The chalkboard outside Ocean King (256 Augusta, 972-6615), a two-month-old Chinese eatery at the top of Kensington Market says "Beer $1.99." Wow. It also states that Caesar salad goes for $1.80. This is a Chinese restaurant? Ocean King bills itself as a Szechwan Seafood and Health Vegetarian restaurant, but there's a total of nine veggie dishes on offer out of 170-odd menu items.
Pad thai is so saccharine it tastes like it was flavoured with Sweet "n' Low. But fried noodle ($5.95) is a lightly soy-sauced chow mein loaded with shrimp and chunks of chicken breast and barbecued pork. Follow that with a steamed oyster ($1.50), its brininess intensified by salty black beans, and spicy Singapore-style skewerless beef satay ($6.95).
Caesar salad is as authentic as you'll get in Toronto -- that is, not very. Thai Red Curry Chicken tastes weird. But Thai Basil Chicken (both $6.95) is lovely, minty from herbs.
Singapore-style noodles may be as huge, and the price is right ($3.99 lunch special), but it tastes acrid.
If Ocean King lacks decor -- there is none -- a few of its dishes add up to a mega-value.