GINGER BLOSSOM (256 Christie, at Melville, 416-537-3388) Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Average main $8. Open Sunday to Thursday 4 to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 4 pm to midnight. Closed Christmas. Licensed. Delivery. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Q: What Chinese restaurant puts french fries on its menu? A: A smart one.
Ginger Blossom's Jimmy Chung knows his west-side clientele well. Since moving on from foodie-friendly OPM Den and Shanghai Lily in Chinatown two years ago, he's been delivering an extensive card that ranges from clever concoctions like garlicky panko-battered veggies ($6) to retro takes on chop suey and egg foo young.
He's learned that Mom and Dad may prefer stir-fried Asian eggplant in hot sauce garnished with raw carrot threads ($7), but the kids want bland frozen spuds ($3).
From the 150-item card, sophisticated palates will appreciate a starter of lightly battered soft shell crab ($6) kicked with chili and showered with a spicy stir-fry of diced bell pepper and scallion on a bed of crispy chow mein noodles.
Some may remember Chung's Szechuan-style long beans and minced Greek kalamatas sautéed in olive oil, a delicious fusion of Mediterranean and Chinese cuisine ($7). And his fried rice studded with large chunks of tomato and ginger ($5.50) is not to be missed.
He also gets points by packaging much of his takeout in reusable black containers, although you'll still receive a landfill site's worth of styrofoam boxes, plastic cutlery, packets of cheap soy sauce and way too many fortune cookies. And it's not mentioned on the flyer, but the kitchen will cook everything without MSG if asked.
However, we're less than impressed with Blossom's Orange Chicken ($8.50), an over-battered tangle of what can loosely be described as General Tso-style processed poultry mixed with hot banana peppers and roasted red chili flake. We'd also advise that chef keep whatever's in the "special sauce" that blankets the house's beef tenderloin Chinese-style ($9) to himself.
You can't fool me. The menu might call it Spicy Rice Noodles with Chicken ($8), but it tastes like plain ol' pad thai to me. And is that telltale ketchup I detect?
"We had a Thai chef come in to show us how to make it the right way, but our regular customers like it better with ketchup," says the affable Chung.
No doubt that's just the way they like their french fries.