when they are freshly fried these sweet spheres are A-MAZING! Understandably, takeout doesn’t do it justice (maybe if they were shipped in paper bags instead of Styrofoam it’d allow it to breath better), but still fairly decent and the just-sweet-enough lotus paste was as tasty as ever.

Despite the restaurant’s name, their non-dim sum items are good as well. While the sweet and sour pork ($14) and General Tao chicken ($14) look identical, the sauces do differ: the pork using the typical sweet and sour combination but ends with a gingery finish while the chicken savoury and sweet. They’d be even better if the batter weren’t quite as thick and the General Tao given a spicier finish.

Nonetheless, both went quite nicely with the yang chow fried rice ($12), a sizeable portion incorporating shrimp, large cubes of BBQ pork and enough scallions to add a freshness to the rice.

The mixed vegetable chow mein ($10) is also a great choice, they serve the sauce on the side so the noodles remain very crispy and crunchy. They also don’t skimp on the vegetables, the container held big chunks of broccoli, snow peas, cabbage, and carrots, amongst other greens.

Honestly, dim sum tastes SO much better when it’s fresh; not all dishes lend itself to delivery. So, since the restaurant offers dim sum all the time, if you want to miss their busy lunch rush, a dinner of noodles, rice, vegetables, and select dim sum may be the smarter choice. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10*
Higher marks for their noodle, rice, and other dishes than the dim sum

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3241 Yonge Street
 Delivery: Uber, Skip the Dishes
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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!

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R&D Spadina (Toronto)

After scurrying through the colourful China Town streets, R&D’s sleek black sign on a normal looking building seems so out of place. There’s no large sign out front packed with too much information or walls covered with colour slips of hand written menu items. Instead, the cavernous dining room with soaring ceilings features walls adorned with vibrant paintings and an opened kitchen where fans can watch the Master Chef himself cooking away.
                                                                                                                                              Indeed, most of the earlier R&D visitors are likely MasterChef Canada fans. I can still remember the episode when Eric Chong presented the lobster chow mein ($25) to the judges, looking apprehensive as they tuck into it before a smile erupts on their face. So, it was one of the must eat dishes for this visit … I want that smile to erupt on mine.

It’s an interesting idea to use the thicker chewy chitarra noodles in lieu of the thin egg noodles normally assimilated with chow mein. Personally, the chitarra noodle’s (“yow mein” or “oil noodle”) texture is more enjoyable for me. But, the downfall is its thickness requires a stronger sauce to stand-up against the doughy pasta - in this case a ginger and green onion gravy with an overpowering ginger element. Sure, it smelled amazing when presented, but the ginger’s spiciness leaves a sting at the back of your throat and causes the lobster’s sweetness to be rendered non-existent. Possibly, a lighter XO sauce combined with green onions would alleviate the need for so much ginger?

The shiitake polenta fries ($8), an airy concoction of smooth polenta and micro-fine pieces of mushroom, is delicious. Dusted with mushroom powder and served with a side of mushroom infused ketchup, it’s definitely not a traditional but so good that you shouldn’t care. Adding chopped green onions on top makes it even better (especially if you don’t like ketchup) – some pieces were on my plate from the lobster chow mein and they tasted quite nice with the fries.

The scallops ($23) with its intense sear and just cooked through doneness is what people look for with this seafood. But the sear, in part, seemed to develop from a crystallized sauce rather than a high cooking temperature causing the salty crust to be more chewy than crisp. Even so, it had great flavour and although I was worried the R&D chilli sauce and Sichuan hollandaise’s spicy elements would overpower the scallop they were actually quite muted and paired well.

Strangely, other than a single full scallop, the rest were served in half pieces as if they were cut through to see if cooked. C’mon R&D, for $23 it’s not unreasonable to just serve full sized scallops – cutting some in half to make it seem like there’s more pieces is really unnecessary.

Despite taking forever to arrive the General Sander’s chicken ($25) was a satisfying way to round out the meal. The chicken stole the show: the crispy salty coating encapsulating juicy succulent chicken. It really didn’t need either the kung pao sauce or Sichuan maple syrup as there was already so much flavour in the breading.

