Asian Sensations

Re-orient your tastebuds at these reliable Asian eateries

Rating: NNNNN

BAN VANIPHA (638 Dundas West, at Bellevue, 416-340-0491) Almost doubled in size, this long-time home-style Thai and Laotian eatery moves around the corner to high-profile digs just west of Chinatown. Pricier than similar spots, it delivers superior ingredients and style. Best: Mee Grob, addictive deep-fried rice vermicelli tossed with chicken, shrimp and toasted coconut in a tart tamarind-lime dressing Gai Hoey Bai Toey, garlic-marinated grilled chicken breast wrapped in pandan-leaf ribbons and sauced with soy, sesame oil and whiskey (!) Nham Vientiane, a salad of crispy spiced deep-fried coconut rice mixed with sour pork, coriander and mint Larb Hed, minced mushrooms, tofu, Thai chilies and rice powder in lime dressing custardy crustless coconut pie riddled with pumpkin. Complete dinners for $30 per person ($15 at lunch), including all taxes and tip. Open Monday to Saturday for lunch 11:30 am to 3 pm, for dinner 5 to 10 pm. Closed Sundays and holidays. Fully licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN

MATAHARI (39 Baldwin, at Henry, 416-596-2832) The only exclusively Malaysian spot in town, this five-year-old bistro serves first-rate dishes mixing Malay, Thai, Indian and Chinese flavours. But unless you ask otherwise, your meal will be as under-spiced as Geri Halliwell’s solo career. Best: Casbah cashew chicken with peppers, onions, nuts and ‘shrooms with tart tamarind bite Sambal with garlicky grilled shrimp, crunchy green beans and shallots dwarf bananas sautéed in rum and Kahlua. Complete dinners for $35 per person ($17 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine or bottle of beer. Open for lunch Tuesday to Friday noon to 2:30 pm, for dinner Tuesday to Sunday 5 to 10 pm. Closed Monday and long-weekend Sundays. Fully licensed. Access: steep ramp at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN

SALAD KING (335 Yonge, at Gould, 416-971-7041) Think you can stand the heat of any kitchen? This cafeteria-style Thai fast foodery offers deceptively mellow Thai fare that packs a long-lingering afterburn. What they call medium-strength will cause unsuspecting diners to break out in a sweat. For days. So popular, regulars know to make reservations. Best: cashew chicken with sweet peppers and steamed rice crisply fried sweet-and-sour orange chicken Thai basil noodles with shredded egg, dried shrimp and al dente veggies vegetarian fare like deep-fried tofu in a mild Thai spice blend, Evil Jungle Prince — Asian veg in garlic chili sauce and fiery mango salad with crushed-peanut topping. Complete dinners for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a bottle of imported Thai beer. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 9:30 pm, Saturday 11 am to 8 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays. Beer licence only. Daily 10 per cent student discount 2 to 5 pm. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNNSD

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