Restaurants & Bars 12

Long Post: my parent's 2 week whirlwind tour of TO's Chinese resto (from Yau Kee to Lai Wah Heen)

Royaljelly | Oct 5, 2009 12:51 PM

I had my Chinese parents visiting us for 2 weeks and I always look forward to it because I usually scour Chowhound to see where I should take them to eat. Being both retired chefs of Western restaurants, they are usually quite critical of their food.

Here's a list of where I took them to, see below for food details:
1) John's BBQ
2) Yangs dim sum
3) Fantasy Eatery (Scarborough)
4) Yau Kee
5) Ala Kitchen
6) Graceful Vegetarian
7) Lai Wah Heen dim sum
8) O-Mei Hwy 7
9) Fantasy Eatery (Richmond Hill)

1) John's BBQ in Richmond Hill - chinese tapas
- went for lunch on a Sat afternoon at 1pm, surprisingly mostly empty. Ordered the special BBQ pork as soon as we sat down (takes 15mins to prepare), and asked them to go easy on the sweet sauce/honey or whatever they use, since my dad is diabetic. While it was good as usual, they didn't ease up on the sweet sauce at all.
- the roast pig was not good at all, very dry and skin wasn't crunchy. Very disappointing, considering my wife and I just had an amazing one at Peaktop just down the street a week ago.
- steamed tofu/pork dish, my dad's choice, not good, flavour was off
- small fish w/ egg, very bland, should've stuck w/ the deep fried fishies
- XO fish fillets w/ green beans was good as usual
- very fresh stir fried veggies
meal came w/ free soup, rice and dessert. Overall a good "value" meal, but my parents weren't crazy about it.

2) Yangs in Richmond Hill for early sunday dim sum
- actually made reservations 30 mins in advance, which was a good idea since the place was totally packed by noon.
- scallop XO sauce rice noodle rolls, very very spicy for typical XO, but I found the scallops and noodle has similar/mushy texture. I still prefer my shrimp rice noodle roll
- shrimp foie gras dumplings, just ok, didn't really notice the foie gras
- sia long bao (steamed soup dumplings), probably one of the worst I've had anywhere, very little soup, dry and flavourless
- gwun tong gao (large dumpling in soup), my mom was hunting for the ones that are filled w/ soup on the inside, rather than floating in a bowl of soup (if anyone knows where they make it, let me know!). Just tasted like regular mushroom soup to her.
- 1000 layer cake, only had 4 layers, no egg yolk, not good
- pumpkin dessert dumpling w/ cashew nut, just looked cute, that's it
again they thought it was just ok, not blown away from it like I was in the past

3) Fantasy Eatery (Scarborough)
my dad had talked about it already right after his meal at John's BBQ, so I knew I had to take him here soon. Came on a early monday evening, 3 dishes that we wanted they didn't have.
- sweet n sour pork in hot pot - a little too sweet for me, but more richer heavier sauce that was kinda different in a good way.
- small white fish in batter deep fried. While the batter was quite light, there was WAY too much of it such that I almost couldn't find the fish
- kidney and chives, which was way overcooked such that the kidney was ultra tough to chew. We complained about it to one of the servers, who replied that the chef was busy and may have "forgotten about it". My dad quickly countered that the place had only 3 tables and not many take out orders, so his explanation didn't make sense. Instead we got some free soup, which was actually quite good and hearty.
- a few other dishes which were just ok, so overall this was the most disappointing of the meals we've had here (and this was the 4 time my parents have come).