The waffles were a great novelty item to include but sadly didn’t showcase these eggy delights the way they are meant to be enjoyed – lightly cooled but straight off the waffle maker so the thin crust and airy centre remains; at R&D, it was warm but dense and soft. Although the drizzles of kung pao sauce added colour to the dish’s presentation, the sauce’s ultra-salty flavour is just not for me and I wish it were left off so I could have the waffles purely with the maple syrup instead.

R&D has three tempting desserts – the kahuna being a massive banana split that’s meant for sharing. Stuffed from the four pieces of chicken, we opted for the coconut sugar crème brûlée ($8) instead. The combination of palm sugar and coconut gave the dessert a warm caramel colour and a flavour reminding me of a candy I used to eat at my grandmother’s house – I want to say Riesen. The sugar crust was executed perfectly an even thickness across the entire dish. The scoop of sour cherry ice cream paired nicely in the dessert to balance the sweetness.

Serving their piña colada with tapioca pearls ($13) is a great idea. As an aside, when bubble tea rose in popularity in the 90’s I thought it may be a fad but with the continued success it’s proven the drinks are here to stay. Afraid it would be overly sweet, I requested less of the chai syrup which may not have been the smartest move as there’s a hefty dose of run in the cocktail.

Sprinkling toasted coconut on top is an interesting idea but the hard slivers somewhat detracts from the silky drink and chewy tapioca. What would be even better is if R&D allowed diners to add tapioca to any cocktail as it could work well in the Shanghai sour as well. Too bad you’ll never be able to get this boozy concoction in those sealed cups to go.

I’m glad R&D opened in the heart of Toronto’s original Chinatown – a once vibrant busy community, to me, seems to be waning as the suburbs of the North built up. Hopefully, R&D will bring some fresh blood to liven up the neighbourhood, attracting younger individuals to the area once again. Because, yes, they will come for the trendy restaurant, but while walking there perhaps become enticed to shop at a local supermarket (has amazing prices on fresh produce that’s often sourced daily) or return to tuck into a bowl of plump dumplings and noodles.

Along the way it’s great to see Eric Chong’s succeed, an example where pursuing his dreams allowed him to do what he loves in life. For those who have “Tiger” parents pushing them become a white collared professional, even more reason to bring your parents to R&D! Personally, it’s inspiring to see his story unfold as I too want to give up my desk job and work in the culinary world instead.

As Eric noted in a CTV interview, “I don't know, not many people know what it feels like to actually realize your dream and this feeling is indescribable." Congrats Eric on realizing your dream, here’s hoping there’s many restaurants to come.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 241 Spadina Avenue

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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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Patois (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 794 Dundas Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

Patois recently opened in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood, just a stone’s throw away from Bent. And like its neighbor, Patois offers Chinese fusion inspired dishes, except in their case, the tastes of the Caribbean (predominantly Jamaica).

According to their website, the restaurant’s philosophy is simple - to offer delicious affordable dishes so customers will return weekly. Although prices aren’t suburban cheap, they are reasonable for its downtown Toronto local. Cocktails cap at $10 when $15 seems to be the new norm. And for $35 you can get a whole teapot of it – a bit fancier than the “cold tea” of the China Town days.


Patois’ whole vibe is down-to-earth from the simplistic décor, to the top 40 in the background and friendly staff. Despite not being a huge dining room, they were still accommodating taking large group reservations and manipulating tables so we would all fit. Admittedly, I’m not an expert when it comes to Jamaican Chinese cuisine, so luckily I was able to bring a couple of friends who were to sample the creations. One friend’s subject matter expertise (“SME”) has been supplemented with my thoughts below.

To start, “pierogi style” kimchi pot stickers ($11) made with tender ground pork and diced kimchi which is enveloped in a chewy dough before being pan fried crisp. The wrappers are thicker than other Asian dumplings (much more than a gyoza from an izakaya or even the pan-fried variety from a Shanghai restaurant) but then these are modelled after pierogi. Topped with sweet caramelized onions, crispy salty bacon, a spicy sour cream and scallions this was a tasty dish merging many textures and flavours.

