CREASIANS BBQ (3 Gerrard East, at Yonge, 416-260-8885, creasiansbbq.com) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Average main $9. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 11 pm, Saturday noon to 11 pm. Closed Sunday, some holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNN
I have a history with yonge and Gerrard.
Back in the day, that's where I'd meet fellow hacks Gordon Sinclair and Lotte Dempsey at Bassel's for cocktails. Then we'd catch a triple bill of Steve Reeves gladiator flicks across the street at the Biltmore before heading over to the Hot Stove Lounge for a nightcap with Punch Imlach after a Leafs game at the Gardens.
More recently, the now somewhat derelict intersection was home to Wok 'n' Roll, a fast food joint next to Ryerson notorious for its all-you-can-eat smelt and quite possibly the second-worst restaurant I've ever reviewed. Luckily, Wok was put out of its misery some months ago, and the student-friendly space has evolved into Creasians, Toronto's first multiculti barbecue.
New owners William Cheung (his parents are responsible for popular Sam Woo in Scarborough) and partners Brad Siu and his chef brother Michael Siu (ex-Ultra/La Maquette) might not do smelt, but they certainly have a way with squid. Flash-fried in a feathery batter laced with cumin seeds, their terrific calamari ($7) deliciously references Japanese tempura and Indian pakoras, its sweet Southeast Asian dip kicked into orbit by a flock of ferocious Thai bird chilies.
Manager William Cheung (left) and chef Michael Siu have a winner at Creasians.
Creasians' meaty barbecued pork ribs ($10.50) get sauced with an unusually tasty blueberry reduction, a spicy mango-cabbage slaw on the side ($5), while Korean bulgogi-syle short ribs ($8.50) sport a uniquely Canadian maple syrup glaze. Like most mains, they're both beautifully plated with a whack of buttery stir-fried veg - asparagus, snow peas, baby bok choy - and either garlicky coconut or jasmine rice scented with thyme. At these price points, that's cause for dancing in the streets.
Chef Siu puts Creasians firmly on the foodie map with what he simply calls BBQ pork bun ($5.50). Think Chinese barbecued pork crossed with a Saigon sub, sticky pink slices of Sam Woo-recipe char siu on a grilled Vietnamese baguette spread with mayo-like aioli and dressed with strips of raw daikon and carrot slaw, hold the coriander.
To finish, he jumps continents with the same acclaimed warm chocolate bread pudding in citrusy caramel ($4.50) he served at Ultra. Historic stuff.
Not everything works. There's the inevitable pad thai ($9) - this one overly reliant on sour tamarind instead of ketchup for a change - and an oddly spiced penne with grilled shrimp ($10), not to mention the Black Eyed Peas on a tinny sound system and a flat-screen TV hung on a wall tuned to CP24. But when there are fresh calla lilies on every table and when two-for-one orders of mussels in red Thai curry - shallots, even! - go for seven bucks on Saturdays, who's complaining?