Showing posts with label salt and pepper squid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label salt and pepper squid. Show all posts

Great Fountain (Toronto) 大泉港式快餐 for takeout

Watch food shows about Asian countries and they will inevitably feature street eats. The compounds may be located outside or indoors, but the common themes are the array of dishes available, the no frills communal dining area, and the unfathomed low prices compared to the hard work that goes into creating the dishes.

In Toronto, our closest comparison is the da pa dongs set in GTA strip malls. Scarborough food courts were once bustling in the late 1980s and 1990s, my parents and I used to regularly visit them in my youth. But once eateries switched to using disposable containers (they previously used real dishes and you could request a takeout container for leftovers), the environmentalist in me steered my parents towards restaurants like Congee Wong instead.

It’s a shame, as having stir-fried dishes at a da pa dong is the epitome of how they should be enjoyed. Within a minute, it’s out of the hot wok, onto a plate, and you’re digging into the fragrant dish in no time.

My favourite item is the stir-fried rice noodles with beef or gon chow gnow ho. Since the pandemic started, it’s also a dish that I’ve been getting from various Chinese restaurants around the city, always disappointed with the outcomes. Hence, after seeing it featured on Great Fountain’s Instagram feed, I worked in a visit to the eatery after dropping off provisions to my mom, who lives in the area.

The stir-fried noodles with beef ($7.50) was exactly what I had been craving - the noodles cooked long enough so there are bits of caramelization on the ends and to give the dish wok hay. There was enough soy sauce and condiments to flavour everything giving the noodles a lovely deep brown hue, yet they remained dry and not clumped together. I could even do without the beef, to be honest, as what makes the dish are the chewy aromatic noodles, sweet onions and chives, and crunchy bean sprouts. If it is this good after a 20-minute commute, I can only imagine how delicious it would be dining there.

Perhaps there was a bit too much bean sprouts in the Singapore stir-fried vermicelli ($7.50) as the noodles were a little soft for my liking. My hypothesis is the water from the bean sprouts soaked into the thin noodles as it sat in the container. Slivers of green bell peppers would have been a nice addition to substitute for some of the sprouts and add a pop of colour. Regardless, the dish a lovely curry flavour and was a nice balance of noodles, barbeque pork and vegetables.

Each dish is served with a complimentary drink (I skipped to cut down on plastic waste) as well as a free soup. Great Fountain’s hot and sour soup was still surprisingly warm after the drive home and while it’s not the greatest, it’s also not terrible for a free addition. It could be a touch spicier, but where it lacked in the “hot” there was enough of the “sour” element to give it flavour. It reminds me of the hot and sour soup found at Chinese buffets, and even comes packed with big cubes of tofu.

The popcorn squid ($5.99) was the sole disappointing dish; another item I’ve ordered regularly during the pandemic, and once again reminded why it must be eaten in a restaurant. Of course, it was no longer crispy, which is such a pivotal part to making the squid delicious, but Great Fountain’s also lacked seasoning, despite the slightly fiery red tinge.

During the lockdown, when we’re forced to take out from restaurants anyways, it’s the opportune time to visit da pa dongs again - the guilt of relying on plastic and Styrofoam containers dissipates slightly. So far, the meal from Great Fountain has been the tastiest alternative to eating stir-fried noodles at a restaurant. Long live “street eats”. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 8 Glen Watford Drive
 

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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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Asian District (Dubai)


I will forever be grateful to Asian District for saving our New Year’s Eve celebration in Dubai. To make a long story short, because of the ineptitude of a Platinum List event coordinator, we found ourselves being told on the night of - at 9pm (!) - that the event was cancelled. Imagine … standing in your New Year’s best, in a foreign country, and being told that you need to find something else. Certainly, it’s not the end of the world, but surely ruins a buzz.


After a few frantic calls, Asian District saved the day and was able to provide us with an outdoor table so we can celebrate the night and watch the fireworks display. Better yet, they didn’t even raise their prices above the typical AED395 a person for the all-you-can-eat and unlimited house drinks deal. Indeed, it turned into an indulgent evening of food and drink.

