Showing posts with label Scarborough. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scarborough. Show all posts

Embassy Restaurant / Samosa King (Toronto)

When I need snacks for a house party or an appetizer for a potluck, samosas from Embassy Restaurant (also known as Samosa King) is a go-to choice for me. They're a bargain at five for $1 for the vegetarian ones and two for $1 for chicken. Personally, I like the vegetarian ones best. They are packed with curried cubes of potatoes, some peas and then encapsulated in a thin enough wrapper. Plus they're always fresh as Embassy churns through hundreds of them in an hour.

You need to get the sauces to go with the samosas as they complete the dish. The red tamarind chutney ($1 for a large container) is sweet with a hint of sour; great for cooling down the heat of the samosas if you're not into spicy foods. But, if you're like me and enjoy the heat, the spicy neon green cilantro with chillies sauce ($2 for a large container) is the way to go.

Of course, Embassy offers other good eats as well. They have a full sit down restaurant, but the equally large take-out area is popular with various curries under $10 and even $2.49 specials on weekdays.

As I waiting for my samosas I couldn't help but marvel over all the things they offered such as:

Roasted chicken, wraps and tons of curries.

Doughy fried delights

Cases upon cases of sweets

Some things to snack on

And the appetizer/sides like rotis and spring rolls

So, if you ever want to please the crowds head to Embassy. Every party/potluck I've served the samosas at have always been a hit. Just be prepared to wait as Embassy is a popular destination. There is often a line-up but it moves at a consistent speed. On weekends I've generally waited 10 minutes but on New Years Eve when the queue curved around the door it sneaked up to 30 minutes. Just keep calm and entertain yourself because these tennis ball nuggets of fried goodness are worth it.

How To Find Them

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 5210 French Avenue East

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Kim Po Vietnamese Restaurant (Scarborough)

Location: Scarborough, Canada
Address: 58 Redlea Avenue (but multiple locations throughout the city)
Type of Meal: Lunch

With seven locations across the GTA, Kim Po Vietnamese Restaurant’s Scarborough location seems to be the most run down. Located off a small street across from Pacific Mall, the building looks like a converted house with minimal parking spots (but tons of street parking). Luckily, once we made our way inside the interior was nicer having been upgraded. In reality, all I was looking for was a hearty bowl of noodles so esthetics mean little - as long as the broth is rich and noodles not overdone I’m happy.

Having heard about their house special Fukein noodles ($6.50), we decided to order this instead of pho. The change was a nice; the bowl contained two types of noodles (a thicker yellow “oil” variety and a thin vermicelli). It still had plenty of hearty rich broth (Kim Po’s not overly oily and clean tasting), thinly sliced beef & Vietnamese ham and was topped with an oversized prawn chip complete with dried prawn in the centre.  

Tackling the chip first, so that it wouldn’t get mushy from being left in the soup, it was crisp and had a deep shrimp flavour. The duo of noodles helped to add a texture contrast but there could have been more of it as it seemed like with a few scoops everything was gone. Mixed into everything was plenty of green onions, fried onions and a rigorous sprinkling of black pepper. All in all, I don’t know if I’d replace the beloved pho with Fukein noodles but it’s a good alternative.

The chicken in their BBQ lemongrass chicken with rice ($7.50) was nicely marinated and grilled. Tender and filled with flavour, I would have loved to have the chicken with a bowl of pho. The rice that accompanied the dish was one of the worse quality I’ve ever had. It was a cheaper variety so the grains were broken into many small pieces and lacked any fragrance. It’s a shame that such a delicious chicken was paired with the subpar rice.

Kim Po’s deep fried spring rolls ($5.50) were on point, with a fair amount of filling (a mixture of taro, noodles and pork) encapsulated in a very crispy crust. Served with some extras (cold springy noodles and vegetables) they were also great for dipping into the vinegary fish sauce.

In the end, Kim Po’s a decent Vietnamese restaurant with some inventive offerings on the menu you may not normally find at competitors. But, with so many choices around the area, it wasn’t my favourite and generally found their portions a tad small. A saving grace is they are opened until 4pm; so, if it were for a late night snack than perhaps Kim Po would be a satisfying choice. 

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!

Dumpling Restaurant 餃子莊 (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 4385 Sheppard Avenue East
Type of Meal: Dinner

If my grandmother didn’t invite me to dinner at Dumpling Restaurant, I would have never known about the place.  Tucked away on the side of a small plaza I almost missed it if I didn’t know the address and was given detailed instructions of what to look for.   Their dining room is surprisingly large and filled with about 20-25 tables.  Unfortunately, because it’s a family run restaurant, they only have two front-of-the-house staff which means service is slow.  However, once your table is being served, the food comes out one after the other so despite the sluggish service a meal doesn’t take too long.

