Double Happiness (599 Bloor West, at Bathurst, 416-538-3723). Complete dinners for $12 per person, including all taxes, tip and a soda. Average main $6.99. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 10 pm, Saturday and Sunday noon to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Access: small step at entrance, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Happiness feels like a cozy cottage. Wide Chinese lanterns in the windows obscure busy Bloor West, and the walls of the tiny Chinese and Japanese resto are tomato red on the top half, wood-panelled on the bottom.
For a starter we choose steamed dumplings, 12 for $4.99. Filled with lightly seasoned ground pork and served with a tangy dipping sauce, they warm the belly.
Ma po tofu ($4.75 lunch combo) is a mix of soft tofu and ground pork swimming in a clingy, bland, light brown sauce; we pick steamed rice and wonton soup to accompany it. With the sweet and sour chicken ($4.75 lunch combo) we opt for fried rice (plain) and hot and sour soup (delish). Tiny slivers of chicken are lost inside ultra-crunchy batter and coated in a tasty, radioactive red sauce.
Shanghai noodles ($4.50 lunch special) are ho-hum. Happiness serves each bento box with two deep-fried dumplings, two cucumber rolls, steamed rice, greens, miso soup and a main. Enokimayaki bento ($6.99), four skewers consisting of pounded beef rolled around enoki mushrooms, coated in a homemade sauce and broiled, are outstanding.
Bul go ki, or Korean-style beef bento ($6.99), is a letdown, the meat tender but boring and gristly. The vegetable mini-wok ($6.99) is a choose-your-own-broth soup that cooks on a tiny gas burner brought to your table. I pick Thai-style, which is supposed to be spicy but isn't.
Watching the veggies and glass noodles simmer over an open flame, I feel like my cottage analogy is complete.