M.Y. CHAFING DISH (357 Spadina, at Baldwin, 416-598-0832) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Licensed. Access: 12 steps at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Keeping track of the openings and closings of the Chinese restaurants along Spadina and Dundas West is a full-time job. Mine, in fact. Did you know that just the other day, the Chinatown McDonald's morphed into a Tim Hortons overnight?
One of the newest kitchens on the avenue, M.Y. Chafing Dish - love the name - is a subterranean soup kitchen specializing in northern Chinese hot pots. Like nearby Liu Liu, Dish isn't for the faint of heart.
The modest menu lists such unfamiliar-to-most dishes as Special Catsup Beef Muscle ($4.99), Chicken Gizzard Kabob ($1.99), Squirrel Fish ($11.99), Dong Po Elbow ($10.99) and Korean Chaudfroid ($7.99).
Though tempted, I stick instead with the hot pot ($10.99, and large enough for two). From a long list of add-ons that range in price from $1 to $3 - including luncheon meat, pork blood and omasum (stomach lining) - I conservatively select sliced fatty lamb, deep-fried tofu cubes, delicious sea tangle seaweed noodles and frozen minced pork dumplings. The very friendly server then brings a hot plate to table and I begin to cook my dinner in the flat-bottomed wok boiling away on it.
I've chosen two broths from a list of seven, fiery Szechuan with roasted chilies and Restorative Stockpot with black chicken, bay leaf and peppercorns. Soon I'm retrieving the results from the bubbling broth with a very flimsy wire mesh ladle. It all seems like a lot of effort for the reward, and it's doubly difficult once you've managed to scoop up anything from the waters to then get it into the tiny teacup-sized bowls without scalding yourself.
Could be fun in a group, but I'd recommend wearing asbestos bibs and matching oven mitts.