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Wow!! Somewhere, somehow, some culinary divine being must have heard the plea of some of our Chinese foodie community and responded?! With past and impending closing of some of GTA’s favorite and long standing Chinese restaurants all over town. This huge void has yet to be filled up by ‘quality and worthy ‘, new replacements.
After the recent opening of “Green Tea Restaurant“, which helps to fill in part of the void. Along came another high profile, China based, restaurant to claim a slice of the pie. Again, focus is in the ‘nou-veau niche‘ Hangzhou cuisine domain. The Hangzhou based flagship of “Grand Ma’s Home” occupies a ranking in the top 10 of a 3000+ restaurant list, in the 9 Million+ population, ‘E-commerce giant – Alibaba’, home town! A position that frequently results in direct marquee, head-to-head matchup with its other main competitor, the aforementioned famous “ Green Tree”. These two nemesis of Hangzhou cuisine resemble the rivalry between say BMW and Mercedes or Robuchon vs Ducasse?!
For this dining adventure, once again, our dining group followed the lead of the same foodie friend, who introduced me to “Green Tea“.
“Grand Ma’s Home” Markham branch occupies a huge cavernous space inside a stand-alone building in the same plaza as T&T, at the corner of Warden and Steeles. Decoration theme used follows a stylish, modernistic approach, with whole mirrored wall and ceiling, framed with rows upon rows of pictures and photographs using celebrities and Hangzhou/West Lake scenery as subjects. Unlike most Chinese restaurants, this establishment offers only ONE round table inside a private room with a minimum charge of $300. The rest of the front-of-house are either booths or square and rectangular tables. Hence, for a larger group like ours, this weird setup is most inconvenient when comes to chatting or sharing of food!
At first glance, Grand Ma’s menu offers a selection of dishes which, IMO, follows a slightly more traditional route than Green Tea’s contemporary approach. Overture to a traditional Hangzhou cuisine meal usually starts off with emphasis on a large array of smaller tapas size, hot and cold appetizer dishes augmented by a lesser number of bigger size, main dishes. Unlike their close Shanghainese cuisine cousin, less attention and hence offerings are being focused in the carbohydrate – noodles and dumplings, area.
Our group ordered the following multitude of dishes:-
- Fried pumpkin nuggets with salted duck egg yolk coating. (hot)
- Shredded Winter bamboo shoots with sesame oil marinade. (cold)
- Hangzhou style fried fish (Pomfret). (hot)
- Stuffed Lotus roots with glutinous rice in sweet syrup. (cold)
- Oil poached ocean shrimps. (hot)
- ‘ Kor Fu ‘ – marinated mixture of gluten, bamboo shoots, fungus and mushrooms. ( cold)
- Hangzhou style seasoned soy marinated duck. (hot)
- Whole Free-range ‘ Beggar ‘ Spring-chicken
- Grand Ma’s special recipe ‘Dong Po ‘ pork.
- Stirred fry ‘ fortune’ Cauliflower with salted pork.
- Fried noodles with aged tofu strips, shredded pork, shredded bamboo shoots, yellowing
- ‘Heavenly being Duck hot-pot’ – Soup with whole duck, Chinese Ham, Bok-Choy, Dried Bamboo Shoots.
Overall, this is one memorable and enjoyable meal featuring many outstanding and surprisingly tasty dishes. Comparing to ‘Green Tea’, similar dishes like the fame 'DongPo Pork' was equally tasty but more refined in preparation and presentation and much less greasy. The inclusion of miniature fluffy pancakes to soak up the delectable sauce was a nice touch. The Soy marinated Hangzhou duck was a step up from my previous favorite - the now-defunct ‘ Sika-Deer ‘ delicious version. As well, our soup tonight was more flavorful, complex and intense than the ‘Green Tea‘ rendition that we had a week ago. Most seasoning and sauces were spot-on, the latter, begging for rice to mop them up. Wok-Hay smoky aroma and caramelization was abundant amongst the stirred fried selections. We were all caught off guard by the surprisingly delicious noodle dish which deserves praise and a special mentioning.
Only downside of the evening was the extremely slow service. A result of under-staffing for such a large restaurant.
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