Let’s start with the dishes the restaurant is named after – the dumplings.  There are 17 different types of dumplings on the menu, most based with pork and some sort of vegetable (chives, mushroom, bok choy, celery, etc.).  If you’re unable to decide what to have they also have an assorted pork dumpling offering, which we didn’t order, but helps limit the decision making process.  Especially if you’re going with a small group and want to try different types.

Since we went with a fairly large table, we ordered four types to share.  I won’t post pictures of all the steamed ones since they essentially look the same from the outside:

·        Chives, egg, pork & shrimp dumplings ($5.99) and pork with mushroom dumplings ($5.99) – We had these steamed and they arrived hot in its bamboo container (yes that is steam in the photo).  The wrappers were nice and thin with the juice still trapped in the dumpling and my favourite of the three preparations.


·        Dumpling with tang hao ($5.99) – tang hao is a type of Chinese vegetable which has a weird acquired taste (not really my preference).  For this dumpling we asked the chef to boil them, my grandmother’s partiality.  The dumpling wrapper ends up expanding more and staying moist.  However, I feel the dumpling loses some of its juices and concentrated flavours.


·         Fried pork dumplings ($4.99) – nice and crispy and similar to pot stickers except smaller. 
 The Dumpling Restaurant serves much more than just dumplings, they also offer a number of other Shanghainese specialities.  Two of the “pancake” varieties we tried included the pancake with chive & egg ($3.99) which is almost like a Chinese empanada with a fair amount of egg, chives and vermicelli noodles sandwiched in between dough and then pan fried until it’s crispy on the outside.  If you like crusty things then this is the dish for you; I found the ingredients inside quite bland; this really needed some sort of sauce to wake it up. 
A more traditional pancake dish we ordered was the braised beef & pancake wrapped in foil ($4.99).  I apologize for not taking a better picture of the roll itself, but the inside the pancake are slices of beef and vegetables, which is then rolled, wrapped in a foil and toasted.  There was a generous portion of flavourful beef inside the wrap itself.  My aunt who loves this dish says it’s one of the better ones she’s had.

As if the meal didn’t encompass enough carbs, we also had the spicy & sour noodle soup ($5.99).  The noodles are house-made but unfortunately cooked too long so they become somewhat mushy.  The soup itself is certainly sour but lacks spice so was a bit of a disappointment.  They offer other types of noodles like fried noodle, wonton and sauce noodle that may be better options.

My grandmother loves fried sticky rice cake ($6.99) so we had to get an order.  A bit oily for my taste and needs a bit more sauce to give it flavour.  But, there was a good amount of vegetables, shrimp and pork that accompanies the Korean rice cakes and could be a meal in itself.

Some non-doughy dishes we ordered included the shredded meat & cucumber with vermicelli ($6.99), which is a misleading named as there is none of the ingredients listed in the dish itself!  No meat, cucumber or vermicelli, but rather carrots, eggs, cloud ear (?) and glass noodles.  Nonetheless, once the sesame sauce is mixed with everything the cold noodles are a suitable lighter option especially during the hot summer months.

Their sauced beef ($5.99) was the best I’ve had and was wonderfully tender and flavourful. It’s also served cold and meant to be an appetizer to nibble on before the mains arrive.  Unlike their other dishes that were a bit bland, the sauced beef was actually full of flavour.

Similarly, the crystal pork leg ($5.99) was also good.  I’m not normally a huge fan of this dish so only had a small piece to try and found it to be better than most.

Dumpling Restaurant is a great find and I can sense I will return in the future.  It also offers numerous Korean dishes with the pork bone soup ($5.99).  In fact, before the food arrived we were presented with complementary banchans of kimchi and bean sprouts. 

On a return visit, I tried their pork bone soup ($5.99) which seemed to be a popular choice.  What it had going for it was the portion size - it comes with four bones, a bowl of rice, a wedge of potato and two large leaves of napa cabbage, I shared this along with an order of dumpling with someone and we were stuffed afterwards.  The meat itself is tender and falls off the bone from being boiled for a long time. 

However, the soup base is not as good as Owl of Minerva's version.  Still served in a stone bowl, it doesn't arrive bubbling so although hot it doesn't retain the temperature for as long.  I enjoy the spiciness of the broth but like other things at Dumpling Restaurant it's a bit bland so that the pork bones itself is pretty plain. So, if you want the quantity, this is where you go for, but if you want a taste Owl's still the place to go to in my opinion.

As a warning again, you will not be coming here for the service or the ambiance.  Additionally, the food is a bit bland so be prepared to use the chilli oil, soy sauce or Chinese vinegar included at the table.  Nevertheless, the dishes are fundamentally delicious and such great value.  After all, there are not many places that you can easily feed a group of 10 for less than $100.  The only drawback is their portion sizes; if you go with less than four people it’s hard to order many things as there are so many pieces of everything.  But, I guess there are worse problems to have.