4) Yau Kee (Scarborough)
- wonton noodles (wontons very authentic, but soup seemed cloudy and it reminded me of those japanese soups w/ miso)
- leung yuu kow fish balls were amazing! hot and just slightly crunchy on the outside, very moist and tender inside, each a good side too (like an extra large egg)
- tendon and beef, very heavy sauce, but good portions
- lo mean w/ bean sauce was good w/ a touch of spice
- fresh veggies steamed
overall good value and good food, and IMO better than Jim Chai Kee in Richmond Hill

5) Ala Kitchen (Markham)
went on a busy sat afternoon, place was packed as usual.
- pot stickers (actually had decent amount of soup/sauce inside)
- pan fried buns (ordered a second round it was that good)
- pork chop noodle was a bit bland
- spicy wontons were very strange (avoid)
- cold fish
- drunken cold chicken
parents liked it, surprisingly my first meal there that I actually enjoyed as well

6) Graceful Vegetarian (Markham)
haven't been here for awhile, very busy since 1/2 the place was having a wedding banquet (and the place isn't that big).
- mock fried intestines w/ sweet n sour sauce, tasted like the real thing
- wonton soup also very good and light
- taro duck w/ breading was heavy
- birds nest - standard dish
again an enjoyable meal, especially after all the meat we were eating from the last few meals

7) Lai Wah Heen dim sum
I only come here no more than once a year, and it's always w/ family or out of town friends. The A/C was cranked way up (for a mid September lunch?) and the service seemed just as cold. The servers working there are like robots, they do the task properly and efficiently, and then they scatter away.
- tea: told my parents to go nuts and order the fancy tea. The first 2 they wanted they didn't have. Had a monkey picked oolong for $8, just tasted like any other oolong to me. My mom had another which i forget the name, was better but again, not worth $8. The rest of us had $2 iron buddha, which was no better than the stuff we had a Yangs or any other fine chinese places up north
- har gow shrimp dumplings, skin soggy and totally broken
- rice roll w/ shrimp was completely bland
- chicken feet w/ chinese herbs was swimming in soup, skin was soggy
- fish w/ peppers and tofu pocket, one of the few interesting dishes we had
- wagyu beef dumpling in spicy sauce was totally strange, You really couldn't taste that it was wagyu beef. I'm starting to hate the fact that things like foie gras and wagyu beef is being incorporated into staple dim sum dishes, and is just not necessarily done in a good way to enhance the dish
- steamed beef balls very standard
- fried rice w/ egg yolk/dried scallops very dense and overly dry (last time we had one with egg fried rice which was done perfectly).
- pan fried buns, totally brutal, bun was 2x thicken than the meat and lacking any flavour at all
- pork ribs, one piece my mom had was quite bitter, my parents guessed that the chef probably used some sort of baking soda to soften the meat and wasn't rinsed off properly
- 1000 layer cake, done well
After this meal, I don't think I'll be going back here for dim sum anytime soon. I also had a rather ambivalent meal in Lai Toh Heen awhile back, and find that the Lai --- Heen #1 ranking for dim sum in Toronto is quickly being challenged or surpassed by those establishments up north.

8) O-Mei (Richmond Hill)
dinner on a friday night, surprisingly not fully packed.
they had a set menu, 5 dishes for $100, including their famous and delicious stir fried lobster (good size as well), fish belly and crab soup was very good, steamed fish (a bit small, but tasted better than what I had at maple yip last night), sweet n sour pork chops (w/ a hint of lemon), and fried mussels. We added one stir fried veggie dish. We were all packed to the gills and left very satisfied.

9) Fantasy Eatery (Richmond Hill)
On a tip from my parents friends, we decided to try it out despite some negative chowhound reviews. While the place looks somewhat similar to the Scarborough location, the menu is vasty different (for lunch anyways).
- the highlight was the pork liver congee for $4.25. Probably the best one we've had in Canada, ever! I usually detest liver, but this was cooked brilliantly, just enough flavour and thin enough to have a bit of chew to it, without being bloody or overly bitter at all.
- egg noodle w/ beef, lots of beef, and noodles were extra crunchy (just the way I like it)
- duck tongue w/ chives, very salty, was better w/ rice
- cold duck tongue appetizer, bland (yes, my parents ordered 2 duck tongue dishes)

I also managed to take them to Toritos for some tapas which they enjoyed as well.

Before my folks boarded the plane back to Edmonton, they picked up $30 worth of roast pork from Peaktop again in Richmond Hill, my sister in Edmonton was thanking me from emails that same night. We had some that night as well, and after you remove the skin and roast it in the mini oven, it was amazing. Now time to take the dog out for a long walk and burn off all those high calorie meals!

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