Where the CBC's food expert goes for dumplings, chili chicken, BBQ and more
This winter, public panic over the coronavirus has led to a massive dip in business at Chinese restaurants across the GTA.
To draw attention to their culinary artistry and status as valuable cultural hubs, we asked food experts from across the GTA to tell us all about their favourite Chinese restaurant and what makes it so special and unique.
One of those experts was Suresh Doss, the CBC’s food guide and the contents editor of LCBO Food and Drink, who has made his name on scouring the GTA for the best mom and pop restaurants making food from around the world. (Little surprise, then, that instead of a paragraph or two, he sent us a list of restaurants spanning the entire GTA.)
Without further adieu, here are Doss’s favourite spots for Chinese eats. Check out the rest of our expert guide to Toronto’s best Chinese restaurants here. – Natalia Manzocco
Due to a recent boom in newcomers, we’re living in the midst of yet another Chinese food renaissance in the GTA. In the last few years we’ve seen a sprouting of restaurants where regionality has become the focus now, we’re getting into the minute variations in Chinese cuisine and its subtle variances from province to province, city to city. Here are some of the favourite places I frequent.
My wife Esther and I will try to find an excuse whenever possible to visit Swatow. Downtown Chinatown is in a constant state of change. Somehow, Swatow has not only managed to survive all these years – but, dare I say it, it’s a rite of passage for anyone that wants to eat through the district. The wonton shrimp and beef noodles are excellent. We also always load up on sides like a heaping plate of stir-fried clams, battered and fried squid, and sautéed vegetables.
309 Spadina, at D’Arcy, 416-977-0601, swatowrestaurant.com
In the kitchen at Yueh Tung.
One of Toronto’s longstanding Hakka Chinese restaurants, Yueh Tung has been run by the same family for nearly four decades. I’ve been visiting this restaurant monthly – for takeout, at least – over the last 15 years. There are many great dishes on the menu here, but my order is usually the same: A plate of chili chicken, either dry or with a heaping scoop of sauce. Or, if I’m looking for something with an Indian tinge, I will go for the house specialty, the Manchurian chicken.
126 Elizabeth, at Dundas West, 416-977-0933, yuehtungrestaurant.com
If you really want to get into great regional Chinese cooking, you have to head uptown. There are many wonderful enclaves for Chinese food this restaurant sits on the Highway 7 strip, a fantastic row for food from all corners of China. Szechuan Legend focuses more on the cooking from the Chengdu province, and their mapo tofu is the best I have had in the GTA. Order it with extra “mala” for a generous sprinkling of Sichuan peppercorns. I will usually accompany the tofu dish with cumin clams, plus jellyfish and cucumber salad, and finish with some custard egg buns.
505 Highway 7, at West Beaver Creek, (Thornhill), 905-889-7883, facebook.com/sichuanlegend
Northern Dumpling Kitchen
Across the street from Szechuan Legend is this family-run operation where the focus is on Northern Chinese cooking. When I host a food tour through Highway 7, I make sure to stop here for a plethora of dishes. The steamed dumplings (xiao long bao) are always fantastic the green onion pancakes have a pronounced crust, which I appreciate and the cumin lamb skewers always hit the spot.
550 Highway 7, at Leslie (Richmond Hill), 905-881-3818, facebook.com
If there’s one plaza you should visit uptown for great Chinese food, it’s First Markham Place. Not only is the outside plaza packed to the gills with an assortment of regionally-focused eateries (from northern style dumplings to fiery hot pot places), the food court inside the mall is one of the best places to eat through with a group. You will find everything from HK diner-style classics to soup dumplings and great boba tea. Extra BBQ House is my favourite place for Chinese BBQ – I get the “variety plate” of roast duck, chicken, and roasted and BBQ pork.
3255 Highway 7, at Rodick (Markham), 905-477-0333, facebook.com
The bao at Sang-Ji Fried Bao.
Take the subway up to Finch, and I promise you’ll find something delicious. You’ll find dozens of small, parking-spot sized Chinese restaurants nestled at the base of the condo complex at Byng Avenue. My favourite place there is this Shanghaninese spot, where there are just a few items on the menu wonton noodle soup, fried baos, and a wonderful dried noodle dish served with scallion oil and peanuts. Everything is made in-house.
1 Byng, at Yonge, (North York), 647-346-9199, instagram.com/sangjibaotoronto
I’ve been visiting this stalwart dim sum restaurant in Scarborough for many years – maybe even since high school. It is one of the few places in the city where you can still experience cart-service dim sum. Plus, it’s open 24 hours, which makes for a great late-night gathering.
4386 Sheppard East, at Brimley (Scarborough), perfectchineserestaurant.com