Showing posts with label jai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jai. Show all posts

Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen 佛海齋廚 (Toronto)

My first taste of Chinese vegetarian cuisine was from Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen, a cozy casual restaurant tucked in a dated but nonetheless well-trafficked plaza in Scarborough. Things have changed: lunches were busier in my childhood, whereas on a recent visit there was no wait despite it being the weekend; and things were drenched in oil, while now they show restraint.

What stayed constant is their low prices and simple but satisfying dishes. Do not visit without getting a plate of the vegetarian “dim sum” (the small pictured for $4.50), which is deceiving as it’s not really the steamed dumplings synonymous with dim sum. Rather, they are pieces of gluten and tofu, prepared in different manners (braised, fried, steamed) and flavoured with various sauces (sweet soy, curry, sweet and sour) all served warm to munch on at the beginning of the meal. This is the “it dish” for the place. In fact, you’ll see many people visit just to get this as take out.

The stuffed bean curd skin ($4.50) was one of my favorite dishes, but sadly the recipe has changed. While they’re less oily, it’s now deep fried instead of pan fried so there’s no difference in texture on the wrapper (I loved having the contrasting crispy and silky bites of the past). The filling, which was hot and plentiful in the past, is now stingy and lacks all the different vegetables and fungus that gave it the interesting flavours.

Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen’s soups are all a combination of bean curd, vegetable, corn and bamboo - the sweet corn soup with vegetable and bean curd ($4.50 for small) is one that offers three of the four ingredients. It’s a simple concoction made with a semi thick cream corn base with tons of tofu and bits of mushrooms mixed in. It’s tasty, but a few chopped green onions would help add some colour.

There seems to be a lot more noodles to choose from. The curry fried version with vegetarian pork ($8.95) is available wet or dry. We opted for wet, which wasn’t overly watery, but had enough sauce so that each strand had some slightly sweet curry sauce (sounds odd but actually works) covering it. Tossed well in the wok, it’s a dish that develops a great aroma.

The fried noodle with mixed vegetables ($9.25) is a traditional favourite, the crispy wonton noodles topped with a mix of vegetables (baby corn, snow peas), mushrooms, black fungus, and gluten pieces. The noodles have the perfect mix of crispy edges and a softer centre that soaks in the oyster sauce. They’re just as good as I remembered.

Stay away from the hot and sour noodles ($5.50), which were far too bland for a dish that’s meant to be punches of flavour – it was neither, spicy, sour, or even salty enough. The noodles were also soggy, making the dish a major flop even after we tried to salvage it with the condiments at the table.

It’s nice when a vegetarian restaurant offers simple vegetables as well. Their A choy with fermented tofu ($9.95) could be cooked a touch less so the stalks remain crispier, but they were well-flavoured without being too salty.

Service is definitely not their strongest feature, but it’s hardly the servers’ fault as they also act as prep cooks – de-stemming mushrooms, chopping vegetables, and cubing tofu… it’s all part of the job. So, at key points of the meal where you need to order or get the bill, just go find them or be patient.

Where servers do excel is knowing dishes well enough to offer their honest opinion. We tried to order the curry vegetarian pork with rice and she simply noted that we should reconsider as they don’t taste good together (despite it being an option). So, it was because of this frank advice we switched to noodles instead, which were a tasty combination.

Sadly, it’s not often I get to re-visit places I dined at as a child. But tucking into a plate of Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen’s “dim sum” or noodles brings me back to the past. Whatever the restaurant lacks in with décor and service, it’s fully made up with the memories and the feeling of nostalgia. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3290 Midland 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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The Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato