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American Style "Chinese Food" in Toronto

samehhanna | Dec 25, 201504:44 AM     68

Hi everyone,

I posted a similar question 6 years ago when we moved back to Canada from the US and I was so taken aback by the abuse and vitriol that I got from this community that it has taken me this long to try again. So be nice/helpful or ignore the question, those are your choices.

While living in half a dozen cities in the US (and visiting 2 dozen others) we often enjoyed going to restaurants that called themselves purveyors of "Chinese food". The proprietors and staff were generally of Asian descent. They often had the word Sichuan or Szechuan in their name. They were generally decorated in a stylized Chinese style (fish tank, banners with Chinese calligraphy, red and gold trim). There were differences but many more similarities despite where in the US we travelled.

Almost at the question. The food in these places was similarly stylized. Sometimes it was lousy but more often, it was delicious. The veggies were fresh and bright, the meats and sauces balanced and flavourful. The egg rolls were plump deep fried rolls of finely julienned good stuff including pork or, if you preferred, shrimp with still crisp cabbage and carrots; not a wet bean sprout in sight.

We knew, my wife and kids and I, while we were happily in half the states in the union eating this food that it likely bore little resemblance to what we would eat on a visit to China. We were comfortable in that knowledge. Much in the way a frappucino merely references the idea of coffee but is still damn good sometimes, this food was good.

So, on our triumphant re-entry back to Canada, to Toronto, we set out to find our Chinese place. It's been a six year struggle and it's not over. Here's what we had no trouble finding:

1. "Real" or "authentic" Chinese food. The flavour/texture profiles here are totally distinct from what we have experienced in US "Chinese" restaurants. Sometimes it's perfect and interesting to us. It just isn't the comfort food we're looking for.

2. Fast food/Chinese buffet/"Chinese Canadian" (wtf?) takeout places. I don't know how to be diplomatic here. So many people I talk to in Toronto talk about Mandarin like it isn't just oily badness. The mall places actually know how to cook a noodle ok but the rest of the menu is just too fried, over corn starched, microwaved or bland. The takeout places we've tried (maybe a dozen of them giving each 2 or 3 tries) are just so variable and disappointing. Vegetables come grey and stringy, meats are tough and flavourless, sauces gloopy/floury (or worse, saccharine sweet and sickly red-orange). Everything just has a slightly rancid funk to it. The fried rice just tastes -- old. North of the 49th parallel, my beloved egg rolls have universally been reduced to wonton turnovers filled with wet bean sprouts and not much else. It's like eating worms.

Ok, so finally the question. Is there anyone out there who a) knows what the hell I am talking about vis a vis US Chinese restaurants and b) can direct us to an establishment in the GTA (west end ideally) that might fulfill our totally inauthentic Chinese food craving.

Once again, please save your "learn to eat real Chinese food you heathen" posts for your super awesome food blog. I will buy anyone who cracks this nut for us dinner at a Chinese restaurant.


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