KING'S NOODLE HOUSE (296 Spadina at Dundas 416-598-1817) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a lemon coke. Average main $11. Open daily 9 am to 1 am. Licensed. Access: barrier free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN
Beyond the agreeable mayhem of King's entrance - open kitchen at 3 o'clock, hectic cash counter at 9 o'clock, the carnivore's carnival in the front window - awaits the restaurant's large (by Chinatown standards) dining room.
The gleaming glass and dark wood, with recesses displaying porcelain figures, may say Agincourt, but the stadium-bright lighting and trading-floor volume are all Spadina. If you're lonely, come to King's. They'll set you up with new dining companions at a big, round communal table.
Although the pace of the packed room is frenetic, the female servers - bumblebee-like in their perpetual motion and yellow and black uniforms - give you lots of time to study the hundreds of items listed in the two menus and specials list.
Once your order is taken, the food starts to arrive faster than you can say "Whatever happened to the Darkness?"
The barbecued duck and wonton noodle soup ($7.25) is a balanced, artistic bowl in both visual and culinary terms silky, shimmering broth; sweet, tender, glistening, tawny duck; supple, translucent, shrimp-stuffed wontons; luminous green Shanghai bok choy all nested in a mass of noodles. You could start and end the entire meal here and be happy.
But don't. Salt And Pepper King Mushroom, Tofu And Pork Chops ($10.95) is a lightly battered plate of texture delights spiked by aggressive Cantonese seasoning (these guys thrown salt with aplomb) and strategic chilies.
The plate of barbecued pork with steamed noodles ($6.98) is comparatively pedestrian, but its bold ginger and green onion broth keeps things interesting. A haystack of sautéed pea shoots with garlic ($12.95) is perfectly wokked to maintain their mellow flavour.
With its helpful service, completely bilingual English and Cantonese menu and items ranging from sweet and sour spareribs to pig's blood congee, King's Noodle House should turn any Chinatown frown upside down.