Asian District offers an AYCE menu where the dishes are brought to your table. For those who don’t want to consume to the max there is an a-la-carte option as well (prices included in this post for information). It’s an extensive menu covering Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine so getting through the booklet can be a time consuming affair. So, let me help you with some of the top dishes of the night:

You can’t go wrong with the chicken green curry (AED62). It’s a safe choice and ideal for those who want that flavourful coconut sauce without too much heat.


Their dynamite roll (AED38) isn’t a typical maki filled with a tempura shrimp. Instead, it’s like an elevated spicy salmon that made us want another bite.


The wasabi prawns (ADE72) was a decent dish, plump deep fried battered shrimp tossed in a light wasabi mayo, I just wish I had them hotter – the perils of eating outdoors. Even the salt and pepper squid (AED56) was good, if you don’t mind that the batter is a bit too thick.


Other dishes could have been done better. The skin on the Peking duck (AED88 for a quarter) was so soggy that it tasted like you’re having reheated roast duck in the microwave.  At least their garnishes and wrapper were made thin enough.


The chicken skewers (AED56) needed more satay; there was very little flavours other than the peanut sauce.

While the pad Thai’s (AED56) flavours was okay – a nice balance of sweet and sour – the noodles stuck together in a clump and there seemed to be something missing from the dish, it could have been a lack of fish sauce as there wasn’t that lovely umami essence.


If you’re going to have pho, I’d skip the protein and just go vegetarian as the beef in the beef pho (AED46) was way too thick. The broth is a cross between the traditional bone broth and the soy sauce laced beef noodle variety. While not terrible, it’s just not what you’re expecting when you have a spoon of soup.


In general, I found Asian District relies too much on soy sauce. The hot and sour soup (AED32) incorporated so much of the condiment that it wasn’t edible.


Given we visited on New Year’s Eve, it’s difficult to gauge their service levels. That evening, it was slow and they forgot a dish (the plain stir fried bok choy I was craving), but the restaurant was completely packed. And we were disappointed that the desserts never arrived, so we couldn’t taste the mango sticky rice the other tables were raving about. Nonetheless, their staff was friendly and they were on point with bringing out the drinks.

At the very least, they saved the night by feeding us a filling meal, plied us with tons of alcohol, and provided an amazing vantage point for fireworks. Thank you Asian District for a wonderful New Year’s Eve.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah - Al Mirziban

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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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  • Mr. Miyagi

Asian District Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CLOSED: Lychee Bay Cuisine 荔枝灣 (Toronto)

Location: Scarborough, Canada
Address: 4771 Steeles Ave E
Type of Meal: Dinner



My dinner at Lychee Bay Cuisine happened by chance. We had intended to eat at their neighbor, Ba Shu Ren Jia, only to be greeted by a renovations notice. Not wanting to find another place, Lychee Bay seemed like the best alternative - and it was a good choice. In fact, I ended up visiting again within the same month.

Lychee Bay is an area in Guangzhou that offers various seafood delicacies. At the restaurant, the large lobsters seems to be the popular choice amongst patrons. Unfortunately, their smallest lobster is five pounds ($16.95/lb) so unless you’re with a larger group it’s not the most conducive dish to order. So, we ordered a crab instead. Given that by itself it's already $50, the meal for four ($118 and includes a crab) is an economical choice.

To begin, the normal complementary pork and vegetable soup was substituted for shark fin (complementary soup pictured on left and shark fin on the right). I was a bit surprised it was real shark fin as I thought it’s banned in Toronto. Generally, for ethical reasons, I wouldn’t order it. But, I guiltily admit the soup base was good – thick and with a rich ham, chicken and seafood essence. It also had plenty of crab meat and shredded chicken. The shark fin itself is tasteless but adds a crunchy texture to the smooth base (personally I find bamboo shoots can serve the same purpose).


The star crab dish was steamed in Chinese wine allowing the crab’s natural sweetness to shine through. The crab was a bit thin so lacked the plump meat I’d like but was still satisfying. Underneath were thin bean thread vermicelli which soaks up all the delicious juices and is such a great part of the dish.


