DONG BEI WANG (Pacific Mall, 4300 Steeles East, at Kennedy, second floor, unit F5, 905-947-8463) This tiny hole in the wall in a chaotic suburban food court offers top-notch northeastern Chinese street grub that's both filling and fiery. As handmade noodles fly through the air, questions about this unique food get answered gladly by the cheerful and theatrical family owners. Complete meals for $8 per person, including all taxes and tip. Open daily noon to 8 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Pacific Mall intimidates even me.I have lived in or adjacent to downtown Chinatown for some 25 years, so I don't need a close encounter with the 10,000-car parking lot at Steeles and Kennedy to get my fix of all things Chinese.But with this weekend's Chinese New Year celebration, what better time to ride bareback on the Year of the Black Sheep and party like its 4700?
Using her telekinetic parking powers, the Literary Device pulls into a spot within sight of the Markham mall's main building shortly after its daily noon opening. It's a weekday, and the complex, though fairly crowded, is not nearly as chaotic as on Saturday and Sunday.
Still, we notice an alarming number of yellow-jacketed security guards patrolling the joint as we ride the central escalators to the second floor. At the top, we turn south past fancier Korean and Japanese eateries and head deep into a labyrinth of bubble tea boutiques, state-of-the-art video arcades and high-tech gadgets galore to the Pacific Mall's fabled food court.
Tiny Dong Bei Wang's sign says only Fill Your Bowl. But that didn't keep the Food Channel's Martin Yan from finding and then profiling this fantastic find on his Chinatown series.
Owner Wei Qi Yan is an incredible ham and natural performer. The 60-something gentleman first beats a wad of dough into submission right there on the counter of his stall. Then he flips it into the air pizza-style several times, pulling the dough into strands with each pass. Within minutes, he has endless strands of thick noodles, which he plunges into intensely flavoured beef broth and tops with shredded chili-kicked pork ($5). Forget pho -- this is some super soup.
Yan's wife, Du, gets in on the act, too. She takes rolled-out circles of homemade pasta and stuffs them with creamy scrambled egg and slightly bitter Chinese greens (vegetable dumpling, $4.35 for three garlicky empanada-sized turnovers).
But the star of the show is Tung Bak La Pi Salad ($6.95), a cool mix of slivered veggies like raw carrot and English cuke mixed with pork and crunchy peanut-like soy sprouts over wide, freshly made rice stick, doused with a multi-directional (hot, sour, sweet) mustard-oil vinaigrette and garnished with coriander leaf.
Wrapped around juice-squirting pork, hand-formed Tung Bak pot stickers come two different ways -- ethereally steamed or crisply fried. Pan Cake (all $3.99) should be avoided, a sad, flat crêpe oozing oil. But its topping of already fat-crazy deep-fried tofu, thinly sliced and then deep-fried a second time and placed on a bed of nutty soy sprouts is so good it's almost worth it.across the way, fusion tofu (unitE237, 416-946-9775) dishes up Tokyo-style vegetarian street food with unusual attention to detail. Cubes of gorgeously deep-fried silky tofu ride a bed of ripped romaine and raw carrot as well as bundles of rice vermicelli tied in knots. Triangles of breaded tofu cutlet pocketed with gluten steaks replicate grilled cheese sandwiches, while both Okonomi and egg with tofu are more familiar Japanese omelettes laced with scallion and red pepper (all $3.99). Looking like a corn dog, Fish Cake Bar ($2.50) is literally fish stix on a stick that you dip into a sweet mirin-laced teriyaki sauce.shark's fin city (unit e39, 905-947-8241) has to be the most expensive fast-food restaurant in town. Where else do you see Bird's Nest Soup ($15 to $18) on a takeout menu? We zero in on exquisitely presented fried rice studded with a few shrimp and translucent abalone ($9.99).A combo dinner starts with a bowl of clear ginseng soup; continues with steamed egg custard spiked with shark's fin; then superb, nearly boneless barbecued five-spice duck over short-grain rice; and finishes with intentionally bland red bean pudding ($9.99).
Don't miss the outlet's cool, heavy-duty pink plastic bags that advertise Shark's Fin Cities in Kowloon and Hong Kong.back on track, we grab fabulous mini egg waffles ($3) at Tung Tung Dan Quen King (unit 105, 905-948-1288) that taste like a delicious collision between ginger snaps and crêpes. They're poured free-hand onto a griddle with egg-shaped indentations -- hence its name -- and peeled into paper bags. Gung hei fat choi!we stop for midday dim sum at Golden Regency (unit F88, 905-948-8811), one of Pacific Mall's biggest sit-down restaurants. And the biggest disappointment. The Device and I consider ourselves adventurous, but most of today's meal remains on the plate -- rubbery deep-fried octopus "finger," watery boiled lettuce with bottled oyster sauce, cold duck wings on spicy daikon with far-from-foie-gras duck kidney, garlicky whelks (think escargot) in spicy Taiwanese sauce that are just too much damned effort to pry from their shells with toothpicks. Servers smile but are little help when we ask for the bill ($45 un-itemized, including tax, tip and a $1.20 pot of green tea).email@example.com