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
  • 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!

Pho in the GTA

Recently the Japanese ramen has been taking over Toronto with bowls of oily soup and hunks of tender meat. Although ramen is good, I can't help but go back to its Vietnamese cousin - pho. It still offers the comforting combination of hot soup and carby noodles, but with the added benefit of fresh vegetables and less oil.

With so many locations, options are endless. Many reviews and articles have been written about downtown pho locations. But what if you live north of Bloor where should you go? I've visited a few uptown locations and here's my take. Keep in mind that some of the restaurants are chains so they have other locations throughout the city. I haven’t gone to any of their other sites so can’t vouch if everything is identical.

My "Go-To" Location

Location: Pho 88
Address: 325 Bamburgh Circle

Pho 88 isn’t really the best at anything but was the restaurant my parents brought me to as a child, so I can’t help but feel nostalgia towards it. There’s something about it that offers a homey feeling to me, so I love to stop by after coming back from a long vacation.

My pho of choice is the small well done flank with tendon ($6), which surprisingly is a combination rarely found at other locations. Most connoisseurs like their beef rare and to have it cooked table side in the broth. My preference is to have the meat cooked to begin with in order to retain as much heat in the broth as possible, especially after adding in the cool vegetables. The tendon is a great addition but has to be small pieces cooked for long periods of time to get it to the sticky glutinous jelly consistency I enjoy - Pho 88 nails that down.

Their broth is saltier than the others so it’s a matter of preference. But, since the beef, noodles and vegetables (bean sprouts and basil) are not seasoned I like the broth to be savoury to bring everything together. Additionally,their bowls contain more onions (chopped green and shavings of white) which add a nice aroma to the soup.

Pho 88’s biggest problem is inconsistencies. Sometimes the broth and spring rolls are amazing and other times just okay. I find they are surprisingly at peak performance during weekends when they are busiest. Normally, their pork and shrimp spring rolls($3.50) are crispy and the filling a good mix of pork, veggies and vermicelli noodles. On this occasion the filling was a tad mushy because of adding too much taro into the mix, but they still had their usual crispiness.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

Where You Go for Vegetables and Spring Rolls

Location: Pho Metro
Address: 2057 Lawrence Avenue East

Pho Metro is a recent find for me located in a small strip mall where you’d never notice it unless you knew where to go. With the smallest capacity, this place gets busy during peak hours. Luckily, service is lightening-quick with bowls arriving minutes after placing your order.

Included in their plate of vegetables are the normal bean sprouts, basil and lime wedges; but, they also offer long coriander which I haven’t found anywhere else. The coriander looks like a thick long blade of grass and tastes like a fusion of chive and mild coriander.

The broth of Pho Metro’s noodles ($5.95) is clearer than competitors and almost has a consume quality to it. Not offering a cooked beef option, I wrote it in and unfortunately the beef arrives shrivelled and unappetizing looking. It’s likely because they use a leaner cut of beef so it’s relatively dry, although still tender given its tissue paper thinness.

The cigar thick spring rolls ($4.50 for 2 or $7.50 for 4) are the best I’ve ever had with a filling where you can actually taste the pork. They are crispy and have an airy delicate centre; I could easily have two to myself! As a warning, Pho Metro’s spring rolls are served piping hot (coming from someone who can handle hot temperatures), so you may want to hold yourself back and let them cool down a bit.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10

Where You Go for the Cleanliness

Location: Pho Vietnam
Address: 3262 Midland Avenue

Recently opening a new location on Midland Avenue, Pho Vietnam's dining room is one of the most opulent and cleanest I've seen. Consisting of individual tables (rather than the long communal set-up), relatively comfortable chairs and clean wood panelling it’s a location for those who may be squeamish about the regular hole-in-the-wall surroundings.

Also, they are one of the only restaurants that serve their side of bean sprouts pre-boiled, if e-coli is something that troubles you.

Strangely, they do not offer a well done beef only option (I’m sure they may if you specially request it), so I opted for the rare & well done beef pho ($6.50). Pho Vietnam also offers a choice of noodles – dried or fresh. The fresh version has a smoother texture but I find it too soft. Rather, the tried and true dried version, which of course is rehydrated before serving, has the springiness I like.

Pho Vietnam is likely better for those that are health conscious. Their broth is bland for me but is good for those who are watching their salt intake and the thinly shaved beef is much leaner than most. Sadly, during my visit, the broth wasn’t hot enough so quickly became lukewarm after adding all the vegetables.

The pork and shrimp spring rolls ($5.50) were extremely crispy, to the point that it may have been too crispy as it seems like they were rolled in two layers of wrapper. Sure, crunch is great, but a really good spring roll also has an airy “light” middle, so I found Pho Vietnam’s version a bit dense.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10