The stir fried clams with spicy black bean sauce was a decent interpretation and certainly had a kick from the chili pieces strewn throughout. The clams were a fair size and cooked perfectly.


If you’re ordering the set meal, remember – the vegetable dish that comes with it is yu choy (more on this later). Sitting in a flavourful supreme soup sauce with julienned Jinhua cured ham on top, it was good and not overdone.


The crispy roasted pigeon squab took forever to cook (we almost finished everything else before it finally came). But, it was worth the wait arriving piping hot, juicy and crispy. If you’ve never had pigeon squab, it’s a gamier fowl (more so than duck and quail) so can be an acquired taste. Marinated with five spice powder, soy sauce, vinegar and rice wine, the meat is full of flavour. Then it’s roasted and at some point blanched with hot oiled to really crisp up the skin. If you like Peking duck, you’ll probably want to try this dish.


On the whole, the set meal was fine but really not the greatest. Personally, I enjoyed the a la carte dishes more, even though they were more “everyday” non-fancy offerings. Below are the ones we've tried. 

Trust me, you’ll want to order the salt and squid ($8.95). Not only was it a huge portion at a low price, but the squid was tender, had a great crispy crust and was well flavoured. Although it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (I’m partial to My Wonderful Kitchen), it was nonetheless delicious and satisfying.


The pan fried pork neck with lotus slice and chili ($12.95) may sound odd but is rather a tame dish. Essentially, the pork neck tastes like lean pork but more tender and has a somewhat crunchy bite to it. The lotus root is what drew me to the dish as I love when it’s just quickly stir fried and remains in its crispy fresh state. Just be mindful of the peppers mixed throughout as they’re much spicier than they look.


As a child, I loved having the sizzling “ja ja” chicken hot pot ($10.95) at a hole-in-the-wall in Broadview.  Sadly, the restaurant has long closed and I’ve been to various places trying to relive the wonderful taste. I didn’t find it at Lychee Bay but it wasn’t horrible. If only it wasn’t so overcooked (the chicken a bit shrunken looking and a tad dry) the dish would be better. Lychee Bay also adds sweet cured lap cheong to the dish to give it more flavour and a fatty essence.


The eggplant in hot pot ($8.95) was a mixture of sweet, spicy and savouriness. At Lychee Bay, I found the dish slightly tarter than most. But, this saucy dish is a great to eat with plain steamed rice.  


I found the stir fried snow pea leaves with prince mushroom ($16.95) to be an average interpretation. The vegetables were crispy and tender but the mushrooms sliced too thinly so the “meatiness” I enjoy in the mushroom was lost.


You’ll also receive a complementary dessert. During our first visit we were treated to a great milk soup with bird’s nest. It was such a great silky texture and ever so lightly sweetened. The second visit we were served tofu pudding, which is much plainer. But, it was piping hot and had a great soy flavour (rather than being the tasteless powdered versions that is so often served).


The service was refreshingly friendly and attentive … sadly, not something you can always expect at Chinese restaurants. However, each visit a mistake was made:


  • At the first dinner we were overcharged for a dish (sometimes it pays to be a blogger since I note down prices for each post). Of course, it could have been an honest mistake since Lychee Bay still makes bills manually and they were apologetic and fixed the error.
  • The second visit was worse and lowered the mark they ended up receiving. During this dinner we ordered the set meal. When the snow pea shoots arrived we naturally assumed it was the vegetable dish that’s part of the meal. It wasn’t until the second correct vegetable (yu choy) was served that we realized the error. The whole situation was rather uncomfortable as the waitress looked at us and asked if we still wanted the first dish. Indeed, we didn’t. But, having already eaten a portion, it seemed rather awkward to make her take it back. So, we grudgingly accepted it.


On the whole, these are small mistakes. But, you should carefully remember what you order and how much it costs. It won’t keep me away from visiting again (as I did enjoy the surroundings, service and dishes) but Lychee Bay won’t become a regular haunt. Their Cantonese style dishes were good; but, there are plenty of other restaurants that offer comparable versions without having to deal with the administrative errors. 


Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog

____________________________
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!

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