Patois pierogies

Between my husband and me, we shared the yard bird special ($32) with a half order of juicy jerk and O.G. fried chicken, dirty rice and coleslaw. Indeed, the juicy jerk was aptly named as moisture just permeated from all pieces (even the often dry white meat). Patois notes that they rotisserie roast the chicken rather than using a BBQ or smoker. The result, is tender succulent pieces of chicken that are even moister than any rotisserie version I’ve ever had.

Patois jerk chicken

However, it lacked the in-your-face boldness of jerk. Perhaps it’s because Patois uses a dry rub rather than a wet marinade. Or maybe it’s because I had it after the strong kimchi pot stickers and fried chicken. In the end, the flavours were too subtle for me. I was expecting that spicy tangy heat with an earthy kick to it. Alas, there was none of that, just a spicy habanero yoghurt on the side.

The SME agrees and compares the spice level to what tourists would be served in Montego Bay. Except there restaurants use similarly spiced sauces which compliments the chicken rather than the disparate habanero. However, he did like the jerk seasoning rubbed on the chicken skin finding it had great authentic tastes.

Interestingly, Chef Craig Wong had told The Grid that “[jerk] has to have flavour that lingers on your palate. It’s definitely not a subtle taste … because jerk just blows your head off. Jerk chicken should be spicy and isn’t mild.” I encourage Chef Wong to go back to that philosophy and not dilute the flavouring to please all palettes. At the very least, offer two levels of spiciness so patrons can experience jerk the way it’s meant to be.

The O.G. (Original Gangster) fried chicken was the hit for me. Although not to the level of Willie Mae’s Scotch House, Patois’ offering was nonetheless delicious - pieces of tender, moist meat surrounded by a crispy crust. I loved the various condiments: cubes of watermelon with Thai basil, a spicy sweet sriracha sauce (like tamarind sauce accompanying samosas) and what I believe were pickled watermelon rind and cucumbers (tart and crunchy).

Patois fried chicken

In the end, it was a satisfying fried chicken meal. But, if I could offer one suggestion, it’s to bring it up to the next level. A lot of Toronto kitchens offer well done fried chicken – with Momofuku selling one that is similarly Chinese inspired. To date, restaurants keep the chicken simple with the cultural twist coming from the condiments. But, why not change the chicken itself? Something simple like dusting the “golden sand” that’s used on Luckee’s spicy squid on top of the batter would be delicious. Or I’m sure there’s other great Caribbean choices available such as a tropical pineapple glaze.

What may keep my husband and I coming back is the dirty fried rice. The menu describes the dish as rice stir fried with the Cajun trinity (onion, celery and bell peppers), sweet cured lap cheong sausage, peas, scrambled eggs and sweet soy sauce. But, there must be something else as the dish had an underlying richness to it. Traditional Cajun dirty rice also mixes in chicken liver so perhaps that was used here as well. Whatever it was, we loved it and polished off every grain.

Patois dirty fried rice

And the last dish of the yard bird special was a creamy coleslaw mixed with carrots and scallions. Made with napa cabbage, this slaw was softer and had a subtler taste than the traditional green cabbage variety.

Patois coleslaw

Other eats that were ordered amongst the table included the Jamaican patty double down ($7) consisting of two mini beef patties sandwiching bacon, melted cheese and a drizzle of sriracha.

Patois beef patty

Another dish ordered by the SME was the ackee n’ saltfish fritters ($14). Unfortunately, it was the shape of the fritters that disappointed – typically like a pancake rather than a ball - so the textures seemed off. Additionally, it lacked the characteristic scotch bonnet pepper flavours often accompanying the dish.

Patois ackee n saltfish fritter

The spaghetti vongole ($14) presented the distinctive pungent black bean aroma mixed with tarragon, little neck clams and sweet cured lap cheong sausage.

Patois spaghetti

As a whole, Patois should successfully accomplish what it’s set out to do – to offer delicious affordable dishes. Certainly, the yard bird special was a great combo with plenty of food; more than enough to satisfy me and my husband. My only hope is that Patois doesn’t try too hard to please the masses and ends up mixing into the melting pot rather than creating a distinct identity. After all, crispy and juicy chicken is fine (and will satisfy) but daring in-you-face flavours is what will wow.  

Overall mark - 7 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!

Is That It? I Want More!

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Patois on Urbanspoon