Meet the Asian food chains sweeping the GTA

Who’s doing dessert, dumplings, Peking duck and more

Toronto’s appetite for Asian specialties seemingly knows no bounds. Over the past few months, chain after chain has chosen the GTA as a proving ground for expansion. It can be tough to keep all these new spots straight, but for those wanting to keep their mochi brownies from their matcha shaved ices, here’s a handy field guide. 


From: Hangzhou, China

Where: 3235 Highway 7 East (in First Markham Place, Markham)

The lowdown: Expect Southern Chinese specialties served in a dining room plush with round bottle-green booths and geometric screens. Along with sizzling stir-fries served on hot plates and BBQ chicken on miniature heated grills, there’s Zhejiang regional specialties like bean jelly in chili sauce and honey-soy glazed fried fish.


From: China

Where: 115 Dundas West 505 Highway 7 (Thornhill) 20 Gibson (Markham) 3260 Midland (Scarborough)

The lowdown: Boiling hot soups (literally – they’re still simmering when they get to your table) with endlessly refillable broth and noodles are the draw at Dagu. The best-known dish is the “crossing the bridge noodle,” a soup served with a platter of meat and toppings, plus a separate bowl of noodles, for you to drop and dunk at your leisure. Small plates like fried chicken round out the menu. Expect lineups at the downtown location.

Meet Fresh Assorted Menu.jpg


From: Taiwan

Where: 5315 Yonge (at McKee)

The lowdown: This 600-location chain does chewy, icy delights. The menu at the two-floor location in North York runs the gamut from jelly bowls and tofu puddings to purple rice-based porridge and shaved ice desserts topped with condensed milk. To drink, there’s tapioca and taro-ball teas topped with a dense layer of whipped cream slushies in flavours like red bean and sweet potato are soon to follow.


Yep, this is edible – and it’s available at Smile Dessert.


From: China

Where: 3262 Midland (at Finch East)

The lowdown: Find eye-popping molecular desserts in a Scarborough strip that also boasts homegrown Japanese cheesecake spot Cheese Garden and a location of Dagu Rice Noodle. (Do I hear “food crawl”?) On top of some gorgeous, if relatively pedestrian, sculpted and layered tortes and puddings, there’s edible “cigars,” durian-shaped cakes and something called “Adam and Eve’s Forbidden Fruit.” Eat your heart out, Ferran Adrià.


Hong Kong import Dessert Kitchen offers more than 100 sweets, including teddy hot chocolate.


From: Hong Kong

Where: 73 Harbord (at Sussex Mews)

The lowdown: Downtowners, rejoice – this 30-location chain decided to set up shop near U of T for its first Toronto location. With more than 100 items on the menu, you’ll be able to sample teddy bear lattes, fantastical shaved-ice bowls decked out with colourful toppings, mochi-wrapped brownies and sweet-flavoured “ramen” and “soba” all in one spot.


From: China

Where: 7095 Woodbine (at Steeles, Markham)

The lowdown: This family of restaurants has been serving glossy-skinned whole roasted duck to nobility and nobodies alike since 1864 – yep, that’s an “8.” At the Markham location, the first in Canada, $118 gets you a whole bird, prepared for you tableside and served with pancakes, buns and extra fixings. (Bring friends.) Prices skew higher, but the ceremony of it all just might make it worth it.


From: Taiwan

Where: 692 Yonge (at Isabella)

The lowdown: More like monster fried chicken! In all seriousness, this XL fried chicken spot is a great place to get a breaded cutlet the size of your face. Also available: bao burgers, crispy chicken wings and, presumably, takeout boxes for your leftovers.


From: Taiwan

Where: 372 Yonge (at Elm)

The lowdown: Cheers Cut is competing witwh Monga and Hot Star for a slice of the Taiwanese fried chicken market on Yonge. What sets ’em apart? Menu items like the cheese-stuffed “exploding crispy chicken,” plus a selection of sauces (from Taiwanese teriyaki to Szechuan chili) and spice toppings.


From: China

Where: Coming soon to 29 St. Joseph (at Bay)

The lowdown: Since opening in 2014, Wu Jian Dao has racked up 75 locations worldwide. When it moves into downtown digs later this spring, expect tons of Shanghai-style pan-fried dumplings, as well as braised beef noodles, fried pork cutlets and rice-based dishes. | @nataliamanzocco

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